Review of Ripper Street ‘The King Came Calling’

Neela Debnath

Emily 300x226 Review of Ripper Street ‘The King Came Calling’

Amanda Hale as Emily Reid (BBC)

SPOILERS: Do not read this if you have not seen episode 3 of ‘Ripper Street’

Cholera hits the East End bringing with it panic and chaos but in the midst of it all there is something else at work.

This week’s Victorian jumping off point was the prevalence of cholera in this era, in fact the episode may even have been inspired by the 1854 Broad Street outbreak in Soho. This period is well-known in popular culture for its unhygienic conditions and squalor among the poverty-stricken. By putting in the cholera red herring right at the start threw audiences off the scent.

Yet it is not long before the dynamic trio realise that something more sinister is afoot when the symptoms do not match those of cholera and it is soon discovered that this is the work of a mad man poisoning people through flour in an attempt to gain greater notoriety than the Ripper himself.

Once again there were anachronisms aplenty from Emily’s project for fallen women that left aside judgement (a very forward-thinking and un-Victorian ideal), to a playback of the poisoner dropping his deadly concoction into flour – just in case viewers missed it the first time – which was bizarrely reminiscent of the highlights on Match of the Day.

Unfortunately, the ‘interesting’ and out-of-place camera work did not end there. Emily’s hallucinations while getting lambasted by Flora Gable (Penny Downie) seemed to transpose the viewer from Victorian crime drama to supernatural horror in the blink of an eye. One minute it was Ripper Street and the next it was something akin to The X-Files with corsets, top hats and twirly-moustached villains.

Then there is the cliché-ridden police procedural nature of the show. Given that there have been so many detective shows over the decades, they all start to merge into one and it is difficult not to see the similarities and the conventions employed here. Edmund Reid is the maverick officer, a workaholic who sees what others miss.

He is a man ahead of his time – employing an American to cut up bodies for him and using science to help him solve crimes. But Reid is also haunted by the loss of his daughter who he cannot grieve for because he believes she is still alive. With Emily’s life hanging in the balance, it felt like if she had died then the show would descend further into detective cliché territory.

As a viewer the most compelling element is the back story of the three leads which continues to drive the show forward. This week was testing to watch because there was no mention of either Jackson or Drake’s pasts – not even a hint. Luckily, to shake things up was inspector Sydney Ressler (Patrick Baladi), the head of the Square Mile, who created tension with a police turf war between himself and Reid.

While the pair battled for authority there was also a sense of synergy between them as they worked together to solve the case. It was a welcome and interesting change that extended Victorian policing beyond the streets of Whitechapel. Next week though the focus will return to the three leads and things are hotting up if the snippet at the end of the episode is anything to go by.

Next week on Ripper Street… Reid is questioning a girl covered in blood. Meanwhile Long Susan is seen in a cell – is the deception that binds her to Jackson slowly starting to unravel?

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  • Jeremy K.

    I do wish you would learn to punctuate before submitting a review to the Independent.

  • Jeremy K.

    I’ve just looked at your profile and see you have an MA in journalism. That confirms my despair that journalists in the UK, now-a-days, are so lazy about the language which is their stock in trade.

  • Adrian Fox

    Another unconvincing plot line which attempts to translate 21st century psychosis or psychopathic behaviour into 19th century culture. The first episode did the same with its portrayal of a pornographer trying to film ’snuff videos’ with the latest technology of the time. Completely unconvincing and not related to the sexual practices of the period.

    This time we had a narcissistic personality disorder, a mill manager trying to get attention as a mass killer. I have read a vast amount of Victorian crime history, and have never come across a single offence which bears any relationship to this very 21st century phenomenon, a product of anomie in a depersonalised modern society where individuals often believe they no longer count.

    Had the episode stuck much more carefully to Victorian reality, then the contaminated flour would have been there, but adulterated for profit by the mill owner, and sold mainly to the poor, rather than wealthy men from the city. Gross food adulteration was very common in those times and often DID involve arsenic, lead and chalk and plaster of Paris.

    While this might have been a less sensational plot, a skilful writer could have inserted just as many twists, turns and red herrings as in last night’s episode, but would have produced something far more believable and historically authentic…. and therefore enjoyable.

  • julianzzz

    There is more to education than punctuation and grammar. Actually the review had some cogent points to make. Certainly the post modern rewriting of history is disturbing, yes to those of us who understand the process of ironic juxtaposition, yes the process is amusing, however the implication of continually representing history to suit ideology is dangerous, particularly if there is no acknowledgement of bias.

  • Jeremy K.

    “This period is well-known in popular culture for its unhygienic conditions and squalor among the poverty-stricken, therefore the brilliant red herring right at the start of this episode throws audiences off the scent immediately.” “Therefore” is not a conjunction and the previous sentence should have ended with a full stop. There are two main verbs “is (well-known)” and “(the red herring) …throws…” and therefore two sentences. Sentences end with a full stop.

    “The ‘interesting’ and out of place camera work did not end there unfortunately, Emily’s hallucinations… suddenly made me feel like I had been transposed to …” There are two main verbs “did (not) end” and “made (me) feel” with their subjects and therefore two sentences. They require full stops or conjunctions. They cannot be punctuated with a comma, as here.

    “As a viewer the most compelling element is the back story of each of the three leads who continue to drive the show however, even this week was testing.” This is gobbledygook. What on earth does it mean?

    “It was a needed change however next week the focus will return to the leads if the snippet at the end of the episode is anything to go by.”
    “However” is not a conjunction. Where does the first sentence end and the next one begin? “It was a needed change however. Next week the focus will return …” or “It was a needed change. However next week the focus will return…”?

    I did not comment on the content of the review but on the sloppy English usage by someone who claims to have an MA in Journalism. I also despair that a broadsheet newspaper should allow such poor standards. For those of us who are educated, this review is very uncomfortable to read, with its series of grammatical hiccups.

  • Pendantian

    Jeremy K:
    Consider the following by George Orwell:
    “Correct grammar and syntax are of no importance as long as one’s meaning is clear”
    - From the essay “Politics and the English Language”.

  • Robert Evan Hardy

    There is something terribly amiss with Britain when the BBC produces a thinly disguised propaganda piece for state torture. This was the most disgusting piece of drama I have ever seen and after a life time of support for the licence fee and the BBC perhaps it is time for me to reassess my attitude to its existence.

  • Steve Cobham

    Oh, do get over yourself.
    It was purely and simply a piece of entertainment.

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