Why I love Ripper Street

I know that I wasn’t all that impressed with Ripper Street (and I’ll admit that as a Ripperologist I was probably looking for reasons to carp and grumble to be honest) at first but as the series has shambled along, I’ve actually fallen rather in love with it and upon revisiting the first episode, have come to conclusion that maybe I was being a tad harsh when I judged it after my first viewing.

Some series are like that I suppose. Slow burners.

Okay, it has its faults, mainly in the historical accuracy department, but I can live with that – after all, Plunkett and Macleane, Marie Antoinette, From Hell and a whole plethora of other historically dodgy outings rate pretty highly on my list of all time favourite films so I’m no snob when it comes to that sort of thing. Hell, remember my passionate love of The Tudors when I finally gave it a chance?

Instead, I’m going to concentrate on what Ripper Street gets right, which is the taut urgency of the pacing, the beautifully recreated glimpse into the grimy underbelly of the Victorian East End, the jangly almost folky soundtrack which must surely be inspired by that of the Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes series and, above all, the characters, all of whom come with mysterious back stories and are as vibrant and interesting as the world they inhabit.

I’m a bit smitten, I’ll be honest, with Captain Homer Jackson (Adam Rothenberg), which is a bit odd as I’ve never been one for a bit of masculine facial hair before. I also love his jaunty taste in coats. Cynics may say that Captain (surely a spurious office) Jackson is a plant designed to appeal to American viewers but I disagree – in the brilliant but dissolute Jackson I see a breath of fresh air and a glimpse of a modern sensibility champing at the bit in the doldrums of Queen Victoria’s reign.

It’s Inspector Reid that I love though. Oh my. To be frank, I’d watch Matthew Macfadyen act in pretty much anything – who, for example, does not love his Mr Darcy and he brings the same starchy vulnerability to his turn in Ripper Street. He’s all clipped tones, regretful sighs, coy looks from beneath his long eyelashes (okay, maybe I’m projecting a bit here), intense glares, bleak acceptance of the brutality surrounding him, broad shouldered energy and heavy silences. He’s a man of many secrets who appears to carry the weight of the world on his (badly scarred in hitherto mysterious circumstances) shoulders. I think he’s ace and who can blame Deborah Gorun (Lucy Cohu, whom I also adore) at the Jewish Orphanage for having a bit of a thing for him? Does he reciprocate her feelings though? It’s hard to tell as he always looks slightly in pain when he looks at everyone. It’s just part of his charm.

The most compelling thing about Reid, besides his unfeasible hotness obviously, though is the passion he shares with Jackson for science and technology. We are told that he is also a committed atheist, who believes that science and not suspicion are the way forward for the world and will heal its issues as well as his. Who could not love the way he paused to compliment the moving picture machine (‘Whatever happens, whatever punishment is seen fit for this, THAT is extraordinary’) the evil looking photographer had rigged up in the first episode before actually making a move to arrest him?

Ah, I love him. Especially when he goes all floppy haired after punching someone out.

I have to say something here about Mark Dexter who was the evil slumming toff in the first episode but is actually totally lovely. I have to say that as he follows me on Twitter where he discusses actoring and real ale, both with equal enthusiasm. Fellow Ripper sorts may well recognise him as Prince Eddy in From Hell – who can forget his look of fastidious horror when accosted by a young lady who tells him that she can ‘suck the Thames dry’ and also the fact that he’s in the only sex scene that doesn’t take place up against a wall in an alleyway. He also played the clearly doomed to be throttled with a crossword puzzle book husband in The Bletchley Circle and deserves respect for having been in both bastions of British drama – Casualty AND The Bill but not Midsomer Murders. I’ll let him off though as he’s been in a dodgy shark film.

Ahem, anyway, Ripper Street. I take it all back – it’s actually rather excellent so there. Will Inspector Reid find his daughter? Will Sergeant Drake ever get to cop off with Rose? Will one of the policemen extras have the same H Division badge number as my great-great-great grandfather? Will Jackson and Susan’s terrible secret come tumbling out? Will they accidentally catch the Ripper and perhaps not realise it? Will they ever actually capture anyone alive or, like Chandler’s lot in Whitechapel, are they doomed to forever bring ’em in dead? Will Mr Darcy realise that he’s accidentally ended up married to Mary Elliot?

Ps. There’s going to be a second series. Hurray.

10 thoughts on “Why I love Ripper Street

  • Beate Swanson

    I love this blog. I’m sure you hear that all the time but with my love of history it’s right up my alley! (I’m also a fan of your facebook page by the way.)

    Like you said, historical accuracy sometimes gets me riled up and makes me not like a show or movie. But in all actuality I should be happy they invest in historical dramas at all – educating the masses so to speak! And if its a tad off … Oh well. I loved the Tudors just like you and when I got over the too-much-boobs dresses and 19th-century carriages and the fact that Wolsey did not comming suicide in prison … Well, I rather enjoyed it. My favorite was Queen Katherine of Aragon. That accent was briliant. Did you know that actress is as british as it gets?

    I have yet to see the first episode of Ripper Street. I have taped it and I’m looking for a quiet moment to savor it. First I didn’t want to give it a try after I read your remarks on here … lol … But as I said, period shows are pretty rare and so I said to myself, I might as well give it the good old try.

    Please keep up the good work!! I enjoy your articles – and most of all the pictures with them – very much!

    I am also trying to write a novel and let me tell you, its not as easy as I thought! Especially when the person you’ve picked to be the heroine is not known much and one does not even have the most rudimentary facts, like birth date. I have to work with “around” that year … I’m not sure yet if I enjoy having the freedom to just make a lot up or if I’d rather have more to work with and build my story around. Darn it! And there is so much research involved: Since I don’t have much to go on the lady I at least want to make sure I get everything else right in terms of dress, furniture, persons that lived at that time (and that I can even have show up) and so on. Exhausting! I find myself reading and re-reading what I’ve got so far and changing it each time. Is that normal? How long did it take you to finish your first novel?

    Take care and have a wonderful day!!! Thank you again for this inspirational blog!

  • Jill

    I’ve really been enjoying this show. I too am rather enamoured of Captain Jackson…in fact having seen the actor without the facial hair I think he actually looks better with (and I’m not normally a ‘tache fan). I think Jerome Flynn is doing a great job as well and there is still a lot to be revealed about his character – looks like some of his past will come out in the next episode.

    I do hope we find out what happened to the Reids’ daughter, she is clearly not dead (or at least he has a good reason to believe she isn’t).

  • Angela Magnotti Andrews

    Can I just say, I am so happy to have found your blog? Your way with words and your lively way of bringing books and movies to life in a review without spoilers is so refreshing! Do you know if there’s a way to watch these shows online? I looked on BBC-1’s website and can only watch clips. :0(

  • Michelle @ The True Book Addict

    I watched the first episode the other night. It finally aired here on BBC America. Yay! I’m smitten! I had to go do an IMDB search on Captain Jackson because I was swooning so righteously over him. I must say that he has never looked so fine as he does in Ripper Street. ;) Matthew M., I love him too. While he wasn’t my favorite Mr. Darcy, I have really liked him in so many other films, especially Any Human Heart. He is a great actor. Lastly, I really like Jerome Flynn who plays Sergeant Drake. He also portrays Bronn in the HBO series Game of Thrones which I heart with a capital “H”. Ripper Street is definitely a great show with a terrific ensemble cast all around!

  • Tara from Maryland

    I also just watched Ripper Street on BBC America, and I think I’m hooked. Funnily enough, though, Ripper Street so far reminds me VERY strongly of the BBC America series Copper, set in Civil War-era New York City. This isn’t a bad thing, mind…just an observation. Both series have the very scientific doctor trying to solve crime, a brothel as a major location and, according to this post, a lead character with a missing family member. Interesting. Seriously though, if you UK-based folks have a chance to see Copper, do watch and enjoy!

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