The Breakdown

Two young men lie in bed together, telling each other what they’d buy if they were rich. One man tells the other that all he wants is him. They have a plan in the works, a folio that they’ve acquired and plan to sell back to the owner for a price. One man looks at the time and realizes he’s late. The other tells him to stay and they kiss.

At the Post Office the boys, David Goodbody and Vincent, are absent when called by the post master. A boy named Otto takes their place on a “special errand”. Otto steps into a room with a man who sits waiting on the bed, ready to strangle him with a knotted cloth, mistaking him for David.

At H Division, a Molly House has been raided and all its members put in the holding cells. In Victorian London, homosexuality is a crime. Fred Best comes in and looks on fondly at the group being held. Reid comes down and Fred starts chastising them for punishing men for the people they love in private. Reid is informed about Otto and goes to investigate after throwing Fred out of the station.

The room Otto is found in in the kind rented by the hour by people who don’t care to the studied or remembered. The owner has a hard time describing the man who paid for the room. Meanwhile, Jackson is losing at cards in a bar when we sees a friend of his come in dressed nicely. The friend tells him that his ship came in and gives him some investment advice.

Reid goes to investigate at the post office. David and Vincent come back and find out Otto had been killed. David swears he’s never been to the Harlequin Hotel before, but Reid doubts is word. Later, Reid learns that many of the telegrams being delivered are sent from the heart of the city to Whitechapel, and never with a reply.

Jackson reveals that Otto had been strangled with a silk scarf with a knot tied in it and that he was frequently sexually active with men. Reid has Drake tail David and Vincent to see what they get up to. Jackson asks Reid if he knows anything about investments and shows him a flyer for Tierra Del Fuego in South America. Reid merely says that “Land of Fire” sounds like hell.

The man who killed Otto turns up at the post office and asks where he can find David. Meanwhile, David and Vincent panic over the death of Otto, knowing that the killer meant to kill David. They decide to go on with their plan as before but Vincent decides to go see Fred Best at a pub to put failsafe plans into motion. Fred knows a lot about the post office boys and asks after a boy named Harry, who has sent him a message to meet at the Harlequin later. Fred recognizes that Vincent is being tailed by Flight, but Vincent notices that the killer has walked in behind Flight. Vincent tells Fred to leave and then turns himself in to Flight for buggery in order to avoid the killer.

Meanwhile, Drake tails David to one of his extra-curricular jobs. Reid questions Vincent at H Division who says that the gin he drank made him crazy and that he can’t remember a word he said. Reid later questions the post master about the boys he sells. He tells him about David and Vincent and how they sometimes talk about how they might capitalize on a man named Solomon Quint, who loves David.

Reid goes to Barrings Bank to find out about Quint, who worked there as an investment analyst up until a week ago. Meanwhile, Quint is upset that the man he hired to recover his folio has killed a boy. The man also works for Mr. Stone at the bank and requests that Quint keeps quiet about everything he knows about the boys and the missing folio. Meanwhile, Jackson talks to Susan about Tierra Del Fuego and she balks at it. Jackson goes to settle with Duggan another way, with fists and guns, and Susan asks him not to go. He goes anyway and gets beat up by Duggan.

When Reid and Drake go to see Quint they find that he has shot himself in his study, accompanied by an anguished letter confessing to his love for David and the murder of Otto. Later, Reid has a drink with Drake and despairs over the law enforcing homosexual love, saying that in this case it had done more harm that good. As Drake walks with his wife later, he is confused by Reid’s attitude toward the law. His wife reasons that if a law were passed that made it illegal for Drake to love her, he wouldn’t just stop his love to obey the law. They are interrupted by a woman in the street who recognizes Bella. Bella pretends not to know her and rushes away with Drake. She tells him there was a part of her life that she’d like to leave behind.

Jackson and Susan have a moment later as Jackson nurses his wounds and pride. He makes their situation all about him and how he can’t live up to Susan. She refuses to indulge his self pity and walks out.

Fred and Harry meet at the Harlequin while Otto’s murderer takes blackmail pictures of their meeting. Fred tells Harry that he’s been worried sick about him and they kiss.

Jackson discovers that Quint was forced to shoot himself and that he certainly didn’t commit suicide. Reid interviews Mrs. Quint, who counted her husband as a friend and wanted his happiness. She knew about his proclivities and indulged him for his happiness. Mrs. Quint suggests that any issues Quint had was with Franklin Stone at the House of Barrings, some matter of moral import in the Argentine. She knew that his folio had been stolen, but by a person he wished not to reveal to the police.

Drake goes to see Fred, who has left in a hurry to see Vincent. Meanwhile, David goes to see Reid to tell him about how Quint was murdered and how he told him that Franklin Stone and the House of Barrings would punish him for talking about what he knows regarding the burden of Argentina. Reid goes to see Stone at Barrings about the accusations. Stone is unhelpful and demands that all warrants are in order before he allows Reid access to Quint’s files.

Meanwhile, Vincent meets with Fred and tells him that if anything should happen to him or David, that he should publish the contents of the folio. The murderer shows up and chases Vincent. Fred runs into Drake and tells him to help Vincent. Vincent gets stabbed before Drake is able to reach him. While Drake incapacitates the murderer, Vincent scurries off. He arrives at his room with David, where he dies in his arms. Drake arrives just steps behind.

The murderer confesses to his killings, but refuses to say that he was directed to kill those he murdered. David tells Reid about the folio and how it said that the Argentine was in trouble. When they pull it from where it was stashed, Reid discovers that Quint’s analysis revealed that the Argentine was nearing bankruptcy and that Barrings was keeping it quiet for long enough to withdraw their investment. This upsets Jackson because he secretly took all his and Susan’s savings and invested it in the Tierra Del Fuego mines, which is now worthless.

Reid goes to see Stone who explains that if the Bank had fallen, the entire country would have been bankrupt. Reid still disapproves and takes the folio to Fred Best to be published. Reid lets David go and sends him on his way. Jackson tells Susan about the lost money and she tells him to get out, saying that she’ll never give him a scrap of feeling ever again. Fred Best is blackmailed and can’t publish the story about Barrings. Reid goes to see Cobden and tells her that he has come to see that love and happiness should not be stopped by social expectations. They kiss. Meanwhile, David kills Stone with Vincent’s knife.

The Analysis

I find myself slightly gratified that I was right about Fred Best all along. Ever since he was first introduced in season one, I thought that the slightly effeminate and catty newspaperman who loved a good scandal just might be gay. While there’s not a lot that redeems the usually insensitive and obnoxious Best, his open disapproval of the police’s treatment of homosexuals and his support of the underground gay community is highly commendable and certainly opens up an entirely new side to his character and motives.

Also interesting is Reid’s reaction to all this scandal and tragedy. As a lawman, he is dedicated to enforcing the law, whatever that might be. But the more he sees of what this law regulating human love does to the people of his city, the more he doubts the justice of that law. Not only does it make him think about the innocent people he is spending time and money arresting, but it makes him realize that if men can risk their lives to love one another, then there is no reason he should deny himself the legal love and friendship of Jane Cobden. And as promised, we get the Matthew Macfadyen special served up on a dreamy platter – the beautifully elegant and articulate declaration of love wrapped in a self-conscious but willful demeanor. When Cobden asks if Reid will take a seat or whether he plans on delivering his thoughts from the threshold, Reid actually considers his choices and chooses the safety of the threshold. He has barely found the bravery within himself to confront her with his feelings. The barrier of the threshold may be the only thing protecting that brave decision.

I was beginning to wonder when this turn of the century series that so heavily focused on the social issues, historical events, and technological changes of the time would get around to doing an episode that focused on the illegality and persecution of homosexuals. At the time, homosexual behavior was actually punishable by hard labor in a deeply inhumane prison system. I could go on for hours about Molly Houses and the underground gay community, about prison conditions and the ruined health and fortunes of the inmates, about Oscar Wilde and his very public trial and consequent imprisonment for homosexuality that would destroy his life. Lets just say that it was infinitely worse than anything represented in this episode and that there very likely was not a policeman like Reid to take sympathy on the gay community.