Ripper Street (pilot) – review

Ripper Street poster

Now this, this is my kind of show.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: when it comes to period pieces and murder mysteries, the Brits do it best. And Ripper Street is no exception to the rule – this show is rock solid. It’s smart, very well cast, and feels authentic. The case plays out well, with deft touches of historical import, and all around the mystery is just well executed. There is nothing not to like here.

Now I can guess what you’re thinking – er, isn’t this show exactly like Copper? Well, to be fair, the similarities are impossible to ignore – rough and tumble police work, period setting, historical stalwarts from pugilism to whoring very much in evidence, and there’s even a genius outsider medical consultant – but Ripper Street is by far the better of the two. First off, it’s downright brilliant in how it leverages its setting – the tension of cops on the beat in Jack the Ripper’s playground raises the stakes in a masterful way. Now to be fair, I don’t know if they’ll successfully sustain that tension throughout the entire season, but wow does it work well in the pilot. Second, this show without doubt has the better cast – Ripper Street‘s leading men and women are just more interesting to watch than their Copper counterparts, no question (and this is why US shows keep hiring Brits – Damien Lewis, Jason Isaacs, etc – because they’re bloody good). And lastly, in terms of the mystery, Ripper Street is all around better executed – there’s just more going on, with the case, the politics, the characters, and it’s all handled more deftly. Whereas Copper hits you over the head, Ripper Street skillfully plays its hand. So all in all, if there’s only room in your life for one period cop drama, Ripper Street is the one you want.

But in the end, all comparisons aside, Ripper Street is just a good show – and it has a killer setting. And as for this BBC fiend, I am most definitely in.

Ripper Street premieres Saturday, January 19 on BBC America.