In the opening moments of ‘Pure As The Driven’, a policeman is hurled through the first floor window of an East London building and impaled on the iron railings below, and – BAM! – just like that we’re back in the grimy, gritty, glorious action of BBC One’s Victorian crime drama Ripper Street. Meaning, in other words, that it’s time to reach for the smelling salts.
Inspector Edmund Reid (Matthew Macfadyen) and his cronies Bennet Drake (Jerome Flynn) and Homer Jackson (Adam Rothenberg) are soon on the case of the impaled bobby, and before long they find themselves in the heart of London’s Chinatown, in search of mysterious beauty Blush Pang. Before the hour is out there has been the discovery of lies, corruption, murder, and a dangerous new drug that looks set to flood London. Oh, and the Elephant Man has popped up for good measure as well.
Not quite as rigorously compelling or charmingly over-the-top as the best episodes of Series 1, ‘Pure As The Driven’ is nonetheless a strong opener, giving us plenty of fun with the Story of the Week and establishing solid series-long strands.
Bennet has a new wife and Jackson is ensconced with Long Susan (MyAnna Buring) once again (with both happy marriages look set for trouble), whilst neither Reid’s wife Emily nor Miss Goren are anywhere to be seen. An enigmatic conversation with Long Susan leads us to believe Reid is up to something untoward, but – as expected – we don’t get many answers in this opening episode.
Despite the rough and tumble approach, there’s a wit and elegance to proceedings. The costumes and sets are brilliant, as is the period dialogue and thrillingly vivid slang. And there’s also the sense that this is a show that wants to give us a bit of everything.
This week, the Chinatown story allows for some fun as the boys puzzle over the injuries incurred by their impaled comrade and we see Reid and co. introduced to the world of kung fu fighting (is it too much to hope that Drake masters the One Inch Punch before this series is out?).
Most importantly, Ripper Street continues to be a series built upon the strength of its performances. This week, we see the excellent Joseph Mawle introduced as the morally ambiguous, suitably sleazy Inspector Jedediah Shine (someone had a fun time coming up with these names, eh?), while series regulars such as David Wilmot (the ginger-bearded Sergeant Artherton) continue to impress.
Chocked full of swagger and fun, and topped with a nice meaty cliff-hanger, this is a spiffing start to Series 2. More of the same please, lads.
Airs at 9pm on Monday 28 October 2013 on BBC One.
Watch the Series 2 trailer…
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