Miss Mary Kelly was the final canonical murder of Jack the Ripper. She was found eviscerated at her home at 13 Miller’s Court on 9 November 1888. Six months later and horror tour guides are doing good business around the Whitechapel area, showing people around the murder sites of Jack, still thought to be at large. It is in this climate of voyeurism and fear that Detective Inspector Edmund Reid (Matthew Macfadyen) must police E1 with the shadow of the world’s first tabloid serial killer looming over him. Welcome to Ripper Street. It was a murderous time of course. Stabbings, beatings, mutilations, disappearances – death came as quickly and casually to the ordinary Eastender as senseless ass whippings came to girlfriends of Justin Lee Collins. Now every time some bird turns up wearing her guts over her shoulders Reid has to wonder if it’s Jack and the pain in the balls the press are going to give him over it. Kicking dutifully at his side through all this is Detective Sergeant Bennet Drake (Jerome Flynn last seen as flat-nosed mercenary Bronn in Game of Thrones) who goes undercover to illegal bare knuckle boxing contests as one of the fighters which probably goes some way to explaining his face. But busting bare knuckle boxing rings won’t earn your stripes so it’s a big relief to everyone when a female body hits the ground on their turf. “She’s been ripped!” the investigating officer tells them. You know who might have done that?
“Kicking dutifully at his side is Detective Sergeant Bennet Drake who goes undercover to illegal bare knuckle boxing contests as one of the fighters which probably goes some way to explaining his face.”
Yeah, that guy. To properly investigate the crime Reid has to pull Captain Homer Jackson (Adam Rothenberg) by his feet out of the back of his favourite whore Rose (Charlene McKenna). Rose is the star attraction at the knocking shop of Long Susan (MyAnna Buring) where Jackson keeps a room and he is one of a long line of medical men to curse his luck at being on call at the wrong time. Still, he goes from up to his nuts in guts to up to his elbows in guts with the minimum of fuss. He’s a maverick mercenary surgeon who plays by his own rules. A former Pinkerton agent he’s exactly the kind of shoots from the hip straight talker who gets the job done that Reid will need on his side if he’s to catch the Ripper (he never catches the Ripper, obviously we know this but we can assume that he doesn’t yet). Jackson Gregory Houses his way to the victim being a violinist – is Jack some kind of music critic? That would explain the uncontrollable rage at the world and how no one can ever find him when they need to.
“It seems very happy to bask in the reflected glow of the Jack the Ripper brand while never really feeling like part of it or adding anything to it.”
Everyone’s a critic after all, something Reid knows only too well. The papers get a whiff of the story and there isn’t a lot he can do to stop them printing it. “This story turns over Friday” a scumbag hack tells him, essentially giving him 48 hours to solve the case like some 70s cop show boss. Reid is dealing with a pre-Leveson press so they can take all the upskirt shots of dead prossies they like. It turns out this particular victim was into making early porno flicks and you have to admire that pioneer spirit. I can only imagine the unsavoury types she must have consorted with. Small wonder she ended up dead. In many ways it’s her fault.
Not sure who’s to blame for the opening Ripper Street failing to convince though. It seems very happy to bask in the reflected glow of the Jack the Ripper brand while never really feeling like part of it. They get the cheap thrill of association with Ripper lore without adding anything to it. The East End is as dirty as you would expect and all human filth is here but I can do without another police procedural however it’s dressed up. The characters aren’t grabbing me, the writing is pedestrian, everyone says exactly what they’re thinking all the time and it all looks like a lot of effort without much point. It reminds me a lot of that other BBC America period offering Copper and that’s certainly no fucking recommendation.The greatest thing ever written on the Whitechapel murders has been with us for some time. Motherfuckers really need to can it.
The verdict on Ripper Street: Killing prostitutes should be a lot more fun than this.
Marks out of 10: 5