A Review of Damien Molony in Ripper Street 2 Ep4 ‘Dynamite and a Woman’
A Review of DC Flight’s journey through Ripper Street 2 Episode 4
by The Damien Molony Forum
When a former Irish terrorist escapes custody and takes the opportunity to return to his old ways with explosive consequences, the resulting investigation leads the men of H Division down an unexpected route and takes DC Flight on an undercover mission into the heart of the Irish community, in more ways than one.
Damien Molony delivers a beautifully understated yet intensely conveyed performance as a young detective going undercover in the heart of the Irish community in the fourth installment of Ripper Street Series 2.
Since the first glimpse of him in a confessional in the Series 2 trailer and with our questions about any aftermath of the tragic events of episode 2 still unanswered, the tension and intrigue around the character of Detective Albert Flight has grown week to week. Episode 4 lets us in a little more, but the mystery surrounding this “man of secrets” only deepens and evolves in tandem with his story.
In the pre-credit scene, the appearance of Flight’s fraught face in the shadowy confessional box hints that we will have our questions answered about the nature of his confession – “Bless me Father for I have sinned, it has been three months since my last confession” – but as he looks up in response to the priest’s question, his expression is impossible to read, the line and delivery laced with ambiguity and possibilities, which we are left to interpret for ourselves.
“I am a liar”
But it quickly becomes clear this opener is an open ended cliffhanger, as the episode begins proper with the escape of former Irish dynamiter Aiden Galvin (Stanley Townsend) while in prison transit, soon followed by a bomb attack on an anti-Irish xenophobic politician. Inspector Reid (Matthew Macfadyen), Sergeant Drake (Jerome Flynn) and Captain Jackson (Adam Rothenberg) begin their investigation into the whereabouts and means of the suspected culprit, while Chief Inspector Abberline (Clive Russell) has his own methods for extracting information out of a known Irish Republican Brotherhood member, Michael Donovan (Martin McCann), resulting in the discovery that Galvin has a daughter, Evelyn Foley (Charlie Murphy), with whom it is suspected he will try to make contact.
Reid is reluctant when the Chief Inspector pulls rank and informs him that the young (and Irish) DC Flight is the perfect man to go undercover, “his face his right, his voice is right”, to try and glean some information from her, but Flight is delighted to be given something more to do than research in the archives.
“If you’ve the chops for it son”
“yes sir I have!”
From here on, there are two intertwining investigations, the one exposing the real reason for Galvin’s actions as a partnership with Charlie Broadwick, a man in competition for contracts between electricity providers, and Flight’s undercover mission where he discovers more about Evelyn’s father and critical information that prevents a further attack. But it is the magical storyline and performances of Charlie Murphy and Damien Molony in what emerges to be nothing less than a beautifully brief, tense and tragic love story that outshines the other, the three leading men becoming the players in a somewhat less than electric subplot.
Wearing civvies and with a new identity as ‘Bertrand Doyle’, Flight begins his covert study of Evelyn at the Black Rose pub in the Irish quarter of London Whitechapel, where she works as a barmaid.
Removing his hat and approaching the bar, in just a few moments Molony manages to convey Flight’s immediate attraction to Evelyn, as well as the determination and nervousness of his youth, with the subtlest shades of dialogue-free expression. Ordering lemonade to drink to the amusement of Evelyn, and appearing to be affected by the Irish singer and fiddler’s wistful version of ‘Leaving Skibberdeen’ – we are also given a touching moment leaving us wondering if it is Flight’s intriguing whisper of a reaction is patriotism and a connection with his Irish roots, his background – about which we know nothing – or something more.
Oh father dear,
I oft-times hear
You speak of Erin’s isle
Her lofty hills, her valleys green,
Her mountains rude and wild
They say she is a lovely land
Wherein a saint might dwell
So why did you abandon her, the reason to me tell?
Oh well do I remember that bleak December day
The landlord and the sheriff came to take us all away
They set my roof on fire with their cursed English spleen
I heaved a sigh and bade goodbye to dear old Skibbereen
And you were only two years old and feeble was your frame
I could not let you with my friends
You would bore your fathers name
I wrapped you in my old plaid coat
The night of death unseen
And that’s on other reason why I left old Skibbereen
Oh father dear, the day will come when in answer to the call
All Irish men of freedom stern will rally one and all
I’ll be the man to lead the band beneath the flag of green
And loud and clear we’ll raise the cheer,
Revenge for Skibbereen!
When Michael appears, bruised and beaten by Abberline and demanding to speak to Evelyn outside, we learn that the IRB at large are not engaged with terrorism, and are as keen as Reid and his men to find the dynamiter to ensure the peace. Having looked out for Evelyn in the absence of her father, Michael insists she tells him of his whereabouts if he tries to find her. Flight follows them, appearing to want to protect Evelyn as much as he does find information.
“This the way you London boys hope to charm a lady is it, bring your boys to stand in threat, then bully her?”
It is a brave move on his part, but his attempt to help is rebuffed and so retreats to H-Division, much to the bemusement of his colleagues – Abberline commands him to “get back on her” and Captain Jackson gives him a lesson in the art of charm, seduction and how to “penetrate that frosty exterior and melt the fruitful vine within”, advising Flight “You need to make her start wondering after you, feel the twinge of intrigue, fellow feelings of vulnerability…you need to build yourself a story, tragic loss, destitution, it’s gotta be perfect, it’s gotta be detailed and most important it’s got to be felt, right here, in your heart, with your own secrets when you lie, you lie with you own hidden truth.”
The scene is playful, delivering a welcome counterpoint humour to the episode, also serving to show how the the dynamic between Reid, Drake, Jackson and Flight appears to have moved on to more friendly teasing, even if it does end with the young constable receiving a black eye from a “brutal policeman” (Drake) in order to give him a story to gain sympathy from Evelyn, which the other three delight in perhaps a little too much.
The next morning Flight returns to the Black Rose, sporting his new shiner and working his charms on Evelyn as he stands James Dean-esque smoking in a doorway, asking for whisky instead of lemonade.
“I’ll take whisky from you now miss, if you’re offering?”
Once inside Evelyn tends to his wounds, asking him what brings him to London. Flight responds “money, food in my belly” and reveals he doesn’t have a home, “My mother was taken by typhus when I was five, Father taken by drink soon after” and we suspect this is not part of his undercover plan but a first glimpse into Flight’s background.
Nevertheless, he had gained Evelyn’s trust and sympathy and is invited upstairs to her room to wash his face, rest and eat. Once alone, Flight searches for clues on Galvin only to find letters from a man, Holland, claiming to be her father.
When Evelyn returns she speaks of the absence of both her father and the man claiming to be her father. In a revealing moment, Flight reciprocates, (with Molony giving us perhaps the most moving speech of the episode) giving us an insight into who he is, the irony of Jackson’s earlier advice being that he didn’t need to create a story of tragic loss to create intrigue and mirror hers as he already has one that fulfills all the requirements.
“The idea, the way other folks say it is I mean, it’s our family instruct us, is it not? to tell us who we are how we should be? without that instruction it’s hard sometimes I find to make sense of ourselves, what we want, what is right..”
The resulting kiss from Evelyn feels to be more than the fruits of Flights’ undercover skills, as does his pulling away stunned, then reciprocating, equally seduced perhaps by the parallels in their young and troubled lives.
But Flight is not so lost in Evelyn that when they are disturbed by Galvin while in the throes of passion on her bed he doesn’t have his wits about him, soon back in undercover mode he listens at the door as Galvin tells Evelyn he is leaving soon and offers her a way out of London, and deftly follows him to Broadwick’s workshop where he overhears their conversation that the two are plotting another bombing to destroy a rival electrical company competing for the same contract as Broadwick, as well as witnessing the argument between the two as Broadwick tells Galvin he is in fact Evelyn’s father.
In a reversal of roles with Flight who is out in the field, Reid, Drake and Jackson in the meantime have been doing their own research and discovered that Broadwick was in fact ex IRB sympathiser Holland, who changed his name when he returned from the US to London. When their investigations lead them to Broadwick’s workshop, they come face to face with Flight kicking the front door down from the inside.
Galvin and Broadwick’s plan scuppered, the bombing is successfully intercepted and Galvin flees, only to meet his fate at the end of Michael’s gun, who shoots him in the name of keeping the peace.
The heart wrenching final scene between Evelyn and Flight as she leaves for America and reveals that she knew he was not really who he claimed to be, showed both a more experienced yet vulnerable Flight, as he tried to resist being overwhelmed by emotion yet forcing her to leave and perhaps avoiding further self exposure.
In terms of his work, his former arrogance and cockiness appearing deflated at the outset by the lack of trust Reid has shown him, Flight had much to prove in this episode, and he delivered the goods, but perhaps became too dangerously close to blowing his cover. There is a sense that this applies not only to this mission but to his bigger secrets as well.
The episode allows Flight’s character arc to develop in a multidimensional way, his increasing mystery adding to the already heightened intrigue surrounding his arrival. Damien gives a powerfully naunced and refined performance to great effect, drawing us in so that we find ourselves investing in the brief moments of brightness for him – the jewel of a love story shining in the grime of the Whitechapel streets, the light in his eyes at being trusted with an important task, the temporary lifting of the increasingly apparent weight he carries, too heavy for his few years – and with such subtlety that by the end of the episode Flight’s backstory is bubbling away in our awareness, with his big secret as yet undisclosed, the glimpses into the heart of Flight no less enigmatic.
As the episode closes, Jackson’s earlier words “with your own secrets when you lie, you lie with you own hidden truth” ringing in our ears, we become the detectives, examining the different strands of Flight’s background and character, with no resolution to his confession or any clue to the chronology of it, appearing as a self-contained moment, we are left wondering if it relates to the events of this episode, the tragic events at the end of episode 2 or to something else entirely, perhaps in connection with his past, all adding to the longer term tension not only relating to his character and the overall storyline, but to the fate of DC Flight in H-Division.
Ripper Street series 2 continues at 9pm on BBC One, Monday 25 November with Episode 5- ‘Threads of Silk and Gold’.
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