Friday, April 25, 2014

Ripper Street: Season Two Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Allie Schembra
The year is 1890.  As the century enters its final decade, recession stalks Great Britain.  Its preeminent role in the world is under threat and nowhere is the bloated British Empire’s problems felt more keenly than in its dark heart: the East End of London.  Against a society in rapid decline, the men of Metropolitan Police’s H Division take on new crimes including a new drug scourge of an imperial nature, a female gang set on vengeance against their industrial tormentors, escaped bombers, subversive cult Svengalis and a mad eugenicist that stalks the circus freak shows for prey – an investigation that brings the elusive “Elephant Man” (Joseph Drake, Doctors) to their aid.  These new threats will test Reid and his allies to their very limit, all while facing corruption in their own ranks from the neighboring force of Limehouse’s K Division, and its formidable and entirely amoral leader, Detective Inspector Jedediah Shine (Joseph Mawle, Game of Thrones).

Series (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
It’s been a year since we last saw Reid and his H Division team.  It’s 1890 and many things have changed.  Emily, Reid’s wife, has left him, Sergeant Drake has married Bella, a former prostitute from Long Susan’s brothel, and Jackson and Susan are no longer living under the same roof.  The fear of Jack the Ripper has faded, but still always in the backs of everyone’s minds. 

I didn’t enjoy season two as much as I did season one.  The story lines were good, but I found myself getting a little bored and my mind wandering a bit.  It took me a couple episodes to get into the season, but once I did, I liked the cases.  The ongoing storyline between Reid and Shine was good and I liked that it was a season-long story arc.

Here is the list of episodes:
  • Pure as the Driven – A man thrown from a window who lands impaled on the wrought-iron fence below turns out to be a detective from neighboring police district Limehouse.  While searching for the killer, Reid and his team find themselves caught up in the Chinatown heroin trade.  With help from K Division Inspector Jedediah Shine, who worked in Hong Kong, and John Merrick – the elusive “Elephant Man,” Reid, Drake and Jackson find the killer and shut down the drug trade.
  • Am I Not Monstrous? – A woman is murdered at Whitechapel Hospital shortly after giving birth and her baby taken.  When Jackson begins the autopsy, he discovers she has a vestigial tale – a rare deformity.  Once again, with the help of John Merrick, who then mysteriously dies in his sleep, the men of H Division are led to a freak show where they find the answers they are looking for.  Meanwhile, Jackson finds out that Long Susan is in debt to her landlord, Silas Duggan, who is also a friend of Inspector Jedediah Shine.
  • Become Man – When men start disappearing around town – first from the club Rose now works at, then from Long Susan’s brothel,  Reid and his team find out that they have been taken by supporters of one of London’s first female Councilors.
  • Dynamite and a Woman – In the process of transporting a prisoner, an officer seemingly has a heart attack.  The prisoner, an Irish bomber escapes, and the next day, a prominent opponent of the Home Rule Movement is murdered.  Chief Inspector Abberline orders Reid to send a man undercover into the Irish Republican Brotherhood in order to befriend the bomber’s daughter.  Jackson however, discovers the link between the two deaths is not terrorism, but electrocution and leads to the two competing local electric companies.
  • Threads of Silk and Gold – The murder of a telegraph boy leads to an investigation of a bank.  An employee of the bank has committed suicide and the folio of the Argentine business dealing is missing, which will lead to the bank’s demise if found.  Jackson tries ridding him and Susan of the debt with Duggan, but fails and loses all their money investing in the failed Argentine stocks.
  • A Stronger Loving World – When Bella Drake’s Uncle Gabriel Cain comes to visit, Bennet finds out that Cain is the leader of a cult and Bella was once his high queen and pregnant with his child.  Rose returns to Long Susan to ask for help, but now that Susan is penniless, she is unable to help her.  When Bennet, Rose and Bella disappear, they are found with the cult as unwilling participants in a mass suicide.  After tragedy strikes Bennet and Bella, Bennet disappears leaving the police force and the team behind.
  • Our Betrayal – Part One – With Bennet missing, Rose is intent upon finding him, but has no leads.  She asks the street prostitutes, who point her to an underground fight club.  Jackson’s brother Daniel Judge arrives for a visit with a smuggled diamond from Africa.  Reid is investigating a crime against a local jewelry maker, Hinchcliffe, who has had items stolen, but the suspect is under the protection of Inspector Shine.  Jackson believes that Daniel’s diamond will help with the problems between him and Long Susan, who has a new tenant in Silas Duggan, and approaches the suspect in the jewelry crime with a proposal.  Bennet returns only after finding the body of Hinchcliffe when he is at his new job digging graves.
  • Our Betrayal – Part Two – When more bodies are found murdered in the same manner of Hinchcliffe, Reid, Drake and Jackson are led to Shine.  Jackson, Susan and Daniel come up with a plan to rid themselves of both the diamond and Duggan and set him up, and in the process set up Shine.  Drake finds a way to take his revenge out on Shine at the police boxing match and Reid wants Drake to make sure Shine doesn’t make it out of the ring.
Video (4 out of 5 stars)
Once again, the sets for Ripper Street were really well done. The picture was clear in this 1080p high definition wide screen presentation. The colors were sharp, the shadows blended well and the light – both the candle light and the early electricity light – both seems accurate. Shadows on faces were good and natural given the availability of the lighting at that time. Blacks and grays were accurate and were sharp and blended well with the picture.
Audio (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
The DTS-HD 5.1 audio presentation was good.  There were many times during the various episodes where I had to adjust the volume because the cheering or yelling in the background was way too loud.  I would then have to turn the volume back up to hear the dialogue.  Subtitles are available in English if they are needed.
Extras (1 1/2 out of 5 stars)
There is only one special feature for season two of Ripper Street.  I was disappointed because I thought that so much more could have been done with the features.  It seems like all the behind-the-scenes features from season one were put together to make one longer feature, with new information.
  • Beneath Ripper Street – A behind the scenes look at season two with cast and crew interviews.  It talks about the challenges for the writers, the stories told and what changes were made in the stories between seasons one and two.  It’s also a look at the main characters, the new characters, the sets and the time period.  A well-done behind-the-scenes featurette.
Summary (3 out of 5 stars)
I was disappointed in season two of "Ripper Street," not because of the show itself, but because some of the episodes seemed to drag on and with the time frame being more than one year after the Jack the Ripper killings stopped, I feel there wasn’t much to relate the show to Jack the Ripper other than taking place on the streets where the murders occurred. I liked the character development and getting to know Jackson, Long Susan, Rose and especially Bennet better. The special features could have been more robust, with all the information and speculation about Jack the Ripper; I feel there could have been more done to connect the show to its area namesake. I look forward to season three and hope it improves even more.

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