Why I love Ripper Street

22 January 2013

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.