sun 16/06/2024

Ripper Street, Series Two, BBC One | reviews, news & interviews

Ripper Street, Series Two, BBC One

Ripper Street, Series Two, BBC One

Reid and the boys are back with another dose of po-faced Victoriana

Bromance: Jackson (Adam Rothenberg), Drake (Jerome Flynn) and Reid (Matthew Macfadyen)

Proof that the BBC’s love of gritty realism is not solely the province of Luther and similar modern-day urban crime dramas comes just minutes into the second series of Ripper Street, before the credits even roll.

In the East End of London a police officer is thrown from a window, only missing a little boy playing recorder for the amusement of the street below when his leg is gruesomely impaled on a railing.

The writers allowed their leading man a bit of social commentary

So far so Ripper Street of course, given the criticism that the first series of the Victorian crime thriller collected for its gratuitous depictions of violence against women in the aftermath of the "Ripper" murders - but Whitechapel, like its never-caught killer, has moved on. While sex (and violence) remains a theme, this time around drugs (and violence) are the motif for London’s sordid underbelly. The accident that befell DS Maurice Linklater (Steven Hartley) in those first few minutes set DI Edmund Reid (Matthew Macfadyen) and his men off on the trail of a dangerous new drug from China - and its ties to corruption on a neighbouring force.

Set in the last years of the 19th century, Ripper Street is a show that faces, almost knowingly, a world on the cusp of change. It’s there in the unconventional methods of Captain Homer Jackson (Adam Rothenberg), and in Reid’s own sensitivities. Although the Chinese immigrants that played such a central role in the episode came across like a collection of stereotypes (exotic beauties or mysterious, freakish strong-men; controlling gambling and opium rings behind closed doors), the writers allowed their leading man a bit of social commentary as he pondered the dockside Chinatowns the less well-off are left in when promises of work fall through.

Aaron Ly and Kunjue Li in Ripper StreetDespite Reid’s noble vow not to let the brutal assault of a fellow officer go unpunished, the presence of a K Division man on H Division territory spelled trouble - and it quickly emerged that Linklater, an old acquaintance of Jerome Flynn’s unrecognisably grizzled DS Drake, was embroiled in a drug-smuggling ring fronted by the beautiful Blush Pang (Kunjue Li). Meanwhile Pang’s ferocious brother, Wong King-Fai (Aaron Ly, right, with Li) was in pursuit, hell-bent on saving his sister from a life of Western-led dishonour.

If that all sounds like ludicrous fun, what disappoints about Ripper Street is how seriously it takes itself. This is a sorry product of Macfadyen’s two facial expressions, although his use of "perturbed" when Reid realised the consequences of the second of the two basic errors of policing judgement he made over the course of this first hour was excellent. Joseph Mawle as the corrupt - and unpronounceable - DI Jedediah Shine played his villainous performance with just enough camp to, well, shine.

But the most interesting subplot - and subplot was all she got in this testosterone-heavy episode - belonged to MyAnna Buring as Long Susan, fallen into debt and threatened by the slimy Silas Duggan (Frank Harper). How the strong, no-nonsense madam extricates herself from a difficult situation could provide an interesting counterpoint to the central "bromance" as the series progresses.

What disappoints about Ripper Street is how seriously it takes itself


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

Share this article


"Macfadyen’s two facial expressions"??? I don't know any other actor, who shows such a range of emotions in his eyes, face and body! Matthew Macfadyen is one of the best actors in his generation, and even in more than only in his own generation. It's a fact, that a lot of actors call him a genius, as you can read and hear in interviews all over the years. They even take roles on (for one reason), because Matthew is in a cast. Well, I surely see more than two faces of Matthew playing Reid ;-)))))))))) I love every second of Ripper Street! A brilliant series with a brilliant cast!

Add comment

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 15,000 pieces, we're asking for £5 per month or £40 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take a subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters