New episodes of Ripper Street Season 3 are added exclusively to Amazon Prime Instant Video at 9pm every Friday.
Warning: If you haven’t seen Episodes 1 or 2, this will contain spoilers.
It’s been exactly seven days since we watched the mild-mannered Inspector Reid bash a shopkeeper’s head to a bloody pulp against a concrete wall. It was a shocking climax to the return of Ripper Street, which made the new season’s intentions loud and clear. London has never seemed darker.
Released every Friday, rather than all-at-once, the old-school drip-feed of Season 3 lets the tension build up across the week. Episode 3 soaks it up like a sponge. A bleak, blood-stained sponge. In a hat. (The hats are still very good.)
The suspense climbs even higher thanks to the complete absence of Reid all episode – a cheeky, but smart move from writer Toby Finlay. The cliffhanger left us with two questions: What happens next? And can Reid ever climb back out of the “abyss” he fell into?
Episode 4 answers the first with matter-of-fact simplicity: things continue as normal. There are still crimes to solve and H division still needs a new boss. And so Drake steps behind the chief’s desk, as was the plan all along. He’s soon faced with his first case: the death of a clairvoyant, who appears to be a fraud.
With Captain Jackson in tow, it’s a bizarre glimpse at what the show could have been – a brief tune into a Ripper Street broadcast from a parallel universe. This is The Jerome Flynn Show. And Jerome’s killing it.
Jerome Flynn has the facial texture and loveable warmth of a freshly dunked Hobnob – and it makes him a wonderful head cop, capable of switching between sympathy and snarls in the drop of a crumb. We’ve seen his violent side before, which only gives gravitas to his new, brainy detective skills. And an admirable streak to his loyalty to his old friend.
Away from the investigations into Reid’s disappearance, it’s a pleasure to see him and Homer unmask the parlour tricks of the clairvoyant, picking apart the chemicals of the trade, while still calming down a grieving widow, who was seeing the psychic religiously to communicate with her dead husband. But before you can sigh at the old weeping victim routine, this is all-new, revised Ripper Street – and Finlay reminds us just how complex the show’s female characters can be.
Drake, it goes without saying, is no stranger to the idea of deceit when it comes to the fairer sex. “You shall drop your mask with me or you shall end up pirouetting in leg irons,” he barks, wonderfully, at a show girl. Then, Rose reappears and his oaty resilience melts.
Part of the show’s satisfying nature rests on giving fans the chance to see these old faces back together – and with Reid’s actions so out of the ordinary, the significance of that reunion is magnified several times over. But the real star continues to be MyAnna Buring’s Long Susan, who continues her dodgy dealings with her slippery solicitor – the most enjoyable detestable glasses-wearer since the last Specsavers advert you saw – but shows signs of conflict about their decision to keep the Inspector’s daughter. Specs wants to ship her out the country. Susan wants to play mummy. And the girl, meanwhile, hasn’t got the foggiest, still convinced she’s a magic fairy.
Her continuing presence, though, is a tantalising suggestion that Reid will eventually discover she’s not dead. Will that be the key to his redemption? Or will it send him further down the path to the Dark Side? As we’re pulled along this well-laid track, keeping Reid hidden from us only fuels the speculation – even as we see hints of potential redemption break away and escape our shaky carriage, not just for Reid but the rest of the ensemble too. (One trembling encounter between Jackson and his old flame is a reminder that he’s more than just comic relief and an impressive moustache.)
But after seven days of waiting for last week’s shock to sink in, the idea of everyone having a happy ending feels far from guaranteed. Ripper Street Season 3’s beat is long and slow – and it’s walking it with confidence. And in one hell of a hat.
You can watch Ripper Street Season 3 online in the UK on Amazon Prime Instant Video, as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription. Or, if you want unlimited free delivery in the UK, as part of a £79 annual Amazon Prime membership. Seasons 1 and 2 of Ripper Street are available too.