‘Pure As The Driven’
Ripper Street series 2 kicked off in a suitably grisly way: a man being flung out of a window impaling himself on a cast iron fence. In series 2 the threat of Jack the Ripper has subsided but Whitechapel still has its problems, the absolute loss of confidence of the police force being one.
After the titles roll we find out that the impaled man is a police officer that has been caught up in some very dodgy dealings. Our three main characters Reid (Matthew MacFadyen), Drake (Jerome Flynn) and Jackson (Adam Rothenberg) find themselves in Chinatown trying to find the illusive Blush Pang. During their investigation they discover a powerful new opiate is about to hit the streets of Whitechapel.
Quickly we’re treated to seeing the chemistry between the three leads and this is what carries this first episode. The storyline is incredibly predictable but it was an enjoyable watch non-the less. As the episode goes on we find out that the injured police officer has been involved in the creation of the new opiate that will soon be flooding the streets of London and, seeing his withdrawal symptoms, it’s not hard to deduce that this new drug is heroin. Blush Pang is believed to be the leader of this drug ring and Reid, Drake and Jackson set about trying to find her. It’s soon revealed that she’s in fact working in partnership with her lover.
One of the main issues I had with the first series of Ripper Street was the portrayal of the female characters. They were either being beaten up, sexually assaulted or were the stiffs in the morgue. The main female characters lived in the brothel so were usually in some sort of state of undress and although ballsy, were always waiting for the knights in shining armour (in the shapes of the protagonists). They never have their own story lines and are always merely accessories to the storyline. This happens once again with Blush Pang just being the set up for the obvious new nemesis for Reid. The returning character of Susan (MyAnna Buring) being bribed by her landlord is also a foreshadowed storyline. It could be argued that at the time this was set women had less rights etc. but I’m pretty sure in Victorian times not all women were pathetic and chained to their homes or prostitutes!
There have, however, been some welcome changes to this first episode from the previous series. The dialogue is nowhere near as clunky and there are some excellent fight scenes. They also include John Merrick (the elephant man) as another character in this piece and he’s dealt with sensitivity and makes the whole thing an even more effective period piece. New character Shine (Joseph Mawle) plays an excellent villain opposite Matthew Macfayden’s moral Reid. The final scene was a perfect set up for the rest of the series and the whole episode accentuated how much interesting grey area is finding it’s way into Reid’s methods since his recruitment of Jackson and his fight against the growing corruption in his beloved London.
It was a predictable but strong opener for series 2 and, although some aspects of this series still frustrate me, I’ll be keeping my Monday evenings free for it.