I adored series one of Ripper Street.
Despite the occasionally predictable plot lines and over-abundance of female flesh. This left me happily expecting great things of series two and equally dreading it would be dumbed down and not quite so grimy. After all S1 opened with the invention of snuff films and bare knuckle fighting – including a tooth embedded in the dogged Sgt Drake’s bare knuckles.
Luckily my fears were unfounded. So far at least, and we got a fast paced, potential filled opener. Not the best ever but the language was still that wonderful mix of flowery Victorian with the odd modern anachronism but delivered so well it always feels authentic. Yes, you have to concentrate and listen properly but that’s not a hardship.
S1 did raise questions about the portrayal of female characters, mainly that it showed women as either wives or whores. I can’t entirely argue with that but it isn’t the whole picture – we also got to see a female engineer, ruthless businesswomen and the redoubtable Deborah Goren. And some wives and quite a lot of whores…
It’s a little early to judge the female representation in S2 but let’s be honest, Ripper Street is a (grown up) boy’s own adventure. The Three Amigos are back, striding through the streets of Whitechapel in perfect formation with their coats and their bromance in full swing. To be honest their various partners aren’t that important – we’re just mad about the boys.
Apart from the formation striding there have been changes since we were last at Leman Street. Reid’s wife is absent and unmentioned and Long Susan is offering him a chop for his pantry. I don’t think that’s a euphemism. Jackson and Long Susan, now outed as man and wife, seem less settled when you might have expected a modicum of matrimonial harmony. Jackson has itchy feet and no more reason to linger among the bedclothes – and underclothes – of the staff. I suspect conventional domesticity is not his thing.
Drake on the other hand is positively wallowing in domestic harmony with new wife Bella (when we all know it should have been Rose). Is he happy? He thinks so but is he in love with the idea of love and marriage more than the reality? Sadly, I saw little real chemistry between him and Bella and I’m looking forward to seeing how Rose views the one that got away – and the one that got him. Jackson accuses him of going soft and he does seem a little further from the streamlined fighting machine than before. He needed help in the cell altercation from an amused Jackson and his arse was getting properly kicked by Brother of Blush.
We get to escape Whitechapel and venture into Limehouse – the Chinatown of the day – in search of the mysterious Blush Pang and her frankly magnificent earrings. After Sgt Linklater got a bit hung up and ended up in hospital on a diet of cold turkey our boys got suspicious. A plot was afoot. Forsooth. After a dose of the shiny new wonder drug from Reid – the administering of which which rather dented his moral superiority – he provided useful information to speed the plot along before being bumped off by the wonderful Jedediah Shine, witnessed by the Elephant Man and about to be blamed on the morally upstanding (yet chop-less) Reid. Sounds totally perfectly sensible and logical doesn’t it?!
But that’s the real joy of Ripper Street. It’s histrionic, overblown and historically dodgy but it gathers us up in its flouncy skirts and hustles us along in the story, not letting us catch enough breath to go “But hang on a minute…”
Joseph Mawle swept in as corrupt Inspector Jedediah Shine, the antithesis to the upright moral decorum of Inspector Reid. He clearly had a ball playing Shine with the loudest checks and the best moustache and he’s a character that could so easily tip over into panto villain. But he got it pitch perfect, a mwah-ha-ha short of parody and it felt as though he’d been there all along, just out of shot. And just what is he actually up to? The drug smuggling plot seems done and Blush has hopped from Shine’s bed to Reid’s cells. I hope we see her again. I think they’d be a formidable partnership.
Shine also got one of the best lines: “You think him caught getting his jollification?”
There are a lot of seeds sown in this hour to be harvested over the next seven. So many that I suspect I’ll have missed some but here are a few of my thoughts on what’s to come.
- Long Susan is in debt and under threat. Of course she could confide in her husband and take a sensible approach. And no, of course she won’t. What terrible price will nasty landlord extract?
- Reid is apparently wifeless. More to come on that one. And how long can he keep his suits pressed and his linen pristine if Long Susan gets distracted from his laundry? And just who will be filling his pantry?
- Bella has dark secrets and/or a dark past. I think we can take that on trust.
- Jackson was just a little too keen to try shiny new wonder drug heroin on himself, especially as he’d seen the effects. The BBC treated us to some rather gruesome close up injections and vomit but we’ve already seen Jackson’s cocaine based hangover cure. Now the excitement of his life of deception is gone will he try to find new thrills at the end of a needle?
- Jedediah Shine of the twirl-able moustache. So openly venial there has to be so much more going on than general corruption and a sideline of drug smuggling. Hopefully.
So onwards into series two, with hope in my heart, a chop in my pantry and the smell of Whitechapel under my finger nails. Such jollifications!
Given that both Drake and Shine are fighters I will be lodging a formal complaint if we don’t see them pitted together at some point. Preferably shirtless. And sweaty. I’m quite prepared to come over all kinds of unnecessary.
OK, I hear you.
You are quite right.
That is shameless and shallow objectification of two very fine actors.
So shoot me.
I’m sure just about everyone has already seen this but if it doesn’t make you giggle you need to get your funny bone tested…