The Ripper is a true-crime series directed by Jesse Vile and Ellena Wood that was released on Netflix in December 2020.
The four-part miniseries recounts the events and investigation surrounding the murders of 13 women that took place in West Yorkshire and Manchester between 1975 and 1980. It would eventually be determined that these incidents were inextricably linked by the man carrying out the killings- English serial killer, Peter Sutcliffe. Dubbed the Yorkshire Ripper by the press, journalists were taken with the similarities to the murders conducted by the notorious Jack the Ripper and used the name to spark interest in the public. This series follows the chronology of events and is told through interviews with investigators, journalists, survivors, and family members of victims.
For five years, between 1975 to 1980, the Yorkshire Ripper murders cast a dark shadow over the lives of women in the North of England. 13 women were dead and the police seemed incapable of catching the killer. No one felt safe – and every man was a suspect.
I have loved watching Netflix’s true-crime series based on American crimes and serial killers, so I couldn’t wait to watch this latest one based on a British criminal. The Yorkshire Ripper is one of Britain’s most notorious serial killers so I was eager to learn more about him. But The Ripper isn’t that kind of documentary. Instead, it focuses on incompetencies of those involved with capturing the serial killer who allowed him to murder 13 individuals before finally succeeding.
It’s an interesting investigation that certainly takes a unique approach. Part of me loves how it focused on the effect that the Yorkshire Ripper had, detailing how he was one of the first criminals to make women cautious of leaving the house on their own. I liked this approach, focusing on what his actions resulted in rather than what led to his actions.
The victims certainly deserve this compassion, but I don’t feel like I got to know anything interesting about the Yorkshire Ripper himself. I watch true-crime documentaries because I want to get inside the mind of the criminal, but you don’t even come close to that with The Ripper. You don’t even see a picture of Peter Sutcliffe until the last episode.
The infuriating idiocy and misogyny of the police are certainly worth highlighting, but I just wish there was more of a balance as I didn’t find it as gripping or as shocking as previous true-crime series on Netflix that I have devoured. If it were released on ITV, I may have been more forgiving.