Whitechapel: Does it work third time round?

by | Jan 30, 2012 | All, Reviews

When Whitechapel started back in 2009 it was somewhat of a revelation. It was that rare thing of an instant hit. A top cast coupled with an intriguing premise as a Ripper fanatic struck again in modern day London. Fantastic! An instant hit. In a sea of crime drama Whitechapel had immediate appeal and felt so much edgier and atmospheric than others in the genre. Series one never steered itself or the viewers away from the gruesome and graphic detail or images of the Ripper murders. Everything about it seemed to work so brilliantly. 

When the series returned the following year I was understandably excited but curious if it could work a second time round.  This time though the copy cat killings were that of infamous London Gangsters the Krays and immediately I was a little suspicious. After one series the premise seemed to be stretched to capacity.  Unlike in series one the copycat Krays seemed more implausible and that almost instantly spoiled the second run. There was an element of Panto villain in series two that I couldn’t get past.

That being said though, the thing about Whitechapel though is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s a series that appears to embrace its bonkersness (may’ve created a word there). It knows its not cutting edge crime drama, its just happy to be wonderfully gruesome escapist drama. Rupert Penry-Jones and Phil Davies bounce off each other like they have  been working together for years and once you allow yourself to enter the mad world that the characters in Whitechapel inhabit you can completely let yourself go and enjoy. It can verge on guilty pleasure at times and it knows it.

Quite rightly the premise has been tweaked slightly in 2012 to allow series to work outside of the copycat killer constraints. All team are back, including Steve Pemberton’s creepy Ripperologist  Buchan and based solely on the opening episode I think it works far better than the disappointing second run.  All atmospheric elements that made Whitechapel stand out are all there and although Chandler and Miles have been working together for a while now there’s still a nice element of awkwardness between them.

Three series in and we all know what the strengths are and they’re played too beautifully in episode 1. We’re thrown straight back into the goriness that the series relies on as Chandler and Miles are called to the brutal murders of random strangers in a spooky old house. Very few crime dramas create an atmosphere as well as Whitechapel. Its always so creepy and I’m always conscious of jumping at some point within the first few minuets. The other nice thing about series three is that it is comprised of three 2-part stories which will allow for more plot building than we’ve had in the last two series which were only three episodes a piece. 

 I’m slightly skeptical about Buchan being shut in the basement researching crimes from the past for the team to use on their current cases but I suppose it’s just a way to keep the three of them together and keep the previous series tied in. I’m also not overly keen on having to wait to a week for the conclusion of the episode as I prefer 2-parters to air the following night while the story and the feel of the episode are still fresh in the mind. Quite simply though its just nice to have something like Whitechapel back and I hope this series can match the magic of series one.





Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles


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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