Plot: Attacks on churches and synagogues threatens to break the fragile peace between Whitechapel’s religious communities. Bella Drake’s (Gillian Saker) ‘uncle’, Gabriel Cain (Paul Kaye), a charismatic scholar with a group of fanatical followers of his unorthodox occult beliefs of Elizabethan astrologer John Dee seek to convert Drake (Jerome Flynn). Rose Ersikne (Charlene McKenna ) seeking financial help from penniless Long Susan (MyAnna Buring) falls foul of the same group. Reid (Matthew MacFadyden) is astonished to find a photograph of Bella as Cain’s holy queen and pregnant. Tragedy befalls Drake when he, Bella, and Rose are brought together to take part in the groups intention to commit mass suicide.
Matthew MacFayden’s Edmund Reid may be the central character in Ripper Street, it’s Jerome Flynn’s Bennet Drake who is this reviewer’s absolute favorite. Flynn is someone we’ve all grown to love as the sarcastic knight Bronn. On Ripper Street Flynn has taken the character of Drake and made him more than just Reid’s muscle, he’s a key piece to the show’s emotional core. Drake has evolved from the bare knuckle brawling bad ass we met in the series premiere last year and he’s become a loving, doting husband who, while still tough as they come, is a very sympathetic character that the audience can get behind.
In “A Stronger Loving World” Drake’s character is on full display and the result is probably one of the best episodes in the second series, from an emotional standpoint.
One of Drake’s biggest conflicts is the quasi-unresolved love triangle he’s in with his wife Bella and lady of the night Rose. For those unfamiliar, Rose was the first woman Drake was in love with, but through circumstances that arose throughout series one, things never panned out. So, instead he married Rose’s courtesan cohort, Bella. Ever since, there’s been an underlying tension between the relationship — is Drake suppressing his feelings for Rose and overcompensating for this in this relationship with Bella? In this reviewer’s mind — Drake has not forgotten his first love, but it truly seems that he does love his wife.
Watching Drake in agony wondering if his wife has left him for the charismatic cult leader Gabriel Cain is probably some of the most emotionally harrowing scenes in Ripper Street this season. Jerone Flynn’s eyes tell the story here — they truly windows to his broken heart. Since he’s become such an integral part of the show, you can’t help but feel the tough man’s heart break.
Speaking of Cain, Brit comedian Paul Kaye is awesome as the cult of personality. For those wondering, you have seen Paul Kaye before. Fans of the Simon Pegg sitcom Spaced will probably chuckle remembering Kaye as the demented performance artist Hoover. Most will remember him from Game of Thrones as Thoros of Myr. We digress. Kaye is the driving force of the episode, proving to be an excellent “big bad.” He’s wonderfully eloquent and has the seductive aura about him, as if you want to believe everything he says. You know, like any good cult leader. It’s a shame he wasn’t developed into a series villain.
Now, in full disclosure, while from an emotional standpoint this episode was excellent, it was a bit too convenient of an episode from a writing standpoint. The Drake/Bella/Rose storyline was wrapped up a bit too neatly and conveniently tonight. No spoilers on which way it’ll go, but let’s just say they put a final, jarring stamp on the storyline that seemed way too easy for a series that does not do anything the easy way.
Yet, despite this writing misstep, Ripper Street, once again delivered the goods. If you’ve been wondering when the Shine storyline is going to restart, then strap yourself in for the next weeks because things look like they’re going to go ballistic.