Ripper Street: 1.06 - Tournament of Shadows

I'll give Ripper Street this: it hasn't repeated itself much. After last week's bank robberies and the locked room mystery before that, this week it's terrorists and Communists, in the same story no less. Actually, is that a good depiction?

Yes, the Russians have come to Whitechapel, and in a portrayal of diplomacy that must remind Matthew Macfadyen of his Spooks days, they're here to blow stuff up. What're the odds, eh? And how do they do? Read on, beware spoilers, watch on iPlayer first - all the usual warnings.


Down With Communism!

In a nutshell, striking workers are evil, or are they? It turns out, the nasty corrupt police higher-ups are bringing in the Russian police to frame the lefties for bombing London, but Edmund Reid, a man with real integrity, is able to see through all that and cut straight to the moral chase. Credit to the writers for putting effort into a truly off-the-wall plot, even if itdidn't entirely work for me. Too much silliness, not enough to really get stuck into.

At least it didn't commit the cardinal sin of being boring, as seen in the first episode, and there were plenty of good character scenes for our regular heroes to get stuck into, most of which happened as a result of the plot. The final result of said main storyline, though - a brief bomb defusal and scuffle in a warehouse - did put the nail in the coffin for me. It just kinda happened, and none of the incidental characters we encountered were sufficiently multi-layered or well acted for me to really care.

Up With Macfadyen!

Still, as I said, it got a lot of fun moments for the regular heroes. Main guys Matthew Macfadyen, Jerome Flynn and Adam Rothenberg are all on strong form here, although Flynn's Drake gets kinda sidelined after his spotlight last week. Still, we finally get answers about Edmund Reid's daughter-angst, giving Macfadyen ample chance to bring out his well-rehearsed anguished face. And it looks like the Reid marriage might be on the way out, as Reid strays with that orphanage nurse he'd been flirting with. Not a great way to maintain the moral high ground, but his obession and loneliness do leave some sympathy for the guy. It might help that I really like Macfadyen as an actor.

Meanwhile, as was made pretty obvious before, it looks like Captain Jackson is indeed using one of those false identities. We don't get much more information than this, but in general, it's good to see the character taking action and getting involved with the plot, rather than swanning around dishing out insults, quips and the occasional nugget of wisdom. Based on the trailer for next week, it seems his secrets are about to get a good hard airing, perhaps as part of a two-part finale. We'll have to wait and see, but it is about time.

In the meantime, I'd say this was a middling episode of Ripper Street. My appreciation of the characters and acting kept my interest, but I was never that invested in the Crime Of The Week. Still alright, and as the final weeks near, you have to assume all the subplots are going to rocket to the surface, which should make for an exciting conclusion. Join me next week to find out...

Ripper Street airs Sundays at 9PM on BBC One. More info on the official BBC Ripper Street site, see past episodes on iPlayer. Fear the march of change.

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