Setting the mood with an atmosphere that resembles Guy Ritchie’s version of Sherlock Holmes, “Pure as the Driven” begins in 1890 with a particular mystery: the attempted murder of Maurice Linklater, police officer and old friend of Sgt. Bennet Drake -Jerome Flynn, better known to current audiences for his role on Game of Thrones-. Linklater, who is thrown from a window, is found with strange marks on his knee, all while showcasing symptoms that resemble those of withdrawal.
Here begins a cryptic plot that would fit better into a Sherlock -the modern one- episode. Reid and Drake start their investigation by learning that the house from where Linklater was thrown belongs to Asian young lady Blush Pang -because that’s a completely normal Chinese name, I guess?-, relating the case with the opium trade that was running in Chinatown. All clues lead to a Chinese man who has been wandering around London killing some folks, and whom Inspector Jedediah Shine -Joseph Mawle, also of Game of Thrones fame- believes to belong to the Three Harmony Society, turning Reid’s investigations on that direction.
After some really confusing plot exposition and unnecessary scenes, Reid and Drake find out, with the help of American Captain Homer Jackson, that this new drug in Whitechapel is something different: heroin. When they finally go back to the hospital to interrogate Linklater, the story is clear: he was a pawn on a chess game that involved smuggling the ingredients for this new drug to begin its trading, with Blush Pang supervising the work and –surprise- Jedediah Shine in charge of the whole operation.
And that is when the story intertwines with the Chinese murderer: he was in London to get his sister –Blush Pang- back to Hong Kong, where she had been kidnapped 10 years earlier by a cop. And yes, it was obviously Shine, who now had her as his mistress.
The episode ends with a cliffhanger that will be developed throughout the entire series, as Shine kills Linklater with a shot of heroin, somehow incriminating righteous Reid, but not before the latter´s pal Joseph Merrick –AKA the Elephant Man- sees the whole thing.
To be honest, don´t trust me too much with the plot. I am not sure I understood what was happening.
The storyline wasn’t bad, but there was so much that didn’t need to be there, the same way some parts of the plot needed further explanation, which probably causes confusion in the viewer. But, as Rebecca Nicholson from The Guardian points out, “Its profound silliness means it is best to approach Ripper Street as a graphic novel”. Still, the settings were well designed, as it always happens with BBC mini-series.
Now we are all set up for a stack of episodes that will probably feature the effects of this first one, with Reid trying to prove his innocence, Shine looking for more revenge and some other B-plots that are not worth talking about so far. So if you like murder mysteries, bloody violence, MacFadyen and Sherlock-y stories, don’t miss this new series of Ripper Street.
The third episode of series 2 is on next Monday on BBC1.