In the second season of this hit, gritty period crime drama for the BBC, the setting is now 1890, and the Jack the Ripper killings that give the series its name have moved further into the background. Where in the first season, the hunt to find this notorious killer featured a bit more prominently, as well as Detective Inspector Reid’s (Matthew Macfadyen) wife, now the series is able to shift its focus even more onto the characters. It takes an even darker turn this time around, and it is all the better for it.
In the course of the season, we see a group of vigilante women looking to eradicate the prominent men of industry they see as their oppressors, a radical evangelical cult looking to spur religious tensions between the Catholics and Jews in the East End of London, and a new drug on the streets killing the populace, among other pressing threats facing Reid, his ever loyal foot soldier, Detective Sergeant Bennet Drake (Jerome Flynn) and the men of H Division.
But crime isn’t the only problem facing everyone. With Reid’s wife now institutionalized, he finds himself struggling to find a center, a moral compass, and slowly crossing over the line that separates the criminals from the crime fighters. He thinks redemption may come from a beautiful new councilwoman, but his violent streak frightens her. Susan (MyAnna Buring) is facing a threat of her own in a shady barber who owns the property her establishment resides in and to pay the debt she owes him, he demands but one payment – the very thing she makes money off of other women for doing, but refuses to do, that is sell herself. And Drake faces a challenge at home with his new wife, one that just may make him lose the violent edge that has made him such an effective lawman all along.
By the final episode of season two, I was longing for more, it’s that good. Where the first season merely introduced us to the world of Ripper Street and the motley crew of characters that inhabit it, the second season took it to another level, diving much more deeply into the complexities of the Victorian era social classes, the crime, and the personal struggles of the people we first met in season one. Some things were unexpected and some a natural progression. Let’s see what happens in season 3, which starts filming in May of 2014.
Ripper Street continues to be shot in high definition on the Arri Alexa and arrives in a progressive, 1080p transfer encoded in AVC/MPEG-4 on Blu-ray. While it at times looks just a tad bit faded and could perhaps be a little bit stronger in the contrast department, or have a darker gamma setting, it is a generally pleasing picture. The textures in the period sets come through nicely and shadow detail is nicely nuanced. The mid tones tend to be the most pronounced, but there are some moments where cooler shades are prominent as well. A slight layer of video noise can be seen, but it doesn’t come across as harsh or overly electronic.
The English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/16-bit) mix is subtle but effective. Most of the sounds are well-spaced across the front three channels with some subtle low end extension in the LFE, but the surround channels do carry a but of atmospherics so that we hear the din of H division or the clatter of carriages through the streets of White Chapel.
We only get this average EPK type look at the making of season two, which offers up some interview clips with the cast and crew.
- Beneath Ripper Street (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:12:45)
The Definitive Word
A riveting and powerful second season effort, Ripper Street avoids the sophomore slump for an addictive series of episodes. This is one of the best crime drams on television going right now.
Additional Screen Captures