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Steven Moffat's JEKYLL
When I first heard that there was going to be a new version of DR JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE or rather THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE, I think I might have rolled my eyes or yawned. After all, if any story has been done to death it is THAT one. I held off on getting the series, watching the series, collecting the series until today. Yep. Today. I heard how great it was a few years ago (one? two?) from, well, everyone who watched it. So I bought it and didn't watch it. I hedged on it. Then I heard again how great it was. So I watched ep1 today.
James Nesbitt, I know he's been in other things but really...where did this great actor come from? He is great as both Dr. Jackman (our modern day Jekyll and supposedly as yet NOT a descendant of Jekyll---but the next ep says he is but can't be?huh?) and the unnamed alter ego who finds out he is named Mr. Hyde in the first ep. I know Gina Bellman from LEVERAGE these days and loved her in that and of course she plays the wife of Tom Jackman. I know Michelle Ryan from firstly MERLIN season one as a GREAT villianess. And PLANET OF THE DEAD, which I've warmed too and even warmed to her character in that. And as a pregnant lesbian, well played, the lady that played Agatha Christie in the giant bee ep of DOCTOR WHO. I've seen some of the others in other places, too but can't recall such as Denis Lawson (possibly HEX or SEA OF SOULS?). The cast is all great to be honest.
The story builds here and starts off...well, really really slow. There is snappy dialog though and that keeps things interesting as we know where this story is headed and...we're wrong, somewhat. The background is sketchy but I'm hoping there will be more answers as we do go on with the series. There are two sets of people following around Jackman, who seems to be on sabbatical from his job and his boss wants him back. Jackman is keeping the fact that he has a wife and children from ...well, we can call him Hyde now. As Hyde we supposedly get some of the humor of the show but truth is that this show has little to no humor aside from Jackman's turning into Hyde and seeing the difference. I still don't know if Billy in the alley is dead or not. And I care. Nesbitt makes you care for Jackman, even though Hyde is more likable in a way but in another way Hyde is dreadfully disgusting.
One of the things that is curious direction is the slap happy way of filming some of the scenes of Hyde. We get that old, old shakey heady thing way of filming, fast movements, super speeded up film, etc and it just doesn't work. I don't feel that ever works. It makes things laughable and this show didn't need that. Fortunately, it doesn't stop the premise from working. As Nesbitt sits and listens, as Jackman, to the two lesbians talking about Hyde, he, suddenly becomes Hyde just sitting there. This show NEEDS THAT KIND OF SCENE. THAT was scary and disturbing as the shadows envelop this man who just found out he has a family...and what will he do?
The clever things done here are many: one are having Michelle Ryan be a somewhat of a lab assistant, helper, watcher of Mr. Hyde who also has both Hyde and Jackman's best interests at heart. She feels Hyde should know of his family. The other thing is having some great big organization after Hyde or watching him and Jackman. This could go ssoo SO wrong though as big organizations might. If the first half is slow moving and not boring but building, the nthe second half delivers as Hyde shows off for the men following him, climbs a building, changes at will whereever and whenever he feels like it, seems to kill a kid in an alley or maybe not?, and then finds out about his family and gives them a first time visit, posing as Tom's cousin! WOW. Truly tense and adult with adult language and some mild sex and a bit of blood here and there. I wasn't sure what Jackman was going to find when he went to his childrens' room. It's a stunning move to give Jackman a family that he kept secret from Hyde and to have Hyde find out in the very first ep. It gives us much to admire and then to look forward to.
A couple of things don't add up: why would the woman helping them need her door totally locked up when earlier Hyde just falls into the apartment/home that Jackman keeps him locked in...or not. How can she protect herself from him when he's loose? How does Jackman get Hyde in the chair? What exactly is their arrangement? How does Hyde stick to it? Or why does Jackman? Why does Hyde not use less force as Jackman wanted him to? Some of it just doesn't make sense but maybe we will find out more later. If Hyde changes from stress or at will, how does Jackman think he'll stick to a schedule?
None of that bad stuff can detract from this series, the dialog, the script, the premise. It truly takes the best of JEKYLL AND HYDE although I did notice that Hyde climbs similar to the Hyde in ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET DR JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE. I also noticed that Frederic March, possibly the best HYDE was not mentioned in the run down of the movies that the black man told Hyde about.
A very good start to what promises to be a very good show.