TV REVIEW: Ripper Street - The King Came Calling

Despite beginning to wonder if the world at large is actually even aware of the BBC’s Ripper Street, it being not so much under the radar as not even in range, we at Assorted Buffery are soldiering on with it. My esteemed co-writer has been less than thrilled with it so far, see here. I, on the other hand, rather liked Episode 1 'I Need Light' , Particularly enjoying the subtle historical references, which were tastefully alluded to without being shoved down your throat.

So what did Episode Three, ‘The King Came Calling’ have to offer?

Well the ‘King’ of the title is not anyone of any regal descent, for starters, and actually refers to the contemporary nickname of cholera, widely referred to as ‘King Cholera’. Historical reference number one. Fearing the spread of the disease once again in Whitechapel, (they do seem to have it tough down there, between the Ripper and fatal digestive diseases, it’s a wonder no one moves…) Reid and his team pull ‘victims’ into the police station, so that the cocky Captain Jackson can determine what they really died off. Thus dispelling local panic and saving the day. However, hounded by the new age press, historical reference number two, what they actually discover is much, much worse than the King, as the boys discover that a serial killer is in fact on the loose once again. Slipping St Anthony’s Fire, a type of ergotism poisoning into the local flour supplies, historical reference number three, this shady character is not only causing a spot of general alarm and chaos but systematically wiping out the sexual deviants of East London. Historical reference number – okay I think they may have gone off on one a bit there.

Slightly iffy history aside, this episode made for a good old fashioned romp of a whodunit. Captain Jackson’s reckless approach to autopsy, and cavalier attitude to almost everything else is happily chuckle inducing, with MacFadyen’s Inspector Reid palpably earnest, in contrast all but choking on his own hard working nature. Although how he is supposed to have known about exact nature of the poison, being a policeman not a medic I'll never know.

Less of a role for Jerome Flynn’s Sergeant Drake this week, as we are instead fed the mildly irritating do-good side story of Reid’s wife Emily on her attempts to find homes for local down and outs. Mainly prostitutes. Sort of a historical reference, so Buffery points for that, but this storyline felt suspiciously shoe horned in, only really present to make us feel sorry for Emily when she later becomes poisoned, coming into contact with a disease meant for the very people she’s trying to help. The desire to manipulate the audience being a little too obvious, dear old Emily had plot device swathed about her person even more so than usual. 

Whilst the production values remained fairly high, a few dodgy edits and cut short scenes aside, this episode largely, and sadly, felt a lot less cool than the previous two. I enjoyed it, sure, the intrigue was built up well, and there was just the right amount of suspense for a Sunday night police – sorry historical police drama. But when you consider that the first episode was all about pornography and prostitution, and the second a knife wielding, Victorian child gang – poisoning peoples’ bread and cakes just doesn’t really cut it as a concept. If you’ll excuse the many-layered pun. Lord alone knows what Jack the Ripper would have made of it, anyway.

Ripper Street is still worth a watch, but it needs to up its game a little. I loved that the first episode was shocking, cocoa-spill inducing even, but 'The King Came Calling' caused barely a ripple.

More please, but better.

The next episode of Ripper Street will be shown tomorrow night, 9pm.

-          Jen

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