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Series / Whitechapel

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"Congratulations, you were right. Now all you have to do is solve the unsolvable and catch the most famous serial killer that ever lived. Good luck."

Whitechapel (2009-13) was an ITV crime drama series starring Rupert Penry-Jones, Phil Davies and Steve Pemberton.

The first series, broadcast in 2009, concerned DI Joseph Chandler (Penry-Jones), a young, inexperienced, and overpromoted detective, who is sent to lead a squad of veteran homicide detectives in the London district of Whitechapel. As soon as he gets there, he is thrown into a murder investigation where a serial killer is re-creating the Ripper murders. Chandler now not only has to solve the most famous unsolved crime in history, but also has to work against his Old-Fashioned Copper department, who resent Chandler for being a "paper policeman".

The second series concerned a new series of copycat killings, based on the murders committed by the infamous London gangsters Reggie and Ronnie Kray. However, what seems like another copycat killing turns into something much worse when, Chandler and his men discover it's part of a plot by Ronnie's alleged sons, Jimmy and Johnny, to take over London's crime.


The third series, broadcast in early 2012, sees a change in format. Instead of dealing with copycat murders the team are now using historical precedent to help inform their investigations.

A short spoof of the series, called Snow Whitechapel, aired Christmas 2012. Watch it here

A fourth series started airing on 4th September 2013, with two episodes written by Steve Pemberton (who plays Ed Buchan). ITV has concluded the series after the last episode was aired in Britain.


This series contains examples of:

  • All Gays Are Pedophiles: Ronnie Kray, who'd self-identified as bisexual (or occasionally homosexual) is here portrayed as a pedophile interested in the young Ray Miles. There's no evidence for this.
  • Alpha Bitch: Georgie Fox is a self-admitted one. This is a plot point.
  • Always Identical Twins: The new "Kray" twins. As they're based on the real ones, who were identical, this is justified.
  • Arc Welding: For the first three seasons the team deals with unrelated cases, but the fourth season not only introduces the possible existence of the supernatural, but posits that all the grisly crimes in Whitechapel are the work of a demonic "provocateur" who goads all the killers into committing their murders. This provocateur is heavily suggested to be a little old lady who flits in and out of background shots throughout the course of the season, manipulating things from behind the scenes.
  • Animal Motifs: Some but not all of the serial killers have these in spades
    • The home invader has a spider motif; capable of entering any house at will and living inside their walls.
    • The tames torso murderer has a blister beetle motif; being extremely toxic and constantly looking for a mate.
    • Daniel mantis has a bat motif; being extremely sensitive to noise and living in darkness; the actual killer however models himself on the Bogey Man.
    • The Witch Hunter in season 4 has a rather on the nose rat motif; being a disgustingly diseased creature that eats rotten bread and eventually finds somewhere dark and quiet to die.
    • The Doomsday Cult in season 4 have a pig motif; living in complete filth and eating all kinds of meat, even human. Amusingly enough the red herring of those episodes shared this motif, but more in an aristocratic idea of what pigs are, still willing to eat all types of meat but living in relative luxury. It should come as no surprise when the filthy pigs decide to eat one of their posh counterparts, (pigs are fully capable and willing to commit cannibalism)
  • Armour-Piercing Question: Miles delivers a good one at the start of Season 2, with an implicit "Reason You Suck" Speech, at an East London police awards dinner when he's being commended for bravery and Chandler, who chose to save him rather than collar the Ripper, is being punished by being pushed to the back and generally shunned as the man who let the Ripper escape.
    Since when is a DI saving his Sergeant's life the wrong decision?
  • Arc Words: In season 4, people often refer to Whitechapel as 'The gates of hell'.
  • Batman Gambit: Buchan tries one of these after he discovers that Jack is using information on his website to structure his own copycat killings (ie, in the case of the Double Event, Jack only kills one victim, sharing Buchan's belief that Elizabeth Stride's death was an unrelated attack). In an attempt to prevent the final murder, Buchan calls the press to an open area and burns copies of his books, claiming that he thinks Mary Kelly's death wasn't the work of Jack (she wasn't killed in the street, her mutilations were savage as opposed to controlled) and renounces his life's work in the hope that Jack will believe him. It doesn't work.
  • The Beard: Inverted. Jimmy Kray's "boyfriend" later gets revealed to be a cross-dressing girl who pretends she's male so that he can come off as a gayngster like his alleged father Reggie Kray.
  • Body Horror: One murderer in series 4 flays his victims alive. One of them survives with no face, fingertips and a strip cut from his back.
  • Booby Trap: A suspected abandoned house turns out to be not one since it's used a recluse couple. To defend their "property", they rigged the place with thin wire that one of Chandler's detectives, DC Finlay Mansell, was seriously wounded by on the ear.
  • Buddy Cops:
    • Chandler, a young, fairly inexperienced detective and neat freak, and Miles, an Old-Fashioned Copper.
    • Kent is a quiet, straight-laced, by the books copper, Mansell is a womanising, practical joker.
  • Call-Back:
    • When Mansell joins the team, he is promptly handed a tie.
    • Miles's distaste for blended malt whiskey.
    • Chandler's distaste for the press
  • Captain Obvious: Buchan (due to having a previous career as a professional tourist guide and small time TV presenter) feels an almost compulsive need to explain what certain crimes are to professionally trained murder investigators as if they wouldn't already know. Such as explaining what a spree killer is to DI Chandler (who is head of the murder department) immediately after Chandler asks if they are in the beginning of a spree killing
  • Character Development: Chandler.
  • Characterization Marches On: In later series Chandler is plagued with OCD tendencies that make it difficult for him to perform simple tasks. It's surprising to go back to the first season and see that he started off as simply something of a neat-freak, whose insistence on cleanliness is only due to the fact that he thinks a neat environment will help the team concentrate. However, there are signs of serious OCD in the Krays episode, where he is literally unable to let go a switch without flipping it a certain number of times, to the extent that he's crying in frustration. YMMV on this as his frustration with his team's slobbish behavior always becomes heightened during times of stress, as is common for people who suffer from OCD, and his condition fluctuates along with his stress levels, once again concurrent with how actual OCD exhibits itself. Its highly likely he was merely at risk for obsessive compulsions before becoming a DI, and the stress of the actual job pushed it into full blown Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Season 2 and 3 are full of them.
    • The wooden lasts in season 2.
    • Season 3 (episode 1 to 2) characters off handily mention that the houses have been recently worked on.
    • Season 3 (episode 3 to 4) cantharidin (the killers MO) is noted as a "love potion" wrongly several times before anyone thinks it might be related to the motive.
    • Season 3 (episode 5 to 6) Dave Watney's death inquest is named for no other reason other than to be identified as the cause of the spree killing at the end of the arc (seriously why would a psychologist mention a dead character by name unless it was important to the plot?)
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome:
    • DC Sanders goes missing without explanation between series 1 and 2.
    • Fitzgerald, a major character in the first two series vanishes without trace by the time three rolls around.
    • Despite having a major role in the first two series Commander Anderson is never seen again after the Series 2 final
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Evil things in red, and good things in blue. This pertains to everything from costume, to props, sets, and even to lighting. Particularly egregious examples include Louise Iver's red hat, and the blue toned backlighting and 'wings' that appear behind Chandler during his 'angelic' scene in the final episode.
  • Contrived Coincidence: The last episode of series 3 not only contains a serial killer who escapes from incarceration at the exact same time as another psychopath finds a reason to start killing, but whose original victim shared a classroom with the second killer, who begins to kill more fellow classmates for reasons totally unrelated to the first. Plus, one of the targets is Buchan's therapist.
  • The Coroner: Caroline Llewellyn.
  • Crazy Cat Lady: Actually, a crazy fox lady. She poisons the cats that break into her house.
  • Darker and Edgier: Series 1 wasn't exactly light and fluffy but series 2 was worse and series 3 was darker than both. Then series 4 decided to up them both by being based on horror concepts (witch trials, cannibals, skin flaying etc.) and introducing supernatural concepts and Louise Iver.
  • Deathbed Confession: Buchan discovers the truth behind Miles's father's disappearance after disguising himself as a priest and visiting a dying man in hospital.
  • Defective Detective: Chandler has realistically-portrayed OCD. Not only does he need everything to be ordered and clean as possible, he also has a counting compulsion that can become completely overwhelming. In series two, when things seem to be completely against him and his team, it becomes almost unbearable, and he's forced to drink to stop himself.
  • Despair Event Horizon: The team deals with some of the most twisted crimes imaginable, and they each tend to reach on once a season, though season 4 should get a special mention.
  • Dirty Cop: Chandler and his team encounter a few of them. His team arrested nearly most of the detectives in the Organized Crime Division near the end of the 2nd season.
  • Disappeared Dad: Miles's father, who worked for the Krays. For most of his life Miles assumes that he just left, and it's not until Buchan investigates further that he realizes his father died because he wasn't willing to offer up his son to Ronnie Kray.
  • Disguised Hostage Gambit: An absolutely horrifying example in season 3, when an escaped serial killer known for wearing a creepy mask takes a young man who is roughly the same height as him, sews his mouth shut so he cannot speak, then tapes the mask to his face. He then attaches a fake but realistic-looking gun to the young man's hands with wire, and sends him out to face police with guns. Chandler sees too late something is up as the "killer" is whimpering in pain, but before he can intervene the young man is shot dead by snipers, after the actual killer shot a policeman to provoke it. Only then do the police realize what they've done.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: The villain of S3 E2 murders whole houses of people to "punish" the survivor because his best friend was killed in a car crash.
  • Disposable Woman: The series has an overwhelming amount of female victims, though this is justified considering most of the historical cases that the show is based on involved murdered women.
  • Disposable Sex Worker: Of the above, many of the dead women are prostitutes, most notably in the Ripper case. Again, this is justified and the show goes out of its way to treat the women with respect, both In-Universe and out. When the torsos of several women are found in the river, Chandler gives them all names in order to humanize them until they can be identified.
    ''She should have a name that evokes poetry, not death and dismemberment."
    • Furthermore, though the writers/producers had access to actual post-mortem photographs of the Real Life Ripper victims, they decided not to feature them in the program, considering it too exploitative (instead they took pictures of actresses in make-up).
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Word Of God states that the relationship between Chandler, Miles and Buchan is meant to resemble that of a child caught between two divorced parents.
  • Downer Ending:
    • The end of series 3. Especially when the suspect's mother stabs Morgan Lamb with a broken glass on her chest before being restrained by uniformed officers for what happened to her son. Chandler and the detectives are devastated by her death.
    • The end of series 4. The team have finally got live murderers in custody, and in the middle of everyone celebrating the prison van is caught in an explosion, killing them all.
    • A running theme is that all the cases end badly, as the murderers are caught but inevitably die before they can be brought to justice.
  • Driven to Suicide: Mc Cormack in series 2, after betraying the department to the Kray twins.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: Buchan discusses the joy of detective work with Chandler in episode one as being the product of these. He is very sorry for Chandler that he doesn’t see or enjoy the eureka moments in the investigative process.
    • When Buchan thinks up a way to get Kray DNA. He even says: "eureka!" out loud.
    • A quiz night with Buchan and one of their excluded ex-team members provides Chandler with the connection he needs to link three massacres.
    • Buchan provides several in series 3, not just the quiz night bit, like Arthur Ford poisoning a co-worker with Spanish Fly.
    • Heck, this is practically Buchan's Catchphrase. In series four Riley wearily asks him to "stop saying that!"
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: The Krays.
  • Fair Cop: Both Chandler and Kent are quite handsome.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Chandler and Miles, over the course of series one.
  • Foreshadowing: Most prominently in the creepy sequences between major scenes. Although series three has an interesting one in the second major crime where Chandler names the unidentified bodies after women in poetry. It's his knowledge of art and poetry that enables him to find the heads of the victims, and therefore their identities.
  • Friend Versus Lover: An odd variation considering Miles is perfectly fine with Chandler having a social life and even tries to hook him up with several attractive female colleges, but the rest of the team (particularly Kent) are protective of their relationship on their behalf. When Chandler choses Miles's opinion over that of a female DI, the team are visibly pleased.
  • Gayngster: In the second season, Real Life bisexual gangster Reggie Kray is brought up (he's described as gay in the series), serving as inspiration to his supposed son Jimmy Kray, who presents himself as being the same. However, he may be lying as his "boyfriend" is a girl who's pretending to help him fill the role.
  • Genre Shift: Season four introduces the subtle but undeniable existence of the supernatural.
  • The Girl Who Fits This Slipper: The team track down a witness by matching the DNA found in the high-heeled shoes she had been wearing (she kicked them off to better escape her would-be attacker).
  • Greater-Scope Villain: In season 4 it's suggested that Louise Iver was ultimately responsible for inciting all of the crimes that the team has investigated throughout the entire series.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Kent shows shades of this directed toward two of Chandler's love interests in the third series.
  • Has a Type: When several women's body parts are brought to the pathologist over the course of several days, she eventually twigs as to a connection: they suggest a similar physical type. She suggests that the killer Has a Type and looks upon the bodies as "parts of a doll."
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Of a more metaphorical kind, when in series 1 Buchan destroys his reputation as possibly the world's premier Ripperologist which has taken 20 years to build to try and prevent the Ripper who, in the guise of a fan, asked detailed questions of Buchan on the message boards to ensure that his kills were authentic from killing his final victim. Even Miles, who really doesn't like Buchan, admits that it took courage.
  • Hidden Badass: Chandler doesn't come off as especially physically capable or tough, seeming to be a posh, bookish man with no real physical assets other than moderate physical fitness and an ability to take a hit. Then in series 2, he goads Jimmy Kray, who previously physically intimidated him, into a boxing match, soaks up his best hits for an entire round, waiting until he gets tired from smoking induced loss of stamina, then thrashes him into a corner, leaving him with a significant black eye and a cut on his face. And it's all to get his blood and therefore his DNA to prove he isn't a Kray. He reveals that he'd been the boxing champion at his college.
  • History Repeats: The point of the entire series.
  • Jack the Ripoff: The whole premise of the first series.
  • Hope Spot:
    • Chandler making jokes in S4 E4 buoys up the team, but by the end of the episode, after losing yet another suspect, he has completely lost his sense of humor.
    • In the series 4 finale the team captures an entire cult of murderers, gets them into the custody van complete with an escort. In the middle of everyone celebrating they get the call that the van crashed, killing everyone inside.
  • Idiot Ball: During Series 1, the sheer length of time that various people suspect Buchan might be the Ripper copycat, based solely on his in-depth knowledge of how the murders were committed. This is despite the fact that, (as he rightfully points out), there are millions of Ripperologists who possess the exact same knowledge and it can easily be found online!
    • In fact lets not go over how incredibly incompetent the entire department is at times, especially in season 3.
    • The entire murder department completely dismisses the idea that the serial killer could be the carpenter because they saw him walk normally once, completely ignoring the fact he worked with all of the victims and literally anyone could tell you a man has the ability to hide a limp
    • Nobody even considers following up the missing persons link until after the killer kills 4 more girls that look like her.
    • Two officers guarding a possible killer (or conspirator at least) leave to get her a cup of tea.
  • Ignored Enamored Underling: Kent should be the page image.
  • It's All About Me: After her entire family is killed, all Lola can do is whine that she's not going to be taken care of (as in, no one's going to rub her feet or make chocolate drinks for her. Seriously).
  • It's All My Fault: Buchan takes his job very seriously, and when he's slow on the uptake regarding the proper research, he blames himself for the deaths that happened in the interim.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Buchan isn't exactly a "jerk", but he's a very pompous, self-important Manchild — yet with a very strong moral conscience. Right from the start he points out that though he's fascinated by Jack, he in no way admires what he did.
  • The Law of Conservation of Detail:
    • Whenever Chandler visits the hospital, the camera takes the time to linger on a red-headed nurse. She ends up being the Ripper's last victim, as anyone with knowledge of Mary Kelly's distinctive red hair will probably be able to guess.
    • In series 1 the color red is shown every time someone or something strongly connected to the murder appears.
    • Those playing close attention in the hospital will also notice that the ‘doctor’ who ends up being the murderer is the only one seen wearing dark wine-colored scrubs, rather than blue or purple like the others.
  • London Gangster: The focus of the second series, with the infamous Kray twins. Ronnie's supposed sons have returned and seem to now be taking over the London criminal underworld.
  • Loners Are Freaks: Miles' reaction to Edward Buchan, the obsessive Ripperologist.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Season four plays heavily with this trope. Although many things are explained, by the end the writers have definitely introduced the existence of the supernatural. Special note should go to the possibly demonic characterization of the mysterious little old lady, and the psychic's final message for Chandler. It would seem Whitechapel really is 'the gates of hell'.
  • Meaningful Background Event: Louise Iver can be spotted throughout the course of season four, lurking away in the background, watching the detectives go about their work.
  • Meaningful Name:
  • Misplaced Retribution: The bad guy in episodes 1 and 3 of series 3.
  • Mistaken for Gay:
    • Chandler. Hinted at in series one and two Out and outright stated in S3 E1. Miles asks Chandler why he hasn't married, citing civil partnerships, when Chandler says that isn't the reason he doesn't actually say he's straight.
    • Series 1, when Chandler arrives at Miles' birthday, Miles says he could have brought someone, "A partner." To which Chandler replies, "I'm not gay."
  • The Mole: Fitzgerald in series 1, Mc Cormack in series 2.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • Buchan, after learning he gave the new Ripper all the information he wanted to commit the crimes.
    • Buchan again in series 3, now working as the team's researcher he blames himself for not finding the information they needed early in the investigation.
    • Chandler gets a minor one when he realises he falsely accused Kent of being The Mole in S2.
    • In Series 3, when they inform Nathan of what "Max" has been doing to his love interests.
  • Naïve Newcomer: Chandler in series one.
  • Naked People Are Funny: Averted. One young man witnesses a murder and runs out into the street in a panic. He's so terrified that he's completely forgotten he has no clothes on, and the scene is played completely seriously.
  • No Bisexuals: In regards to the dead Ronnie Kray, he is always described as homosexual. However, the real man mostly called himself bisexual, which is born out by his documented relationships with women (he was also even married twice).
  • Our Demons Are Different: It's possible they're little old women in red hats.
  • Police Are Useless: Outside of the team, this is very much the case. They release prisoners because they get spooked, let a woman kill another woman in custody (did both guards really need to go get her a cup of tea?) or are corrupt and in the pocket of the Kray twins.
  • Powder Keg Crowd: One shows up when detectives arrested a suspect in a cinema theater. The arrest gets the crowd angry that the detectives needed to go to the back to avoid being mobbed.
  • Primal Fear:
    • The first villain in Series 3 uses the Primal Fear of the dark to his advantage.
    • Nearly all of series three's villains use this.
  • Remember the New Guy?: In series two, it's suddenly revealed that Kent has a never-before seen or mentioned twin sister (you'd think this would have come up when they were investigating the Kray Twins!).
  • Replacement Goldfish: The killer in the second episode of series 3 tries to replace his First Love with various other girls who look like her.
  • The Resenter: Marcus Salter, a photosensitive man who hates his half-brother for making him The Un-Favourite.
  • Retool: The third series drops the copy-cat killer angle and instead uses the pattern of historical murders being used as a precedent for solving contemporary crimes. It also brings Buchan on board as a semi-official researcher for the team (installed out of sight in the basement), and drops the three-episode mini-series for three Two Part Episodes. The fourth series then plays off this new setup and focuses more on the possibly supernatural and adds more horror concepts.
  • Revolving Door Casting: The three original cast members have remained, but of the supporting cast only one of the original investigation team is still on the show: one was Put on a Bus, one was Driven to Suicide, and the last suffered Chuck Cunningham Syndrome.
  • Rule of Scary: Series three is built on this trope, in which practically everything is designed to be as scary as possible. Even the team's work station is shadowy and ominous, as are throwaway characters. One witness is a creepy voodoo lady, who could have just as easily been a housewife with curlers in her hair, except that a voodoo lady who describes a suspect as "the devil walking in Whitechapel" is just plain scarier. Then series four happened and focused even more on horror and the unknown.
  • Samus Is a Girl: Jimmy's "Blond Boy".
  • Sanity Slippage: Happens to all of the main cast throughout season 4. In the final episode it's revealed that it's at least partly the result of gaslighting by Louise Iver.
  • Shame If Something Happened: How the Krays threaten Miles.
  • Sham Supernatural: At one point the investigation into a series of murders leads the team to a night club, where someone is seemingly finding victims. Tracking a suspicious man dressed in gothic Victorian clothing they stumble onto him seemingly revealing himself to be a vampire and about to bite into a woman's neck, only for it to turn out its simply a costume and a form of elaborate roleplaying designed to persuade women to sleep with him leaving Inspector Chandler in utter disbelief.
  • Shower of Angst: Chandler is seen sitting fully-clothed in the shower during his Heroic BSoD after Cazenove commits suicide so close to him that his brains splatter onto him.
  • Single-Minded Twins: Played with. The mystique of the Kray twins lies in this trope, but Joe realizes that Jimmy is more psychotic than his brother and seeks to exploit this by dividing them.
  • The Smurfette Principle:
    • In the first series, pathologist Caroline Llewellyn is the only female character who isn't a Ripper victim.
    • In series 3, Megan Riley is added to the team.
  • Spoiled Brat: The three "victims" of the killer in the first episode of series three. He murders entire houses full of people so that the survivor has to grapple with the horror of finding the bodies.
  • SWAT Team: CO19 gets called in to assist the detectives and their uniformed colleagues when a suspect is armed with a firearm and/or to provide tactical support.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: Jimmy Kray's "boyfriend" was revealed as female. She's pretending so Jimmy can be perceived as gay like his supposed father, Ronnie Kray.
  • There Are No Therapists: Played straight in the first two series with Chandler and his OCD. Averted in the final arc of S3, where we see Ed in therapy and the therapist herself becomes an important character.
  • The Unseen:
    • Miles's wife and kids are only ever seen fleetingly. It's not until the third series that we get a brief glimpse of his wife's face.
    • Dr Llewellyn is pregnant in series one and four, but we never see or hear anything of her family.
    • Riley's husband is never seen, and her kids are only seen in the photograph she keeps on her desk.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: In Series 2, this is Cazenove's reason for working with the Krays, and helping them make their "Empire of Crime". Not quite utopia, but Cazenove sees it as better to have one strong crimelord than lots of minor criminals.
  • Wall Crawl: In the stylized sequences that occasionally flash between scenes, there is a split-second image of a man in episode one of series three that demonstrates this trope. Its meaning is inexplicable until you reach the end of the episode and it's put into context.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • In the first series, the Ripper's first victim is a woman called Emma Jones, who actually survives the knife attack but ends up in a coma. We never learn whether she recovered or not.
    • Despite having a major role in the first two series Commander Anderson is never seen or heard from again.
    • In series 3 each episode has a Red Herring suspect, one which is built up considerably and become rather a fascinating character in their own right - though thanks to the nature of the show, they are dropped as soon as the detectives realize they weren't involved in the case.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • Miles delivers this in the form of an Armour-Piercing Question to the audience of the police awards ceremony at the start of Season 2.
    • Buchan, during Season 1, when he gives up the Ripper tour in disgust at the now more visibly morbid obsession with the deaths, especially those caused by the new Ripper, demanding 'Where's your decency and compassion?'
  • Yoko Oh No: On being questioned about rivalries and jealousies in the band, a groupie insists: "I'm not a Yoko."
  • Younger than They Look:
    • One of the suspects in the Ripper case is an Eastern Europe refugee who is twenty three but looks much, much older due to the death of his family, a gun-shot wound and all the suffering he's been through.
    • A suspect in S3 looks to be about 28/29 but is actually 22. His age is actually a plot point.