'Ridley Road' Episode 2: Recap

Colin Jordan (Rory Kinnear) and Vivien Epstein  (Agnes O’Casey). Credit: Courtesy of RED Production Company and MASTERPIECE
Colin Jordan (Rory Kinnear) and Vivien Epstein  (Agnes O’Casey). Credit: Courtesy of RED Production Company and MASTERPIECE

Vivien Epstein, now blonde Jane Carpenter, is visiting the leader of the National Socialist Party, Colin Jordan, whose bonhomie and charm can be turned off in the wink of an eye. She wants to know her boyfriend's whereabouts, Peter Fox (real name Jack Morris), and at first, Colin seems inclined to politely dismiss her. You realize how smart and perceptive he is when, although her accent doesn’t overtly suggest it, he can tell she’s from Manchester and asks about her family.

We all have wounds to some extent. It’s just the nature of what we do. The sacrifices we make. Do you have wounds, Miss Carpenter? Wounds that define you?

He picks absently at a minor injury on his forehead and pulls out a stitch (ouch!), the first of many cringe moments. Then he comments on the intelligence of "Jane's" eyes, which are just like his mother’s, so it’s clear Vivian is hitting all of his buttons. It’s very uncomfortable viewing. Vivien spins a story of how her father and grandfather, proud Air Force veterans, have been discounted, her father’s job as a postman given to an immigrant. She’s seen Black hooligans and the mixing of races, and she has to be involved in the fight and know where Peter is to help get Britain back. This is so Colin’s cup of tea. He puts his hand on her shoulder and summons henchman Lee (Danny Hatchers).

Outside, Soley is distracted by an altercation between Stevie (also keeping an eye on Vivien) and a policeman. He sees Vivien escorted to a car by Colin and Lee, but an Irish cabbie blocks the road and tells him to get off his turf. After exchanging racial insults, Soley goes home to be upbraided by his son Ronnie.

Vivien is taken to the enormous country house we saw at the beginning of Episode 1. In the kitchen, Elise (Hannah Onslow) is making pastry. Vivien, possibly relieved to find another and perhaps harmless woman, drops her guard a little, revealing that she’s a hairdresser and, more damaging, her dad’s a tailor. They're at the Duke of Westwick’s house, loaned to the organization for training. Meanwhile, Elise has to get on with making food for tomorrow’s big event, “they bury them quick," she mutters. Brace yourself for the sight of a pregnant woman smoking and dealing with some very nasty pastry.

Stevie (Gabriel Akuwudike). Credit: Courtesy of RED Production Company and MASTERPIECE
Stevie (Gabriel Akuwudike) is told to move along. Credit: Courtesy of RED Production Company and MASTERPIECE

Colin’s son Paul comes into the kitchen with a moth he’s trapped in a jar, his "flutterby." Vivien befriends him, wrapping the jar in a tea towel and punching holes in the lid. Although it’s a scene rife with clumsy symbolism, it’s effective. Colin is impressed by Vivien’s powers of observation when she tells him she knows where she is because of the ducal crest in the hall. Jack, badly bruised, is asleep in a small room, also downstairs, and Colin leaves them alone for a few minutes, although it’s clear he’s lurking nearby. Jack is angry at the risk she’s taking: "You think you can come here with your best Marilyn [Monroe] impression and seduce these nutters?"

She asks if he’ll come back, and he refuses. When Colin returns, all three salute and Jack looks bleak after Vivien leaves. Vivien reports back to the Rabbi, Soley, Nancy, and Ronnie. Soley is infuriated: "I always knew the Duke of Westwick was a shyster. That’s why I don’t like toffs. Riding around on their horses, sniffing up pheasants. ... Whatever it is they do, I don’t know. But I do know there are fascists in those mansions, the Royal Family included." The Rabbi calms Soley down as he berates Vivien for not mentioning the training first thing, but this is significant, it’s proof that Jordan is forming a paramilitary organization, which is illegal under British law, and this is how they’ll bring him to justice.

Vivien guesses Elise’s cryptic words refer to the funeral of the Yeshiva boy. The Rabbi arranges the burial to take place at another cemetery. Sure enough, National Socialist Party members raid the cemetery but find they’ve been duped.  At the new location, the funeral takes place without interruption. Vivien meets Mr. Burns at her lodgings on his way out, and Nettie admires her new hair color. Nettie has resigned herself to moving into a high-rise apartment, Burns has told her she’s the last white woman on the street. As Vivien helps Nettie pack, she asks Nettie not to tell anyone she’s living with her, mentioning an ex-fiance who could cause her trouble. But later, Nettie accidentally comes across Vivien’s prayerbook. 

Soley Malinovsky (Eddie Marsan) and Nancy Malinovsky (Tracy-Ann Oberman), Credit: Courtesy of RED Production Company and MASTERPIECE
At the funeral, Soley Malinovsky (Eddie Marsan) blames himself for the boy's death. He tells Nancy Malinovsky (Tracy-Ann Oberman), "They’re winning, and it’s killing me." Credit: Courtesy of RED Production Company and MASTERPIECE

The Kleins visit the Epstein family in Manchester; Jeremy announces he’s taking over the family’s commercial properties and expanding the portfolio. It's not an impressive declaration since his mother is mopping up spilled dessert from his leg. Jeremy reminds them that the Epsteins are living rent-free because they’re family, but if that status changes, they’ll be paying rent, and it’s a very expensive area.

Jack snoops around the country house where Colin has set up his office. By the time Colin arrives, he’s perched on the desk, reading about the Strength through Joy program the German Nazis set up to offer leisure and cultural activities to their followers. He’s impressed, he says. But Colin looks grim. He is on to Peter Fox, but not in the way we immediately fear. Colin is feeling Jack out on his intentions toward Vivien. Jack assures him she’s not his type, and Colin warns him against distractions. Right now, he must focus on his recovery. 

Vivian finds Barbara (the most tolerant boss in London) in tears at work. Marilyn Monroe’s death has been announced on the radio, and she is devastated. But Stevie, convinced Vivien’s sympathetic to the fascists, confronts her. Who is she really? Nancy, presenting herself as a new client, invites her to another meeting. Inside the old fabric store, the Rabbi thanks Vivien for what she’s done, but they need her help again. She is asked to plant a cavity transmitter to record conversations in Jordan’s office. Tonight.  She asks if her dad knows, and Soley brushes her reservations aside. The Rabbi reminds her of how she overcame her fears. How did it feel after? “Blooming fantastic,” she responds. Soley welcomes her to the 62 Group.

Vivien Epstein (Agnes O’Casey). Credit: Courtesy of RED Production Company and MASTERPIECE
Vivien Epstein (Agnes O’Casey). Credit: Courtesy of RED Production Company and MASTERPIECE

Vivien, nervous, says she’s not a fighter, and Nancy reminds her she has other weapons. And then Nancy hits her and tears her blouse. Vivien runs to the house claiming she was attacked and called Nazi scum and thrown out of someone’s car. Elise is instructed to check on Vivien’s story and takes charge. She offers Vivien a top to wear since her blouse is torn, and searches her coat pockets, finding a card from the hairdressers. Downstairs in the cellars, it’s Nazi party time, and Jack looks taken aback to see Vivien again. But he slips away and meets her in the office. Vivian is shocked to find a copy of the Jewish Chronicle in a desk drawer. Jack explains it away as Jordan wanting to keep an eye on Jewish affairs.

When Vivien hears someone approaching, she leaves the office and intercepts Colin in the hallway with a blatant leg display, leaving Jack to finish attaching the device beneath the desk. Colin offers Vivien a drink, as she stares at him with adoration. He becomes very intense, but little Paul wanders in to announce that his flutterby is dead. Vivien offers to take him back to bed and tuck him in. Colin becomes almost human when she returns, confessing that his son is being teased at school. Then he turns his focus back to Vivien. He’s besotted, he admits. It’s time to use the other weapons Nancy mentioned. He insists that’s all he wants, and she goes into his room. Jack sits on the stairs and waits as we hear the 1928 recording by Helen Kane of "I Wanna Be Loved By You." 

Vivien’s dad, David Epstein, still maintains the fiction at home that his daughter is going to the theater a lot. And suddenly, he’s off to London, leaving Liza bewildered and feeling marginalized. She’s left in the dark, and she tells Roza; she feels like an unpaid housemaid, a term she heard on the radio. Roza finally tells her it’s time she knew what David was doing and shows her some documents.

Vivien is in a dangerous situation. But has it all been too easy so far? We’ll see next week.