This review contains spoilers.
2.8 Our Betrayal Part 2
With a surprisingly heavy heart given I’ve been quite torn about this series, it is time for the last episode of Ripper Street as our characters are poised for a set of revelations to come crashing through H Division’s door as the extent of the betrayal is realised.
The first episode in the two parter was all about establishing and re-affirming the big conflicts from the opening episodes of the series before finally getting them to meet each other in almost-open combat. The central boxing competition provides an apt metaphor for the rest of the episode as various characters and their antagonists circle each other waiting for the moment to strike. As with last week’s episode, the pace is slower yet loses none of the suspense that the first part built up, pushing Reid et al. right to the ropes. When the strikes came, they were all brutal and I defy anyone not to have cheered, if only internally, when Susan finally got to Duggan.
The discovery last week about Flight’s relationship with Shine leads to several more revelations about both their work and Flight’s past, a most unsavoury record involving fraud and poisoning. Moloney sells his conflict well, particularly in his scene with Reid in which he insists he had changed. Whilst the scene in which Flight confronts Shine is excellent with Molony’s fidgety panic clashing well with Mawle’s stillness, I think this reveal, and indeed Shine’s involvement in Whitechapel, would have benefited from a series-long arc.
The fact that without any major build-up, this two-parter manages to be so suspenseful should be commended, but I can’t help but feel it would have been even better had we always suspected Flight, or Shine had appeared in more than just the first two episodes. It also would have helped with the disconnect felt in the intervening period when we went from one historically contextual murder to another. As a result, the twists and reveals felt a little rushed, particularly the connection between Shine and Duggan, one that hadn’t really been hinted at before.
The arcs that have been most successful over the course of this second series were those of the characters as each hurtled towards their own personal desperation. Reid ends the series even more morally compromised as he calls for Shine’s death at the end, following on from his instant desire to frame the inspector for the crimes of the Ripper. He’s come a long way from the man who Shine dubbed ‘pure as the driven’ in the first episode, shedding that black-and-white view of the world for some considerably more dubious morals.
The return of Drake was suitably sombre and Jerome Flynn’s performance, that of a man broken by both his work and his life, was brilliant, quiet yet constantly emotional. Jackson too found himself once again striving to win back Susan with a get-rich-scheme that once again fell a bit flat thanks to his brother. All three were connected by their shared sense of failure, an inability to save or prevent the harm done to those around them.
However, it was Susan who fast became the quiet hero at the centre of these proceedings and allowed Ripper Street to redeem themselves somewhat for their often rudimentary portrayal of female characters in the first series. Her quiet battle of wills with Duggan and the way she manipulated everyone around her to get the outcome she deserved was handled beautifully, unfolding gently over the course of the episode. MyAnna Buring really excelled here, never once going beyond a calm fury and stealing each and every scene from her male counterparts. Rather than being the wilting damsel in distress that Jackson is determined she is, she emerged as the most cunning and manipulative of the group.
There is talk that the BBC is looking into bringing a third series of Ripper Street and if they do, I really hope that Joseph Mawle returns. His Jedediah Shine has been a joy to watch from his first appearance and despite not being the most dimensional of villains, his antagonistic chemistry with Matthew Macfadyen and Damien Molony made for brilliant scenes. Alongside Mawle, the rest of the cast acquit themselves particularly well as the main Leman Street trio find themselves all in a rather precarious position as the episode finishes. Should the possibility of a third series become a certainty, there are some fascinating opportunities to explore, particularly Reid finding himself in the gray area of morality.
And so with the second part of Our Betrayal, Ripper Street draws to a close. It may have been an uneven series, but it has certainly ended on a flourish and, if the campaign to bring it back is successful, there is a huge amount waiting for the writers to tackle.
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