One of these days I will actually write about a book, comic book, or movie, instead of just TV show after TV show… but for now I’m going to talk about Ripper Street (starring Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice, Bronn from Game of Thrones, and this guy)
I watched the first three episodes on Netflix, and instead of focusing on the societal tension between a police force that failed to find Jack the Ripper and citizens who really wanted to not get murdered, I got distracted by the interpersonal conflict between Inspector Reid, the main character, and a journalist named Mr. Best (I didn’t catch his first name, and frankly it’s a miracle I figured out his last name since I cannot tell skinny white men with mustaches apart from each other).
This interpersonal conflict has not really been prominent in the second and third episode, but from the first episode there was just enough interaction to raise some questions in my mind. Mr. Best is portrayed as a journalist who cares more about publicity than what is good for society: he compromises a crime scene to enhance the credibility that Jack the Ripper committed yet another murder. Meanwhile, Inspector Reid is determined to force the city to move on from their perpetual fear of the serial killer.
This action is very serious, and definitely indicates that Mr. Best is only out to create sensationalism and stir up the public’s fear and outrage in order to sell more papers. But -even though I know it is unlikely- I kept wondering if there was more to this relationship as I tried to analyze the conflict between the two men. We don’t know how long the two men have known each other or in what ways culture, class, and power might affect their relationship.
I do know that there is some level of trust and respect – at least on Best’s side. After all, he could have immediately published a paper with pictures of the crime scene that he had tampered with -surely the grisly details and recent public fear would have caused the edition to sell very well. Instead, Mr. Best agrees to give Inspector Reid several days to prove that the killer is not Jack the Ripper. Despite Inspector Reid’s generally intimidating (and very cranky) personality, there is no obvious incentive for Mr. Best to make this agreement -maybe he really does care, about Reid, the Truth, or about people’s welfare.
Furthermore, there could easily be a conflict of perception or interpretation here rather than a conflict of goals. Mr. Best may genuinely believe that the recent murder was committed by Jack the Ripper and think that it is in the public’s best interest to be aware of the potential danger, while Inspector Reid feels that it is more dangerous to give false information than to remain silent on the matter until they are sure one way or another.
Reid, and the audience, see the conflict as the public’s safety (stability) & truth vs. individual greed & ambition. But maybe Mr. Best sees the conflict as the public’s right to information (freedom) vs. authoritarian interests (desire for power/control).
I don’t think it’s likely that we will see Mr. Best’s character developed in a more positive manner, but I can’t help being curious. Maybe this conflict will ultimately be constructive for the two men… I’d like to think so, but probably not.