Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Ripper Street: Season One Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Allie Schembra
Haunted by the failure to catch London’s most evil killer, Jack the Ripper, Inspector Edmund Reid (Matthew Macfadyen) now heads up the notorious H Division – the toughest police district in the East End. Charged with keeping order in the blood-stained streets of Whitechapel, Reid and his men find themselves fighting to uphold justice and the rule of law; but always in the background lurks the fear of the Ripper – is he back for another reign on terror?

Series (4 out of 5 stars)
It’s been six months since the Jack the Ripper killings ended and with every crime that occurs, the citizens of London’s East End wonder if the killings have begun again. Inspector Edmund Reid and his H Division team keep order in the small area and try to keep the peace. With the help of an American former Pinkerton agent, Homer Jackson (Adam Rothenberg), working as the medical examiner, Reid and his team solve the crimes and try to overcome the haunting reminder of Jack the Ripper.

I’ve had Ripper Street on my Netflix list for quite a while, but hadn’t gotten around to watching it. I’m glad I waited until I received the Blu-Ray discs. This show is great. I’m a big history nerd and I love the setting of the show. With the Jack the Ripper killings hanging over the heads of the citizens and inspectors, every crime could be Jack’s next murder. Matthew Macfayden is a great Inspector Reid – the head inspector of the H Division. He is haunted by two things… the unsolved Jack the Ripper murders and the death of his daughter. He plays the part really well and is quite believable as the lead. Jerome Flynn, who plays Sergeant Bennet Drake, Reid’s second in command, does a great job, as well. It’s quite the change from his character on Game of Thrones.  Drake was one of my favorite characters because he was so loyal and willing to do whatever he could to help Reid. I also liked finding out the backgrounds of Jackson and Susan and learning about the death of Reid’s daughter. 

Here's the list of episodes:
  1. I Need Light – When the mutilated body of a woman is found in an alley in Whitechapel, in London’s East End, Detective-Inspector Edmund Reid and his team of police set out to find the killer. Has Jack the Ripper returned? With help from American ex-Pinkerton Agent Homer Jackson, Reid investigates and when one of the local Madam’s employees disappears, discovers an underground pornographic photography studio is partly responsible for the murders.
  2. In My Protection – A popular toymaker is found dead and all leads point to 14-year-old street rat, Thomas Gower, as having committed the crime. Or so says the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee. Reid, Drake and Jackson take Gower under their protection and take him to Miss Goren’s orphanage. Meanwhile, Jackson and Susan try to continue hiding their American past, which is connected to the leader of the gang trying to kill Gower.
  3. The King Came Calling – Residents of Whitechapel are dying and people believe Cholera has returned. Reid and his team race to find the reason for the sickness. When Reid’s wife, Emily, gets sick, time is even tighter as Jackson tries to find the cause of the sickness through autopsies of the dead.
  4. The Good of This City – The slums of Whitechapel are being cleared for the new Underground and two bodies have been found. Two children and a 16-year-old former prostitute from Long Susan’s brothel are found and questioned. Answers lead to a psychiatrist specializing in lobotomies, but Reid is convinced the killer is someone he knows.
  5. The Weight of One Man’s Heart – Against the advice of Reid and Jackson, Drake has fallen for Rose, one of Long Susan’s employees. Unfortunately, Rose has other ideas for her life. She doesn’t want to be a simple police officer’s wife. When Drake is offered an opportunity to better himself by helping his former commanding officer, he begrudgingly takes it, even knowing he will be breaking the law and his loyalties will be tested.
  6. Tournament of Shadows – Jackson goes undercover during the London Dock Strike of 1889 after a Jewish anarchist is killed in a bombing. Evidence leads to a Russian spy, but Reid and his team are warned off the case by Commissioner Monroe and Superintendent Constantine, who both seem to have more information about the death, the circumstances of Reid’s daughter’s death and other events that affect the team.
  7. A Man of My Company – Jackson and Susan’s American past comes back to haunt them in London when shipping magnate Theodore Swift arrives to complete a merger between his shipping company and a London line. Swift’s head of security, Pinkerton officer Frank Goodnight is searching for Jackson, seeking revenge for the death of his brother. And, when another woman is murdered in the manner of Jack the Ripper, the evidence begins pointing to Jackson as the Ripper.
  8. What Use Our Work? – Jackson is arrested under the belief that he is Jack the Ripper and responsible for all the murders. Reid is convinced Jackson is innocent and brings in the only witness to the Ripper murders. When the witness can’t identify the Ripper, Jackson remains in custody and Reid’s case begins unraveling. He seeks solace with Miss Goren, and after Rose leaves Susan’s brothel in order to change her life, Drake finds himself in the arms of another girl. When Rose disappears, Reid and Drake find he has answered a lonely hearts ad in the newspaper. Victor Silver, a former Ripper suspect, is thought to be responsible for Rose’s disappearance, and after investigating, Reid, Drake and Jackson, who Reid has released from his cell in order to perform autopsies, find that there is much more to Silver than they originally thought. After proving his innocence, Jackson is released and returns to the team to assist in keeping the streets of Whitechapel safe for the residents.
The series, while always making the viewer wonder if the crimes were committed by Jack the Ripper, does a good job of separating the events and solving the cases presented in the story. I find it interesting that the cases have never been solved, that no one seems to know who Jack the Ripper really was, though everyone has theories. You would think that with modern science, experts would be able to solve this case. I, however, hope they never do. It’s intriguing to have a case such as this still unsolved after 125 years. Each of the eight episodes touches on the overarching character stories, but also has a “case of the week.” It’s a good format that kept me watching and I’ll admit, I binge-watched this first season. I’m looking forward to watching and reviewing season two, as well.
Video (4 out of 5 stars)
Ripper Street Season One is presented in 1080p widescreen high definition. The picture is clear and crisp and the sets are wonderful. The viewer is taken back to the late 1800s in London and everything looks authentic. Skin tones are natural and the muted colors blend well with the scenes. Evening and night scenes are a true black and shadows are consistent with the lighting available in the era. The amount of set building must have been massive, but the designers did it wonderfully and that really came across in the picture.
Audio (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
The DTS-HD 2.0 audio for Ripper Street Season One is good. There were times when the background overwhelmed the dialogue and the crunch of the gravel on the streets was too loud. Whispers were mostly clear and audible and when characters spoke to each other, you could mostly hear clearly without having to adjust the volume. Steam whistles and gun shots sounded authentic and were very clear. Subtitles are available in English for those who need them.
Extras (3 out of 5 stars)
There are four special features available. All were pretty interesting and except for the profile on Jack the Ripper, were super short. I’d have enjoyed them more if they had been just little longer.
  • Inside Looks – Available in a play all option.
    • Languages – This is a behind-the-scenes look at how the writers wrote each of the characters and the word choices used for each one.
    • Victorian – How the crew created Victorian London, and what it was like.
    • Ripper Street – A behind-the-scenes look at how the show was created and how the cast and crew created this intense time in London.
  • Character Profiles – Available in a play all option. These are 30-second backgrounds on the three main characters: Sergeant Bennet Drake, Captian Homer Jackson and lead character, Inspector Edmund Reid.
  • London Calling – A five-minute tour of modern day Whitechapel, including a look at the people, the fashion, and the bell-making business thriving in the area for the last few hundred years.
  • Jack the Ripper – This is a 50-minute profile of Jack the Ripper. It included suspect lists, forensics and theories on the world’s most famous of serial killers. This was really difficult to hear the dialogue because the music was so overwhelming. I would have enjoyed this more without the background music.

Summary (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Jack the Ripper is fascinating to me and the events surrounding his reign of terror in 1880s London makes that time one of the more interesting times. The final score was brought down a bit because of the special features and the overwhelming background noise during a few of the episodes. I really enjoyed this series and am looking forward to the second season.

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