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24th February 2013 22:00:00
Posted by Nick Bryan

Ripper Street: 1.08 - What Use Our Work?

Review of Ripper Street: What Use Our Work? from the BBC, starring Matthew Macfadyen, Jerome FLynn and Adam Rothenberg.
Ripper Street has ended! We shall never see its like again! Well, if you ignore the fact it's already been given a second series, yes. But regardless, I've developed a certain affection for the motley crew of Ripper-era lawmen. And now, their subplots are threatening to rise up and consume them!

Reid consumed by obsession and adultery! Drake disconnected from his work after last week's tragic events! And, oh yes, Captiain Jackson locked up, believed to be Jack The Ripper! Can they come back from this? Will there be a cliffhanger?

Spoilers, obviously, so get thee to an iPlayer.

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Cap'n Jackson, Let's Shoot Us Some Injuns

As the Radio Times sagely point out, this show is not just an old-school CSI spin-off, there's a strong Western vibe too, as one good man and his rough-edged sidekicks try to tame the town. And that only became more obvious after last week's high-noon shootout from Captain Jackson.

So, this week, in old-school tradition, the group is torn asunder, a lot of staring at drinks in bars and making speeches about duty. Fortunately Drake is not a man with a high price - he may be disillusioned with Jackson, but as soon as his precious Rose is on the line, he nods his head and gets on with it. Similarly, Jackson's situation may seem dire, but all he needs is ten minutes alone with the corpse of his supposed victim, and that's that.

Kinda disappointing after all that build-up, but it's only the first series, evidently they have plans for at least one or two more, so they couldn't brutally tear the whole set-up to pieces.

Edmund Reid - Suffers So His Men Need Not

And although Drake and Jackson get off pretty lightly in the end, the episode compensates by really sticking it to our main man, Edmund Reid. As bad luck would have it, not only has Jackson been framed for Ripper, but the man who was standing nearby when Reid's daughter disappeared (are we just accepting that she's dead now?) chooses this moment to make a comeback. Once again, contrivance from the show, but in general, ridiculous coincidences are more acceptable when they make things worse for our heroes, rather than better.

Haunted by this, he cannot hide in the arms of his mistress anymore, so is forced to finally talk to his wife. Matthew Macfadyen plays haunted so well, you'd think he had his own personal ghost, and he sells Reid's internal turmoil. Especially the part where the one witness to his daughter's disappearance is shot and Reid finally loses it, that was a great scene.

So yes, even though Drake and Jackson's troubles ended up being largely false drama, this episode still capped off the series as a resolution to Reid's ongoing plot. And let's be honest, Jackson's storylines peaked last week, this was just the tail end.

Which brings us to the end of Ripper Street series 1. When I was writing my fairly negative review of the debut episode, I never expected to be here, covering the finale and saying, yeah, most of that series was pretty good. But thanks mostly to great acting and an interesting variance in plots (some more successful than others, but still, they tried a lot of stuff), this has ended up being a worthy weekly appointment, not just something I watch out of review obligation. In an era where many of the shows I love are ending (Being Human, Merlin) and Utopia isn't that great, it's been nice to have a solid meat-and-potatoes crime-western to look forward to. Based on the "So, shall we go to work?" ending, it looks like they're well placed to carry straight on next year.

Ripper Street has ended, much to mine upset. You can still see the official website, and the entire first series is up on iPlayer for one more week. Wonder if/when this show will put forward its lunatic theory about who Jack The Ripper "really" was.