Ripper Street finale review: What Use Our Work?

Review Jamie-Lee Nardone 24 Feb 2013 - 22:00

Ripper Street's first series ends without a cliffhanger, more a restatement of purpose. Here's Jamie-Lee's review...

This review contains spoilers.

1.8 What Use Our Work?

Our blood-stained TV screens are about to get a well-earned rest as the first series of Ripper Street draws to a close. But fear not, a second series has been commissioned and will air early next year for a fresh dose of Victorian gore, murder and smut.

The controversial show for the BBC’s primetime Sunday slot has divided some viewers, yet managed to draw in audience figures of up to 7.8 million. And it’s not hard to see why; set in gritty Victorian London in the aftermath of the notorious Jack the Ripper killings, focusing on the development of police procedural, utilising fantastic writing, acting and sex appeal. Each episode concentrates on something uniquely of its time and yet also relevant to today’s audience, whilst also dealing with brilliant ongoing storylines central to the main characters and their development. For example, we’ve had snuff films (okay, hopefully not too relevant) child gangs, socialism, strikes and the fallout of war, all set against the backdrop of exciting and moving stories such as that of Reid and his missing daughter, the serial killer he will never find, his stoic Sergeant Drake with a dark past and unrequited love for cockney tart Rose and the mysterious Captain Jackson and his Madame, Long Susan, who spat and cursed at one another but forsook all others to marry. Such passion and confusion!

And this week’s episode is no different. In What Use Our Work?, Reid and Co find themselves trawling through previous Ripper suspects. There’s been another Ripper-type murder and a snitch has all hands pointing to our very own handy American Jackson. With Abberline convinced he’s the Ripper, it’s up to Reid to prove his innocence. Sadly, no one else is on Team Jackson due to his arrival inadvertently leading to Hobbs’ untimely death. Though have no fear, for our endlessly talented physician, not unlike Bones McCoy, Sherlock and Rocky combined (well, sort of), will get himself out of this. Our Inspector gets drawn to a dangerous trafficker placing adverts in the lonely hearts column looking for spritely young ladies for lands afar. He also has a connection to Reid’s past and perhaps may be able to tell him more about his lost daughter...

When it appears that Rose has been kidnapped, Drake develops a sudden interest in his work again. Surprisingly, the strongest episodes or moments of the series are those which have been focused on Sergeant Drake. A seemingly common man, he is pained and complex with a tortured soul and a deep, mostly unrequited love for young Rose. Perhaps the most touching part of this episode is when he is so overcome by grief and loneliness that he visits Long Susan’s brothel and pays for a woman to accompany him while he rests in a chair. This juxtaposed with a scene when he beats a man wearing another dead man’s scalp shows what a divided character he is. Eager to see her safe and clear her man’s name, Susan also gets on board with her girls and they join forces to bring down the latest attacker.

Our leading tortured soul of course, is Detective Inspector Reid, Lord of the Brood. Struggling with his guilt over Hobbs, the possible return of the Ripper, and with him, perhaps his daughter, he seeks solace in the arms of the Governess. Not your average episode of Eastenders, this dalliance looks set to end before much begins, well in this series at least. Reid opens up some more to his wife about what happened that day on the boat when he got his scars and lost their daughter. He harbours a huge amount of guilt and we realise the full extent of what he will do to hunt down this man who has eluded him.

What Use Our Work? brings the series to a nice close, rounding off the main storylines involving Reid, his wife and their daughter, Jackson and Susan and perhaps not so happily but getting there, Drake and Rose. Obviously the Ripper hasn’t been caught, because no real-life killer was ever found, and this isn’t what the series ever set out to do. Admittedly, we aren‘t left with any dramatic cliff-hangers, more a ‘come on boys, let’s fire up the wagon and go bag ourselves some more criminals and laugh about it over a pint afterwards’. The threesome are friends again at the end-possibly high-fiving off camera, I’m not sure. And if this weren’t set in Whitechapel, they would be just as suited to some John Ford film. I doubt the quips would be as good, or the gore as visceral, but the law would be upheld and the tarts would be parading in their finest dresses. Maybe a murder or two might get solved. But I likes it in Lahndan tahn. Roll on series two.

Read Jamie-Lee's review of the previous episode, A Man of my Company, here.

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