Jekyll s1:5 review

Spoilers lie ahead, as Mark dissects the fifth episode of the increasingly intriguing Jekyll. It's the best yet, but with all sorts of problems...

After the unnatural dip that episode 4 represented, Jekyll returned this week with a real attention grabber, the full impact of which I’m still coming to terms with. I’m tempted to work through this one blow by blow, but don’t want to bore anyone. So I’ll take the plot main points and flesh a few out scenes.

In retrospect, this entire episode is a homage, with minor and major nods to a few classic films along the way. What it does is emulate the Taranatino flip in From Dusk Til Dawn, building the tension in dramatic fashion before flourishing into high camp and comedy.

In the first two thirds is built about a whole new revelation about the origins of Hyde, when the cask is opened to reveal him and not the good Dr. Not that this was a surprise, as we’re told his incarceration would ‘fix’ him in one personality.

Hyde emerges and then undergoes a series of visions, presented almost as VR, where he can experience Jackman’s life in small but rewindable chunks. “We’ve got Sky in here!”, he announces and later, “I’ve found the Adult Channel”, when he discovers an intimate moment from the Jackman’s past.

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The explanation for this I found massively unsatisfactory, the resident science geek explains that now that Jackman’s personality is ‘dead’, Hyde is now reclaiming the brain real-estate occupied by those memories. It’s a common modern analogy, but the brain isn’t a hard drive waiting to be wiped and reclaimed, as suggested. Perhaps ‘Click’ advised on this part.

But when the techno-geek in me was about to blast writer Steve nMoffat, he made me forget this mumbo jumbo by doing something totally unexpected. Hyde encounters a memory from the original Jackman, or rather the original Jekyll in the Victorian era.

What? How does that work? In it we see him meet Robert Louis Stevenson, author of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, to discuss the publication and it’s yet to be defined ending. Stevenson is ably played by Moffat pal and also another Doctor Who writer, Mark Gatiss, who presumably walked off his Doctor Who production onto this one.

In this scene Stevenson pushes Jekyll on the exact nature of the potion that transforms him, writing down its parts on a note so that they can be confirmed.

The note is burned…but Hyde has VR memory, rewinds observes the plot twist, and what a twist it is! Stevenson’s premise is that there is no ‘potion’, and the true source of the transformation is ‘the girl’, which as you’ve already guessed is the previous version of Mrs Jackman.

At this point I was having a significant WTF moment, because as strong a reaction I’ve had to sexy women, I have yet to experience extreme personality modifications and psychopathic tendencies. Perhaps I’m just not meeting the right types.

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The problem is that this doesn’t actually explain why Jackman and Jekyll look the same, or Jekyll’s housemaid Alice and Mrs Jackman, other than for the audience to follow what’s going on, which frankly might be a push at this point.

We go on then to see the Victorian Hyde killing ‘Alice’, who he sees as his only real threat. This is a complete setup for the flip sequence, where we’re lead to believe modern Hyde will kill Claire Jackman, and her kids are brought into the lab for good jeopardy measure.

At this point the tension had been cranked up, although it was slightly blown by a the preceding sequence which referenced the sorts of horror movies that rely on supposedly intelligent people being in a room with something they know that’s dangerous, but decide to totally ignore.

And then…the flip…Suddenly Hyde’s a nice reasonable person who wants to escape and help the Jackman’s to do so too. Claire doesn’t buy this, and I’m with her. It also requires that the TV monitoring is intentionally turned off by the organisation holding them in a Dr. Evil, ‘No no no, I’m going to leave them alone and not actually witness them dying, I’m just gonna assume it all went to plan’, moment.

Then the proceeds descend into high farce with a very obvious nod to Terminator 2, where Claire lays down the ‘no killing’ rules to Hyde, who then follows them in his own inimitable way. It’s quite funny, but all the tension that Moffat created earlier on is vented into space, and it’s never entirely reclaimed.

I’m not even going to mention what happens to the now superfluous-to-the-plot women held in the basement, because it’s downright silly. But Claire and kids are ultimately separated from Hyde, and he is left shouting “Why am I not Superman” on the roof of the building in frustration, as they’re whisked away by the power dressing American in a helicopter.

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This was the point where I came back onside, as the idea that without Jackman the Hyde character isn’t the real deal was great. As was the return of Jackman’s personality, ‘Daddy’s Back’, and the merging of the egos into one superhuman but rational being. It could have been me, but it looked at this time like one of his eyes was normal while the other was ‘Hyde’.

Having had the episode redeemed at the end, Moffat then had all his hard worked trashed by the BBC, who blipverted at least four big plot points from the final chapter in their trailer. Twits.

Overall, the episode was massively uneven if plenty of fun, possibly the most entertaining so far, if totally unbelievable in places. It got so camp at one point I thought it was degenerating into a pilot for a 1970s American TV show, where superhuman Hyde uses his powers for good, fighting crime for a well funded but secret foundation. It never quite got there, but it was on that greasy slope on a few occasions.

Can’t wait for episode 6 though, even if the idiots at BBC promotions tried to spoil it so effectively for us.

Find more from Mark Pickavance at his blog, Pickavance Unleashed.