Cast: Matthew MacFayden, Jerome Flynn, Adam Rothenberg, MyAnna Buring
Extras: Featurette, Trailer
Even more than 120 years after the grisly serial murders in London, the word "Ripper" still evokes images of fog-shrouded streets and mysterious goings-on in everyone's minds. As a result, "Ripper Street, " a TV show taking place in the years after the Ripper murders, instantly hits a certain string, and it piqued my interest. Now, BBC Home Entertainment has released "Ripper Street: Season Two" on Blu-Ray disc and I was eager to check it out.
After a critically acclaimed first season run, the show returns to the streets of Whitechapel, where the scum of London dwells and where murder is an almost daily occurrence.
After finally coming to terms with the fact that his daughter is gone, Inspector Reid (Matthew MacFayden) is on his own. His wife had a nervous breakdown and no longer with him, leaving the inspector brooding by himself. Meanwhile Sergeant Drake (Jerome Flynn) got married to Bella, beginning to feel a sense of peace after all the years he spent in the cesspool of London's East End, while the American doctor Jackson (Adam Rothenberg) has finally found his way back into the heart of Long Susan (MyAnna Buring). But "Ripper Street" would not be the show that it is if things were all bliss. The season starts with a bang, as the policemen of K Division are implicated in illegal drug smuggling from China, and very quickly the show turns into a standoff between Reid's men of H Division and K Division's Detective Inspector Shine (Joseph Mawle) who firmly controls the Limehouse area of London.
From there the show takes a brutal dive into the underbelly of London society, both rich and poor, mixing personal struggles with the rage of the streets. Every time things seem to level out, the writer throw in a new twist that tears down the hopes and ambitions of one of the main protagonists, leaving them struggling and clawing their way back into the light.
And that is the real beauty of the show. The ugliness of the world it plays in, where men are monsters, where the line between good and evil blurs, where good men struggle under the pressure the daily evil puts on them, where corruption the norm and where the police force does simply not have the strong arm and legislative backing it requires to enforce peace at all times. The show succeeds marvelously in bringing to the screen the overwhelming odds the police force faced in those days, ridiculed and abused by the populace, serving as the scapegoat for every wrongdoing in the streets, yet utterly powerless at times and at the whim of superior commanders with ulterior motives.
The grittiness of the stories comes to life in the show's beautiful production design that presents us with the filthy, muck-covered streets of the East End, a slum, of sorts, where even the sun's brightness is filtered out. Bleak and harsh, the show, wonderfully allows viewers a glimpse into a world that has been romanticized for generations, giving us the opportunity to almost smell what it must have been like to live on these mud-caked streets on the edge of existence.
The Blu-Ray presentation that BBC is delivering on this disc is magnificent, rendering an image that is razor sharp and holds incredible image detail. With the costumes and colors in sharp contrast to the bleak streets and environments, the presentation feels natural at all times and does a great job to make you forget your are watching a TV production. It transports you there. Deep black levels give the image solid depth, also adding to the mystery and menace that many of the episodes ooze.
The only real weakness the show possesses in my opinion is the lack of an overarching storyline. While there are minor efforts in that direction in evidence in this second season, I believe that a strong story arch that goes beyond the individual episodes is what would make this a series true showstopper with an increased following, as viewers would latch onto these plot points even more, truly trying to become part of the larger plot unfolding and the characters suffering through the events. As of now, we know that each episode will be neatly wrapped up without a whole lot going on in terms of cliffhangers or unexpected developments that would suddenly take the show and its principals in a completely new direction.
The audio of the show is presented as a DTS 5.1 HD Master Audio track that is surprisingly dynamic and active. Making aggressive use of the surround channels at times, once again, the show makes best use of today's technologies, to create a bustling ambiance that is active and alive. Crowd scenes in particular benefit from the good surround usage, while a deep bass extension helps to drive the action home.
The release also contains a short featurette called "Beneath Ripper Street", which features interviews with cast and crew members. It takes a quick look at some of the season's main characters, allowing the actors to extoll a little more on their background and ambitions. It plays like an EPK, really, but is still a quick and interesting watch.
"Ripper Street" is a great show that undeservedly got canned after only two seasons. Fan petitions have helped to revive the show and thanks to Amazon, a third season with another eight episodes is currently in production, and I am definitely looking forward to it. "Ripper Street" is another example of great television and you will eat up episode after episode, no doubt. This Blu-Ray release gives you the chance to enjoy it in all of its bristling and gristle-packed glory. Check it out now!