Ripper Street: 1.05 – The Weight Of One Man’s Heart

Ripper Street spotlights Sergeant Drake – can he take the pressure?

This week on Ripper Street, it’s time for Jerome Flynn’s Sergeant Drake to take the spotlight. He’s been the big cuddly ape in the background for a while, but how does he really feel about his role as Reid’s attack dog? And what brought him here? And there are those lingering feelings for Rose as well.

I admit, I was looking forward to this episode, to see how they dealt with all that. Let’s see how the fight went down – as ever, watch the episode on iPlayer if you seek to avoid spoilers.

Like Every Good Serial Killer, There Is A Pattern Here…

Watching the episode, it quickly became clear this is a story we’ve seen before in ensemble dramas. The lowest ranking member of the crew starts to feel underappreciated, helped along by the “boss” acting like a condescending dick due to external stress (or, in this case, for no particular reason – that early Drake/Reid scene didn’t entirely work). As bad luck would have it, the villain – often a figure from the underdog’s past – pops in with a chance to turn evil. The hero turn them down, only to later go with it after someone else patronises them. Fortunately, the goodie has a final change of heart in time for the climax.

This storyline can also be used to write the low-ranking character out, if they don’t realise their mistake in time to avoid a tragic death. But in this case, happily, Bennett Drake comes to his senses and helps Reid and Jackson take out Iain Glen’s evil Colonol Faulkner. My point, anyway: this may not be Ripper Street’s most inventive week, no.

Still, if this is a formula, it’s a well-acted rendition, and at least didn’t feel completely out of character. Yes, they made Reid a bit too smarmy at the start, but they have also laid the groundwork well – both this week and previously – for Drake to feel like maybe everyone else sees him as a simpleton brute. And, yes, there is a part of his nature that enjoys that, but he fights against it. Jerome Flynn, former fresh-faced housewife’s favourite, still has the raw charm and likability to sell that, even when he’s beating people around.

Touring The Great And The Good

Adam Rothenberg’s Captain Jackson is harder to get a feel for – sometimes he’s a nice chap, often he’s a dick. Obviously we’re not meant to be quite as close to him as we are to Drake, as he’s the man of mystery, but sometimes you feel the writers just use that to have him do whatever’s most useful to the plot. I kinda enjoy him more when he’s butting heads with Reid, rather than swanning around doing whatever he pleases.

Reid himself has a rather quiet week too, as our perspective is very much with our man Drake. And poor Bennett… well, he doesn’t get a super happy ending, getting neither a raise nor the girl. After a whole week with the big lug, I hoped for better, but this is merely our first peek under his skin. Who’s to say Drake won’t get another chance to win Rose over in the finale? The revelations about his past, as a deadly soldier trying to make amends, are nothing hugely surprising, but do go a long way towards making us understand him.

All in all, though, this particular Ripper Street was still a tad predictable in plot terms. Decent execution, the standard structure fitted well around the characters, but nothing remarkable. Oh, and yes, once again, the only new character to appeare at the start of the episode turned out to be the villain. TRUST NO-ONE IN WHITECHAPEL.

Ripper Street airs Sundays at 9PM on BBC1. More info on the Ripper Street official website, see past episodes on iPlayer here. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Nick Bryan

Updated: Jan 27, 2013

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