TV Review: Ripper Street, BBC1


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The Independent Culture

It's testament to the richness of Ripper Street's police-procedural-meets-costume-drama premise, not to mention the seediness of the Victorian East End, that the writers are yet to run out of new ideas for gruesome crime plots. Last night's episode opened with a detective falling from a second-floor window and impaling his thigh on an iron railing, while crowds gathered round to jeer.

The investigations of Inspector Reid (Matthew Macfadyen) and Sergeant Drake (Jerome Flynn) soon led deep into Limehouse's Chinatown district, in and out of opium dens and even past the window of Joseph “The Elephant Man” Merrick, all on the trail of an exotic femme fatale by the name of Blush Pang. These brave men were determined to find out exactly what happened to their fellow officer, but since the unfortunate bobby had a leg injury and not a mouth one, it was never clear why they didn't just ask him.

No matter. Luckily, Inspector Reid's chief suspect happened to speak very clear English, despite having only recently arrived from China. That was more than can be said for any of the officers at Whitechapel's H Division. Ripper Street's stuffy period dialogue gave them lines like, “It is a purgatory which grows by increment” (translation: “It's a bit rough round here, isn't it?”) and “You think him caught getting his jollification?” (translation: “His trousers round his ankles.”)

Matthew Macfadyen as Inspector Reid is the only cast member naturally stiff enough to really get away with talking in that peculiarly strained fashion. That's why he's the star. In fact, M-Fad always oozes integrity, so it was nice to see that this series he'll finally be paired with a foe as villainous as he is upstanding: meet Jedidiah Shine (Joseph Mawle), a corrupt inspector from the Limehouse division...