I was mildly dismayed and yet elated when the BBC and Amazon Prime decided to greenlight another series of Ripper Street , as I felt in my heart of hearts that the last series was a Tour De force and was a fitting finale that should not be tampered with.
It had scoured out my emotions with it's dark tone, Bafta worthy acting and wonderfully gripping plots. Everyone it seemed, had been given their just desserts and poor old Inspector Reid was happily ensconced with long lost daughter Matilda at Margate and Bennet Drake was finally given promotion to Inspector after being a loyal Sergeant to his mentor and friend for all those years,despite Mr Reid's unravelling mental state and subsequent head wound that left him weakened and his sight impaired.
And so we arrive three years into the future where things are very much changed; Inspector Bennet Drake and Tart with a heart turned music Hall entertainer Rose are married but unhappliy unable to conceive. Jerome Flynn maintains his brilliant ability to be simultaneously gentle sweet and subservient to his superiors and yet is still able to bring forth the bruiser and the brawler who sustained that rather broken face who knows where in his youth and formative years. His exasperation with Rose who seems determined to blame her past life for her lack of fecundity explodes in temper and within seconds he is the doe eyed boy in a man's body again as he seeks to soothe his one true love.
Bennet is also now subordinate to a efficient and (rather shockingly) fair and measured Deputy Commissioner who is there front and centre as a spanking new Police Station is opened in Whitechapel that has telephone links to other stations and in a technical evolution of Edmund Reid's precious lags archive, a microfiche library has been created, which both men are demonstrably very proud.
Inspector Drake has also been placed in an untenable position as the lead officer on the murder investigation that will bring his former mentor's Informant Isaac Bloom to the hangman's noose. The poor man has lost leave of his senses and when Reid is persuaded back into London he finds a man broken, leaving Reid doubtful of his guilt or whether he can be held culpable when his faculties are so compromised.
Matthew Macfadyen plays Reid with a kind of rigid poise and emotional detachment. His scientific interests are being mildly used checking coastal erosion for a local seaside resort developer . Things are complicated by The Man's utterly dull and insipid daughter who seems to think that because Matilda and her daughter are comparable in age and he is liked by her Dad that she and Edmund have some form of "arrangement".
Reid appears utterly and completely indifferent to the poor woman and I cannot actually be surprised as his previous love interests were much more ballsy.From Wife Emily who drew strength from her grief to help the women of Whitechapel escape prostitution, to the Female councillor seeking to improve tenements and the fiesty Jewess Miss Sarah Coren who is the catalyst that draws Reid to his old friends's aid through a gentle knowing guilt trip that was very effective..
Captain Jackson and Long Susan are in a holding pattern and as ever She is playing the long game as usual , pretending piety and forgiveness for Matthew and the law that keeps her incarcerated, but moves are afoot behind the scenes ..
Jackson/Matthew is still the police Surgeon and unbeknownst to Drake has eschewed all drink and gambling to secretly pay off a lawyer to try to get Susan off of her Death Sentence, so that he and their son can form a family.His attempts to appear as degenerate as ever were amusing, with his using whisky as a pomade when Drake came upon him unexpectedly; being a really comic touch. His meagre earnings and the well to do Brief does their best, but to no avail, and it seems even Susan's machinations behind even Jackson's back will be thwarted as she is unable to secure a break out by the rather supercillious doctor at the gaol.
Matilda is a precocious little madam and I found myself pitying poor Edmund for spending so much time worrying about the meek little mite and then being left with a insolent little know- it -all, but she is the catalyst for his return to the East End and so for that,we must be thankful!
A new detective and Desk Sergeant (Neville Longbottom of the Potter alumni ) round out the cast although both were woefully under used in this opening instalment. Despite the seriousness of the plight of the main protagonists, this was a lighter, more deft version of the show we have grown to love, the grimness has lifted and the palette s much more vibrant as though with the shutting of the old Leman Street station, writers have been able to approach the characters afresh.
Do not be deceived things are still dark and ominous in those backstreets but there seems to be more light than shade.
Drake and Jackson have the same grudging respect and friendship for each other despite the unifying presence of Reid and this series holds great promise, but I cannot wait for the three men to be in the same room together again as writers have kept them artfully apart.
The murder of a prominent Muslim Lawyer and the insidious involvement of the odious special branch almost takes a backseat but as this is a two parter I fully expect the drama to ramp up in part two.
This first episode brings together some very Pertinent themes for a modern audience considering the setting, those of radical Islam, republicanism , the point at which Patriotism becomes racism and intolerance and the ever present anti semitism of previous series. This seems less laden with agonising struggle and more an examination of how each character tries to get on with the life that fate has handed them since we last met them.
Overall it has won me over, I left this less wrought than from any episode of the last series,but intrigued none the less.