TV preview: Ripper Street, 9pm, BBC1

Ripper Street. Photographer: Amanda Searle
Ripper Street. Photographer: Amanda Searle
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Despite being set in 1890, this drama, which returns for its second series this week, bears all the hallmarks of 21st century television thanks to its near-the-knuckle depictions of crimes, brutal plots and fast-paced approach to storytelling.

And although those factors are enough to make any programme compelling, Ripper Street also has a superb cast, led by Matthew Macfadyen, Jerome Flynn and Adam Rothenberg.

All three return here to play their heroic if somewhat flawed characters who are trying to keep Whitechapel’s streets clean – which, it seems, is an impossible job.

Life has changed for the three main characters since we last saw them; Drake (Flynn) has a new wife who seems to be smoothing down his rough edges, Jackson (Rothenberg) is beginning to wonder if Whitechapel is really the place to put down roots, while Reid (Macfadyen) has undergone the biggest change of all.

“He’s no longer with his wife, who has left home, and the audience discovers why during the first episode,” explains the former Spooks star. “They had a very traumatic end to the first series and he’d given her false hope that he’d found their missing daughter. It turned out it wasn’t her and so that was pretty hard for them both and their marriage dissolved.

In the first episode, a policeman has been thrown out of a window onto the iron railings below, and Reid is keen to find out whodunit as soon as possible – after all, if the police are proven to be fallible, criminals everywhere could run amok.

The dead officer was stationed in neighbouring K-Division, led by the amoral Jedediah Shine, and Reid’s investigation sees him locking horns not only with his formidable colleague, but also with members of the emergent Chinatown community who appear to know more than they’re letting on.

“Shine runs the Limehouse division and Reid runs the Whitechapel division,” Macfadyen reveals. “I think as far as Reid knows he is a good policeman.

“Initially, they work together and then doubts start to grow about Shine and what kind of man he is...”

But really, at the heart of the drama is the bromance between the three central characters, and thankfully, that looks set to 

“It’s a lovely dynamic because it is two and one – three is always two and one, it’s a constantly shifting thing. Two are fighting and one is breaking up the fight. It’s great and they are lovely actors so it just gets better and better.”