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Cult Recap

'Ripper Street' episode six 'Tournament of Shadows' review

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Ripper Street S01E06: 'Tournament of Shadows' - Edmund Reid (MATTHEW MACFADYEN)

© BBC / Tiger Aspect

Season 1, episode 6 | Aired Sunday, Feb 3 2013 at 21:00 GMT on

Coming off its finest episode yet last week, Ripper Street was recomissioned by BBC One - things were looking good for Richard Warlow's Victorian crime drama, but could newest instalment 'Tournament of Shadows' hope to continue the show's run of success?

After Bennett Drake got his dues last week, here Ripper Street shifts its attentions back to Detective Inspector Reid (Matthew MacFadyen) and his relationship with his wife (Amanda Hale), which continues to be strained by the loss of their daughter Matilda the year before.

Our hero is haunted by ghosts of the past, and while any attempt to explore character on a procedural drama such as this is welcome, we found our interest in Reid's family drama waning a little - that is, until 'Tournament' delivers the surprising revelation that Matilda may still be alive, since her body was never found.

Reid remains convinced of her continued survival, an interesting twist which sets up future develops nicely and puts things - particularly our lead's continued disagreements with his wife - in a new and far more interesting perspective.

With his marriage again tested, Reid finds himself drawn to Deborah Goren (Lucy Cohu) - a woman he encounters in the course of his latest investigation and shares a little of his tragedy with her. As the straight-shooter of our central trio, Reid is often in danger of coming across as dull, so to see him display a few flaws and indulge in a little passion outside of his policework is most welcome.

Ripper Street S01E06: 'Tournament of Shadows' - Edmund Reid (MATTHEW MACFADYEN), Deborah Goran (LUCY COHU)

© BBC / Tiger Aspect



The procedural element of this episode concerns what appears to be a single murder that leads to the uncovering of a complex plot involving the Russian secret police and spies on the loose in London.

A violent pocket of dock workers - led by the bloodthirsty Morris (Peter Ferdinando) - are wreaking havoc through Whitechapel's streets and an unwilling Jackson (Adam Rothenberg) poses as one of the strike force to help keep an eye on the potentially 'explosive' situation.

Jackson is of course skilled at living a lie - 'Tournament of Shadows' confirms, as was previously implied, that 'Homer Jackson' is an invention - so who is the man who claims his name really? As with his previous episode last week, writer Toby Finlay spices up the case of the week with a tasty dash of character development.

Ripper Street S01E06: 'Tournament of Shadows' - Captain Jackson (ADAM ROTHENBERG)

© BBC / Tiger Aspect



It's just a shame that the development afforded to Reid and Jackson is not bestowed upon others - when Jackson's cover is exposed, any regular Ripper Street viewer can guess what happens next - MyAnna Buring's Long Susan makes the briefest of cameos to be beaten and "locked up with her whores".

While I'd argue that Ripper Street is not, as many have argued, aggressively misogynist - the show simply reflects attitudes of the time - it must be said that this 'damsel in distress' routine is getting a little old. Give Buring a real plot to sink her teeth into, please.

It eventually transpires that the thugs running amok and the Russian spy plot are linked when Morris is exposed as the Russian assassin who murdered anarchist Joshua Bloom, leading Reid to Volsky (David Verrey), a criminal mastermind planning to launch a series of bombing attacks on London and frame the anarchists for the crime.

Ripper Street S01E06: 'Tournament of Shadows' - Volsky (DAVID VERREY), Bennet Drake (JEROME FLYNN)

© BBC / Tiger Aspect



But Reid is in for a shock when he discovers that Morris - or Zotkin - is a double agent of sorts, and that smug Special Branch copper Constantine (Derek Riddell) are facilitating his violent crimes in order to quell the anarchists.

The corrupt copper's plot is thwarted and order is restored to Whitchapel's streets, though there's no cut-and-dry victory for our London coppers - the murky web of politics continues to be spun as Zotkin escapes justice and is traded back to the Russians.

A spy plot is perhaps not the most natural fit for Ripper Street's gothic Victorian atmosphere, but as a one-off experiment, it makes for a refreshing break from the string of murderers and perverts that Reid, Drake and Jackson have to contend against.

With 'Tournament of Shadows', Ripper Street dips a little from the highs of last week, but only a little. After a somewhat rocky start, the show's strong second wind continues here.

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