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Gothic horror

By the magic of Amazon Prime TV, over the weekend I watched the first two episodes of Ripper Street, Series 3. Readers of this blog, and many others will recall that when the BBC decided to axe the programme after S2, there was an outcry, until Amazon stepped in and agreed to continue the show, with our national broadcaster as a junior partner and the streaming audience having first dibs.

S3 is set four years later. Reid has become an obsessive figure, Captain Jackson has become Whitechapel’s  official surgeon and drunk, Sergeant Drake is now Inspector, newly returned from Manchester, and Long Susan has closed her brothel and runs a property company and a women’s hospital and training school for nurses, the latter a gesture, no doubt, to those who had been critical of the way women were depicted in the earlier stories. The wicked Silas Duggan is, of course, as dead as he was at the end of S2, and has been replaced by a wicked lawyer.

Business as usual? No. The new series opens with a calamitous rail accident in the middle of Whitechapel, a by-product of a robbery. That is dark and gory, but it is nothing on episode two, which goes back to the theme of the first series and ends with a horrific plot twist and an act of violence so appalling that it gave me nightmares, for all that such fiction is the business I’m in.

Very occasionally on-screen drama can go beyond the pale, and be too realistic in its depiction of evil. As examples, I offer The Exorcist and Alan Parker’s Angel Heart. Ripper Street, S3, Part 2, is right up there with both of those. The streamed version shown on Amazon runs for an hour and eight minutes. The stories will have to be edited to fit the normal BBC TV hour, but there is no way that the screenplay I saw last night can be massaged to make it fit for a family audience. You have been warned.

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