Split­ting heir

SFX - - Reviews - Did you spot showrun­ner Char­lie Hig­son making a couple of cameos? He plays a tramp with a colan­der on his head.

Char­lie Hig­son’s Sun­day-night spin on Robert Louis Steven­son.

re­leased OUT NOW! 2015 | 12 | dVd Cre­ator Char­lie Hig­son Cast Tom Bate­man, don­ald sumpter, Natalie Gumede, stephanie Hyam

It’s a shame so much of the at­ten­tion fo­cused on Jekyll & Hyde has con­cerned whether it’s too scary for younger view­ers, be­cause Char­lie Hig­son’s su­per­hero spin on Robert Louis Steven­son is light years ahead of ITV’s last at­tempt to up­date a clas­sic hor­ror story – 2009’s woe­ful Demons.

Not that the 459 com­plaints re­ceived by Of­com af­ter the show de­buted in a 6.30 slot were en­tirely un­war­ranted, mind. As the orig­i­nal Jekyll’s grand­son, Robert (Tom Bate­man), slowly dis­cov­ers the truth about his mon­strous her­itage, there’s a glee­ful rel­ish to the way the show thrusts him into bar brawls and stab­bings. And the se­ries fea­tures a ver­i­ta­ble cav­al­cade of in­ven­tively out­landish grotesques, from lob­ster-clawed hench­man the Cut­ter (rem­i­nis­cent of ’70s Doc­tor Who’s Mor­bius mon­ster) to gi­ant lam­preys and a rot­ting zom­bie siren.

Along­side this violence and pu­tres­cence, it’s a sex­ily stylish show, too: the 1930s set­ting en­tails dap­per tai­lor­ing, sleek vin­tage cars and art deco interiors. There are mo­ments of cheeky wit – a se­quence which apes The Ap­pren­tice is par­tic­u­larly amus­ing. And it keeps the viewer on their toes, thanks to some star­tling twists and no one-is-safe char­ac­ter deaths.

At the cen­tre of all this, Tom Bate­man is ex­cel­lent, ca­pa­ble of both the Hugh Grant-esque vul­ner­a­bil­ity and Tom Hardy-ish mus­cu­lar­ity the role de­mands; it’s es­sen­tial that his dark side is ap­peal­ingly charis­matic, and Bate­man pulls that off by adding a dash of Heath Ledger’s Joker to his smirk­ing Hyde. Over the course of ten episodes Hig­son also in­tro­duces an im­pres­sive ar­ray of well de­lin­eated char­ac­ters, many of them em­i­nently love­able – Don­ald Sumpter is ex­cel­lent as the no-non­sense Gar­son, Al­fred to Jekyll’s Bat­man; jolly-hock­ey­sticks le­gal as­sis­tant Hils (Ruby Ben­tall) is an­other stand­out. It’s pleas­ing that so many of th­ese char­ac­ters are women, and that a prom­i­nent role is af­forded to Michael Karim as Jekyll’s Cey­lonese foster brother Ravi.

Is­sues? Well, they could ease off the Dutch an­gles – while they add to the comic book feel, at times it starts to be­come like watch­ing ’60s Bat­man. And while the strength of the char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion en­sures you stay in­vested as Jekyll is buf­feted be­tween se­cret gov­ern­ment depart­ment MI-O and league of mon­sters Tene­brae, the plot­ting isn’t al­ways that scin­til­lat­ing – much of the to-ing and fro-ing boils down to whether Jekyll will open a jar, and on the rare oc­ca­sions the se­ries leaves Lon­don it rather loses its mojo. There’s tremen­dous po­ten­tial here, but if Jekyll & Hyde is go­ing to have the longevity it de­serves it needs to do more to show that it can weave in­ter­est­ing sto­ry­lines that aren’t founded on ei­ther Jekyll’s back­story or the bat­tle for his loy­al­ties.

Ex­tras Four short fea­turettes (22 min­utes). Ian Berriman

His home-made potato wine had quite a kick.

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