While I've managed to avoid BBC America's other recent ye olde police series, Copper, I got sucked into Ripper Street. One review mentioned the actor Joseph Gilgun (This Is England, Misfits), and I got so excited to see his name that I failed to notice he was only a guest star on the second episode. As a Fagin-like leader of wee Jewish street urchin orphans, he was great, albeit quickly murdered. But by then I had already seen the pilot and, while it left me mostly confused (What are they saying? Why did they have to cast that American guy? Where the fuck is Joe Gilgun?), I kept watching, so here we go again: I'm Tivo'ing a show whose appeal is as indecipherable as most of its dialogue.
The Plot: Ripper Street is about a police detective who works in Whitechapel in East London in the late 1800s, when it was basically a Dickensian slum. The area had a large Jewish population, hence the assorted urchins, a recurring character who runs a Jewish orphanage, and an indication of what the show falsely considers to be "captivatingly interesting.” The detective is played by Matthew Macfadyen, one of those classic British actors like Ray Winstone or Downton Abbey's Bates (Brendan Coyle), who's built like an ox with a manly-man face, as opposed to all the pretty nancy boys who seem to make the majority of exported British talent these days (Eddie Redmayne or Downton Abbey's Cousin Matthew, RIP). Every episode involves plenty of pistols, fisticuffs, and fully dressed whores, but the show is still unreasonably slow. That molasses pacing means when there is an actual mystery, such as: What happened to the detective's dead daughter? What is the real story behind his mysterious American surgeon/former Pinkerton? you're still less intrigued and more annoyed since it's yet another thing taking forever to happen.
I thought the utterly obvious mentions of Jack the Ripper—who used Whitechapel as his killing grounds—weren't going to go beyond the show's title and pilot, but sadly his name popped up again last week, and even if it was in connection with one of the mysteries, I'm still not impressed.
What I Wish Ripper Street Would Be: I have loved ye olde Brit police series, like Life On Mars and its campier sequel, Ashes to Ashes (both available on Netflix not-instant), but they had fun characters and weird central mysteries, and even if all the characters had thick Manchurian accents, they had great diction. Ripper Street's main problem, aside from the mumbling, seems to be there's too much Ripper, not enough Street—lots of Victorian flourish but very little police-show fun.