By Kat Riddler, Editor-In-Chief
On January 28, Netflix viewers were once again able to transport themselves to the fictional, bloody, English streets of Whitechapel. “Ripper Street” season 4, produced by Amazon Prime Instant Video, brought back the dynamic trio of Inspector Edmund Reid (Matthew Macfadyen), Detective Inspector Sergeant Bennet Drake (Jerome Flynn), and the American surgeon Captain Homer Jackson (Adam Rothenberg) to solve the killings by vampires, werewolves, and fiends that plague the East end of London.
“Ripper Street” began in 2012 as a BBC fictional drama after the murders of Jack the Ripper. Season 4 starts in the summer of 1897 with Queen Victoria celebrating her diamond jubilee. New technologies like the telephone and micro-reader help to make police work more manageable in the new police building that was destroyed last season by a train’s head-on collision with the building. But the new police building is not the only change in Whitechapel. Drake was promoted to the head of the H Division when Reid decided to move away from Whitechapel with his newly found daughter. But Reid could not stay away from his home, and he comes back under Drake to continue to solve murder mysteries.
The previous seasons have been about Inspector Reid and how the job of solving murders strained his family life. However, Reid was always able to recover from his dark broodings with the help of Drake and sometimes Jackson. Drake seems to have different stresses coming from the love of his life, Rose Erskine (Charlene McKenna). Erskine and Drake have been trying to have a baby, and Drake’s long nights away and stress from work put a strain on their relationship, which in turn has affected Drake’s working relationship with Reid. To add to the strain on the relationship between Reid and Drake, Drake has to answer to and work with Assistant Commissioner Augustus Dove (Killian Scott) of Scotland Yard. The change of power for H Division is a new and entertaining development throughout the season.
What is really nice about this season is that past cases begin to connect with the current storyline. Characters revisit past season locations as they try to make sense of reports of werewolves and vampires haunting the streets of Whitechapel. These supernatural reports are dismissed with Captain Jackson’s medical examination of murdered bodies and detective work on the scene by Reid and Drake. The more otherworldly cases are mixed in with others that deal with immigration, religion, female hysteria, smuggling, and child workhouses, which were typical of the time. The variety of cases really makes one want to come back to the series.
What I also liked about the series is that there are only a couple episodes each season, but they are full of complex characters, topical (both current and period) plots and subplots, and a genuine sense of mystery and the desire to know. I found myself clicking the next episode and committing another hour to finding out what happens to the characters and how they deal with the next murder. This season deals more with characters from the previous seasons being murdered this season, which helps motivate the viewer to want to see what happened to the already-familiar characters.
“Ripper Street” is as gripping as the street it is named after and is fine murder-mystery writing and acting. “Ripper Street” season 4 is an A.