Ripper Street, Season 1 (2013)

Reviewer: Charity Bishop

 

Costume dramas are the new thing on television, ever since Downton Abbey became an international success. This series follows the crime-solving work of two Scotland Yard policeman in the aftermath of the Ripper murders in Whitechapel.

 

Months have passed since Jack the Ripper took his final victim. The seedy streets of Whitechapel have hope the murderous reign of terror is over... until the body of a young woman turns up gutted in an alley. Detective Inspector Reid (Matthew Macfayden) is convinced this isn't the work of the Ripper, since it deviates from his pattern. But his superior officer isn't enthusiastic about his alternative theories. With the assistance of his hard-hitting, tough, street wise partner, Sergeant Drake (Jerome Flynn), and the medical knowledge of former Pinkerton agent, Captain Jackson (Adam Rothenberg), Reid sets out to prove the truth... before the newspapers spread the dangerous story that the Ripper has resurfaced.

 

His investigation leads him into the seedy underbelly of Victorian life, bringing him into the inner circle of Susan (MyAnna Buring), a local "Madame," and Drake's favorite whore, Rose (Charlene McKenna). Violence, mayhem, drug and slum lords and racism come to the forefront in the eight episode first season. Everything about it has promise but it never quite reaches its full potential. Characters are under-developed and overly enigmatic; their personalities and behaviors are inconsistent and unpredictable from week to week. It's as if the writers don't really know who anyone actually is, so they make it up as they go along to benefit whatever scheme comes to the forefront. The over-reaching plot line involves the disappearance of Reid's daughter and his wife's turmoil yet she disappears for episodes on end! The same goes for other female characters, all of whom are either there as victims or are employed in the whore house.

 

Each episode features lapses of logic, dozens of historical inaccuracies, absurd and sometimes gaping plot holes, and sluggish pacing, not to mention occasional but ever-graphic content, ranging from from vulgar dialogue and explicit sexuality to brutal death, blood spatter, and cringe-inducing autopsies. I wish this series was better but it isn't. It has a marvelous cast, gorgeous costumes and a convincing set. There's even a few minor characters that we become fond of, yet it never managed to win me over or even really hold my interest. Between the liberal-leaning undercurrent and bland characters, it seems an unusually poor turn-out for a network known for its terrific period pieces.

   

  

Sexual Content:

Two instances of oral sex; a couple has photographs taken of them having sex (she is strangled to death in the process); two corpses are seen fully naked from the front (one female, one male); we see the bare breasts of a dozen prostitutes, both in real life and in photographs, and pornographic/sexual contact in pictures. We discover a young woman was a whore, then became a man's mistress.

  

Language:

Profanity, mild abuses of deity; multiple uses of Jesus' name.

  

Violence:

Bodies are found with their eyes and throat slashed; gunshot victims are seen; men are shot and killed, strangled, and stabbed. A horse is shot dead, then its head is removed. Various autopsies are performed, with gaping chest wounds visible.

 

Other:

Drinking. Smoking.