Monday, May 19, 2014

Foreign Television – Jekyll

Jekyll is one of my favorite things ever. Flawlessly written and wonderfully acted, this thriller is a gem that keeps viewers on edge and guessing until the last second. From the BBC, this English miniseries stars the brilliant James Nesbitt (Murphy’s Law, The Hobbit) as Tom Jackman, a psychologist and researcher. At midnight each night, he becomes … something else. A bolder, rowdier, “Type A” version of himself who is physically distinct from Jackman. He has no memory of what he does as this person, but they have struck a “deal” of sorts. Jackman gives his alter ego rules (always leave car keys nearby when the transformation happens, try to stay clothed, use condoms). In return, Jackman won’t try to end his existence. Jackman is direly afraid of the man (we’ll call him Mr. Hyde, for lack of a better term), and secretly breaks his word as he tries to discover where Hyde came from and how to dispatch him.

There is also a clever connection to Robert Louis Stevenson’s original The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. There are so many insane twists and turns in this show. When Mr. Hyde finds out Jackman is married and has children, he visits his family as his "brother"—is it just curiosity or does he mean them harm? When street toughs rough up Jackman and his wife, Hyde later pays them a terrifying visit. When commandos capture Hyde for a secret organization, they find they have bitten off more than they can chew (oh, did I say “bite?”). The biggest surprise comes with the revelation of what Hyde is and how he came to be. It comes together so beautifully, so organically, in the script.

The script to Jekyll is a wonder to behold. Characters have a depth unseen on most television shows and always surprise you. Just when you think the plot is going to zig, it zags at 300mph. Nothing is predictable or plays out as you might think. Jekyll is only six episodes, and each one opens like the layers of an onion to advance the story. Television doesn’t get any better.

Jekyll is available on Netflix and at Amazon.

Rating: ***** out of 5 stars

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