thu 18/07/2024

Ripper Street, BBC One | reviews, news & interviews

Ripper Street, BBC One

Ripper Street, BBC One

Matthew Macfadyen becomes the latest detective to battle with the Ripper's legacy

Matthew Macfadyen (centre) with his trusty sidekicks Adam Rothenberg (left) and Jerome Flynn

Perpetually reborn in movies and TV series, Jack the Ripper rides again in Ripper Street, which is set in Whitechapel in 1889, in the aftermath of the much-mythologised murders. Except this time, the subject isn't the Ripper himself so much as the dread and hysteria he left in his wake, which shrouds the murky streets like poison gas.

We got the message in the opening sequence, when sightseers on a tour of notorious Jack the Ripper landmarks stumbled across a murdered woman, her body grotesquely slashed and mutilated in the old familiar ways (pictured below). Instantly, the neighbourhood started going demented with fear, and tremors of alarm ran through the police officers of Whitechapel's H Division. Detective Inspector Edmund Reid (Matthew Macfadyen) worked on the original murders, and the prospect of them starting again is his worst nightmare.

Ripper StreetFortunately he has some capable and determined assistance on hand. Detective Sergeant Drake (Jerome Flynn) is big, rough and ugly, an officer quite happy to go undercover and take a battering as a bareknuckle fighter to help bring down bent boxing promoter Joseph Smeaton. Then there's Captain Homer Jackson (Adam Rothenberg), a former surgeon in the American military and an ex-Pinkerton detective (you can tell there's a BBC America dimension to this production). The cool and laconic Jackson also has an interesting relationship with whorehouse-madame Long Susan  - played by the suddenly ubiquitous MyAnna Buring (pictured below), startlingly transformed from her below-stairs turn in Downton Abbey last week - though we'll have to wait for full details to emerge.

Devised and written by Richard Warlow, a veteran of Mistresses and Waking the Dead, Ripper Street successfully suggests the turbulence and squalor of the East End near the close of the 19th century, thanks to some subtly archaic quirks in the dialogue and use of Dublin locations which work better than you'd expect. It also seems to have borrowed some of the turbo-Victorian éclat from Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes films. It doesn't have their vastly elaborate sets or super-slo-mo digital effects, but it does have something of their hectic pace and neurotic energy, and a not dissimilar soundtrack of souped-up electro-folk music.

Ripper Street, MyAnna BuringMacfadyen steps up into the role of Reid with a stubbly physicality and strident assertiveness you might not have expected from him, and his action-man dimension was given full vent as he and his sidekicks found themselves plunged into a sinister underworld of pornographic snuff movies, orbiting around the louche and perverted Sir Arthur Donaldson (Mark Dexter). Themes of voyeurism and media sexploitation also lent the piece a recognisably 21st century feel, with the sordid tabloid reporter Best (David Dawson) brusquely fingered by Reid for daubing the scenery with Ripper-like slogans to whip up popular panic.

Reid himself tried to bring a calming gravitas to the palpitating populace, appealing for restraint and an end to kneejerk Ripper-mania when there was no supporting evidence, though he believes in giving his men leeway for some robust policing. Drake, for instance, expressed himself with great freedom while doling out a savage beating to the sordid Smeaton (Geoff Bell), who found himself tangentially implicated in Donaldson’s web of vice. Some say torture doesn't work, but it did here. I didn’t go into Ripper Street with great expectations, but this punchy and atmospheric first episode comfortably exceeded them. 

The detectives found themselves plunged into a sinister underworld of pornographic snuff movies


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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It was horrible. The violence against women was appallingly disturbing. Half- watched it but shan't be doing so again, atmospheric or not


I am not a vicar, a retired Major from Surrey or a granny from Halifax but this is nasty stuff. I sense this 18plus[and should have stated from the outset[ is soft porn of snuff variety. Should of been on much later and not during the 'festive season'. The BBC is like a headless chicken---no sense of direction---no sense of taste.

Should HAVE, not should of, sorry to be picky

Thought the show was surprising gripping - any women complaining about the violence need grow up. It's only a TV show. Get over it for god sake. Wa. Wa. Wa.

Glad you enjoyed the rape and sadistic torture of women. And now imagine your mother, grandma or daughter in such a situation. Or are you so disturbed that you don't harbour any feeling for women at all? When you understand the effect of sexual violence against women and our fear of it, then and only then, feel free to comment.

Caught between Sweeting and the fainting ladies here. Unconvincing to anyone who knows faff all about the Victorian underworld yet too nasty for the average 15 yr old. Ok. Good acting , production values &c. but, but, but ...a nasty taste in the mouth and I'm a 54 yr old straight man who's been about a bit. Yes, a bit like this generation's Dr Who insofar as it it seemed an opportunity wasted due to intellectual cop out. Do TV folk think everybody is stupid?

same old gratuitous violence , as usual men striding about the place solving everything. titillating women in various states of undress, dead or alive. same old stuff

Ripper St Episode 3 There is a real cosmetic error with Patrick Baladi's face (Ins.Sydney Ressier ) during the episode....can anyone spot it I did not impair his brilliiant performance of course

I was a little disappointed to see that a basic element was not corrected in such a fantastic show like ripper street. The scratches on the officers face suddenly appeared on the opposite side of his face it was not very good. But it is a great show so well done for that. Sorry for the comment. Jim cox.

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