'Ripper Street,' Season 1 - TV Review

The TV series opens on the streets of London, six months after the last Jack the Ripper murder. Detective Inspector Edmund Reid (Matthew Macfadyen) heads up the Whitechapel division with his Sergeant Bennet Drake (Jerome Flynn). He shortly hires American ex-pat army doctor Homer Jackson (Adam Rothenberg) as his pathologist-equivalent. They also have a lot of contact with the Tenter Street brothel run by "Long Susan" (MyAnna Buring) where Jackson lives.

I enjoyed the first couple episodes, but the improbabilities quickly began to weigh on me. Reid is uncommonly intelligent. That's fine: what's not fine is that his recruitment of Jackson gives him an uncommonly intelligent forensic pathologist before such a thing actually existed. (Did I mention? Jackson's also a very good shot with a rifle.) Not to mention the question of how effective Jackson would actually be given his significant ingestion of drugs and alcohol. And then there's their closure rate on cases: they close 100% of the cases we see. Wait, this is Victorian England: their closure rate at the time was not very good (to put it mildly). And you named the series after a more typical Victorian murder: that one was never solved. So you're going to cry out by appearances "we're all in on the realism of the time: the dirt, the blood, the prostitution and the poverty ... but we'll give you a golden closure rate." In the second(?) episode they run a knight (a gentleman whose preface is "Sir") through with a sword. Apparently without political repercussions, which is entirely unbelievable.

The plots are problematic too: they arrive, on several occasions, in the nick of time. The knife is quite literally descending a couple times. And every plot point is big, there are no small cases. Multiple murders, personal involvement by one of the police, or they have to save half of London from poisoning (in that case while simultaneously fighting off their own superiors who want them to stand down). It all became too painfully ridiculous. I've been thinking of it as a police procedural set in Victorian London, but I think it's more accurate to call it a soap opera that involves cops. I would have preferred the procedural ... I watched the whole season, but won't be returning.