Rec of the Week: Ripper Street

One hundred and twenty years ago, Jack the Ripper terrorized and mutilated women in London’s East End, but yet, remains the most notoriously elusive serial killer of all time. Therefore, there is never a time when a story can’t draw from his real life crimes, nor will its location and time period escape enchantment. Over the last couple years, I’ve seen a few but my most liked was certainly ITV1’s Whitechapel starring Rupert Penry-Jones. Now BBC One steps back in time directly after the massacres with last year’s Ripper Street. And it has the stench of the Victorian underbelly of England, wrapped in crime drama goodness.

Ripper Street, created by writer Richard Warlow, takes place in 1889 six months after the last Ripper murder and surrounds the H Division nestled in the sullied streets of Whitechapel, where it’s their job to police and bring an air of safety back the East London neighborhood.

The cast is led by Matthew Macfadyen (MI-5, Pride and Prejudice), playing Inspector Detective Edmund Reid, along with his noble and proper Detective Sergeant Bennet Drake, Jerome Flynn (Game of Thrones, Soldier Soldier). Adam Rothenberg (Alcatraz, The Ex-List), rounds out the law fighting trio as the American soldier-cowboy, medical examiner, Captain Homer Jackson, with a checkered past an ocean away, that most certainly includes, Myanna Buring‘s (The Twilight Saga, White Heat) local Madam character, Susan Hart. Charlene McKenna (Raw, Misfits) is one of her girls Rose Erskine, while David Dawson (Luther, The Mystery of Edwin Drood) portrays a sniveling news monger.

Thoughts: Almost anything “Ripper” is pretty interesting, for it can scale the gamut from psycho cinema to situation comedy. A vital ingredient for a decent story, is an intriguing jumping off point, and this show definitely has it. In the wake of the Ripper killings, what Whitechapel endured has been publicized to some extent but there’s no doubt that there has to be a degree of specificity to this period in history, where life was never deemed “normal” again, with a flagrantly unidentified murderer on the loose. MacFayden is always brilliant as the upright do-gooder, who isn’t afraid to walk the thin line between lawful and lawless and there’s little difference here. As Reed, he’s a wickedly intelligent straight-shooter, who’s commanding, yet ever-learning and unassuming.

After watching the first episode, I can say that it’s a substantial period drama that uses the Ripper murders to it’s advantage, setting the stage for what could be in store through out the season. It sheds insight into the ways crimes were regarded after the killings; the toll it may have taken on the officers involved, considering the bleak, disheveled and bewildered state, Jack left the Whitechapel world. However, I doubt the audience is in store for grisly or gruesome slashings or body counts and a copycat, also seems unlikely. Already, lovelines have been hinted toward and mystery shrouds a couple of it’s main characters. Ripper Street‘s reality is dark and damaged but the hope of the protagonist to shift fear and infamy into strength and security, resonates.

The drama premiered for British audiences on BBC One in December 2012, where American audiences got their first taste only two weeks ago, through co-producers BBC America. It is also slated for DVD release February 18, 2013.

Ripper Street is currently airing on BBC America Saturdays @ 9pm EST.

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