Whitechapel series 4 episode 4 review
Whitechapel's flirtation with the supernatural continues in this week's episode, but will there be a down-to-earth conclusion?
This review contains spoilers.
Whitechapel continues to explore the mystery of a serial killer who likes to steal the faces of his victims but as the team close in, Buchan finds himself in grave danger.
The team seem to be in permanent semi-darkness this week, no matter the location, but it all adds up to another intriguing and atmospheric instalment. First of all, I noted the little old lady in one scene talking to a uniformed policeman. Did anyone see her anywhere else? She's been one of the chief features of the series-long arc so let's hope we find out what she's been up to next week. The episode itself is a strong one and wraps up the central mystery well, whilst taking some time out from it to focus on the characters a bit more. Yes we did get another scene at the sink with Chandler, but this time with added Miles it proved to be one of the highlights of the series so far.
Linking back to his uneasiness with the drowning victim in the second episode, Chandler explained how his father committed suicide and the need for control that resulted from it. Phil Davis stole the scene though with Miles' empathy and understanding, something which has progressed considerably since the first series. The opening scenes in which Miles showed off his local area knowledge also offered the lighter side of their partnership and displayed the wonderful dynamic Davis and Rupert Penry-Jones have.
Earlier in the series, I worried that Buchan was becoming a bit one-note, there simply for spooky exposition on the odd overly dramatic monologue. However, this episode gave the character some space in which to breathe outside of his dingy basement and with Steve Pemberton on writing duty again, Buchan was allowed to take centre stage. His unrequited crush on Riley and Mansell's teasing were uncomfortable to watch but sold completely by Pemberton's performance. Likewise, when he realised just how much danger he was in, it took little more than a look to let us all know.
We don't often get a member of the team placed in direct danger (at least not since the Krays). It didn't come as a shock that it was the creepy bookshop owner who was doing all the flaying (well done to the commenter who called it last week), it was a little galling to see bumbling Buchan placed in harm's way. Traditionally speaking, the inclusion of a well-known cast member in the climax is just an easy way of ramping up the tension, but it didn't feel like a cheap trick here, primarily because we'd spent so much time with Buchan over the course of the episode and he was depicted in such a sympathetic manner.
Returning to the murders themselves, the historical link this time around was notorious murderer Ed Gein, who has inspired several big screen serial killers such as Norman Bates and Leatherface, referred to here. I did think there had to be at least a nod to Texas Chainsaw Massacre at some point and it was a great episode for picking those nods to the horror genre. Likewise, the style of this two-parter has been very much horror-themed; lighting is permanently on the dimmer setting, shadows loom at odd angles and the villain leers suddenly out of nowhere. It created a solid, creepy atmosphere for the episode as well as offering a couple of squeamish body horror moments, even just as a passing reference.
The supernatural has obviously been a key aspect across the four episodes so far, but I can't help but wonder where Whitechapel is going to take it. It's always been very grounded so far and, whilst I've praised it for constantly shifting format, I hope they can wrap up this narrative arc and remain true to the series that have gone before.
Read Becky's review of the previous episode, here.
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