Ripper Street episode 6 review: Tournament Of Shadows

Review Jamie-Lee Nardone
3 Feb 2013 - 22:38

This week's Ripper Street finally reveals a few of Detective Reid's secrets. Here's Jamie-Lee's review...

This review contains spoilers

1.6 Tournament of Shadows

Now three-quarters of the way through this beautifully bloody journey through the streets of Whitechapel in the months after the serials killings of Jack the Ripper, we are finally offered a brief insight into the background and inner workings of Ripper Street's lead character. Master of the bowler hat and sardonic quip, Detective Inspector Edmund Reid is played by Matthew Macfadyen of Spooks, Mr Darcy and husband of voice of Lara Croft fame. He even does those Marks and Spencers adverts, which is why you may find yourself wanting hot chocolate pudding oozing with cream and lashings of, ohhh, anyway... He has used his brooding skills demonstrably when hiding his feelings of pain about his daughter and somewhat awkward marriage in this gritty series and his MI5 training from Spooks has proved useful for authority, particularly when dishing out the dirty work to his right-hand men Drake and Jackson. He’s also shown that he’s not afraid of a rough and tumble himself when putting Jackson in his place, or giving one or two ruffians or embassy staff a swift backhand.

Ripper Street offers a plethora of on-going interesting characters and sub-plots to keeps viewers entertained alongside each week’s main plot, and this week’s episode is once again completely different from anything we’ve seen in the previous five. The H Division are left dealing with the dock strike of ’89 and rather unpleasant anarchists are stirring up trouble. A bomber is killed in an ‘accidental explosion’ revealing a deadly Communist plot, although as this is Whitechapel and prime time BBC One viewing, all is not what is seems. When Reid thinks everything looks a bit circumspect, he faces a backlash from Special Branch. Not heeding his warnings from above, he comes across something more unpleasant and sinister than the criminals roaming the streets, and far closer to home. In addition, we get a taste of what’s to come in the future storyline, when we discover that Jackson may not be who he say he is at all. Not so happily coerced into going undercover for Reid during the strike, he performs brilliantly, saving Drake’s life in the process. However, how far does and can his acting and betrayal go?

Guilt plays heavily on Reid in this week’s episode, which his enemies use to their advantage. Not only does he feel responsible for the loss of his daughter, but he must also prove daily that he can police the streets of the East End knowing that he failed to capture the prolific serial killer Jack the Ripper. Can the people of Whitechapel put their faith in him? Reid has been beaten and his prey eluded him. He is broken and yet somehow stronger for it. Oh, and if you've been wondering how he got those scars all over his torso in those unnecessary shirt changes? The scars that apparently put the fear of god in other men (says Jackson who goes from being scared of his tail to gun-wielding in minutes)? Well today is your lucky day. Or perhaps not, as it is a sad tale. Although, if we’re being completely honest here, a tad disappointing. Don’t get me wrong, it all ties up, but with so much attention on them and with all the alluding to the incident and waiting until the sixth episode, I did expect more. Not quite Die Hard-style flashbacks, but something really brutal. After all, this is the same series that started off with mutilated corpses and Victorian snuff movies.

Further guilt arises from a brief moment of passion with the Governess - something that’s been a long time coming, admittedly perhaps to appease and excite viewers more than anything else. The loss of Edmund and Emily’s daughter has clearly taken its toll on their marriage. Mixed in with the same old formula: man works late, wife gets bored and finds new hobby, they grow apart; man finds solace in other woman via work connection etc. (Although in this case it involves a missing daughter, various murders and kidnappings that have brought Reid and his new lady together.) It’s still quite saucy though – and the Darcy skills come in very handy.

There may be less blood splattering the walls in this week’s episode, but it is still plenty dark. There’s a nice charred body for starters, a psychopath offering to slit throats and perform genocide, while those in charge of your safety are in fact the ones endangering you. These are indeed dark times, which need a strong-willed and brooding Detective Inspector with a loyal Sergeant who is handy with his fists. And for good measure, how about we throw in a handsome American sidekick with a shady past and endless knowledge of chemistry, geography and women who questions authority and makes inappropriate comments?

Some tasty breadcrumbs are laid for next week’s episode which sets to focus on Jackson and Long Susan, although I can’t help but feel I still don’t know the real Reid. But then, like so many good detectives on TV and in fiction, perhaps it’s best that they remain more of a mystery to us. Or maybe they’re saving the best bits for season two?

Read Jamie-Lee's review of the previous episode, The Weight of One Man's Heart, here.

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