Ripper Street Season 2 Episode 1 Review: “Pure as the Driven”
Americans rejoice! Season Two of Ripper Street is finally here. At long last our thirst for Inspector Reid, Sergeant Drake, and Captain Jackson can be quenched. Pure as the Driven was full of the ass-kicking sleuthery and delicious dialogue we fans crave. We saw fun surprises, shady dealings, and setups for even bigger drama to come. Also, John Merrick! Of course, the premiere is a little soured by the fact that the BBC chose not to renew Ripper Street for a third season. But that may not mean saying goodbye to H Division… More on this and spoilers of the Season Two premiere after the jump!
Variety magazine reports that the BBC is in talks with ginormous retailer Amazon. Seems they’d like to produce a third season of Ripper Street to be downloaded or streamed for digital watching. This appears to be the next big thing in saving great shows with loyal fan bases—shows that just aren’t dumbed down enough to have mass appeal. Let’s all keep our fingers crossed that this works out and we get more of the 1890’s goodness we love so well.
So, Pure as the Driven. It was a good one. We begin with one Sgt Maurice Linklater of K Division. He’s in the Chinese district of Whitechapel looking for an unnamed woman. He enters a purported boarding house where he is promptly hurled from a window. Instead of smashing unceremoniously onto the pavement, Linklater is impaled on an iron fence Walking-Dead-style. Yikes! Back at H Division, Arthurton has a few feisty miscreants that need stomping. Reid and Drake are only too happy to lend the assist, Billy clubs in hand. Enter Captain Jackson, hilariously unconcerned about anything but the noise. Prisoners are subdued just as a street cop busts in to tell Reid of the copper impaled on the fence.
Linklater turns out to be an old friend of Bennet Drake, and the townies are damn near torturing the helpless cop. An overriding theme appears to be that citizens have no respect for the coppers. Imagine! Reid summons the best doctor in town, Treves. Jackson administers an insane dose of laudanum, and they cut the poor bastard down. He’s alive, and the resulting medical care is about as horrific as you’d suspect. Jackson and Reid investigate the room Linklater was thrown from while Drake rides with his friend to give comfort and get information. Linklater speaks mysteriously of an impending plague on the city. Treves is highly skilled and a total hardass. It begins to look like Linklater will live. Treves and Jackson deduce that Linklater was struck once in the middle of the chest—and nowhere else.
Inspector Jedediah Shine busts in and is promptly ejected by Treves. Shine and Reid discuss, and Shine is clear in saying that he doesn’t want any help from H Division. It’s clear off the bat that Shine has a big chip on his shoulder about K Division versus H. We don’t have much time to think of it, because the fellas walk right past the home of John Merrick—the so-called Elephant Man. Reid speaks of his amazing cheerfulness and cordiality despite the adversity he deals with. Reid’s phrasing is that Merrick wears his ugliness on the outside, while most people are able to hide their own ugliness. One to ponder, right?
We learn that the woman Linklater was seeking is Miss Blush Pang. She seems to work in a Chinese gambling house. There’s a young German who ends up shanked in the back, and drugs everywhere. They think it might be morphine, since that was the big needle drug of the time. A young Chinese man is looking for Miss Pang, but it’s clear that she doesn’t want to see him. Wait—that’s the guy who can take people out with one blow. And so he does…
Inspector Shine is at this murder scene as well. Shine is serious about keeping H Division the hell out of there. But no one knows more about drugs and craziness than Captain Jackson. It seems Shine knows all about the Chinese (which doesn’t make him any less racist) because he served overseas for a decade. Hmmm… Shine presents his enthusiasm for solving the case as dedication to Linklater. Reid has his doubts, because he’s Reid and that’s what Reid does.
At the rough halfway point of the episode, we see the best thing ever. Bennet Drake with a…well, we don’t know if she’s his wife or just a serious girlfriend. But Bella is beautiful, kind, supportive, has lovely penmanship, and seems very into Drake. Over at Long Susan’s, she and Jackson argue over whether or not they should skip town. He’s very into leaving; she’s not. We later learn that Susan’s landlord, Mr Duggan, is demanding more money from Susan or he’ll evict her. When she confronts him, we see that he’s a boor and a cur, a lecher and a jerk face. We can only hope Jackson ends up giving him what for. When we follow Edmund Reid home, we see that his wife Emily is nowhere to be found. Drag.
Drake had been in denial about Linklater’s involvement in drugs. But Drake’s visit to the hospital, where his friend is in deep withdrawal, leaves no doubt. Disappointed, Bennet is leaving when he runs into Mr Merrick, out for an evening stroll alone. This seems a common occurrence for Merrick. Anyway, it turns out that Linklater was in business with Pang. Enter the one-strike killer guy. HA! He turns out to be the brother of Blush Pang, who was kidnapped by a London copper years ago. We think briefly that Drake might die, which would make sense, since he’s finally got a woman he loves. But no…the brother lets him go. At the same moment, Reid realizes that the kidnapper is Shine.
Poor Blush Pang has major Stockholm syndrome, since she appears to be in love with Shine, and he her. Meanwhile, Jackson has been experimenting with the drug itself. Whatever it is, people love it enough to kill for it. It’s morphine-like but made from opium. Jackson shoots himself up, for science, not thinking that this may actually turn him into a heroin addict. That’s what it is, heroin. Reid and Drake take some of this new concoction and use it to get information from Linklater, who is in sad shape and still deep in withdrawal. Reid ultimately gives Linklater the drugs he craves—and is seen by Treves. Oops.
Jackson loves the sensation of being on heroin, loves it. Plus, it’s easy to make, and cheap enough for commoners to afford. It’s the wave of suffering Linklater spoke to Drake about. Edmund Reid is not having it. The guys bust up Blush Pang’s lab, even though none of the drugs involved this week are actually illegal. Reid decides that it’s all nefarious, and Ripper Street once again shows us stuff we could never see on a contemporary cop show. Reid and his team bend all sorts of rules, or even break them outright. But they aren’t out for gain, they aren’t sadists, they really just want to keep the peace.
As the episode winds down, Blush Pang and her brother are reunited, and Miss Pang makes every appearance of wanting to return to China with him. Shine is not sufficiently proven guilty of anything, since Linklater is still in a heroin haze. Reid assures Shine that Linklater will come down eventually, and that he won’t keep quiet forever. Just when we think the Chinese siblings might get to go home together, Blush stabs her own brother in the back, as she stabbed the German earlier. She’s a terrible person who cares only for herself. She’s taken into custody, unleashing a tirade of insults at her so-called lover as they drag her off in irons. Turns out, she was not pure as the driven.
When we next week Inspector Shine, he’s paying a visit to Linklater—and he’s got party favors. In fact, he murders his Sergeant with a massive dose of the drug—possibly the first recorded hot-dose. His actions weren’t completely clandestine though, since John Merrick was out for one of his walks and saw the murder take place. It’s not clear if Merrick knew that’s what he was seeing, but I’m sure we’ll hear more about it later. Shine actually has the stones to show up in a pub where Reid and Drake are throwing back a few. Shine reveals that Linklater is dead (Drake is bummed) and that Treves will almost certainly blame Reid for the dose that killed him. But we know Reid won’t take this lying down. We’ve not heard the last of this.
This was a fantastic season premiere. Pure as the Driven gave us all the things we look for in an episode, in a way most of us didn’t expect. I totally thought the brother was going to kill Shine. No dice. I also thought Drake might have been waiting for Shine in Linklater’s room. Nope. I can’t wait to see what else in the 7 remaining episodes Season Two has in store for us.
See you’s next week!