Ripper Street: 2.08 - Our Betrayal, Part 2
As ever, there are spoilers throughout the below review. Don’t go near if you haven’t watched.
Well that’s that then, maybe forever. Ripper Street has sloped off into the narrow winding streets of Whitechapel, for the last time. This was an episode that wrapped up nearly all of the loose ends, but opened up a few new questions. One of the issues that British TV has is that recommissioning (or not) of series is regularly decided after they’ve been filmed, so it’s very rare for a series to get a proper conclusion. Depending on your view, that's not such an issue here.
So the theme this week was… hang on… there was no theme. It was basically the conclusion of Edmund Reid’s series long pursuit of Jedediah Shine, the Homer Jackson, Long Susan, and Duggan love triangle, and the resurrection and humanising of Bennett Drake.
Opening with the weakest of the strands as Councillor Cobden is hassled by the press, before three decomposed bodies are found and that kicks off the final chase. Reid’s impotence, in more than one way, is covered. He doesn’t have the stomach for violence himself but is happy to put Drake into play without regard for his feelings. But this is a very different Bennett Drake this week, “Has your dog gone lame” asks Verner as Drake refuses to do Reid’s bidding. Reid is also emotionally impotent, his wife left him and his new love is constantly being left hanging, in many ways Reid’s character is the saddest on show, an essentially good man who is forever doing the wrong thing to people around him in order to ‘get justice’. It’s a portrayal that is right up Matthew Macfadyen’s street, there is no-one else that does fed-up, soulless-eyed look quite as well. Though the final “Kill him!” is a bit too far out of character to be totally believable you do understand how he's become desperate enough to get there.
Drake's “Life is offended by you and me” speech summarises where he has arrived at in this episode. He’s returned from the brink and is drinking tea with Rose, in one of the most touching scenes of the series. Without wishing to harp on too much about this, Jerome Flynn’s work in this series is stellar, if you can remember back to where his character was at the start of this run you’ll have seen the journey from the pretty stereotypical hardman sidekick portrayal through to someone much more multi-layered, with depths rarely found in that kind of role. Flynn’s hangdog expression and see-into-the-soul eyes do the work of a hundred words. The saddest part of the episode, apart from the Long Susan scenes, is the resignation that he can’t escape from who he’s been and what’s expected of him, although this is nicely subverted twice when he refuses Reid’s orders.
The third story arc comes to a full conclusion as Jackson finally comes through with a solution to the Duggan problem, but far too late for Susan. "Mr Duggan, does your new bitch not know to knock when men are at their business?" She’s basically a working woman in her own home now, delivering food and being at Duggan’s beck and call. There’s further good work from MyAnna Buring, another that has grown into her role through this second series, and Adam Rothenberg gives some depth to his previously cocksure American. The convoluted plotting with the diamond and Jackson’s brother continues, and the stories intertwine with Reid finally figuring out that Duggan is at the root of the overarching conspiracy of the series, and in cahoots with Shine. At times the plot has become a little confusing and as it’s been drawn out over the last four or five weeks you have to have been watching to keep up.
In the end though this comes down to the characters, the men and women of Ripper Street. Those fighting the good fight (Edmund Reid), their own demons (Bennett Drake), or their own weaknesses (Homer Jackson), and those railing against their past (Rose Erskine) or their situation (Long Susan). Conversely, the villains of the piece don’t have as convincing motivation, for Duggan it’s money, for Shine it seems like he’s purely in it for the love of murder and villainy.
What started at Christmas 2012 as a slightly schlocky period drama based on the oft-visited Jack The Ripper story has turned into one of the most enjoyably gripping British TV dramas of recent years. Mix the the fantastic sets, which give Whitechapel the feel of a living, breathing part of the city, the excellent scripts and dialogue, and the outstanding cast and you’ve got a once in a generation TV show. Now all we need is for someone to sign that cheque. Come on Lovefilm, you know you want to.