After last week’s supernatural shenanigans, we are back to the gruesome bread and butter of Whitechapel with a serial killer who has a penchant for skinning their victims.
For the first time, series creators Ben Court and Caroline Ip have allowed someone else to get their hands on the macabre toy box and this story is written by Steve Pemberton (The League of Gentlemen, Psychoville), who also stars as Buchan.
In a smart opening sequence he deftly subverts expectations as an apparent victim, foolish enough to cut across the graveyard at night, is saved by the killer as he strikes. Once again, the murder is counterpointed with the team out for a social gathering, this time celebrating Chandler’s birthday at a Mongolian Barbecue. The poor DI is preoccupied though as even the fortune cookies seem to be taunting him over his inability to bring one in alive.
The victim’s distinctive face appears at a gallery housing an exhibition by a Gunther Von Hagens-style body artist named Sebastian Marlowe. With Kent’s (Sam Stockman) desperate need for approval on show again, he jumps at the thankless task of identifying the victim by way of some distinctive tattoos. With dumb luck, he hooks onto the trail of Russian Mafia and it is interesting to see Kent out on his own, at times as socially awkward and abrasive as his boss can be.
Last week’s tensions seem to have calmed a little, with Miles (Phil Davis) snapping back into control of the nation’s most under-lit incident room. Though he barks about the chain of command and dispenses loveably gruff pep talks, there is a softer side on display when he handles Marlowe’s prickly assistant where Chandler cannot. The revelation that she is actually the artist, Banksy style, worked very well although we would be lying if we said it was a great surprise.
The romantic subplot of Riley (Hannah Walters) and Buchan, misread by him and expertly stirred by Mansell, looks set to explode badly next week. It was good to see Buchan still carrying the guilt of past mistakes, reminding us that he’s really not truly cut out for this line of work.
As the grim nature of these murders continues, with the killer even posing under the covers in the bed of a victim, we adored the fact that a vital clue lay in a mismatched font. Perhaps the appeal of Whitechapel can be summed up as the ultimate marriage of body horror and pedantry? One thing is for sure though; they really need to get that plumbing dealt with.
Aired at 9pm on Wednesday 18 September 2013 on ITV.
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