Ripley review | Episodes 1-4

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Andrew Scott stars in the latest take on Patricia Highsmith’s most famous character. Here’s our review of Ripley’s first four episodes. 

Andrew Scott is having a bit of a moment. He’s coming off a critically acclaimed turn in Andrew Haigh’s masterful All Of Us Strangers as well as Uncle Vanya on stage in which he played a total of eight characters. 

Now, he’s set to charm audiences as the enigmatic, dark Thomas Ripley in Netflix’s adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel, The Talented Mr. Ripley. You may remember the novel was already adapted in 1999 with Matt Damon playing Ripley, while Jude Law was Dickie, the object of Ripley’s obsession and Gwyneth Paltrow played Marge, the doubting friend. 

Ripley, the new 8-part miniseries from Netflix, is a very different beast than the 1999 film, but nonetheless a riveting watch. All eight episodes are written and directed by Steve Zaillian and the 71-year-old The Irishman writer proves himself to be still in sharp shape when it comes to crafting excellent entertainment. 

ripley cast
Credit: Netflix

You’ll most likely already know the plot to Ripley. Scott’s Ripley is approached by a wealthy man who hires him to travel to Italy to convince his son Dickie (Johnny Flynn) to return to the States. Of course, all of Ripley’s expenses would be taken care of and Ripley couldn’t say yes quicker to such a luxurious offer. 

Once in Italy, Ripley is seduced by Dickie’s sumptuous, comfortable lifestyle. In the first two episodes, he’s enchanted by Dickie’s nice things; his rings, clothes, all the pretty things in his lavish apartment. The series quickly takes a dark turn as Ripley becomes more and more desperate to maintain his friendship and lifestyle with Dickie. 

When we first meet Ripley in episode one, he truly puts the artist in con artist. He is skillfully cheating people out of their money by pretending to chase up a missing payment for a doctor’s appointment, only to pocket the money for himself. Ripley might be a con man and a grifter, but he makes it into art. It’s almost elegant how easily he fools people. 

We then observe Ripley quickly settling into Dickie’s comfortable, luxurious life in Italy. He fits in nicely too; the leisurely walks, espressos on the sidewalk and expensive gifts suit him and he almost fools everyone to believe he belongs here. 

By the end of episode 3 though, Ripley’s lies are starting to fall apart, threatening to expose him to the world. Scott is truly mesmerising here, convincingly conveying Ripley’s growing panic while maintaining a calm exterior. As we get to episode 4, Scott really sells Ripley’s growing confidence in his new life and new sense of self. 

It’s not a physical performance in the traditional sense, but look carefully and you’ll see subtle changes in how Scott carries himself, how he looks at people, rarely blinking. It’s brilliant stuff and it makes Ripley compelling, even if you’re familiar with the narrative. 

Johnny Flynn, however, lacks a certain charisma that is desperately needed for the role of Dickie. It doesn’t seem fair to compare Netflix’s Ripley to the 1999 film, but humour me for a moment. Jude Law embodied the kind of sexiness that made us understand why Ripley is so obsessed with Dickie. Ripley wanted Dickie but also wanted to be him and Damon and Law fully sold the sexual chemistry between the two men. Flynn, who was brilliantly unnerving in Michael Pearce’s Beast, lacks that specific flavour of charm and his Dickie feels almost an afterthought in the series that’s so focused on Scott’s Ripley. 

When things get dirty and violent, as they so often do in these things, they happen in short, but brutal spurts. Ripley is, throughout, spectacularly stylish, perhaps the best looking TV show we’ll see all year. By the end of episode 4, one begins to question if there’s enough petrol in the tank to keep the series going for another 4 episodes, but this is a compelling, addictive start. 

All episodes of Ripley are now streaming on Netflix. Our review of the final 4 episodes will follow. 

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