TV Review: Ripper Street Season 4

Monday 14 March 2016 by

Ripper Street, Season 4, Amazon Prime, TV, Matthew Macfadyen, Jerome Flynn, Adam Rothenburg

I’ve been a big fan of Ripper Street from day one. It has an excellent cast (Matthew Macfadyen and Jerome Flynn head up the male-dominant cast), and the storylines are dark, exciting and intense. Set in Victorian London, shortly after Jack the Ripper, Detective Inspector Edmund Reid (Macfadyen) sets about trying to keep the streets safe – which is never easy.

For some unfathomable reason, Ripper Street was dropped by the BBC – but thankfully picked up by Amazon Prime. The fourth season has recently finished, and there is now news that the fifth will be the final. If you haven’t watched the first three seasons, not a lot of this will make sense, so you might need to watch it all first!

Season four begins three years after Reid has retired to the coast with Mathilda, his daughter (Anna Burnett). Instead, Bennet Drake (Flynn) is head of the force, which has new headquarters and new staff – including Frank Thatcher (Benjamin O’Mahoney) and “Drum” Drummond (Matthew Lewis). Meanwhile, Jackson (Adam Rothenberg) is hell bent on freeing Susan (MyAnna Buring) from her incarceration and impending death. Keeping up yet?

There are several threads to follow this season – from the Golem murders to the animalistic mauling of victims by an unseen foe. It is in to this that Reid returns, causing friction with Flynn, and stirring up old problems.

You have to watch this series closely because things can get complicated really quickly. But every second of it is worthwhile – the cast is simply outstanding, and the sets are stunning. This is gritty, and scary and romantic and all the things you want from a period drama – just with added blood. There’s nothing out there quite like Ripper Street (the closest I can get is Peaky Blinders). The dialogue is phenomenal, and the plotlines addictive. They have deliberately swerved from the standard salacious Ripper story and decided instead to focus on what it would be like living in Victorian London, on rough streets, with added murder and subterfuge.

The dynamics in season four are different from the previous seasons, which throws up a lot of new curves and questions – and the finale is so inevitable and yet so upsetting I can’t even talk about it. Every season ends with a “where are they even going to go from here” moment, and yet this one takes the biscuit. A lot of TV series rely heavily on plot twists, explosions and cliffhangers to make their finales memorable, but the joy of Ripper Street is that – although shocking – there is something inevitable about the conclusion.

But – and I’ve said it before – it is the cast that truly make this a memorable show. It’s a small cast in some respects, but the quality of acting is simply outstanding. They are just astonishing. Macfadyen, Flynn and Rothenberg make up one of the most engaging, realistic trio of protagonists I’ve seen in a very long time – they are mesmerising to watch, especially in scenes together. And Buring as Long Susan is just my favourite. I have a bit of a girlcrush on her – strong, clever, and witty, she puts all the men to shame time and time again. By far, she is the best character.

The introduction of the new staff throw up some interesting dynamics which – if the series had been longer – could have been better explored. There is a disappointment that this is only six episodes long. Although the plotlines are resolved in a six-part arc, there is a lot left unsaid and unexplored simply because there isn’t time. I think it’s a credit to the writers that you feel the added depths of it, rather than feeling like you are giving a superficial overview.

I am really disappointed that season five will be the last of Ripper Street. Of course it has to come to its end, and it’s a credit to the producers and writers that it is coming to its natural end rather than an enforced finish point, but there is still a part of me that hopes for some kind of spin off – just so I can stay in that world forever.

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