I burned through Ripper Street in two evenings.
I had a predisposition to like this show because I have a bit of a “thing” for this timeframe, for this era.
I have enjoyed shows like Murdoch Mysteries and Copper. I’ve enjoyed both shows for different reasons, and to differing degrees.
Ripper Street takes a fantastic concept – that of the streets of Whitechapel shortly after the Jack the Ripper murders – and kind of runs with it.
Now I am NOT any kind of expert. I am not any kind of historian. I am not able to tell when costumes are supposed to have frog closures instead of buttons, I don’t know when zippers came into general use, I have no real historical knowledge. I am simply a fan and most of my complaints are those of basic line of logic.
That out of the way, let’s get to the good stuff, and I’ll try to keep the nit-picks to a minimum.
The acting in the show is solid, and the underlying sense of panic about to burst forward at any second is beautifully demonstrated. Matthew Macfadyen beautifully plays the main character of Edmund Reid. There is a level of strong willed to him mixed with a desperate need for reason all mixed with a man that is punishing himself for sins for which he can never atone. It is gorgeously done.
Jerome Flynn is remarkable as well. He plays Bennet Drake, a man haunted and hunted in his dreams, but a true second in command filled with loyalty of spirit and being. He is heartbreaking to watch as he moves about on screen. He is brutal, but there is an economy to his brutality.
The rest of the cast is equally remarkable; they all have their little pieces that make them wonderful. There are moments when each scene it is captivating just to watch the acting and let the story stand by the wayside.
But there are also little things that just are beyond annoying. There is a scar that Reid carries from severe burning that happened only a year ago, and while on one hand they make it out that it is his strong character that has him walking about within the year, the scarring is white and fading. This is something that I had a hard time with because the scar tissue isn’t even red or remotely pink. I kept thinking they could’ve made the fire accident two years back, it didn’t have to do with the shipwreck they wanted to force into the timeline, it didn’t have to be convenient. The scars themselves and what they represent to the strength of the man and his past and life and surviving adds a lot to the story without fucking with the reality of skin and healing.
There is a shootout in the middle of the street, just like England is in the middle of nowhere and there aren’t a bunch of witnesses, and that is totally okay. Watching it, and seeing how it was done for dramatic tension – it just set off fires in my brain.
The women are all whores, or wives, there is no real introduction to working women. There is an attempt with the woman that works with the orphans, Mrs. Goren, but even she appears to be either widowed or a saint to the children. This time was wildly alive with women stepping away from just the traditional roles of whore and wife, and while all shows can’t be all things to all people, just one woman working at a shop that they interview – and that nobody freaking sleeps with – would be a nice gesture.
There are no explanations for any of the scientific explorations. Just a general vibe of “hey I thought this is the direction we should take” that gets old. I am willing to let a lot of shit go, but the motivations of a lot of characters are so weak and kind of all over the place. When we finally do get back-story the stories begin to feel more solid, but still it felt a lot like a period piece just for the sake of being a period piece.
There is such great acting in this show, and there are remarkably interesting characters – but they need to have reasons to be interesting. They can’t just prance around because they are so good at prancing. Or maybe they can, maybe motive isn’t the most important thing in a murder show. The worst part is that I enjoyed how great everything looks, how amazing everyone acts in the piece, how legitimate everything moves and comes across, it made all the things I found annoying just that much more annoying. If it has another season, I will totally check it out, and do my best to keep my inner nitpick in check.