Amazon Prime TV review: Ripper Street Season 3 (Episode 4)
Ivan Radford | On 30, Nov 2014
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, 2 or 3, this will contain spoilers.
Part of the fun of watching Ripper Street Season 3 on Amazon is the chance for a new game: spot the bits the BBC won’t show. Clocking in at an uncut 66 minutes, you’d expect Episode 4 to contain a fair few. In fact, we get one within the opening reel.
After Reid’s daughter fled her new captors – Susan and Specs – at the end of last week, Drake wastes no time in tracking down the on-the-run detective to tell him Matilda’s alive. He’s only been absent for one episode, but Matthew Macfadyen’s appearance is already a startling departure from the prim and proper man we’re used to: all beard and hair, he cuts a dishevelled figure, sinking to his knees in the sand and crying out at the discovery.
In the wrong hands, this would feel cheesy or even laughable, but Season 3 of Ripper Street so far has proven that the show is, without a doubt, in the right ones. So it’s with some enjoyment that we see Reid burst into Susan and Specs’ house and demand to see his daughter. He hangs her over the first floor bannister before giving up and putting her down. “You are watched,” he glares at her, then adds: “Bitch.”
It’s a shocking moment, not just because you wouldn’t expect to hear it on the Beeb – “You are watched… baby”? – but also because it’s so out of character for Reid. The reactions of the rest of the ensemble to his actions are equally revealing: Drake loyally helps his friend; Jackson tries to stop him; Susan ultimately decides to deceive him.
It’s also the start of a key turning point in these Whitechapel streets, one that sees showrunner Richard Warlow tie up a lot of loose ends. To say that Episode 4 finally resolves the story involving Reid and his daughter is hardly a sudden twist; it’s been building up to this chapter for more than two seasons.
The mystery remains whether Reid will redeem himself or retreat further into his dark abyss. The solution is a bit of both, which is why Ripper Street’s third season is so satisfying: everything we see is a murky shade of grey, not just the dirty London cobblestones.
Walking those streets is Matilda, who finds herself visiting Jack the Ripper’s old haunts – a device that takes us all the way back to the show’s roots, when we first met Reid, a man trying to steer the force away from their fixation on Jack the Ripper. Instead, we discover just how obsessed he was with the killer; an all-consuming obsession that still carries consequences for people today.
The actress playing Matilda is fantastic, at once dazed and confused yet set upon a clear path. After her previous reaction to a photo of Reid – in her mind, the bad man who mistreated his princess – the prospect of their inevitable reunion is as exciting as it is emotional. Macfadyen’s already displayed his range of feelings, as well as his ability to swing his mood wildly, and both traits are pushed to their extremes here: the violent becomes more violent (hello again, BBC) but the cathartic also becomes more cathartic. It’s a finely balanced piece of writing that lets the show have its gory cake and justify eating it: even a slow-motion shot of Reid and Drake walking in slow-motion carrying shotguns is more rousing than reprehensible.
Their central footchase through Whitechapel is gripping – and directed with but every new, dark depth takes Reid one move closer to the light. And soon, after conversations about retirement or moving away, we find ourselves contemplating the idea of a London without the inspector watching over it.
After last week’s Drake-led crime thriller, it’s certainly one that would be in safe hands. The script is careful to give ample screen time to the rest of the ensemble to demonstrate. Jerome Flynn remains the programme’s best performer, displaying all the class of a can of Heinz baked beans and sausage: meaty but generous enough to blend into the background and let others dominate the plate.
Enter David Dawson, who has enjoyed more and more of the limelight as nosy journalist Fred Best. He may be terrible at following people – his bright green bowler hat is laughably easy to spot a mile away – but he’s a useful presence for Drake and Jackson to consult, his connection to his boyfriend (lost in the crash) giving a once two-dimensional character a resounding depth. New addition Louise Brealey (of Sherlock fame) also impresses, as Doctor Amelia Frayn finds herself caught between Jackson and Susan.
The former lovers, meanwhile, are as titillating and tragic as ever. Adam Rothenberg gets to show some smarts as well as a sex drive, but MyAnna Buring is arguably the most complex cast member, committed to Obsidian yet repeatedly hinting at remorse – despite inspiring fierce devotion from Doctor Frayn.
Can Jackson trust his estranged wife? Is she sorry for her hand in the train crash? Does she, as the increasingly ambitious Specs suggests, lack the man parts to make the tough decisions?
It’s here that Ripper Street sets up its compelling arc for the coming season: like Reid, Susan is a figure with a chance of a redemptive end, but one caught up in dark, cruel means. As the vengeful detective spares her life and appears to come to his senses, a lot of moral loose ends are tied up, but others are tantalisingly left dangling: would she do the same for him? The answer, no matter whether its cut for the BBC or not, is one that definitely deserves to be watched. Baby.
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.