Ripper Street series 2 episode 7 review: Our Betrayal Part 1

Review Becky Lea 10 Dec 2013 - 07:29

Ripper Street's penultimate episode is proof that it's not going to go out quietly. Here's Becky's review...

This review contains spoilers.

2.7 Our Betrayal Part 1

With the sad news that there’ll be no third series of Ripper Street, the first part of Our Betrayal serves to show that it is not going out quietly as each of our characters find themselves getting to the end of their rather desperate tethers.

It’s a theme of family this week, or rather, the fracturing of it; Susan’s gearing up to give Duggan what he really wants, Rose is hunting down a grieving Drake, Jackson’s dealing with his wayward brother and Reid is trying to keep everything together whilst wooing Miss Cobden once again. As such, the secondary plot about the defrauding of craftsmen in Whitechapel and diamonds making their way over from South Africa takes a back seat, informing the character proceedings instead of driving them. I’ve always said Ripper Street is much better when it focuses on Reid and the gang, and so it proves once again here as the series delivers its best episode yet.

After last week’s furious pace, the first part of Our Betrayal is much more measured. It is in this penultimate episode that the loose ends return, with Dickensian super-villain and primary Reid antagonist, Jedediah Shine, Miss Cobden and Silas Duggan all entering the Leman Street gang’s lives again. With so many threads to contend with, it could have easily lost its way, but time was well spent with all and the slow-burning pace made for a tense and exciting instalment.

The cast, both regular and supporting, rise to the challenge admirably and it is almost impossible to single out any for individual praise. Joseph Mawle proves once again that moustache-twirling villainy makes for some great antagonism, casting a long shadow over an episode in which he features prominently in only two brutal scenes. Jerome Flynn barely makes a sound all episode, but conveys such a sense of loss that his hangdog expression is heartbreaking alone. He’s ably supported in these scenes by a passionate performance from Charlene McKenna as Rose. Their scenes together were considerably more sombre than the rest, even with the sight of Drake getting beaten to a pulp, and their relationship felt all the more tragic in the wake of Bella’s death.

The betrayal of the title could refer to each character’s own turmoil, but is perhaps most appropriate for the revelation that Flight is a spy for Shine. A twist that came out of the blue, Flight’s double agent status would have perhaps been more keenly felt had we actually seen more of him throughout the series, but it’s intriguing and puts a new spin on his previous scenes of confession. Molony gives a quiet yet effective performance as his character’s central turmoil becomes an interesting parallel to the conflicts the series regulars are going through.

Front and centre is Susan, still struggling with her landlord Duggan and forced into making a difficult decision for the sake of her business. After what I initially feared was to be another subplot in which Jackson came running to her rescue, Susan’s quiet arc has subverted expectations at every turn; Jackson failed on all accounts and though Susan has been running a brothel for years, she has never, for want of a better phrase, got her hands dirty in doing so. Now faced with the decision of selling herself, she’s naturally having difficulty coming to terms with it. It doesn’t help that Duggan is not exactly what you’d want in a gentleman caller and there’s nothing like watching a scene of him eat in a disgusting manner to hammer that home.

It’s a technique employed for Jackson’s brother too, the prodigal Daniel Judge (David Costabile), a man who likes to get rich quick, but does little to think about the consequences. Continuing with the Jackson trying to do everything to escape and failing miserably thread that has appeared throughout, he attempts to help his brother sell off the diamond without attracting the brutal syndicate DeGraw finding out. Naturally the scheme goes awry, but the dynamic of the brothers stops this predictable subplot from falling into mediocrity amidst the drama elsewhere in the episode.

Another stunning aspect to this episode was Dominic Sherrer’s score, perfectly underpinning the rollercoastering emotions throughout. It is an aspect of Ripper Street I had never usually noticed before, beyond the theme tune’s Zimmeresque violins, and it was a pleasant surprise here. Often suspenseful, sometimes elegaic and reflective, it became a key element in this episode, ramping up the tension when required. This was particularly apparent in the episode’s final moments as each character dealt with their desperation in their separate ways. However, it was Susan’s walk up the corridor to Duggan that was perhaps the most haunting scene of the episode, aided by that beautiful violin accompaniment.

It’s been an uneven second, and now final, series for Ripper Street, but if the penultimate episode is anything to go by, it’s going to go out with a major flourish, on its own brutal terms and with a bit of a bang.

Read Becky's review of the previous episode, A Stronger Loving World, here.

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Bleak and beautiful, this was a brilliant episode. I felt so much sympathy for so many characters: Rose, Flight, and especially Drake. Rose's search for Drake is that of a woman who realizes that she let real love go because of a romantic notion of what love should be. Rose loves Drake, and he loves her. But his guilt over Bella is fueling self-punishment. Flight seems to be an innocent who wants to do good, but is caught in Shine's web. Susan has to now do what she makes money from having others do, and hopefully it will give her more sympathy for her employees. Jackson has made one mistake after another, and teaming up with his brother isn't going to help. What was the BBC thinking by canceling this show? I hope they change their mind and bring it back next year.

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