TV Review: Ripper Street Season 3 (UK, 2015)

At the end of Season 2 Ripper Street was cancelled by the BBC only to be resurrected by streaming service Amazon Prime who agreed to a third season after an online campaign by the show’s loyal and dismayed fans. In Season 3 of Ripper Street we return to Whitechapel and H Division and the grimy streets of Victorian England when a disaster shakes the lives of everybody in the borough. From amongst the debris emerges clues that uncover long hidden deceits.

Four years after the end of Series 2 we return to Whitechapel, our crime-solving trio of Detective Inspector Edmund Reid (Matthew MacFadyen), Detective Sergeant Bennet Drake (Jerome Flynn) and Captain Homer Jackson (Adam Rothenberg) have disintegrated with each going their own way. Drake has been living and working as an officer in Manchester, Jackson has regressed to his drunken whoring ways after being dismissed from working with H Division. Whilst Reid, after losing both his policing partners and his wife who has finally left him, has only found solace in obsessing over the constabulary archive. But when a horrific train crash kills over 50 people it forces our three to reunite to try and save those left in the rubble and find the robbers who caused the crash. The crash itself though is the beginning of a conspiracy that will weave its way through the entire season and send shockwaves through Whitechapel.

The opening episode “Whitechapel Terminus” is an explosive return for the series, both literally with its train crash story and figuratively after returning back from cancellation. But the train crash is not just a mere plot point, it is the tip of an iceberg involving stolen bearer bonds worth thousands in US currency. And by the end of the first episode we learn that Long Susan (MyAnna Buring) and her new accomplice Ronald Capshaw (John Heffernan) are the ones behind it all. The show has always been quite dark, but this season in particular takes a very dark turn indeed where every single one of our characters are touched by the conspiracy. In the first episode Chief Inspector Abberline (Clive Russell) says to Reid “Drake is gone, your Yankee dismissed, yet here you are still, alone but for your books. I would see you gone from this place Edmund, before it swallows you whole” and surprisingly this almost becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. But as the series progresses a bombshell that’s even bigger than the train crash becomes apparent, that of the mystery surrounding Edmund Reid’s daughter Mathilda (Anna Burnett).

The show may have its roots in procedural crime drama but it has consistently crafted a series that engages its characters within a more complex narrative. Creator and writer Richard Warlow and director Andy Wilson take this even further than before in Season 3. Alliances once formed are broken, only to be forged again but somewhat more tentatively. Each of our characters are challenged not just by each other but by the crimes they need to solve and delivering justice. Reid treads down a dark path of revenge, whilst Jackson seeks redemption and Drake endeavours to seek his place in the world and some stability.

MacFadyen’s turn this season is an emotional sucker punch in almost every episode, as we see Reid’s obsession in his work, his despair at his failings as a father, husband and detective soon turn into an aggressive fiery vengeance. But the biggest surprise here comes in the shape of the treachery by Long Susan and her accomplice Mr Capshaw. The villainy is less physical violence but more slow manipulation that results in lives and trust lost and both Buring and Heffernan make a formidable cunning pair. By the end of Season 3 though there are plenty of answers and even a feeling of resolution for all of our characters and in particular Reid.

Thanks to the efforts of Amazon Prime with a little help from the BBC, the show was revived for a third and fourth season and just recently the news came that the fifth season would be its final. For a show that has had many ups and downs, it’s great to see that its roller-coaster production has not hindered its ability to deliver some excellent British period crime drama.

Review Score: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Ripper Street Season 3 will be available on DVD and Blu-Ray from 6th April 2016 through Roadshow Entertainment and BBC
Series 3 is also currently airing on One HD on Saturday’s at 9:30pm and also on Tenplay One HD