Now that Ripper Street has definitely been renewed for a second series, does that suck the drama out of its final year one gasps? I used to wonder if this was a one-year mini-series, meaning we could get a real climax, but now it's clear this is intended to go for a few series, is there any real danger?
Well, that never stopped Matthew Macfadyen's old Spooks gig gleefully knocking off characters. And we're not going to know by the end of this review, as it's merely the penultimate episode. Still, as we'll see, it has many trappings of a finale.
Which also means, yes, spoilers, so watch on iPlayer before reading on.
Captain, Oh My CaptainNow we're past the spoiler barrier, I could start banging on about the character who dies, but I'll save it for a bit.
So, the big plot of the week is Captain Jackson's secrets bursting into the foreground after six episodes of hints, and that bodes well for the episode. After all, the acting and characters are the main strong points of Ripper Street - it's the occasional weak plots that let it down. And sure enough, the actual secrets might be a little underwhelming - so, Jackson killed someone, probably righteously, then went on the run and changed his name, and now his victim's brother is here for justice, facilitated by Long Susan's vengeful father.
You could have guessed most of that in advance - to be honest, there's not much "Holy Shit!" here - so it's a good job this is merely the penultimate episode. Instead, it's left to the cast to sell us on the Jackson intrigue, and that's the part which works. Indeed, young Hobbs finally gets some promising scenes, which should probably have been a danger sign that he wasn't long for this world. His death gives proceedings some weight, and at least he died in service of an "important" storyline, rather than being trashed to prop up mediocrity.
So this is the stuff we really care about, whereas the Crime Of The Week - a Ripper-era take on corporate intrigue - gets damped down in service to it. Indeed, it's kinda hard to keep track of which part of each storyline relates to which at times. The industrial espionage idea was intruiging, and I'm kinda disappointed it ended up being overshadowed by Jackons's antics.
Cowboy Ripper FeminismSaid antics were Adam Rothenberg's big chance to shine as Captain Jackson/Matthew Judge, bringing his somewhat bitty character together into a single portrayal, and he does a decent job. He's still kept at a certain arm's length from the audience even now, perhaps in the hope of continuing his mysterious ways into series two, meaning we don't get a full idea of why he chose to come back at the end. Still, he pulls off the final cowboy showdown with style. Matthew Macfadyen, of course, doing strong acting work as ever - what a guy. Maybe we'll get some resolution on his personal plots next week.
Which, of course, is the actual series finale. Predictably, it appears we're seeing Jack The Ripper popping his head up again, or at least someone else who Reid will have to prove isn't him. Will it be Jackson? Is this why his name is "Jack"-son? How many sliced up prostitutes this time?
On the subject of that, actually - Ripper Street didn't have many female roles at the outset, and was duly criticised. I note that, in this penultimate episode, we see a female engineering genius and and a male character being used as victim cannon fodder. Is this an intentional depiction of the advancing roles of women in society? Who can say - I've asked this question in previous reviews and the internet has yet to set me right.
In the meantime, this was a decent second-to-last Ripper Street. Shame the "main" storyline got rather buried, but I enjoyed it still. See you back here next week for the last rip-view of the year, it's gonna be emotional. Inspector Reid might even cry.
Ripper Street airs 9PM Sundays on BBC One. More info on the BBC Ripper Street site, it's not too late to watch the whole series on iPlayer. Don't kid yourself, he's definitely going to cry.