Originally aired in the U.K. on 25 October 2010
Written by Ben Court and Caroline Ip
Directed by David Evans
Starring Rupert Penry-Jones, Phil Davis, and Steve Pemberton
My rating: ★★★ stars
Overstuffed episode filled with potential, only partially realized.
The first season of Whitechapel was a whodunit. The narrative momentum of the season was created by the search for the culprit of the murders. The second season is different. We learn that the criminals are Jimmy and Johnny Kray at the beginning of the second episode. The narrative momentum is propelled by the attempts of the police to thwart them. Yet, a few unanswered questions remain at the beginning of the third episode, including who is the mole at Whitechapel station and who is Cheshire and why he is helping Chandler. Yet, the key question is one the audience doesn’t think to ask: Who is the kingmaker?
If the episodes of Whitechapel were titled, this one should have been called “The Kingmakers.” The episode focuses on who places people in positions of power. For the Krays, the answer is Steven Dukes, who vouched for them in the London criminal underworld, but that is not the big revelation of the episode. A much more important “power behind the throne” has been lurking under the surface of all the goings on this season. He’s the one who controls Cheshire. He’s the one who controls Chandler—without Chandler even realizing it. In the end, he’s the one that allows for the capture of the Krays. Surprisingly, he reveals himself at the beginning of the episode, but the audience and Chandler don’t learn the extent of his machinations until the end. Even then, the audience is privy to much more than Chandler realizes. This revelation and the holding back of information from Chandler is a great way to end the season and set up season 3. (Unfortunately, the show doesn’t capitalize on this ending in the next season.)
The mole is also revealed quickly in the episode when he commits suicide because of the pressure and shame. This event and the reverberations because of it are rushed through. This character has been around from the beginning of the series, and yet we knew little about him. The problem is the limited number of episodes each season. This season in particular had too much story for just three episodes. The whole subplot of the mole could have been dropped so that the rest of the story threads could have been developed more fully, without losing much, if any, impact.
This suicide is the first of two in the episode. The second suicide happens so quickly, and that potentially intriguing plot thread so glossed over that the audience never gets a sense of why the character committed suicide.
A major breakthrough in the case happens when the detectives discover that Jimmy Kray only pretends to be gay so that people will think he’s like his dad. The cognitive leap that the detectives make because of this revelation seems forced. But it has to be because there’s no room in the episode for the detectives to do any more detecting.
As rushed as many of the key points are, the episode has a number of strong character-driven scenes. Buchan and Miles have a couple great scenes together when Buchan calls out Miles for his bullying treatment and when he shares with him the results of his investigation into the disappearance of Miles’s father.
Another strong scene involves Chandler, in a deepening state of stress and paranoia, accusing medical examiner Caroline Llewellyn of working for the Krays when she reports that the department mole committed suicide. We understand implicitly that Chandler wants very much to believe that the mole was murdered because he wants to lay the death clearly at the hands of the Krays. When Miles vehemently indicates that Chandler has crossed a line, the two detectives get a great scene. Miles brings up the fact that Chandler has been drinking constantly since the ambush at the pub in the previous episode, and Chandler informs Miles that he’s “self-medicating” his OCD, not getting drunk. Miles accepts this explanation showing a deep level of trust that has developed between the two detectives.
A lighter scene has Chandler challenging Jimmy Kray to a boxing match. We see a new side of Chandler here. Miles warns Chandler against being reckless, but Chandler is calculating and, as we learn, a champion boxer. He takes a defensive stance until Jimmy, a heavy smoker, is worn down, and then Chandler punches him enough to get blood on his glove, a DNA sample the detectives need for the investigation.
If the material in this episode had been stretched out over two or three episodes, it would have played a lot stronger. The material is good; it’s just rushed and compacted.