Gabriel Darku (who, like a lot of this year’s player, was in the third series, “Solstice”) plays Detective Kenneth Rijkers, a new face in Toronto investigating the brutal murder that opens the season. A shrouded figure who becomes known as The Widow is brutally mutilating people in the Toronto streets, and the authorities start to think that it may be connected to a case from over a decade ago that ended with an injustice. As The Widow gets closer and closer to Toronto’s elite, she sends the powerful Basil Garvey (Eric McCormack of “Will & Grace”) into a panic, leading to some brutal, rash decisions. Over two episodes, “Ripper” sometimes gets too far away from its horror plotline, trying to capture life in the era in a way that almost feels more like a dramatic period piece, but the writers find a way to always bring it back to the core of the show. It’s in the word “Slasher.”
On the one hand, I admire “Slasher” for trying to get deeper into class and privilege in ways that they didn’t necessarily have to do, and I like how the show is even playing with magic and the supernatural with a performer who saws a woman in half in the premiere and holds a session in the second episode. This is a time when the line between traditional, upper-crust decorum and something more dangerous was starting to blur, when socialites might be drawn to someone who claims an ability to talk to the other side. However, I find “Slasher” at its best when the pace is really moving, and these two episodes feel longer than they should. My hope is that they’re set up for chaos to come.
It’s also worth noting that the ambition of “Ripper” sometimes butts up against the limits of this Canadian production. To be blunt, the show often looks like it’s on a set and not taking place in 19th century Canada. The interiors look reasonably well-designed, but the streets look distinctly backlot. And I can’t believe I’m saying this in the era of “Ozark Lighting,” but this one is actually too bright. A show called “Ripper” should be darker, dirtier, and more dangerous.
And yet it’s still fun. McCormack is a demented surprise as he leans into a malevolent character in ways that are unexpected, and there are characters on the fringe here that I suspect will get more interesting as the plot unfolds. “Slasher” is a big enough hit that the writers are having fun with the entire history of horror ideas. With all the possible concepts for a fifth season out there, that they went with a Ripper-inspired period piece is an admirable, ambitious move. Ryan Murphy may want to take some notes.
Two episodes screened for review.