Ripper Street: An Early Autopsy

Ripper StreetDesperate for something to watch until Walking Dead and Being Human return next month, I checked out Ripper Street. This is the BBC’s new Victorian Whitechapel drama, featuring Matthew Macfadyen ( the original and best lead spy from Spooks) as a police inspector trying to keep order, in the aftermath of Jack The Ripper’s rampage.

So, how is it going? Fun, visceral romp or tedious period piece? Has Macfadyen still got it? Spoilers for the first two episodes, do watch them on iPLayer first.

Do I Seem Some Addle-Minded Section Header?

After contemplating twin instalments, much to my annoyance, a consistent quality hasn’t emerged yet, so making this review seem unified is going to be a right pain in the bum.

That was a wordy way of saying: episode one was dull, the second much better. I used a circular, flowery vocab, because that’s how characters in Ripper Street speak, y’see? Sometimes it results in a clever soundbite (especially when delivered by Macfadyen), but often you just want them to get to the point.

Jerome Flynn also appears as brutal sidekick Drake, and his hardman-with-a-heart routine is endearing, especially his bonding with the young boy in episode two. Third lead character Captain Jackson (Adam Rothenberg) is the carefree Robert Downey Jr one, and his mysterious past gets a lot more intriguing in episode two.

Everything Is Better With Rudy From Misfits

In case I haven’t hammered this home: episode one sucks. It presents the premise, but doesn’t want to get too far into the characters, as they all have secrets to reveal in future. And the small mystery of the week is nowhere near interesting enough to fill that central void, leading to long periods of dull talk about nothing. Good acting, bad episode.

Episode two, though, picks up the pace and gives Macfadyen a charismatic nemesis: Joseph Gilgun (yes, Rudy from Misfits) as Carmicheal. Characters unfold their stories and the show is much more dynamic and watchable, even if there is one massive coincidence.

It has been pointed out, correctly, that there are few women in this show, and the ones that do appear tend to be prostitutes. Like most aspects of this series, the ratio improves in episode two, but it’s still low. Historically, this may be valid (I don’t pretend to know), but if it’s a dealbreaker for you, there it is.

In short: Ripper Street. First episode boring, second episode a real improvement, though still not amazing, no. Still, it’s got Matthew Macfadyen in it and might level out alright, so I’ll keep watching for the moment. How was it for you?

Nick Bryan

Nick learned to read and write at an early age. This has developed into an unhealthy need to either write stories or consume them for later dissection. He reviews film and TV on Dork Adore and The Digital Fix, lives in London and enjoys a nice white beer.

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  1. says

    I’m still not sure on this one. I watched the first one and felt a bit depressed at the whole “saucy jack” lady violence thing (which just seems to be everywhere at the moment” and thought a lot of the dialogue was just ridiculous. But the whole thing looks beautiful and I can forgive Matthew MacFadyen pretty much anything.

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