The long-awaited second season of the hit period crime drama, Ripper Street, finally premiered in the US, and it is as gritty and gripping as ever. And while there are seven more excellent episodes to look forward to, there isn’t a third season, at least not yet. What gives?
The second season opener was a spot-on television example of the adage “the proof of the pudding is in the eating.” “Pure as the Driven“ was a veritable feast for the mind and senses — filled with storylines that blended the historical with the fictional, a griminess that was damn near palpable, and scenes and characters that provoked gut reactions of cringing and loathing — stuff that makes a good crime drama great.
The introduction of the utterly sleazy and brutal Detective Inspector Jebediah Shine (Joseph Mawle, Game of Thrones, Birdsong) of Whitechapel’s K Division — nemesis to H Division’s “pure as the driven” Detective Inspector Edmund Reid (Matthew Macfadyen, MI-5, Little Dorrit) — gave “evil” a name and a face and the show an engrossing arc.
Likewise, expanding Long Susan’s (Myanna Buring, Downton Abbey, White Heat) storyline with a nemesis of her own in the vile Silas Duggan (Frank Harper, Collision, He Kills Coppers) brought her out of Captain Homer Jackson’s (Adam Rothenberg, Elementary, Alcatraz) shadow and gave her character a reason for being beyond that of being the pathologist’s wife and owner of the local brothel.
And settling Detective Sergeant Bennet Drake (Jerome Flynn, Game of Thrones, Soldier Soldier) down with wife Bella (Gillian Saker, Misfits) evolved his character from merely being Reid’s loyal sidekick and police station heavy to a man with more heart and more to share than his fists, a trait that was hinted at but not explored in his unrequited love of Rose (Charlene McKenna, Skins) in the first season. Drake’s storyline also served as a balance of sorts to the break-up of Reid’s home life and the still-tempestuous relationship between Jackson and Long Susan.
All that goes to say that Ripper Street has not only held its own in being a brilliant series, it has grown to be even more so. This becomes more evident as the second season progresses, when fact and fantasy continue to collide in new plots, when old and new characters’ true natures and inner demons are revealed, and when the dangers faced by Reid and company don’t just lurk on the streets of Whitechapel but reach out and grab them.
With all this and more going for Ripper Street, its cancellation is simply maddening, for reasons that were summed up beautifully by Tucker Cummings in the piece “Why Canceling ‘Ripper Street’ was the BBC’s Biggest Mistake of 2013.”
What makes this especially galling is that Ripper Street — a joint production between BBC and BBC America — was cancelled by BBC One in the UK before the second season even debuted on its sister channel in the US. How does that happen, and why is it acceptable? Do stateside viewers count for nothing in this equation? Apparently so.
But fans on this and the other side of the pond, as well as those in other regions where the series is shown, can still have a say at the online petition to reverse the BBC’s decision to cancel Ripper Street. Whether the 40,000+ signatures to-date have any impact remains to be seen.
Also unknown at this point is whether the talks between Tiger Aspect, Ripper Street‘s production company, and Lovefilm, Amazon’s VOD service in the UK, will lead to a third season for the series, similar to the way Netflix made the fourth season of Arrested Development possible.
One can only hope. In the meantime, viewers in the US can thrill to more of Ripper Street: Season 2 when its second episode — “Am I Not Monstrous?” — screens on BBC America this Saturday, the 1st of March, at 9 PM ET.