Ripper Street: A Brittle Thread. Television Review.

Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating 8.5/10

Cast: Matthew Macfadyen, Adam Rothenberg, MyAnna Buring, Killian Scott, Benjamin O’ Mahony, Joseph Mawle, Jonas Armstrong, Lydia Wilson, Anna Burnett, Matthew Lewis, Ian Pirie, Ellie Haddington.

Society hangs by A Brittle Thread and when it is pulled the whole fabric that has been built up, cherished by some, loathed by others, indifferent to many to whose lives are just about the right side of desperate, when that thread is pulled, it can come crashing down. Since the days that Queen Victoria first sat on her throne, many have tried to pull that strand, some have been part of the so called elite or the institution themselves but somehow it remains, for now, intact; threadbare, wearing thin and scraggy but nonetheless still intact.

If Whitechapel is thought of as the representative of the country as a whole during the Victorian era, the huge population living on the edge of disease, filth and squalor, to whom the most evil of men visited their doorsteps during the reign of Jack the Ripper and then the nightly bombing by the Luftwaffe under the direction of the despicable Adolf Hitler during World War Two, then it can be seen why the thread hangs with alarming brittle fragility.

It is a society that was sworn to be protected by Detective Inspector Reid, a man to whom history remembers as being part of the investigation into the heinous acts carried out by the serial killer Jack the Ripper but who was not as badly tarnished as some of his more prominent and exposed superiors. The brittle thread of society only stays intact when all observe the outcome of it snapping, and when a member of Her Majesty’s police force crosses the boundary and pulls on that thread then the resulting carnage would see what remains of the colloquium of Ripper Street torn apart.

It is fascinating that one of the untold truths of the era and those ever since, is that when push comes to shove, the line between criminal behaviour and the men and women charged with enforcing its upkeep is so blurred, so hazy that at times the police are an even bigger threat to society than those who commit and break the laws with flagrant disrespect.

With the fifth and final season of this superb series well under way, the sense of justice on both sides is enough to see the brittle thread snapped, sides change when civil upheaval is in the air and it is one that is captured wonderfully in the exchanges between Matthew Macfadyen’s Inspector Reid and his daughter Mathilda, played with extreme coolness by Anna Burnett, the suspicion in a daughter’s eyes to a father sworn to protect her is one that should never be seen.

A Brittle Thread is an important episode of the series as a whole as it shines a light on the infallibility of those we allow to police us with consent. A bitter reminder that even those charged with doing right can often stray over the thin blue line.

Ian D. Hall