Friday, 12 December 2014

TV Series Review: Ripper Street

I put off doing this review back when we finished watching the series because at the time I was fully scheduled with my NaNo posts during November. So November ended and December started and I suddenly realised that I still hadn’t written this review.

Back for my birthday I got Ripper Street (series one and two) on blu-ray. It was a series that I’d vaguely heard of but hadn’t ever watched. But Mr Click had read the description and reviews and thought it sounded as though it would be right up my street. And, as he frequently is when it comes to things that I will like, he was right.

Ripper Street is kind of like CSI: Victorian Whitechapel. It focuses on events after the Jack the Ripper killings stopped with Detective Inspector Edmund Reid and his team, which includes Detective Sergeant Bennet Drake and an American surgeon named Homer Jackson. The series kicks off with the discovery of another body which is supposed to have been killed by Jack the Ripper, suggesting he’s back and is taunting the police.

As well as dealing with the criminals of the area, there’s a lot of time spent around Long Susan, the local owner of a brothel. The women often end up involved in cases or helping to solve them. Plus there’s the added mystery of just what happened to cause Reid’s daughter to go missing and why his relationship with his wife is so strained.

In the second series the stories move from being less individual episodes and instead form a sort of series long arc with the plot of the week often linking to the main plot in some way. Changes take place between the first and second series; Reid’s wife has left him and Drake has married (and not Rose but one of her former colleagues).

Personally I preferred the format of the first series because I found bits of the long plot in the second series difficult to keep track of. Though everything did come together in the end and I did quite like the conclusion of it. I was disappointed to learn that there initially wasn’t going to be a third series, so I’m looking forward to getting to watch it now that Amazon has helped bring it into being. They always seemed to give you enough evidence so that you could have a bit of a crack at solving it yourself, so I hope that’s something that’s been carried on into the third series. There’s nothing worse than a mystery that doesn’t give you all the information you need to figure it out.

My favourite character in the series has to be Drake. He’s a bit of a woobie, especially in the second series. He’s so sweet as he’s mooning after Rose and then when everything falls apart with Bella. He just needed a really good hug half the time. Jackson’s pretty cool too, especially with his testing of unknown compounds by taking them. This obviously leads to some pretty crazy moments when he’s totally high or off his face on whatever drug he’s taken.

Next to them is probably Susan; the brothel owner with morals. She’s determined to do the best by her girls and her brothel gives them a relatively safe place to work (compared to some of their options). Plus she has the most awesome wardrobe ever. Seriously. I wish I had some excuse to wear Victorian clothes everyday, I’m not sure I really fancy the corsets, but Long Susan’s dresses are something else.

Actually, all of the costumes are a bit like that. They somehow manage to combine fashion with old-fashioned gear and it works really well.

The one person I wasn’t overly fond of was Reid, which could have been a problem considering he is kind of the leading man, but the rest of the characters are so strong that I didn’t really mind him seeming a bit weak. I think part of the problem is that Matthew Macfadyen seems to play his characters in the same way, he was basically Tom from Spooks in the 1800s. I struggled to sympathise with him and his wife, though I was rooting for him to find his daughter.

The music in the series is fabulous as well. The number of times I sat listening to the opening music over and over again while I waited for Mr Click to dish up dinner of an evening! It plays over the menu screen on the blu-ray, but I very rarely muted it. It has a sort of Irish sound to it (fitting as the series was filmed in Ireland). The background music is nice too and it’s the sort of thing I would happily buy on CD.

I’ve not really explored the other features of the blu-rays. I know there’s a couple of ‘making of’ documentaries but I’ve not explored those yet. I’m looking forward to seeing if they give more information about the real H Division as well as the usual set dressing and cast interview features.

The original plan, when we finished watching Criminal Minds, was to go onto The Mentalist (one of my other birthday presents) but November was fast approaching, and that meant the start of our Not-Quite-Christmas viewing, so Ripper Street turned out to be the perfect length to fill that little gap in October. My one complaint was that it was a little bit too short. I would’ve liked a series that was longer than about eight episodes so that you could spend more time getting to know the characters. Then again, we nearly didn’t get a third series, so I shouldn’t complain too much.

As for the third series, it’s definitely one I’m going to see at some point. I’d like to get it on blu-ray at some point in the future to complete the set.

At the moment we’ll still working our way through the massive list of Christmas films we watch at this time of year but next on our list of TV series to watch is The Mentalist.


  1. Like you I preferred the first series of this. It has a somewhat special bittersweet place in my heart now as it was the last thing both me and my grandfather watched and, on Monday mornings after it had been on the previous night, we would talk about it. He went into hospital the week the series ended and sadly he never saw the last episode.

    I didn't enjoy the second series. I really hated how they trivialised the death of John Merrick, The Elephant Man, suggesting it was not suicide but murder. I felt they'd overstepped the mark there in depicting a man who had existed - and existed in a life that was been by cruelty - meet his end as a victim. He'd suffered enough in reality to posit that fiction and it really soured me for the rest of the run.

    I'd be interested to see what they do with the third series eventually as I do think the BBC scored an own goal in axing it after series 2, whatever my thoughts on that particular series. One thing I'd like them to focus on more is some of the realities of the time; Whitechapel was an area deeply distrustful of the police following their handling of The Ripper and prone to vigilante groups and riots. I'd like to see more of that and I think it would provide an interesting compare and contrast with people's own feelings and suspicions towards the met today.

    I think we differ in that I could watch Matthew Macfadyen in anything. He could read the phonebook and I'd probably be happy enough with it.

    I think you'd really enjoy Peaky Blinders too by the way ;)

    1. I agree with you about using Merrick the way they did. I would've rather they allowed him to be a hero rather than a murder victim. Or if that was the route that they wanted to go down, then use a fictional character instead. We'd probably all have got who it would've alluded to, but it would've have been quite so uncomfortable to watch as it was with a real person who once lived.

      The contrast between modern policing and Victorian policing was something I really enjoyed about the series. You could see little nods to things that happen in the present day; if it had been set right now it would've been terror cells and extremists instead of the Irish. ;-)

      I'm definitely going to have to look out for Peaky Blinders. I know a couple of guys at work are big fans and kept talking about it when it was on. :-)

  2. First time I've heard of this. I've always been interested in anything Jack The Ripper related so thanks for the review.

    1. It's only really the first episode that dealt with the aftermath of the Ripper killings, when it looks like he's struck again, but if you're interested in that historical period it's definitely worth a viewing. :-)


Let me know what you think. :-)