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Whitechapel: The Ripper Returns


A ripping good British crime series.

Rod Lott February 1st, 2012

London authorities’ golden boy Joe Chandler inherits a whopper of an investigation in his new position as DI (that stands for “Detective Inspector,” you Yanks): a young woman’s murder whose details appear to mirror those of one of Jack the Ripper’s victims in his infamous 1880s spree.

whtiechapeltheripperreturns

That’s a tough case to crack, especially when Chandler’s fellow squad members — who heavily resent his promotion in the first place — don’t buy in to his theory.

But this BBC tale being titled “Whitechapel,” after all, we know that Chandler is correct. And that revelation — strengthened with the discovery of each subsequent corpse, meticulously maneuvered — is what makes this three-episode series almost ruefully addictive. Clear your schedule for two and a half hours to consume it whole; you can’t watch just one.

A graduate of another solid British procedural, “MI-5,” Rupert Penry-Jones excels as Chandler. We like him not only because he’s smart, but because he’s fallible; for example, upon examination of the first murder scene, he’s visibly nauseous. Viewers will root for him even if his own peers won’t. Chief among them is the grizzled, older veteran, Detective Sergeant Ray Miles (Philip Davis, TV’s excellent “Case Histories”), who slowly, if reluctantly, warms to Chandler when the Ripper theory starts to hold serious water.

“Whitechapel” has its cake and eats it, too, by not only playing with the facts of Jack the Ripper, but also in re-creating it for modern times. That way, the show appeals to fans of contemporary and historical mysteries. The show couldn’t have picked a better concept, as the Ripper’s unsolved nature has kept it alive in the world’s consciousness all these decades. I’m told the second season hews to the same formula, but replacing the Ripper with the brothers Kray; the difference there, of course, is a matter of known identity. Still, after the marathon of this felonious freshman outing, I can’t wait to watch that. —Rod Lott


 
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