Ripper Street: Series 2 catch up

The Beeb has rushed out the second set of adventures for our favourite nineteenth century bobbies, as Ripper Street picks up shortly after the end of it’s debut series. Renewed before the end of the first series, due to its steady six million plus viewers, the drama returned on a Monday rather than Sunday night.
The three amigos are present and correct but their home lives have altered, wives lost, gained, and retained. The first episode sets up a new big bad, that’ll be Inspector Jedediah Shine, and give him plenty of screen time to establish a backstory and character. The plot itself is a complex thing, throwing illegal opiates and illegal immigrants into the mix. It’s a strong, if slightly unfocused, first episode back but the show really takes off with ‘Am I Not Monstrous?’, which is an excellent episode with Joseph Merrick, aka The Elephant Man, at the centre.
Starting a tale with a tail, the path for Drake, an ever brilliant Jerome Flynn, and Reid, the stoically emotionless Matthew Macfadyen, takes in a freakshow, murder, a new Detective Constable, and some fantastically menacing, and surprisingly touching, Jedediah Shine. The symbolism is a bit heavy handed, John Merrick at the centre of a story about people that are different and freakshows? Despite that this was a quality episode with moving acting and developments in the ongoing story arc.

The third episode tries to answer some of the criticism the show receives for it’s lack of strong women and it’s attitude towards the female characters that it does have. Entirely focused around the existing females, the returning Rose and pimp Long Susan, it gives them a further depth. Susan, played with subtlety by MyAnna Burling, in particular has plenty of character development and you sense she’s being set for a larger role later in the series. New characters, Jane Cobden, based on a real person, and Raine are both prominent.
The fourth episode, the slowest of this half season by far, takes on the idea of real life events with a plot revolving around the introduction of electricity. It also gives the first real chunk of screen time up to new bobby Constable Flyte, who deals with it well.

There are some great scenes through the back alleys of Whitechapel and one of the strengths of the show is how well is recreates the feeling of the time. The set, the make up, the introduction of real life people and events, all add to make this one of the most enjoyable shows the Beeb has come up with for a long time. Slightly preposterous is might be in places, we can just hope that the level of quality shown so far continues into the second half of the season.

If you want to catch up with Ripper Street the first four episodes are available on the iPlayer. It’s shown on BBC1 on Mondays at 9pm.

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