Read our interview with Matthew Macfadyen and Adam Rothenberg here.
Episode 3 of Ripper Street Season 4 airs on BBC Two at 10pm on 29th August. This is a spoiler-free review.
“Inspector Reid has taken leave of his senses. Not for the first time,” snipes one not-so-nice character in Episode 3 of Ripper Street Season 4. It’s a fair dig – we all heard about how he went rogue in the third season, at one point holding a shotgun.
If Edmund’s eventual return to Whitechapel was hardly surprising, though, Episode 3 of this new run reminds us that this isn’t the same-old Ripper Street. Why? Because it’s not the same-old Reid: he may be back on the beat, but he’s a changed man, his actions last season not only impacting those around him but also himself.
Matthew Macfadyen has always been a solid leading man for Richard Warlow’s show. He’s stoic, he’s calm and looks good in a hat. Now, though, H Division has a new top dog: Bennet Drake. Jerome Flynn’s copper has also undergone something of a revolution since his early days, transforming from violent bobby to respected authority. Witnessing the change in power, then, as the couple brush up against each other in the corridors of police HQ is fascinating; Reid spends most of the episode walking into rooms first, only to stop and wait for Drake to enter behind him and, having overtaken his second in command, lead the conversation.
Jerome Flynn continues to make the most of his central role, barking orders – but in a less brusque way than Reid – and interrogating with brains as well as braun. His evolution as a character has never been more evident than in a domestic moment we share with Rose (Charlene McKenna), as their adopted child from Captain Jackson and Long Susan acts up. McKenna, who is capablae of doing so much with so little, sums up her anxiety in a single, hesistant look that brings back memories of Bennet’s youth; will he shout at the child, or, worse, hit him? Flynn’s response is as awkward as it is endearing; frankly, he’s the kind of dad we’d all like to have.
Parenting is subtly being nudged by Warlow into spotlight this season, as Jackson and Long Susan’s boy sets up an inevitable confrontation with Rose further down the line. Reid, meanwhile, is contending with the growing up of Mathilda, especially as she crosses paths with Matthew Lewis’ Sergeant Drummond, who manages to be hot even with a ridiculous moustache.
Reid, of course, is still adjusting to parenting after grieving for his child – the opposite to Jackson and Susan, as they have to adjust to life alone. After last week’s bravura escape, it’s both a shame and a thrill to see them holed up not too far away from the rest of the crew – and Adam Rothenberg continues his wonderful knack of pretending to be the old Captain with aplomb.
“I’ll grieve for you every hour, on the hour,” he assures Susan, as he heads off to do his doctor duties, while everyone else offers him misguided sympathies.
That anguish of separation between parent and offspring is neatly underscored by the main crime of the week, which follows the death of Tommy, a boy from a workhouse. It’s the place connected to the first Ripper victim, we’re informed, and that sense of past trauma rings throughout the narrative, not least because we’re reminded of Reid’s encyclopedic memory of past events.
The reintroduction of the menacing David Threlfall as Abel Croker adds a nice sting of tension to the whole set-up, but the biggest thrill comes from seeing our man Reid back in action. There aren’t many TV shows with such a strong sense of morality as Ripper Street; given a cause worth fighting for, Edmund has always been up for the battle. The difference now, though, is that we’ve seen what he’s really capable of – and that dark edge to his urgent crusading makes him as unpredictable as he is admirable. Suddenly, the familiar crusade for justice in London’s Victorian streets has taken on a new urgency – and, as our ensemble of parents look to be pushed to the edge in the coming weeks, there’s no telling what they might do. After a competent, if sometimes underwhelming, start to Season 4, Episode 3 finds Ripper Street back on brilliant form. It’s not the first time Reid has taken leave of his senses. It’s unlikely to be the last.
Season 4 of Ripper Street is available to watch on Amazon Prime Video, as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription. Seasons 1 to 3 are also available.