Reliably gritty and gruesome, it is time for another slice of serial killer action on the mean streets of Whitechapel.
After two series, each which followed on a single story, last year’s run settled into a more digestible two-part format with each pair of episodes focussing on a new case.
For this fourth series that pattern continues, with all the familiar faces returning. The investigating team is led by the chalk and cheese double act of uptight career officer DI Joseph Chandler (Spooks star Rupert Penry-Jones) and his seasoned, old school cooper DS Ray Miles (Phil Davis).
In any other series this pairing would be enough, but Whitechapel’s unique charm is to distort convention by calling upon the talents of Ripperoloigist turned Archivist, Edward Buchan (The League of Gentlemen‘s Steve Pemberton). Initially a hindrance to the team, he has now been embraced as a historical advisor and lurks in the station basement amid files which contain records of the most unspeakable crimes.
The show begins with an inventive torture and murder going on while the team attend a book launch. It is almost as though the writers are poking fun at the programme’s concept, as Buchan peddles a tome entitled ‘A history of Murder in Whitechapel’ and gives a reluctant sales spiel which acknowledges the locale’s status as a Buffy-style Hellmouth. Regardless, his archive is soon called upon when unknown symbols are sighted at the murder scene.
Investigations draw the team into the vagrant community, and offer a troublesome new dimension with the involvement of the security services. With some grotesquely creative endings for the victims of the latest killer, scenes with the wonderfully matter-of fact Pathologist Dr Caroline Llewellyn (Claire Rushbrook) once again provide a real treat.
The series break appears to have done nothing for Chandler’s OCD and he remains grippingly obsessive. There is a wonderful moment where you seen him struggle to fight the desire to straighten a picture on the board in the incident room. Miles on the other hand seems distracted but most troublingly, it transpires that Buchan has a new nemesis threatening the archive. In the lower ranks tensions are rife too, with the suggestion of a romance between Mansell and Kent’s sister.
Whitechapel has retained its dark visual style, intercutting sequences with gruesome flashes of unsettling imagery. As well as the gory moments, there are tense scenes as the killer stalks his victims but what truly draws us back to Whitechapel is the story of these characters, with all the flaws and failings that threaten to overwhelm them.
Airs at 9pm on Wednesday 4 September 2013 on ITV.
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