ITV1, 9pm Monday 11th October
A man’s been pinned to a snooker table with a bayonet. Another’s had his buttocks slashed. The cops are on the take, and victims are afraid
It’s just like the old days when the Krays cruised East London dishing out backhanders and beatings.
In Whitechapel 2, no sooner has a copycat Jack the Ripper been dispatched by Rupert Penry-Jones and Philip Davis, then – gawd help us – but a Kray twins novelty act turns up on the manor.
Whitechapel’s first outing, last year, was fresh and spiky enough to be an engrossing yarn about the East End’s notorious serial killer.
The announcement that ITV was going to attempt the formula again – this time regurgitating the Kray killings – suggested they were flogging a horse now floating lifeless in the Thames.
But while some of the gloss has inevitably gone from the premise, Whitechapel 2 still cherishes the folklore and ‘geezer aesthetic’ enough to make this an atmospheric jaunt into the past.
Writers Ben Court and Caroline Ip showed with their original an appreciation of East End history and atmosphere, and that comes out well in the detail of Whitechapel 2. Identifying a corpse by the ‘last’ (or the wooden mould) of his handmade shoe, or recounting the gang punishment known as a Chelsea smile (a cutlass is used to slice a victim’s mouth wide open) are throwbacks that give this drama its vintage, violent texture.
Once again the major part of Whitechapel’s good points are the characters. In the original, Penry-Jones as uptight DI Chandler struggled to prove himself worthy of fronting the Ripper investigation. This time, it is his sergeant, the streetwise and sour Miles (Phil Davis), who appears out of his depth and rattled as some strangely reminiscent slashings and a murder suggests the Krays stalk the East End once again.
Steve Pemberton returns as the oddball amateur sleuth Buchan, breathlessly reliving every juicy detail of every lengendary murder. It is he who predicts the next killing will echo that of Jack The Hat McVitie in 1969, much to Miles’s annoyance.
‘Rock stars of murder’
‘The Krays were the original British gangsters,’ Buchan says, almost salivating. ‘They invented the firm. They were the rock stars of murder.’
It’s all complete tosh, and not as good as the first series. But the three leads still spark off each other, and the whole production captures a strange duality between past and present, using period footage and sound eerily.
One scene has Miles taking Chandler to an East End pub. He asks his boss to look round and tell him what he sees. In the gloom sit old lags with busted noses and facial scars, looking like ghosts from forgotten gang fights.
And you can just imagine two stocky blokes in Italian suits marching into the pub and freezing every conversation.