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Ripper Street

I finished the second season of Ripper Street last night. This BBC America show takes place in Whitechapel six months after the Jack the Ripper killings (hence the name). Its citizens are on edge and jumping at shadows, fearing every death is related to the predator in their midst. In this environment, Detective Inspector Edmund Reid and the police force at Leman Street try to fight the good fight.

What I find engaging about the show is the atmosphere and the history. I'm not one to watch CSI-style shows (the show is often jokingly referred to as CSI: Whitechapel), but I think it's interesting to see the theoretical origins of forensic analysis and to witness the beginnings of medical examiners finding their way as detectives. Yes, it's fictionalized, but much of it is plausible.

On the other hand, I find two out of the three principal male characters somewhat off-putting.

Edmund Reid (Matthew Macfadyen) expresses feelings of guilt about how he failed his wife by giving her false hope about their dead daughter, but then proceeds to be unfaithful with a new lady friend each season. I like the actor fine, but I'm not crazy about the hypocrisy of his character. Homer Jackson is the roguish American who, while gifted in the "deadroom" (the morgue), is, not to put too fine a point on it, a ne'er do well and something of a slimeball. Indeed, the only recurring male lead I like is Bennet Drake, played by Jerome Flynn in a BAFTA-nominated performance.

While I recognize that the show's depiction of women is probably about as good as it gets for the time, historical accuracy isn't always pleasant to watch. With rare exceptions, women are treated as objects and property in Ripper Street, and are frequently abused. Even Jane Cobden, an elected representative of the community, gets no respect -- after actively pursuing her, Reid breaks up with her when the vengeful newspaper editor runs news of their affair on the front page. It will tarnish both of their careers (hers more than his), but he is so consumed by the case on which he's working that he gives not a whit. She's reading the headline as he enters her office, and he's all, "Yeah, but about this case I'm working on -- I need your help with that," completely dismissing her legitimate concerns about their respective reputations, and later sending her a "Dear Jane" letter at a hint that his job might be threatened by the scandal. Reid is cowardly in other respects as well: it's pointed out near the end of the second season that he's long permitted Drake to do his dirty work for him.

It's a little like Mad Men: I can appreciate that the show is written and acted well, but that doesn't mean I find its content entertaining. I see enough misogyny in real life: I don't need to see it in authentically-realized detail on my television screen.

Amazon has purchased a third season of the show, but it's unlikely that I'll stay with it. I'm not sorry that I watched it, but there are just too many other programs vying for my attention right now.

Side note #1: I found it interesting that at least five actors from Game of Thrones have made appearances on the show (the aforementioned Jerome Flynn, Iain Glen, Joseph Mawle, Kristian Nairn, and Paul Kaye). I don't know if the sets are near one another or what, but it's been kind of fun spotting them. :) Mawle reminds me a bit of Daniel Day-Lewis as Bill The Butcher in his role as Inspector Jebediah Shine.

Side note #2: I'll grant that the show is educational: I'd never heard of phossy jaw until I watched the third episode of the second season, "Become Man." I rather wondered if the special effects team was paying homage to Sandman's Mazikeen with their depiction of the symptoms. Their visual appeared much more extreme than the sketches and period photographs of the admittedly horrible and deadly disease.



( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 14th, 2014 11:51 am (UTC)
Ooh, I'm intrigued. I'll have to check that out. I've been meaning to watch Fargo, too -- have you watched any of that?

We caught up on Orphan Black! Great fun. It reminds us of Alias in that it's got some solid, escapist asskickery going on, but slips some good dramatic notes in there, too. My one complaint is that Cosima actually believed the patent sequence meant anything at all. A scientist should know how thoroughly debated that's been, and just the claim wouldn't make it so. That left us rolling our eyes.

Are you enjoying season two so far?
Jun. 15th, 2014 01:08 am (UTC)
Hey, you! Thanks so much for replying! Before I respond in full, did you read under the spoiler cut? Because that impacts what I'd type. :)

We have recorded Fargo, but have not yet watched it.

Yes! I agree that Orphan Black is a bit reminiscent of Alias in that regard (and of not knowing who's really an ally from week to week).

Cosima is my least favorite clone -- that's not to say that I dislike her per se, but she serves as a plot device / exposition fairy more frequently than the other clones do.

I took slight issue with Donnie's retcon -- he confessed all that at rehab, but not when he was being tortured? -- but overall, I've enjoyed S2. They've maintained a solid pace with the revelations, and I'm quite curious about the Cold River Institute and Michelle Forbes' character's role in all this.

Same question back atcha: how are you liking the second season so far? :) (I know what you posted, but the penultimate episode, "Things Which Have Never Yet Been Done," airs tonight, so I'm really asking in context of that ep.)

Edited at 2014-06-15 01:11 am (UTC)
Jun. 16th, 2014 01:15 am (UTC)
i don't know if either of you have seen the BBC series 'London Hospital'?(aka Casualty 1900s)
but Ripper Street strikes me as part way between that and 'Murder Rooms; the dark beginnings of Sherlock Holmes'. both were good shows.
Jun. 16th, 2014 07:41 pm (UTC)
Thank you for the links! I have not seen either series. Murder Rooms does not appear to be available streaming anywhere, but London Hospital appears to be streaming via both Amazon Prime and Hulu.

Always glad to see the wytchcroft. :)
Jun. 17th, 2014 02:11 pm (UTC)
Ooh, we haven't seen either of those, but I'll put them on my to-watch list. Thank you! :)
Jun. 19th, 2014 12:46 pm (UTC)
I skipped the text behind the cut. :)

Alison was initially my least favorite, but I appreciate her as comic relief now. I agree about Donnie, too. In managing the twists with his loyalties, they weren't totally honest (especially with that torture scene!), but I can mostly forgive it because they amuse me.

I like the performance of the Cosima character, so I haven't minded how they've used her, but you're right -- it is awfully convenient that one of the clones ended up being a scientist who was so well-versed in the issues at hand. Maybe my biggest complaint about her storyline is that I never feel she is truly in peril. I just don't believe they'll let her die, so the scenes of her convulsing on the floor leave me saying, "Ok, what's next..."

Rachel is the one I like least now. BVS = Boring Villain Syndrome.
Jun. 21st, 2014 01:51 am (UTC)
I skipped the text behind the cut. :)

Okay, that explains it! I was a little surprised when you said that you were going to go check it out, but that's what made me realize that I put most of the "cons" of the show behind the cut. You don't have to go read the spoilers, I'm not going to ask that, but just so that forewarned is forearmed, be aware that there are some drawbacks, and that my post is not a resounding endorsement of Ripper Street. I just didn't want you coming back to me all, "What on earth did you see in this show?" :)

Yeah, I'm mostly forgiving the Donnie retcon, too, because I'm entertained.

You know, I sort of didn't consider Rachel when coming up with my least favorite clone, and I guess that's because she's Team Dyad and we're clearly not supposed to like her. I've actually found her a little more interesting since the last episode, as we've learned a bit more about what makes her tick and what she went through, what made her who she is now. Tatiana Maslany's pitch perfect performance with that self-mocking laugh ... like I say, someone just needs to hand her all the television acting awards. :)
Jun. 23rd, 2014 12:59 pm (UTC)
Haha! I'd revisit the spoiler cut before judging. ;)

No really, I don't mind imperfect tv, books, etc. It's one way that I learn what works for me as I'm consuming storytelling and think about the work I'm producing myself. Give me flawed character construction, sloppy plotting, and that sort of thing -- it's one way that I learn what works and what doesn't.

I just don't find Rachel very compelling. I'm okay with her not being sympathetic, but I'm just wishing they'd done something more interesting with her. I will be patient though. Maybe more good stuff is coming.

Did you enjoy the finale?
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )


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