Ripper Street - 1.02 - In My Protection

The first episode of BBC One's Ripper Street suffered from long dull stretches - a thin early mystery, an inevitable ending and an unwillingness to go too deep into the characters, as they all have secrets to be unravelled slowly. Which is fine, but it left us with little to get invested in, except some good acting and the emotion always evoked by mentioning Jack The Ripper. If you'd like to see a longer version of this paragraph, do check out last week's review.

But the present calls on us to review this week's olden-day detective drama so here we go. As ever, get ye to an iPlayer if you want to avoid spoilers.

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To my relief (because I'm reviewing this entire run, and I don't enjoy complaining that much), the second episode of Ripper Street showed real improvement. We had more substantial hooks to hang the character development on, a more emotive mystery and a villain with some charisma, meat on the bones of a few subplots... yes, this is still not a perfect show, but at no point was I bored, which was my prime complaint about the series debut.

The addition of the great Joseph Gilgun (Rudy from Misfits)as unpleasant Carmicheal did a lot to alleviate my complaints, and I was disappointed to see him conclusively killed off. Wouldn't have minded his becoming an ongoing nemesis for Inspector Reid, but it looks like that will be the unpleasant Lusk and his gang of "Vigilance Men". Still, if you want a villain for your Victorian crime drama, an really really evil version of Fagin isn't the worst possible idea.

The one story twist this week that did seem contrived was Captain Johnson's coincidentally losing his ring to the same guy who was responsible for the main crime. On the same night as the investigation started to hit the fan. Still, it did lead to a decent final few scenes hinting at the secrets Johnson might hide, and that's good shit. The sort of material that actually drives a series.

Matthew Macfadyen as Batman?

Similarly, Jerome Flynn's Drake got a lot of strong moments this week, nothing too heavy handed, but enough to make it a little clearer what he's about and why Reid keeps him around. Oh, and the relationship between Reid and his wife also became more interesting. Last week's slightly flat scenemerely made it seem like Reid was an obsessive, Batman-like figure who simply ignores her. Turns out, their daughter is gone, Mrs Reid thinks she's dead and Mr Reid thinks she's vanished and could be found. On the one hand, he is our lead detective and they are often right about this sort of thing. On the other, he could simply be in denial. Methinks this won't be firmly answered for quite a while, but it's an interesting hook. Kinda wish they'd rolled it out last week.

No superfluous mentions of Jack The Ripper this week, a few hints - I assumed the Vigilance Men first assembled to look for him - but thankfully the show seems able to set the Ripster aside when needed. Well, except his name in the title, we're kinda stuck with that.

But anyway. A much stronger second week for Ripper Street. If you're easily bothered by poor gender representation, there are a few women doing important plotty things, and even a couple that are not prostitutes, though the actual screentime is still heavily male-dominated. How much of that we have to just let off because of historical accuracy, I don't know. It bothered me less whilst actually watching the show than last week, because this time I wasn't bored.

Ripper Street airs at 9PM Sundays on BBC One. Check out the Official BBC Ripper Street site, or watch the episode on iPlayer. Beware the jabberwock, my son.

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