Just a couple of hours after she gave birth in its maternity ward, a vagrant young woman is discovered murdered in a stairwell at Whitechapel’s The London Hospital.
As they investigate, Reid and the team find themselves been drawn the netherworld of the circus freakshows.
After a particularly uninspired series two premiere last week, it was a bit of a struggle to get into “Am I Not Monstrous?” – and yet here we are with another episode recap. L’ego.
The episode begins with a young woman struggling through the dirty streets of London to get to the hospital, as she’s about to give birth. “Get the beast out of me before it cleaves me in two!” she cries once she finally arrives, which is the best way to describe childbirth I’ve heard yet. The poor lady hardly has time to rest before she’s stalked through the halls by an unknown assailant, murdered, and has her baby boy taken from her arms.
The next morning, Edmund Reid (Matthew Macfadyen) and Bennet Drake (Jerome Flynn) are summoned to the hospital where Frederick Treaves (Paul Ready), the surgeon from last week, updates them on the case and shows them an unusual deformity on her body: she had a tail.
Reid and Drake attend Detective Maurice Linklater’s funeral, where the new Big Bad, Inspector Shine, is traipsing about looking immensely pleased with himself. It looks like Shine has an ally in the form of wily journalist Fred Best (David Dawson), who suspects Reid has something to do with Maurice’s death. Shine picks a fight with an easily ignited Drake before they leave, and again accuses Reid of murder in front of scores of policemen as Best merrily jots down notes.
Back at Leman Street, Homer Jackson (Adam Rothenberg) inspects the body of the young woman as Reid and Drake look on. The woman appeared a vagrant, but Jackson believes that until recently she was kept in very good care. Reid remembers a rumor about a circus troupe returning, and intends to follow through on that lead.
When they head out to the main floor of police headquarters, the trio are introduced to a Detective Albert Flight (Damien Molony from Being Human), who will be replacing dearly departed Seargent Hobbs, who died late last season. Poor sweet Hobbs. We will forever miss your tiny adorable face.
Reid and co. doubt Flight’s abilities because of his youth, but they don’t have much of a choice in the matter since no one else is volunteering to help out. Meanwhile, Long Susan (MyAnna Buring) is still struggling with repaying her debts to Silas Duggan (Frank Harper).
Reid, Jackson, and Drake head to the circus sideshow, where the performers are able to positively identify the dead woman as Stella Brooks. Upon hearing of Stella’s death, a man with the gift of being impervious to pain, John Goode (Tom Brooke), makes a break for it. The others tell Reid where he could find more information: Joseph Merrick (Joseph Drake) had been a friend of Stella’s.
Merrick is warring with himself on whether or not to talk about seeing Shine murder Maurice at the end of last week, while Shine has come to Treaves for confirmation of foul play in Maurice’s death. When Merrick approaches Treaves to tell him of what he saw, he shies away from Shine’s presence in the room – and Shine notices. Shine heads to Merrick’s rooms to threaten him into silence. Oh shit, Merrick, you better lock your doors and windows tonight.
Reid arrives at Merrick’s to question him about Stella, but it’s too late – Merrick is so terrified that he refuses to speak to anyone. Treaves sees Merrick in distress and draws the wrong conclusions about Reid, barring him from coming to the hospital again. Reid and his detectives are forced to get their information from other sources.
Flight serves to be useful here, having tracked down some reports on both John Goode and Stella Brooks. Flight suspects Goode of killing Stella when he heard of her pregnancy, and he and Drake head out together to look for Goode at a shelter he’d been ejected from multiple times before, and Flight accidentally starts a fight they then have to run from.
Jackson again tries to get Susan to run away with him, but Susan is digging her heels in. She finally tells him she’s deep in debt to Silas, and the ensuing fight is a major one. Elsewhere, Reid is able to quietly corner Merrick and ask him about Stella. Stella had left Goode because of the rage he felt at the child inside her – probably something to do with the books on eugenics found in Goode’s tent at the circus. Goode believed that people with “deformities” needed to be bred out, and a child between a man who could not feel pain and a woman who had a tail was, to him, unconscionable. But is this enough of a motive for murder? Hmm…
Reid drops by Long Susan’s brothel, where the fight between Susan and Jackson is still going on. angry, Susan tells Reid that Jackson was planning on leaving his duties and running away. Reid stalks off in a huff, but not before ordering Jackson to discover the reason why Goode, the son of a rich man, would run away and join the circus.
Flight has found more on Goode; the man used to be incarcerated in an asylum headed by Dr. Karl Crabbe (Anton Lesser), the lobotomizing doctor from series one. Crabbe promises to talk, so long as Reid tells him about his wife, Emily Reid, leaving him. Once Reid successfully recounts his adultery, Crabbe tells him about Goode’s family, and a “curse of the blood” that led to the deaths of most of Goode’s family.
Jackson concludes that the disease must be Huntington’s chorea, and that Goode’s father, who had been torturing his sons to breed the disease out of them, was the one to kill Stella and reclaim his grandson. John Goode had only run away so he could get his child back from his eugenics-loving father.
Merrick leaves the hospital only to be followed by a jeering crowd urging him to take his mask off. He is saved from further humiliation and possible injury by Flight. Merrick asks Flight to bring him to Reid, for he has a matter of urgency to discuss with him.
The detectives track down Goode’s father, a zoologist named Corcoran. They head to his offices to arrest him, but Corcoran’s son has already beaten them to the punch. Goode tells his father that Stella felt no shame for who she was, and that he killed her regardless so he could kidnap and “condition” her baby the way he conditioned/tortured Goode and his brother. Goode, however, would prefer the baby dead than at the hands of his father.
Goode scurries off with the baby in tow, intending to launch himself and his child off a balcony. Reid and Drake try to talk him down, but in the end it’s the words of Merrick – who Flight has successfully brought to Reid – that convinces Goode to stop.
Corcoran is carted away, and Merrick is able to tell Reid of what he saw: Inspector Shine murdering Maurice Linklater. As dramatic music escalates, Reid orders Flight to bring Merrick safely back to his rooms and stand guard outside his door.
But it’s not enough. Flight falls asleep in the middle of his watch, and Shine is able to enter Merrick’s rooms and suffocates him while taunting him all the while. It’s a murder scene that is terribly and unnecessarily drawn out. By the time Reid arrives with the Chief inspector, Merrick is long gone, and with him the one witness that can support Reid’s suspiciouns of Shine.
Chief Inspector brings Shine and Reid into his office later and tells them that the surgeon has deemed Maurice Linklater’s death to be free of foul play. He orders Reid to lay off his accusations of Shine’s involvement, and Reid and Shine shake hands.
Overall, “Am I Not Monstrous” was not as bad an episode as last week, but I still wasn’t wowed. Scarce moments of violence and dark humor broke up an otherwise slow, draggy plot, though there were some bright spots in the form of Goode and Corcoran’s final showdown, Merrick’s whole existence, and Damien Molony’s performance as the wide-eyed and well-meaning Flight.
Jackson: You think that makes her, what, less than human?
Drake: We were all animals once, it is now said.
Jackson: Some are closely related than others.
Shine: This life… six bags of shit ’til Sunday, is it not?
Reid: Sgt. Artherton, how do we find Mr. Flight?
Artherton: He is calm, sir. And quiet… which is a bonus.
Bella: Is there no one at home who waits for you, Albert?
Flight: Not currently, Mrs. Drake.
Bella: You should call me Bella.
Drake: You should call her Mrs. Drake.
Flight: This night, villainy does not rest. I do not intend to either.
Jackson: [to Reid] You know, this brooding martyr thing you perfect, it can really grate.
Reid: And what if I told you the life of an infant boy depended on your speaking, might that make impact?
Crabbe: Not really.