Revisiting Whitechapel Will Give you Chills

Whitechapel's not the same as it used to be. Or at least that’s what we’re told when the second season starts. There hasn’t been an interesting murder in months and the detectives we once loved for their pro-active, ambitious approach are now discouraged and bored of their day-to-day monotony. Thankfully, the first episode comes with a warning:"Another big case will find you soon. Be ready".

Indeed, you should be prepared. The beat-up body of an escaped convict washes up in the Thames almost immediately after DI Chandler (Rupert Penry-Jones) grumbles “there’s nothing to do”. And it’s not long before the police (with the help of interfering tour guide Edward Buchan (Steve Pemberton)) work out there’s another copy cat killer (or two) on the loose.

No one’s safe in Whitechapel anymore, and no one’s to be trusted either. As a viewer you’re constantly on edge, suspecting every long-coated man in sight, and sometimes you get it spot on. There are so many red-herrings thrown in, however, that the more obvious side plots don’t hamper your enjoyment. At one point you’re led to believe that the unorthodox violence of a new detective means he’s on the take, but it’s so obvious you doubt your own conclusion.

DI Chandler comes across far more awkward, and incompetent, than before. Instead, it’s Philip Davis' turn to hog the spotlight as the enlightened, yet tormented DS Miles. Though he shares most screen time with Penry-Jones, his characters’ insight into the history of the original case (this series, about the Kray twins) adds crucial depth. Know-it-all Edward Buchan, like before, fills in plenty of gaps too--whether the police want him to or not.

By the end of the first episode you’ll be respecting Buchan far more, and Chandler far less. The change in dynamics, unlike the suitably jumpy scenes, is smoothly transitioned too. The series is just as visually distinctive (with its sharp, dark scenes and lurking extras) as before, and if the popularity of the first season--which bagged 7.6 mililon viewers to its final episode--is anything to go by it looks like ITV’s on to another winner (tonight at 9pm). It’s just a shame it’s only three episodes long.

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