Saturday, 7 September 2013

WHITECHAPEL, 4.1 - episode one

Saturday, 7 September 2013
"There are some who believe that the Gates to Hell can be found in the shadow of Christ Church; that this is the reason why Whitechapel is plagued with terrors. So beware: for when the Gates open, who knows what will crawl out, and who will become the next chapter in my History of Murder in Whitechapel" – Buchan
Fourth series of ITV's horror crime drama Whitechapel, with DI Chandler (Rupert Penry-Jones) and DS Miles (Phil Davis) attempting to solve more grisly crimes with unexpected links to the past.

It began as a lurid miniseries about a modern-day Jack the Ripper copycat, but telling a finite story didn't mean the end of ITV's popular Whitechapel. Even the absurd follow-up about clones of the Kray twins didn't cause the axe to fall, resulting in the show being overhauled and its targets broadened. Now it's one of TV's oddest dramas; a grisly murder-mystery where every bogeyman's an echo of something from London's blood-curdling history. It's a fun cocktail, but Whitechapel tends to overcook matters and gets progressive stupider as the minutes pass.

It doesn't help that everything unrelated to the plot, like characterisation and the relationship between sleuths Chandler and Miles, has long ago exhausted itself. Do you even know the names of any of the cops Originally, upper class Chandler and working class Miles were a compelling duo with very different backgrounds and crime-fighting ethoses, but now their friendship's so strong there's no drama.

Penry-Jones and Davis have become stooges wandering into whatever oddities is thrown at them—like MI6 agents straight from a Revlon advert or scenes where a pathologist (Claire Rushbrook) reveals a murdered man's pet rat also died after being force fed pebbles. The box-set must have an hour-long Gag Reel, because I can't believe the actors could keep straight faces filming this stuff.

's an ITV drama trying to be dark and edgy; which means no building has a fully-functioning light bulb and the main villain here resembles the Phantom Flan Flinger from Tiswas. I'd be harder on Whitechapel if I didn't suspect the writers are fully aware of its silliness, as they also continue to populate the show with comedians. There's always been League of Gentlemen's Steve Pemberton as the show's version of Rupert Giles from Buffy, now even pontificating on Whitechapel being a Hellmouth for the ghastly; but this episode also added A Touch of Cloth's Daisy Beaumont as the aforementioned sexy MI6 agent. Those actors treat everything tongue-in-cheek, while the leads seem to take it far too seriously.

Preposterous and sporadic fun, Whitechapel's for people who just want an hour of spooky nonsense and little more.

written by Ben Court & Caroline Ip | directed by Jon East | 5 September 2013 | ITV