Admittedly, I think BBC’s Ripper Street already had me at the title (but I’m a quasi-Anglophile, and that kind of includes my fascination with the unsolved Jack the Ripper cases). But far be it for me to start watching the show on title alone. I’d actually seen previews of Ripper Street a while back, thought it was interesting (and I do so love period pieces), and was just finding the time to be able to watch the first episode (yay Netflix for that opportunity!). Not to mention Bronn (HBO’s Game of Thrones) and Mr. Darcy (Joe Wright’s Pride and Prejudice starring Keira Knightley) are two of the three main leads in the show. So far, I like it.
Ripper Street picks off where Jack the Ripper has committed his last “officially known” killing (supposedly, anyway). Six months after, a murder is found in the very alleys where Jack committed his heinous deeds, and the corpse is pretty similar to a Ripper murder. Only, Detective Inspector Reid (Matthew Macfayden) believes it is not a genuine Ripper case; contrary to the public hullabaloo and conjectures that “[Jack the Ripper's] back,” there is a copycat walking around with a whole different motive. With Detective Sergeant Bennet Drake (Jerome Flynn) and Captain Homer Jackson (Adam Rothenberg)–a former U.S. Army surgeon and Pinkerton agent–Reid investigates the crime with the intent to capture not Jack, but another deranged murderer on the loose.
Of course, Episode 1 is hardly the be-all-end-all decision-maker for me, considering I usually try to watch more than one episode before judging the show for what it is (except Once Upon a Time, that one I just couldn’t bring myself to continue). I think the Ripper murders itself is a bit overdone, but the fact that the Ripper Street creators only touch up on the Ripper murders and bring a different set of crimes and motives to the story is what sets this period drama off to a fresher start. Well, as fresh as you can get as far as period dramas go.
What I did really like after Episode 1 were the three characters. I liked that Reid and Flynn and Rothenberg pulled off their respective roles; while I adored Flynn and applauded Macfayden (yay for those gritty boxing matches!), I think I’m loving Rothenberg the best just for his character’s degree of scandalous mystery waiting to emerge in later episodes. I loved, loved, loved the visuals; the dark, ominous streets, the awesome costumes (mostly for the ladies of the night, but why the heck does this even matter?!), and the innovations and language of the period (hee, toffs and toffers and molly houses galore!) all bring something awesome to this broody Victorian drama.
So yes, I’m probably going to watch more of Ripper Street, though I don’t expect I’ll be doing so while I’m eating. Gore-alert: there’s a helluva lot of that going around, but what can you expect in a show titled after a serial murderer who cuts out his victim’s innards?