The BBC’s Ripper Street takes place in Whitechapel of London’s East End. This is the same area that Jack the Ripper did his terrible deeds back in 1888. Season One of the show takes place six months after those horrible murders and all of its characters are haunted by those crimes. (Previously reviewed by Luigi Bastado and Kristen Lopez). Season Two takes place about a year after season one, and while the Ripper has faded mostly from memory there’s still plenty of crime to contend with in the neighborhood. (Previously reviewed by Luigi Bastardo.)
Season Three almost didn’t happen. Citing poor viewership, the BBC cancelled the series after Season Two. But this is the age of social-media comebacks and after a big fan campaign, Amazon Prime in the UK announced they’d be picking it up for at least another season. Since then Seasons Four and Five have been announced.
Season Three takes place a good five years after the events of Season One, and our main protagonists find themselves a bit scattered. Detective Sergeant Drake (Jerome Flynn) has taken to the streets of Manchester with a nice promotion, the American Captain Jackson (Adam Rothernberg) is once again out of good graces after one too many benders, and DI Reid (Matthew Macfadyen) is just as self-righteous and gloomy as ever.
A train derailment caused by a daring robbery brings violence, death, and mayhem to Whitechapel. It also brings our heroes back together as Drake is asked to help (he was actually on the train when it crashed) and Jackson is forgiven yet again for use of his incomparable skills. Meanwhile Susan (MyAnna Buring) has turned her brothel into a hospital which initially seems incredibly helpful though we may find that her intentions are not as altruistic as she wants us to believe.
The plot lines are many and interwoven, though I must say as someone who has not watched but one or two previous episodes I didn’t find it difficult to keep up. The show does a good job of keeping new viewers in the loop without dumbing anything down, nor spending too much time summing things up over and over again. I no doubt missed some nuances here and there and I certainly don’t quite grasp the depths of all the relationships, but I never felt like I was missing something important and could easily follow along.
From this standpoint, I generally enjoyed the show. It's beautifully shot while maintaining the dirty grittiness of crime-ridden London from over a hundred years ago. The writing generally sparkles and the main actors all do a remarkable job. There are a lot of threads to follow, but almost all of them are interesting. This is the sort of mystery show that maintains a well-developed seasonal arc while still keeping up with single episode mysteries. All in all, it works rather well.
Not well enough to make me immediately go back and binge watch Season One and Two, but certainly enough to put those on my list of things to catch up on this summer. My gradation of good television crime dramas runs from The Wire (possibly the greatest show ever made) down to things like Law & Order (enjoyable TV that I watch with some regularity but have never felt the need to search it out and watch religiously). Ripper Street falls somewhere in the middle with a slight lean towards The Wire. There’s enough artfulness and depth to rise it above casual-viewing categories, but not quite interesting enough to make me put it at classic settings. Not yet anyhow. I’ll come back to you once I’ve seen the first two seasons.