Pilot Perception: Ripper Street

Welcome to Pilot Perception, our feature in which we break down the first episode of each new show in order to help you decide whether it’s worth your time.

The Show: Ripper Street, BBC America in the U.S. and SPACE in Canada, Saturdays (yes, really) at 9/8c

The Pedigree: The show was created by Richard Warlow (Mistresses), who also wrote the pilot. Tom Shankland (Marple, The Fades) directed the pilot. Executive producers include Greg Brenman (Robin Hood, Secret Diary of a Call Girl), Polly Hill (Inspector George Gently, The Shadow Line), and Simon Vaughan (Titanic, Parade’s End).

The Cast & How You Know Them: Ripper Street stars Matthew Macfadyen of Pride & Prejudice and MI-5. Other regulars include Jerome Flynn (Game of Thrones), Adam Rothenberg (The Ex List), MyAnna Buring (White Heat), Charlene McKenna (Raw), and Amanda Hale (The Crimson Petal and the White).

The Premise: Immediately following the Jack the Ripper murders, the police detectives in Whitechapel, led by Inspector Edmund Reid, struggle to deal with a still-hysterical public and the changing ways that murders are investigated by the police and covered by the press.

A Taste:

What Works: The show combines solid mystery-of-the-week procedural elements with a fascinating look at a police department and city in crisis, and the way the trauma of Jack the Ripper affects everything from investigations to newspaper coverage to the lives of prostitutes to just the way normal, unconnected people go about their business. Matthew Macfadyen is masterful as always, and while the rest of the cast hasn’t really jumped out at me yet, they did well and no one stuck out as bad, either. I loved the very specific time and place of the setting, which make it feel much more realistic than some historical fictions do.

What Doesn’t: I’m getting sick of all historical dramas placing most of their women in brothels. Must we? Women were doing a lot of other things, too! Other than that, though, I honestly really loved this show and don’t have many objections, other than the obvious: some people (clearly not me) just can’t get into or aren’t interested in historical settings, so if you fall into one of those categories, this is probably not the show for you.

Our Favorite Line: “These citizens need their questions answered, Mr. Reid.” “Look, they need their fears pacified.” “Where would be the sport in that?”

You Might Like This if you like historical mysteries and crime dramas, or if you’re interested in the examination of the way a huge traumatic event like the Jack the Ripper murders affected police methods, the role of the press, and society in general. In some ways, it was tonally similar to BBC America’s other original show Copper, but I’m finding Ripper Street more interesting already.

If You’re Interested: BBC America and SPACE are both rerunning the pilot a few times this week, so check your local listings. Then set your DVR for Saturday!

(Photo courtesy of BBC America.)

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