The Ripper review: Is it Netflix’s next must-watch true crime thriller?

September 1979: Six of the young women murdered by Peter Sutcliffe, known as the Yorkshire Ripper. Top left to right; Vera Millward, Jayne MacDonald, Josephine Whittaker and bottom left to right; Jean Royle, Helga Rytka and Barbara Leach. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
September 1979: Six of the young women murdered by Peter Sutcliffe, known as the Yorkshire Ripper. Top left to right; Vera Millward, Jayne MacDonald, Josephine Whittaker and bottom left to right; Jean Royle, Helga Rytka and Barbara Leach. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images) /
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The Ripper is now available to stream on Netflix 

You may think you’ve heard of The Ripper, but you don’t know Jack…because it’s not that Ripper.

Before we delve into a The Ripper review of the Netflix new release, let’s clarify which Ripper we’re talking about. If you’re like me, you may have assumed this is another documentary about Jack the Ripper, the infamous serial killer who terrorized London in 1888.

Nope. Wrong Ripper.

Wait. What? There was another one? As it turns out, yes.

The Ripper synopsis

Almost a century later, in 1975, a serial killer started hunting women in England. This time, however, not in London. He started in West Yorkshire, where he claimed most of his victims’ lives, but he also struck in Manchester.

That’s what The Ripper is about. Netflix’s new four-episode true crime documentary tells the story of the serial killer known as the Yorkshire Ripper who killed 13 women from 1975 to 1980.

Similar to another popular Netflix true-crime docu-series, Unsolved Mysteries, there isn’t a narrator. The Ripper uses footage from the era, as well as first-hand accounts of people who were involved in the Yorkshire Ripper case. This includes relatives of the victims, policemen, forensic investigators, reporters, and citizens who lived, worked or went to school in the areas where the Ripper struck during that time.

No Ripper review would be complete without also mentioning the deep respect the documentary pays to the victims, most of whom but not all, were prostitutes. The documentary makes sure to honor who they were beyond their occupations.

The documentary also attempts to shed light on why many of them may have turned to that means of making money by explaining the economic situation of that time. It also explores the overall social changes taking place then too, including shifting moral values and the women’s rights movement.

A lot of factors played into perhaps what motivated the killer to start his spree then, but The Ripper also addresses the elephant in the room: why couldn’t the police catch him?

The fact that most of the women were prostitutes who were killed in red-light districts didn’t help. Although, it wasn’t like those cases were put on a backburner either. The police were very actively investing time, man-hours and new tactics to try and catch the Yorkshire Ripper. It was a massive effort.

The community needed to bear some of the blame, too. Even though people found the murders shocking, there was also apathy and a reluctance to come forward with information, especially other ladies of the night and their clients.

However, once he started targeting “respectable” women in middle-class neighborhoods, that did seem to spark more of a desperation to catch him.

But even before that, the police were doing everything in their power to try and catch the killer, even though the popular opinion was that the killer had bested them, which he sort of had. The problem, besides lack of cooperation from potential witnesses, was that he didn’t leave behind many clues.

Of course, given enough time, the tide eventually had to change. The Ripper’s luck ran out, and the police finally caught a break.

The Ripper: Is it worth watching?

As uncomfortable and awkward as it is to admit, some true crime documentaries are more riveting than others. So what’s the story with this one? Is The Ripper any good?

Since it just released today, at the time of this writing there isn’t a lot feedback yet. So far it’s got 7.6 out of 10 stars on IMDB, but there’s not enough data for Rotten Tomatoes or Google Users to make assessment yet.

Stylist reports that some relatives of the Ripper’s victims who worked with the documentary’s producers and whose interviews were among those featured are now criticizing Netflix for “glorifying” Peter Sutcliffe.

Post-humous spoiler alert: Unlike Jack the Ripper, the Yorkshire Ripper was caught and that’s who was charged.

The Ripper is a must-watch for true crime lovers. I woke up early to start watching and was hooked. Each episode ends with a hook that made me want to click “Play Next Episode” instead of waiting for it to auto-play.

I felt less emphasis was placed on Sutcliffe and more on his victims. Much more. It’s actually something that endeared The Ripper to my viewing sensibilities.

That and the fact it asks the hard question to the police: why did it take so long to catch him? In their own words they admit what they did wrong and the pressure, scrutiny and low morale they endured during those years.

I felt it was an honest and thorough look through a variety of lenses at all angles of the case.

But, of course, you, true crime viewer, will be the ultimate judge of whether you like this doc or not.

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