“Edmund Reid did this”
As I might have predicted after the soaring heights of Series 3, the fourth season of Ripper Street didn’t quite live up to its forerunner. Then again, how could it after the epic sweep of the storytelling had so much of the finale about it in terms of where it left its key characters – Matthew Macfadyen’s Reid, Jerome Flynn’s Drake, Adam Rothenberg’s Jackson and MyAnna Buring’s Susan – picking up the pieces to carry on was always going to be difficult.
To recap, Reid had given up the police force after being reunited with his previously-thought-dead daughter Mathilda, and Susan’s momentous struggle against the patriarchal strictures of society (and also the nefarious entanglements of her actual father) saw her and Jackson end up behind bars, having also drawn Reid and the promoted Drake into the exacting of an individual kind of justice.
Thus the fourth series of Richard Warlow’s drama had the not inconsiderable job of finding a way to bring Reid back into the arms of the Met – initially cleverly done by bringing back Lucy Cohu’s Deborah Goren from Series 1 but then subsequently sorely under-utilising her. It also had to deal with Susan’s sentence to hang, again ending up with the neglect of one of the show’s key assets, even if it also meant bringing in the ever-characterful David Threlfall as a Whitechapel fixer.
Moving the show another three years onto 1897, I couldn’t help but feel that the main thrust of the series lost the exploration of the social and economic factors of the time, the aspects that have made for some of the most affecting, and interesting, episodes of Ripper Street. Here, there wasn’t too much of a focus beyond the overarching case of the Whitechapel Golem, something which never really caught fire for me.
It was nice to see Cohu back, and Paul Ready’s doctor too, and the introduction of Matthew Lewis as this series’ hapless young copper was given extra spice by romantically entangling him with Anna Burnett’s Tilda. There was good guest star work from Clare Foster, Ian Gelder and Owen Teale among others, and Charlene McKenna did well to sell some tricky plotting to lead up to a properly shocking final scene. For once, the next series picks up right where this one leads off and if this series as a whole might not have hooked me, the last episode certainly did – roll on Series 5.