JEKYLL AND HYDE
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.