Ripper Street Season 2 Review: Loss, Betrayal, Diamonds, and Flight
Ripper Street fans narrowly avoided disaster when they snapped into action to protest its cancellation. Series saved! The 3rd Season (or series for those of you across The Pond) will be produced by Amazon for streaming in 2015. Sounds like BBC will show it as well, but no word whether BBC America will follow suit. The important thing is that Inspector Edmund Reid, Sergeant Bennet Drake, and “Captain Homer Jackson,” will be back for more investigations, conflicts, and autopsies without the benefit of plastic gloves. So what happened in Season Two? I’ll tell you…after the jump.
Fans were not exactly surprised when we learned that Emily Reid was no longer living with her husband. To hear Edmund describe it, he is guilty of giving his wife “false hope” that their daughter was still alive. I can’t get behind this, because it implies that Reid was being deliberately deceitful. He wasn’t. We know that he fully believed that his daughter was alive, and that perhaps she had been taken by one of Season One’s more deplorable villains. We see Reid get pretty damn angry when Inspector Shine begins his crazy shenanigans; and his relationship with Abberline suffers as a result. Edmunds new squeeze became the fetching Miss Jane Cobden, a driven councilwoman. We learned of Edmund’s friendship and mutual respect for Joseph Merrick, which was a wonderful arc this season—if woefully short. I could have stood 3 or 4 more Merrick eps. Matthew MacFadyen continues to make us love Edmund, even as he frustrates the hell out of us.
Captain Homer Jackson, AKA Matthew Judge, shocked us at the end of Season One when we found out that he wasn’t just a drunken lout crashing at the local whorehouse. He was actually a happily married man very much in love with the whorehouse proprietress. In Season Two, Jackson discovered heroin and managed to not get addicted. That alone should be testament to his will power. However, he was bested physically by local douchebag Silas Duggan—who was attempting to squeeze Jackson’s wife in every possible sense. After an unforgivable error in judgment (and okay, some stealing and lies), Jackson’s wife “Susan” threw him out. Deep in her own despair, she came to believe she couldn’t rely on anyone. When Jackson’s no-good brother shows up in town, even a successful diamond heist can’t fix what’s been broken. Adam Rothenberg brings a strange sexiness to Jackson, reminding us all of that one man we know is bad for us—but we cannot resist him.
The biggest tragedy of Season Two revolves around Sergeant Bennet Drake. Jerome Flynn moves us to tears (again) as we observe his happiness with Bella, followed by unimaginable tragedy, followed by self-inflicted punishment far worse than anyone else would have delivered. Again and again, we are heartbroken for Drake. All he wants is a little happiness and a relief from his terrible past. Bennet Drake routinely found himself acting as a violent enforcer—in the war, on the streets, in the interrogation room. He wanted to be a better man, and was thwarted at every turn. When we learn that his beloved Bella was harboring some awful secrets of her own—Drake never abandoned her. He stood by her till the bitter end, which came far too soon. When we reach the Season Two finale, Drake has an opportunity to legally kill one of the season’s most ghastly villain. He doesn’t. He takes the high road, toward the man he wants to be. Does that mean he’ll eventually find happiness? Time will tell.
Long Susan was a character that I had some trouble warming up to. She always seemed so cold, so closed off. Susan was rude, fake, and pretty damn haughty considering the “prestige” her work afforded her in this time period. Personally, I think prostitution should be safe and legal, but in Susan’s time it was seen as low work. When we learned that Susan was actually from a wealthy family and left everything for love of Matthew Judge—we can’t help but like her. She’s generous and fair with her girls, overtly honest with those she trusts, and not afraid of a little hard work. Her fashion sense is impeccable. With all that in mind, it was terribly sad to see her lose faith in her husband, and much worse to watch her succumb to the disgusting advances of Silas Duggan. Sure, Susan ended the season with money, assets, and a kind of freedom. But she’s miserable and has lost her faith in all humanity—the male half anyway.
Rose Erskine used her talents in man-pleasin’ to attempt to gain a better life for herself. That was the logic that kept her from marrying Bennet Drake even after he laid his heart out for her. She wanted to land a rich man, or maybe become a famous singer and actress. Yes, these are the kind of fantasies more appropriate to a 12-year-old girl than a grown woman with tons of life experience. Still, we get to really care for Rose—especially when we see the devotion and loyalty she shows Bennet in Season Two. I can’t say if they’ll ever be together romantically, but there’s something there. Rose made every effort to follow her dreams this season, with little success. She’s capable of much more than her opportunities have afforded her.
We didn’t get to know Jane Cobden all that well. She seems like a nice lady, devoted to her constituents and fighting against the perception of women in non-traditional roles. She digs Edmund Reid, and who can blame her? Well, anyone who has noticed that he’s already married, maybe. Too bad the Reids can’t just get a divorce. Jane appeared shocked and horrified to see Edmund screaming for the death of Inspector Shine. That’s probably because Cobden doesn’t know Shine. We know Reid’s hatred of Shine is totally warranted. Because…
Inspector Shine is a crooked, murderous asshole who would rather frame a good man that accept responsibility for his actions. He’s the murderer of Joseph Merrick, and one of his own policemen. Shine’s motivations appear mundane—power, money, and his own fondness for brutality. * yawn * Even worse than his own misdeeds, is that Jedidiah Shine took a vulnerable man and twisted him into a worse one—one of deceit and betrayal. Constable Flight seems utterly sincere at first glance. Even after we learn that he’s Shine’s reluctant puppet, we can’t help but like him a little. It doesn’t hurt that Flight is played by Damien Molony, who is cute as a bug.
Thematically, betrayal and trust were huge this season. Backdrop events included the famous matchgirl strike, the formation of The Golden Dawn, the Current Wars (AC versus DC, Edison versus Tesla), and the “scourge” of homosexuality. Fred Best is gay, we learn, but he’s still a selfish jerkass. So there’s that. Ripper Street Season Two was voted Best Show of 2013 by the Radio Times. I must agree. It was an incredibly tragic and wonderful season, and I would have been horrified to think there would be no more story for our three favorite men of H Division. Thanks to Amazon for bringing them back in 2015.
See you’s next season!