Reid and company investigate an attack on a fellow officer and discover the distribution of a new drug. Meanwhile, the Asian woman associated with the drug trade is pursued by an Asian man with amazing fighting skills.

The Breakdown

A man roams the streets of a Chinese section of East London looking for an unknown woman. He enters a house and is thrown out the window a moment later, getting his leg impaled on an iron fence spike.

Back at the precinct, Edmund Reid washes and dresses for the day. He’s been sleeping in his office. There’s a brawl that’s broken out downstairs and Drake hands Reid a billy club as they head off to break up the fight. Arthurton complains of H Division being understaffed and under-respected. An officer rushes in to gather help for the impaled man.

Drake knows him, Morris from K Division and he’s way out of his jurisdiction. They cut through the spike to release him and send him to the hospital while Reid investigates the house he fell from. An Asian woman in the crowd watches calmly. They find drugs and money in the room upstairs and a picture of the Asian woman. They assume that Morris was thrown from the room by more than one man.

Morris is taken to the hospital and operated on by Dr. Treaves. Morris has a bruise on his chest the size of a fist and some needle marking on his thigh. Inspector Shine from K Division bursts in to see Morris. Treaves orders him to leave. Shine and Reid make a plan on how to approach the case. Treaves says that Morris will still probably die, but that if he is to survive he needs to be left alone to rest. As they leave Reid notices Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man, sitting by the window and takes a moment to say hello. Reid goes to talk with Susan to try and identify the Asian woman.

Susan says that the woman called herself Blush Pang and that she refused Susan’s offer of employment. She made no hint as to how she intended to support herself, but Susan was confident that a woman like that was more than capable. Reid goes to leave but Susan stops him to give him a bag of laundered shirts. Whatever happened to Reed’s wife, she is not around to do his laundry.

Back at H Division, Jackson analyzes the drugs found in the room. Jackson also has a theory as to how Morris was thrown from the room. In the US, Jackson once saw a Chinaman that could break brinks and wood and throw men yards with a single punch. Jackson thinks that Morris was thrown from the window by one man with some martial arts skills. They find a gaming chip for Chinese Dominos in some personal items and go to check out some of the gaming houses.

Blush takes a man from his game of dominos to a private room where she administers some of the drug to him. Meanwhile, an Asian man roams the streets looking for Blush. He asks for her at the gaming house, but when Blush sees him she tries to leave without him seeing. When the attendants tell him to leave, he beats them all up. Reid, Drake, and Jackson arrive later to investigate the aftermath. Shine is already there. The man Blush dosed is dead. They find more of the drug and the same pockmarking on the dead man as on Morris, and a knife tip with Chinese lettering. Shine spent ten years as Hong Kong police and identifies the lettering as the sign of the Triads.

Drake goes home and is apparently now married to a woman named Bella. He confides in her about the case and how he’s worried his friend Morris might have been in bad trouble with drugs. Bella tells him he should go help his friend. Meanwhile, Susan and Jackson talk about leaving Whitechapel. Jackson is enthusiastic, but for whatever reason, Susan resists the idea. Reid arrives home to his empty house and immediately leaves again.

Drake goes to see Morris at the hospital. He seems to be going through some kind of withdrawal and is unresponsive. Drake goes through his stuff and finds a piece of paper that seems important. It turns out to be a cargo receipt for raw tar opium, for Blush Pang but for collection by Morris. Drake says that Morris is a follower and is probably not the captain of this industry.

Susan gets a disturbing message about her rent payment from Silas Duggan. Drake and Reid go to retrieve the opium cargo. There they run into the Asian man and when they try to stop him he beats up Drake. Turns out that the Asian man is there to bring his sister home to restore honor to his family and not to steal opium trade for the Triads. A British policeman stole Blush away from China many years ago. Reid realizes that Shine is the ringleader of the opium trade.

Back at Shine’s apartment, Blush is lying in his bed. They are partners in the opium trade and Blush is definitely not being held against her will. Shine and Blush are in love. Susan goes to see Silas Duggan, who is the landlord of the house she rents. He keeps raising the rent and clearly has designs on having his way with Susan.

Jackson has reverse engineered the drug and takes some of it to determine its effects. It turns out to be heroine. Drake tells Jackson to make some more and he and Reid go to see Morris at the hospital. They tell him that they will give him the heroine if he will tell them everything he knows about Shine, Blush, and the drug trade. One of the policemen standing guard goes to warn Blush about Reid and she runs ahead to try to shut down the cookhouse before the police arrive. They raid the cookhouse before anything can be done. Blush’s brother comes to take her away but the police need to arrest her. There is a brief stand off, after which Blush’s brother beats everyone up again.

Blush and her brother run outside where Jackson stops them by holding them at gunpoint. Shine comes along with some of his officers Shine goes to take them into custody, but Reid tells him that if he wants them he has to fight Blush’s brother. After a brief fight that Blush’s brother is about to win, Blush stabs him in the back and tells him that her future is her own. Reid arrests Blush and she is furious that Shine can’t do anything to stop it. Reid lets Shine know that he knows of his corruption and that Morris will soon testify to that fact.

Shine later sneaks into the hospital and kills Morris. Merrick happens to be out for a walk that night and witnesses the murder through the window. Shine visits the pub where Reid and Drake are sharing a drink and lets them know that Morris has died and that he more or less has framed Reid for the death.

The Analysis

One of the things that has always been especially enjoyable about this show is the use of actual historical aspects of Victorian England. The first season saw Reid marveling over the telegraph machine, the London Underground, and an early version of a movie camera among other things. This season already we see the introduction of heroine to London, an isolated nation learning about martial arts for the first time, newly advanced medical procedures, and the fact of the Elephant Man Joseph Merrick. Reid is a man who is fascinated by progress and by the growing culture of his beat, and through him we can wonder at the technological marvels we have come to see as commonplace. At the same time, as viewers with the advantage of a hundred plus years of history between us and the characters of the show, we end up feeling we have a special knowledge that the characters lack – like we’re in on the references and in-jokes of history as it happens.

Of course, for those of us who are up to speed on the history of Victorian London and the notable people of the time, poor Joseph Merrick – who just witnessed the murder of Morris at the hands of Inspector Shine – actually died in 1890, the year in which this season takes place. Draw your own conclusions about how he dies in this fictional history, but die he will before the season is out. And before you cry “spoilers!”, I’m sorry I apparently ruined the surprise ending of history for you.

What is also interesting about the opening episode of the second season is everything that has changed from the end of last season. Reid is living out of his office, having his shirts laundered by the prostitutes in Susan’s employment. While Reid and his wife’s relationship was by no means stable or certain at the end of season one, her complete absence from Reid’s life and her own home is troubling. What has become of her? Conversely, Drake now appears to have a happy home life with his new wife Bella, an ex-prostitute from Susan’s house. After the heartbreak and awkwardness last season between Drake and Rose, it is good to see that Drake has found some happiness – however short lived it’s bound to be. Then of course there’s Jackson and Susan, who outwardly seem to be living a much more happily married life than when they were on the outs last season, but it’s clear that Susan has some secrets that will eventually come between them – especially since whatever she’s into seems to prevent the couple from pursuing better locations and opportunities away from Whitechapel. Jackson is eager to move on, and under different circumstances Susan probably would be too. One of my favorite sequences in this episode was the juxtaposition of the various home lives of Reid, Drake, and Jackson. It will be interesting to see how those home lives evolve both separately and in relation to each other.