Matthew Macfayden (MI-5, Little Dorrit), who may be seen currently in cinemas as Oblonsky in Anna Karenina, has returned to series TV in a star turn as Detective Inspector Edmund Reid in Ripper Street. Set in London’s Whitechapel district in 1889, this is not yet another take on the Jack the Ripper case, but a portrait of a population still trying to come to terms with the trauma of the previous year. The failure of the police to apprehend the killer has made them more unpopular than ever in this generally impoverished area.
The cramped diversity and heightened emotions make for a dramatically volatile mix, one that is perhaps too strong for some. Full disclosure demands that we grant that the BBC received fifty complaints about the violence when the series premiered in Britain during Christmas week. It’s not the frank depiction of life in a squalid London neighborhood that will compel a thoughtful viewer to return to Ripper Street every week, but the more essential factors of memorable writing, evolving characters and unexpected moments of sheer wonder.
Supporting cast includes Jerome Flynn (Game of Thrones) as Detective Sergeant Bennet Drake and Adam Rothenberg (The Ex-List) as Captain Homer Jackson, an American of many talents and considerable baggage. The eight-part series premieres tomorrow in the US on BBC America at 9pm ET/PT and in Canada on Space at 9ET/6PT. Ripper Street, which will be released on DVD and Blu-ray following the series run, may be preordered now.