BBC1’s Ripper Street: Does it live up to expectation?

by | Dec 11, 2012 | All, Reviews

The story of
Jack the Ripper has been dramatised countless times. TV has long had a
fascination with the macabre and brutality of the ripper murders which might
explain the excitement and  intrigue that
has surrounded the BBC’s new drama series Ripper Street since the trailer
debuted during the Olympics in early August. Since that small trailer I’ve had
countless emails asking when we’d see Ripper Street. It transpires that even
production company Tiger Aspect were unsure when the BBC would finally transmit
the series. Everyone I’ve spoken to has been looking forward to this series,
the dark trailers have certainly done their job in building up interest here.
So with all this interest and genuine excitement does Ripper Street live up to
expectations?

From the
opening scene you know Ripper Street is going to be a tough and violent series. We see a bearded Jerome Flynn fighting bare knuckle, stopping just briefly to
pass his opponent one of his loose teeth. Perhaps grandma’s expecting a lighter
period piece will be instantly turned off but I found the opening scenes
instantly gripping.  As the fight reaches
its brutal climax another of Jack’s suspected victims is discovered in a dark
alley way and cries of ‘murder’ echo across the streets of London. A young policemen
races to find his inspector and delivers the news in one of my favourite lines.
“They’ve found a tart sir, she’s been Ripped Inspector
” If you
weren’t drawn in by that opening sequence then I wholeheartedly recommend a
trip down the doctors to check your vital signs. If you were, there’s just
enough time to catch your breath while the opening titles play. 

It’s fair to
say
Matthew Macfadyenis perfectly suited to his role as Detective Inspector Edmund
Reid. He’s tough and focused a joy to watch. 
Ripper Street never shies away from showing us viewers the more brutal
and gruesome aspects of the Ripper case and for that I applaud it, but I have to
admit at about the half way point I was starting to getting a little bit
restless. I began to fidget, not concentrate as much as I normally would and
feel generally unengaged with the action on the screen. If you’re Nan hadn’t be phased by
the violence then I’m sure, like me she would’ve been distressed by the explicit
sexual nature the story began to take. Not your normal Sunday night fair is it
Nan? Don’t get me wrong I’m no prude but I’ve never quite understood why period
dramas always seem to focus on bonnets or bottoms. Where’s the middle ground
people?! I understand this wasn’t simply for shock value but authentic to the
time period but the more the story focused on the brothel and the prostitutes I
found myself becoming less and less drawn in with a feeling I’d seen it all
before. Macfadyen and the main principal cast do their best with the script but I struggled to regain the excitement I felt in the opening scenes. It’s not even that the pacing is slow, it’s more that I found the story boring.

It’s
no spoiler to say that Reid and his men don’t capture Jack in this opener,
truth be told we don’t even meet him but then there’s another seven episodes
for them to inch ever closer to catching the Ripper. To be honest I have mixed
feelings about this opening episode. It was gripping, tense and exciting to
begin with but began to drag become less interesting half way through. It
hasn’t made me question sticking with the series, I’ll stick with it till the
end as it does offer something new but it didn’t exactly wow and thrill me as
much as I’d hope for.  I don’t think all
the blame should be laid at Ripper Street’s door though as I the high
expectations I had for this hour would be hard to match, I just hope it 
can
remain engaging and bring something new to the period drama genre as the series
develops. If not I fear I’ll get slightly bored and disillusioned with period
dramas all over again.

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles

11/12/2012

Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!

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