REVIEW: Jekyll and Hyde Episode 1
ITV’s new Sunday night drama premiered last night and provided us with a lot to think about – and another reason to check under the bed before going to sleep. Eek.
It was an intense hour-long first episode, with a lot of information to digest. Instead of providing an obscenely long scene-by-scene explanation, here’s a quick recap of the important players in Jekyll and Hyde:
The Narajan family
Unfortunately we won’t be getting to know this family because [spoiler] I think they’re a one-show appearance. This charming little family give us an insight into the background of our protagonist Robert Jekyll, who travels to London and bumps into…
Careless Lily loses her mother at the docks before being attacked by three burly men. Jekyll swoops in and saves her in a Superman-esque display of strength, albeit slightly scarier (veins popping, etc, you know the drill). This new scary man then feels it is only right to kiss Lily without even saying please. Careless Lily then carelessly leaves her purse behind when she runs off to find her mother. Jekyll returns her purse to her the next day in a painfully awkward scene of teenage flirting and, after about five minutes of getting to know each other, they’re at it again. I think we’ve discovered the love interest here. After his initial encounter with Lily, Robert goes to see…
Max owns a law firm with peppy assistant “Call me Hil”. Max is the son of Gabriel Utterson, lawyer and friend of Dr. Henry Jekyll (Robert’s grandfather?). He provides us with the bulk of exposition. Gabriel tried to burn some important looking case files before he died, tellingly titled “The Strange case of Dr. Henry Jekyll and Mr. Edward Hyde”.
Robert sums up all of this new information nicely “Henry Jekyll killed himself. His friend murdered a politician. His son murdered a fellow officer in Turkey”. Somewhere along the road Robert was born and taken in by the Narajans who we return to only to find them being tortured and interrogated by…
Despite his quite endearing surname, I’m pretty sure this guy is bad through and through. After turning up at the Najarans’ house uninvited, he lets his creepy raggedy minions run riot and attack the Narajans’ young son, then sets the house on fire. Not cool at all. I have a feeling we’ll be seeing much more of him throughout the series in his attempts to hunt down Robert Jekyll. Although he’s not the only one chasing down our new hero. Also on the case is…
Led by Richard E Grant, the MIO or “Military Intelligence: Other” are a top-secret branch of the government set up to eliminate the monsters of the world. They are so good at their jobs nobody even knows monsters exist. Richard does promise us ghosts, ghouls, zombies, vampires and werewolves so that’s something to look forward to. MIO seem to be another foe for poor old Robert, one of their men has already stolen his anti-angry pills causing him to abandon all jolliness and go on a rampage in the…
Empire Music Hall
A lively, slightly dingy, watering hole run by the ballsy and beautiful Bella. Jekyll – now in full-on Hyde mode – decides to flex his muscles and smashes and crashes his way around the bar. Ending up with a knife in his back, it is up to Garson (Donald Sumpter) to try and keep him alive. It becomes clear that wise old Garson knows more than he’s initially letting on about Jekyll’s past, which is probably why Bella goes along with his seemingly bizarre instructions to kiss Robert. Three kisses in one episode – not doing too badly are you?
Our hero – or is he? A charming, young English doctor at the start and a crazed madman by the end. Writer Charlie Higson said he didn’t want his Hyde to be a “horrible monster” but instead “sexy, good-looking and dangerous”. I think I can say on behalf of all those with a pulse and a set of working eyes that Tom Bateman manages it – even with the slightly dodgy eyeliner. This juicy dual part must be ideal for an actor to get his teeth into and I’m sure this won’t be the last we see of Bateman.
Overall, it’s a good opening episode. There is some clumsy acting and overly theatrical language but by the end I was more accepting of the melodrama. After all it is a family TV drama and its cartoon-like villains and perky good guys are not that far off those from the BBC’s Doctor Who.
The series’ writer Charlie Higson said that he wanted to give the show a “superhero” quality and this actually explains a lot in terms of aesthetic and tone. The original Gothic horror element, in the Victorian sense, is quite removed from this depiction, instead focussing on the melodramatic in a comic book style.
Higson has a great opportunity to play around with this story, as a lot of viewers will already have some idea of the plot. We all have a vague awareness of the man and the monster storyline – even if only from its tenuous link to The Incredible Hulk. Those with some prior knowledge will have fun picking out the various clues along the way. Only a couple of minutes in Jekyll shows a toy to a little girl that can be flipped from a happy character to an evil one. Hint hint, wink wink.
Yet episode one has already shown us that this will not be your typical Jekyll and Hyde narrative, and I reckon they will try to keep us guessing at every point. The mere assurance of ghosts and ghouls in future episodes is enough to make me cancel plans for next Sunday evening. Oh and Tom Bateman’s jawline might have something to do with it too.
Jekyll and Hyde airs on ITV at 6:30pm on Sundays. Missed the first episode? Catch it on demand.