Ripper Street returned to BBC One this Autumn with a bang. Well, that’s to say with a man flying through a window and being impaled on a set of railings. Ripper Street most definitely isn’t for the faint hearted; it’s gory and violent, but also brilliant.
It’s a speedy return for the second series, after the first only finished airing in February 2013. The programme is set in Victorian Whitechapel where H Division Detective Inspector Edmund Reid (Matthew Macfadyen; Any Human Heart), Detective Sergeant Bennet Drake (Jerome Flynn; Game of Thrones) and their American surgeon Homer Jackson (Adam Rothenberg; Alcatraz) hunt down criminals in order to protect their parish. The overarching story of series one was their attempt to unveil Jack the Ripper after, in the first ever episode, prostitutes began to get murdered in Ripper style.
By the end of series one the audience had the answers to all of their questions. Without wanting to give away spoilers; we discover the true identities of Jackson and brothel owner Susan (MyAnna Buring; Downton Abbey) as well as the on-going plot of what really happened to Reid’s daughter and why it caused such a strain on his marriage.
The series two opener shows a diminished interest in the discovery of the Ripper and really takes no note of the revelations from its last outing. We are thrust straight into a new crime where the trio attempt to uncover why another Division’s policeman has been viciously attacked. The plot delves into police corruption and the introduction of narcotics to the streets of Whitechapel, all interweaving with a story of a Chinese girl and her involvement. The storyline is relatively easy to figure out; the mastermind behind the entire plan is pretty obvious but it does not detract from its overall enjoyment.
The cast are superb and the characters are extremely likeable. Jackson brings some much needed comedy value to the programme. As the policemen attempt to stop a riot in the cells, he stands around smoking a cigarette and talking to Drake, who is being strangled at the time, only helping him after finishing his drag (the scene where he indulges in narcotics is another highlight).
Reid and Drake bounce off each other well, with Drake standing as the ‘bad cop’ who gets into fights with the criminals. One scene from the episode with his wife, Ella, makes him a much more three-dimensional character as the audience can peek at his domestic life and see another side to him.
The first episode of the new series wasn’t all it could have been, particularly in comparison to series one. But, left on a cliffhanger with the next episode seeing the return of the K Division policemen to take on Reid and his men, it has the potential to get a whole lot better.
Despite the obvious violent tendencies of the show, Ripper Street is a fun and entertaining viewing. It is slick and stylish, creating interesting storylines for its character, and comes highly recommended.