After a very strong opening episode the pressure was on for Ripper Street to settle down and quickly find its form.
There will be no doubt many anachronistic errors in the episode none of which I will spot. I am content to live in ignorance and enjoy the show for its entertainment value.
There are spoilers - you have been warned!
PLOT: Reid (Matthew Macfadyen) and Drake (Jerome Flynn) investigate the murder of a toymaker which took place in broad daylight. They are presented by the killer, Thomas, a young boy of fourteen, in the street by George Lusk (Michael Smiley) the leader of the disbanded vigilantes. Despite being sentenced to death Reid and Drake delve deeper into the boy’s background and discover the murky world of street gangs. Meanwhile Jackson (Adam Rothenberg) has gambled away a ring which he and Susan (MyAnna Buring) are desperate to retrieve. END PLOT
In My Protection gives us a good insight to the “case of the week” format Ripper Street is likely to follow. This week’s episode has two storylines which play out simultaneously – Reid and Drake’s case and Jackson’s ring with the threads tying themselves together at the very end.
The episode gives the audience a decent introduction to the vigilantes and shows the struggle that Reid faces to bring Whitechapel back under the control of the law. Reid and Drake solve the case with the benefit of methodical police work after being pointed in the right direction by the very hung over and reluctant Jackson.
The case is of course solved in the sixty minute running time but we are given plenty of hints into the characters’ backstories throughout the episode. I am relieved that Ripper Street lets the clues flow during the course of storytelling rather than shoehorning them in just before the closing credits roll. This type of character development has put me off too many shows in the past.
Ripper Street is set in a time of great change and the advances in the technology of the toymaker’s toys and policing really make you believe that you are watching the start of the dawn of a new era (Yes - I am aware that this is cheesy. Yes - I decided not to delete it)
We are given a greater insight into Reid’s marriage with Emily (Amanda Hale) and their lost child. Emily has taken refuge in the church, a pastime which was not so prevalent prior to their daughter’s apparent death. Reid’s disapproval and grief yet again go unspoken but Matthew Macfadyen is such a good actor he portrays more emotion in the things he doesn’t say.
Reid's refusal to give up Thomas to the vigilantes and his constant quest for the truth make him the noble lead in a show filled with questionable characters. It'll be interesting to see if the characters are flipped towards the end with Reid being the one with a darker past - I doubt it but it could be decent twist.
Jerome Flynn makes the most of what little he gets to do. His softer side, which was hinted at in I Need Light, comes through once more in his scenes with Thomas Gower. We hear snippets that Drake’s time in the army “saved” him. This theme comes full circle in Drake's closing scene when he enlists Thomas and helps him to escape.
It’s Jackson’s screen time which proves to be the most interesting as we get several little montages with Jackson using forensics and more modern policing techniques to retrace his drunken steps. Jackson’s intelligence when it comes to policing made his refusal to take up residence in the “dead room” all the more intriguing. Reid’s revelation that he has the missing ring and knows that all is not right with Jackson’s past practically forces Jackson to join his team. Their scene together at the end of the episode was appropriately tense and guarded.
Rothenberg is easily becoming my favourite - the best background moment of In My Protection was just after the raid on the orphanage. There is chaos, shouting, children crying, arrests being made and Jackson is casually leaning on the fireplace having a smoke not giving a flying fuck. It was a great little character moment.
Over on team female Amanda Hale is fine as Reid’s wife Emily but it is Susan (Amanda Buring) who is the standout character. Emily and Susan are both strong women in their own ways but Susan has a fearlessness that is great fun to watch. Charlene McKenna returned as Rose which was great to see as it provides Drake with a very sweet little love interest.
We are introduced to a new character this week Mrs Goren (Lucy Cohu) the owner of the orphanage. Cohu and Macfadyen’s scenes were excellent and it will be interesting to see if there are anymore in the upcoming episodes.
The villain of the week Carmichael (Joseph Gilgun) was very intimidating. Gilgun skirted around the edges of overacting but it didn't really matter as you could tell he was having a ball.
The sets and costumes in In My Protection cannot be faulted - even the autopsy scene looked amazingly real. A lot of effort has gone into the production of the show and it is paying off already.
There are also some decent little musical moments starting to filter through although I can't quite pick up on any key themes just yet. This is something that I will be keeping an ear out for in the future.
Jack the Ripper may have taken a backseat but In My Protection was a good showing of the mass hysteria and chaos that he left in his wake. In My Protection may have all the hallmarks of a police procedural but there is a lot of subtle glances and throwaway lines which elevate the episode into a key part of the longer running story arcs. It gets 8.5/10.
Ripper Street has found its groove with ease and now that Jackson is an employee of Reid’s we will get to see the three working more closely in future.
Lines of the Week:
Reid: “If a girl was brought to you and perhaps lost her memory and her name would you take her in?” (Reid to Mrs Goren). Reid still believes that there is a chance that his daughter may still be alive. This is a sentiment that is echoed with “I would take your pain and amplify it one hundred fold and bear it for you of every day that remains of my life but I cannot do what you ask.” The storyline involving Reid’s daughter is just getting started.
Drake: “All you have yet known will seem no more than a Sunday fair” (Drake to Thomas). Drake preparing Thomas for a hard life in the army appears harsh but he hands him a toy train while he says it…. the big softy
Jackson: “I forensicated myself” (Jackson to Susan during his CSI montage). Jackson had a couple of great lines during the episode but I found this one and the matter of fact way in which he said it more amusing that I should have.