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A Ripper finale, but gone far too soon; Nathan Bevan Words in here in here in.

Byline: Nathan Bevan

ITS first series started back last December with a bare-knuckle boxing match and its second ended last week with another equally bloody bout of fisticuffs.

But, while the gloves stayed on this time around, Ripper Street still relished not pulling its punches - Jerome Flynn's bruising Sgt Drake knocking lumps out of his nemesis, wax-moustached crooked Limehouse police inspector Jedediah Shine. The big baddy in this BBC Victorian crime drama, Shine stole his chops (mutton or otherwise) from Daniel Day-Lewis' visceral portrayal of 19th-century NYC proto-gangster Bill The Butcher.

Shine's period plod waved his "boo-hiss" credentials like a semaphore operator after too many Red Bulls.

Not only did he gleefully garotte anyone who dared get in the way of his grubby little operation, he even killed The Elephant Man.

What do you mean, "Which Elephant Man?" THAT Elephant Man. How many do you know, exactly? But even though the real-life character of Joseph Merrick popped up out of the blue to play an amateur crime fighter throughout Ripper Street's sophomore season it wasn't as much of a "jump the shark" moment as you might think, given the programme's Big Ben-sized improbability factor thus far.

For instance, who could forget the scene in the previous series in which a young bobby, buried under a mountain of paperwork, bemoans his desk-bound lot, only to be reassured by his senior officer that "one day there will be gleaming machines that will perhaps make light work of such process" - thereby predicting the onset of the digital age as far back as 1889.

So the sight of Merrick loping around the set spluttering things like: "I am not a plot contrivance, I am a HUMAN BEING" didn't seem so bad, until Shine suffocated him in his bed for having spied him committing a previous murder.

However, Ripper Street's biggest achievement was the development of its characters, the pugilistic Drake coming to renounce his role as attack dog for prim and proper Detective Inspector Edmund Reid (Matthew MacFadyen) who, come his team's climactic showdown with Shine, had found his own soul had become just as tainted by the horrors to which their job had exposed them.

"Kill him, KILL him!" he yelled from the ringside, urging Drake to land the fatal final punch to his adversary's noggin.

But, having already lost his wife and the will to uphold the law by whatever force necessary, Drake backed away.

"Each lip I've fattened or head I've beaten against steel bars on your bidding, it's only caused those close to us to suffer," he sighed. "Life, Mr Reid, is offended by you and me."

And with that Ripper Street was gone for ever, cancelled by the Beeb because it lost in the ratings war against ITV reality behemoth I'm A Celebrity ...Get Me Out Of Here.

A lot of loose ends were left hanging and many viewers, myself included, couldn't help but feel they'd been robbed of the tantalisingly even darker course the show had looked set to chart.

And, even for a drama oft criticised for being too bloody and violent, that was the unkindest cut of all.

CAPTION(S):

Jerome Flynn, Matthew Macfadyen and Adam Rotherenberg in Ripper Street
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Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Dec 22, 2013
Words:534
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