Sunday, 20 January 2013

Ripper Street - I Need Light

I am usually a film blogger but occasionally a t.v show will come along that catches my eye and I will review it.
Ripper Street is eight episodes long and as it has the look of a police procedural (albeit set in a different era) it remains to be seen how long I stick with it.
I should point out that I am not a historian so any historical inaccuracies are likely to pass me by.  As long as I don’t see an I-pod or hear any background extras discussing the Kardashians I won't care about any anachronistic errors.
This review will have spoilers throughout. 
PLOT:  Six months after the final victim of Jack the Ripper has been discovered an eerie calm has settled on Whitechapel.  Inspector Reid’s (Matthew Macfadyen) current underground boxing investigation is disrupted when a body of a prostitute which appears to have been “Ripped” is discovered.  Under pressure from the media to confirm that the Ripper is back Inspector Reid and Sergeant Drake (Jerome Flynn) enlist the help of American surgeon Dr Jackson (Adam Rothenberg) to solve the case.  The investigation soon introduces the trio to a dark new world of sex, photography and a startling new invention - pornography.  END PLOT

The opening episode of Ripper Street establishes the setting, the context and more importantly the characters very well.
Inspector Reid failed to catch Jack the Ripper first time around but rather than seeing the murdered woman as a way to renew the case he goes out of his way keep everyone calm and conduct a proper investigation.  Despite being straight laced and devoid of any humour Reid is very forward thinking with his desire for uncorrupted crime scenes and investigation techniques. 

Matthew Macfadyen is a very familiar face to British television and so is his acting style.  Macfadyen’s serious performance may appear off putting at the start but after watching I Need Light for a second time there are plenty of little looks and facial expressions which add depth to his character.  No time is wasted in showing off Reid’s scars and shattered home life which will no doubt be developed in greater detail as the season progresses.
Reid's characteristics contrast nicely with Jerome Flynn’s Sgt Drake. Drake is the muscle in the partnership which the interrogation scene will attest to.  Drake appears to be a man of short patience but his interaction with Rose (Charlene McKenna) towards the end of the episode shows an unspoken softer side.  Drake is the brawn in the brain sandwich of Reid and Jackson and I hope Flynn doesn’t become underused as he is far too good an actor for that to happen.
The fish out of water is the sole American character of Captain Jackson.  Jackson, a surgeon and former Pinkerton detective, fills in all of the gaps when Reid is unable to do so – the "fiddler from the north" exchange was my favourite of the entire episode. 
Jackson is going to be my favourite character – his introduction with Rose, his casual leaning on walls when he talks and his expression of amusement as the case turns towards smut – Jackson is going to be great fun to watch.  On the flip side a past with Susan (MyAnna Buring), the owner of the brothel in which he lives, was emphasised but it remains to be seen what actually happened and how dark his involvement is.
Reid and Drake have clearly worked together for years but the introduction of Jackson to their partnership has thrown the cat amongst the pigeons.  Jackson constantly winds Drake up and Drake voices his dislike of “the American” at every opportunity.  By the end of I Need Light the three are working together as a team.  Hopefully the bickering between Drake and Jackson will continue as it does add some humour – their love to hate relationship works very well.
Ripper Street is a male led show with the female characters reduced to supporting players. 
MyAnna Buring is great as Susan who is more than a match for Jackson.  The scrapes on Jackson’s face (which no one acknowledges) after their tussle shows that she is not a woman to be messed with. 
Charlene McKenna is ridiculously sweet as Rose – I am hopeful that she will stick around and Amanda Hale as Emily Reid is fine as a grieving wife and will no doubt get more to do as Reid’s back story is developed.
Ripper Street is set in the late 1800’s and doesn't shy away from showing the slum like living quarters of the residents of Whitechapel.  The characters, sets and costumes look grimy and gorgeous at the same time. 
The show is aimed at an adult audience.  There is no modesty given to the murdered prostitute during her autopsy and the violence in this particular episode is more sexual than expected.  Sexual violence is never comfortable viewing but fair play to the opening writers for not watering down the ending of the episode.  This bodes well for the rest of the season.
Lines of the week:
Reid: “Do you think me some bone headed flat foot?” (to the photographer). Reid is not a man to be messed with and the quiet anger in which it was said is intriguing.
Drake: “Two men boarded a coach with some toff” (to the inspector). There are no airs and graces with Drake.  He is Whitechapel born and bred.

Jackson: “We are not hiding anymore we live here” (to Susan – paraphrased). Highlights that not all is well with his past.
Overall “I Need Light” is a great introductory episode.  The cast settled into their roles with ease and they interact with one another very well.  I Need Light gets a 9/10.  I really hope they get the balance of case-of-the-week and story arc right to keep me invested.

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