We’re resurrecting our Weekend Binge to bring you some amazing television series to watch!
There have been many adaptations and interpretations of the Jack the Ripper murder case. The historic crime has been through many incarnations, from fiendish or outlandish horror exploitation, to historical and theory-based work. It is a sceptical practise and has produced varying results.
However, BBC-turned-Amazon series Ripper Street is both a look into the case and a departure from the murders in the form of this historical crime drama.
Created and written by Richard Warlow, Ripper Street is set six months after the Jack the Ripper murders. With streets of Whitechapel still gripped in fear over the horrendous acts, Detective Inspector Edmund Reid attempts to keep the peace. When more murders happen, Reid enlists the help of his Sergeant Drake – a rough and heavy-handed man – and Captain Homer Jackson – a clever Army surgeon turned forensic analyst. As well as the stories of these three men, the series looks at the life of Susan, a brothel madam and savvy businesswoman and Rose, a young sex worker who becomes a famed music hall singer.
Set in 1889, the show is a gritty and gory depiction of Victorian London life. The fabric of this life is weaved delicately, showing that certainly the creators have paid attention to the details of Victorian life. From the accurate and elaborate costuming to the pinpoint dialogue, there has been great care to reimagine this world. Plus, it tackles different aspects of this history such as the Matchstick Girl strike, the Cholera epidemic, and more. Ripper Street dives deep into this murky world, brilliantly capturing life in the era – no matter how grim.
That’s not to say it is more educational than it is entertaining. Sure enough, this series goes through some pretty engaging storylines and captures enough gore to keep any crime drama fans amused. Highlights include an insidious train crash in Season 3, a threat from Long Susan’s father, and the truth surrounding Edmund Reid’s lost daughter.
The performances are terrific. Matthew MacFadyen is greatly suited to the role of Reid. His deep accent and keen attention to emotional nuances makes his delivery of Victorian dialogue impeccable. Jerome Flynn is brilliant as Drake and pushes the character beyond a muscle-bound and rough sidekick. Adam Rothenberg as the token American is a fun rapscallion. MyAnna Buring is a strong female character who has faults and toils with the darker side of life for a woman in this era. Every season, there’s a new constable too, and the most memorable is Josh O’Connor’s in Season 3.
There are plenty of antagonists as well. Of course, nearly every episode has an episodic nature to it and, therefore, a criminal in each of them. However, with every season there is a big bad and there is no greater villain in Ripper Street then the brutish Detective Inspector Shrine, played wonderfully by Joseph Mawle. These are gleeful, hammy antagonists but the show is so much better for it.
There may be some storylines that lag, especially the finale series that lurches forward in time with a new buildings or settings and new characters that don’t quite gel as well as the first three seasons. Especially because Season 3 ended so beautifully that it seemed foolish to restart it, even if Seasons 4 and 5 did tie up loose ends.
With exhilarating action, incredible outfits, and superb performances, Ripper Street is good fun. So grab your top-hats and your mutton chops, and delight in this Victorian romp. It is truly the jammiest bit of jams. Fair warning though: if you do indulge this weekend, then you will come out of the series speaking proper Victorian like!
Ripper Street is available on Amazon Prime