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Reason Prop head getting blown to bits = not cute.

Screens: Amazon UK

The Sunny Side Of The Street

Accepting Ripper Street's imperfections let Sarah D. Bunting enjoy the third season.

Let us begin with two announcements. First, the apologetic one: I've spelled Matthew Macfadyen's name wrong lo these several seasons, despite seeing it in the credits in those chunky typesetter letters dozens of times and staring straight at it in the IMDb. Sorry about that! My subconscious must want him and Angus MacFayden to be related. I'll correct my previous pieces shortly.

Second...well, once upon a time in interviews about Television Without Pity I used to say that we didn't critique TV harshly for harshness's sake. We expected better from the medium, because we knew it could deliver it, and for the most part that remains true of my criticism today. Sometimes I feel I have no choice but to assign a given subpar program the "Fart Faces Of" treatment, but generally, if I've chosen to give 21 minutes to a show, or 42, or 70, it's because I assume it's good -- worthwhile. When I keep choosing to spend that time week after week, on imperfect shows with a couple C-plus actors or a dumb subplot it can't seem to shake, it's because I see potential there. It has the tools for A-minus; a few things work. Maybe it's Max's hair on Finding Carter, or James Purefoy's gleefully hammy line readings on The Following, but often, my hammering on a show to suck less assumes that it can.

My point here, and I do have one despite the previous graf's disquisitive length mirroring one of my issues with Ripper Street, is that, on occasion, I just have to accept that a show is what it is -- that, like a family member, it has maddening shit it pulls, and things that make you want to hug it 'til it pops, and you'll still love it and spend summer Sundays with it, often with a glass of beer because then it's still annoying but you don't care as much. And I've finally arrived at that point with Ripper Street, and it's not a bad place.

The finale is a bit of a letdown from the previous episodes, in my opinion; S03E06 did a lot of things the show does well, few of the things the show does badly, and didn't dick around. The finale is really a lot of dicking around: Susan's father, Theodore, is back to mess with everyone's heads and robber-baron the fifth estate to death, and our triumvirate of protagonists does the last unraveling of the case, and that by rights should take about 12 minutes. I suspect that Swift's bigoted interrogation of Fred Best took that long by itself. Reid and Susan declaiming to one another about pattern and design probably took 12 minutes; I half expected a cut to a wider shot that showed she had visibly entered her third trimester in the interim.

It's also horribly gory this week with the point-blank shooting


and the squishy noises and the Jackson dumping a bunch of organs in a bowl (squishily) and it forces us to sit through a Rose performance (Charlene McKenna has a lovely alto, but: move it along), and punts two characters I'd just started to like. David Dawson's Best really grew on me in Season 3, and I'll miss him and his china ear; it's nice that he got to go out defiant. Mimi I never had much use for, until the lovely scene when she realizes she'll never come first and kicks him to the curb. The single tear falls down the cheek that isn't facing the camera; it's heartbreaking. So is Jackson confronting Susan about shooting Reid, and Susan's utter shame when Reid confronts her in turn; imagine how much longer and more insufferable the speechifying would seem in the hands of lesser actors. It's not like I don't know it's coming, is the thing, so why not spend the time admiring Jackson's many excellent vintage anatomical posters?

And then they give Drake and Jackson an exposition fistfight, which is hilarious,


and Reid leaves, which made me sniffly, and runs in clumsy slo-mo on the beach with Mathilda, which made me snicker, and Jackson goes to sit in Susan's cell and stay married to her, which made me stabby, AND THEN ROSE AND DRAKE GOT MARRIED FUCK YEAHHHHHH!!1!

And: cool gadgets. And Swift's end isn't realistic, or a good look on our heroes ethically, but he's a shitbag so: print it.

It's not a perfect show; it's not a great show, even. But I think it developed a better ear in the third season for being the best show it can be, and if it had to shoot its hero in the self-righteousness cortex to make him a bit less pompous, hey, I'll take it. I don't really look forward to whatever machinations will bring the Whitechapel Three back together again -- Jackson digs a tunnel out of his gaol cell and happens to pop up through the floor of the Reidhaus-on-Sea? Coroner, please -- but once it's done, I'll enjoy it, especially when they make with the procedural bits.


I haaaaate that RS went there with a pregnancy, but if anyone's going to become a TV mom in a way I don't hate, it's MyAnna Buring.

I'll be back for S4 -- and if it's sometimes boring and sometimes convoluted, well, that's family for you.

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