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20th January 2013 22:00:00
Posted by Nick Bryan

Ripper Street: 1.04 - The Good Of This City

Review of Ripper Street: The Good Of This City from the BBC, starring Matthew Macfadyen, Jerome Flynn and Adam Rothenberg.
Another week on Ripper Street, another case of lives being torn apart by the march of progress. You gotta wonder why the good people of Whitechapel bother trying to innovate - every time they do, someone uses it for murder or snuff porn. Anyway, this week the tube is being created, and murder, deceit and bastardry come in its wake.

So, it may be another episode in a common theme, but does that make it bad? Spoilers, obviously, so check it on iPlayer before reading on.

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Unhappy Hookers And Even Unhappier Epileptics

The first episode of Ripper Street drew criticism for what some call "Happy Hooker" scenes - the soft focus romanticisation of prostitution. Well, this week, we have the harrowing unpleasant interpretation, as well as the slightly worrying Victorian attitude towards mental illness.

Our heroes look into a murder, using some practically Sherlockian deducation based on tiny details around the scene of the crime, and end up finding that Long Susan, brothel madam and wearer of huge dresses, did it to defend one of her girls. But it turns out someone else was a bigger bastard, so she is let off. I'm not clear exactly why Susan wasn't kept in prison to be honest - aside from the obvious "Because she's a regular character" answer.

Critics of the few non-prostitute women in this series might note that Ripper Street is slowly building a reliable cast of females who play a role in the plot. This week, the orphanage owner from episode two is called into serivce once more to look after some children, as well as Mrs Reid's women's shelter from last week. If you want to give the show credit, you could suggest the lack of women in the first episode and their growing importance is meant to be reflective of their role in society at this time. Or it could be a total coincidence, I don't know.

Another Week On The Street

And obviously, yes, there are also prostitutes, although none of them are chopped up. Watching Drake get flustered whilst talking to Rose is always fun, if nothing else, and it looks like that plot might be hitting the fan next week. No developments in the mysterious secrets of Captain Jackson, but they are hinted at, along with more flickerings of demons from Reid's past. The pilot episode might've been rather vacant, but credit where it's due - this series is getting a lot better at juggling its subplots.

They even managed to avoid massive contrivances this week, although I admit the ending was faintly predictable. As soon as the two new characters (the County Council man and the psychiatrist) appeared, it seemed inevitable one or both of them would be the villain. Nice to see a little development of the evil journalist though, such as it was.

Nonetheless. another decent episode, I thought. You can't go wrong with a whodunnit murder based on a few clues in a room, and it gives Ripper Street plenty of chances to show off its modern-yet-old aesthetic. The tensions between the main characters are simmering nicely. Considering how unenthused I was by that first episode, I'm pleasantly surprised to say this has turned out to be a good, hardy BBC crime drama. I even hope they get renewed for a second year.

Ripper Street airs on 9PM Sundays, BBC One. More details on the official BBC Ripper Street site, you can still see the whole series to date on iPlayer. Check his wound for traces of horse dung, Captain.