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Cult Recap

'Ripper Street' episode three 'The King Came Calling' review

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'Ripper Street' S01E04: Sidney Ressler (PATRICK BALADI), Edmund Reid (MATTHEW MACFADYEN), Bennet Drake (JEROME FLYNN)

© BBC / Tiger Aspect

Season 1, episode 3 | Aired Sunday, Jan 13 2013 at 21:00 GMT on

If you've previously found yourself offended by the grisly tone of BBC One's Ripper Street then we hope you've located the remote control by now. If not, episode three's opening sequence - which featured vomit, butchery and a gruesome death - would be more than enough to put you off your Sunday roast.

The sickness and gore continues apace this week, as Whitechapel is hit by a cholera scare, with the ever level-headed Detective Inspector Reid (Matthew Macfadyen) determined to contain the chaos.

A scene early in the episode, in which Captain Jackson (Adam Rothenberg) takes apparent pleasure in watching his apprentice Hobbs (Jonathan Barnwell) squirm at the autopsy he is helping to perform, almost feels like Ripper Street setting out its stall. The message is clear - if you can't handle the bloodshed, get out of the dead room.

Don't be fooled by the period setting and impressive production design, this show is far from classy fare, but it remains rollicking good fun nevertheless. "Who are you?" a lady of the night asks our heroes at one point. "The police, wench!" Jerome Flynn's Bennet Drake barks back. Yes, Ripper Street is fast becoming The Sweeney 1889.

'Ripper Street' S01E04: Captain Jackson (ADAM ROTHENBERG), Hobbs (JONATHAN BARNWELL)

© BBC / Tiger Aspect



Patrick Baladi - he of The Office and Bodies fame - guests this week as the marvellously-moustached Sidney Ressler - a rival inspector who is still determined to finger the Ripper for every murder in London, going against Reid's repeated, impassioned pleas.

As the mysterious sickness ravages Whitechapel and the bodies continue to pile up, Ressler ultimately teams with our central trio to help expose a sinister plot involving a mass poisoning. But magnificent facial hair aside, Baladi is a bit of a non-presence. It's not his fault - his copper character is simply underwritten, with Ressler getting little to do except ask exposition-baiting questions of our heroes.

'Ripper Street' S01E04: Sidney Ressler (PATRICK BALADI), Edmund Reid (MATTHEW MACFADYEN), Bennet Drake (JEROME FLYNN)

© BBC / Tiger Aspect



Last week, we praised episode two 'In My Protection' for its character development and lamented its treatment of this show's female characters. But here, there's a reversal on both sides...

'The King Came Calling' sees Emily Reid (Amanda Hale) inspired by a lady of the night who is being beaten by her pimp. "I would do more with my life than sit by the fire in grief and anxiety!" she snaps at her overprotective husband, and her impassioned quest to house and protect victimised women is something of a turning point for this series.

Of course, she does subsequently spend a large portion of the episode bedridden, near-comatose. Baby steps, Ripper Street.

'Ripper Street' S01E04: Emily Reid (AMANDA HALE)

© BBC / Tiger Aspect



On the other hand, we learn nothing new of Reid, Drake or Jackson this week - 'The King Came Calling' is almost purely procedural, offering our regulars little character progression. A pity given last episode's intriguing hints at Jackson's dark past.

We do at least get a brief glimpse at Reid's own dark side when his wife's life is threatened and he exposes criminal mastermind Claxton (Simon Gregor) to his own poison, torturing the villain like a gentlemanly Jack Bauer - scenes which add an extra sense of urgency and drama to the episode's climax.

The third Ripper Street outing offers a suitably twisty CSI: Victorian London plot and the same visceral thrills we've come to expect, but the show badly needs a deeper focus on character if it is to ever engage the viewer on more than a base level.

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