Mother Knows Best

As part of his four part review on season five of American Horror Story, Connor Taylor has analysed episode three and how this individual story links to fear.  Connor is a third year English and Creative Writing student.

We are all well and truly on the train with American Horror Story and with episode three been and gone, we are left with a sour taste in our mouth and a fresh cold sweat on our skin. It has to be said that there was something incredibly unnerving about this ‘mother’ of an episode we recently received. The episode starred an important interaction between the twisted mother Iris (Kathy Bates) and her distant and drop dead something son, Donovan (Matt Bomer).

Following my first contribution of this four part article, speaking of the fear of abandonment, we will consider another fear which can hopefully give some closure to that gnawing unsettled panic, which troubles the mind from one week to the next.
But what could possibly be behind the fear or anxiety, of a rough patch between a mother and her son?


“The fear of eternally and unendingly being single… Forever.”

Everyone in their life – at least it seems so – wonders if they will die alone. If you don’t, you at least will, now. We are beings of a recognisable community and even those who enjoy their own solitude do not wish to leave the world in a state of unbridled loneliness. It is indeed a depressing topic but there is some small comfort in which yet again, AHS subverts against you in a destructive masochistic, sweet, sort of way. Family is a crux on which we as mindless creatures so heavily depend.
Delightfully twisted in her ignorance, the mother Iris, tries desperately to rekindle a relationship with her child even after the years that are most important to maternal development, have withered away. Of course we could speak about the sadness of abandonment or the dissipation of feelings towards our parents, but the fear of being single – or freshly single – is something which will remain with us for a troublesome period of time. This fear is not experienced by everyone. Even if everyone feels it from time to time, it only remains with a majority: some people actually enjoy their ‘alone time’.
Mother issues are certainly rife in this season and of course we could spend an eternity writing about Donovan’s mother issues and the significant element of Gothic within that estranged gentleman. However we’ll consider Iris, a lost soul whose whiny dialogue sounds as if it has poured vehemently from the pages of a screaming classic Gothic novel.
Take, “I don’t know who I am if I’m not your mother” for example. Of course there was plenty more to talk about but to keep it as free from spoilers as I can I will mainly summarise. We hear how Iris left Donovan’s father, how he was good for nothing and how she was almost tyrannical in her mothering, yet so neglectful with her care.

There is something oddly unsettling in the powerlessness of her speech and how beneath all the turmoil in it, it sprouts seemingly from her jaded feelings. She talks of her husband as if there existed nothing but bitterness, but clearly she had taken enough time either in herself or with him to passively alienate her son. Now grown and sad, she clambers to the only other person she can writhe any emotion out of to sustain her broken psyche. Of course it is all too late. Her descent into madness seems ripped from the tales of an empty castle or a solemn ghost.
The AHS writers have worked hard crafting an almost perfect modern Gothic mother and try desperately among the self-pity and loathing of her lines, to work wonders within the female character form. It’s easy to write the main protagonist as strong and valiant but there must be more than one shifted type of emotion and “consequently the Gothic mode — and in particular the concept of self as monster — is associated with narratives of female experience” (Stein, 1983 p123-137) thus, the need and potential in Iris’ tale arises.
She doesn’t want to die alone…
Even near the end when she tries to end her life she turned to someone else to do it; perhaps not because she is too afraid of death (she works in a hotel made for murdering and from the first episode she certainly seems to at least know how to work some death traps) but because she wants to be in the presence of another. Even if it is Sally (Sarah Paulson) who she hates – and killed. Overall, I do not like Iris. I believe, in a sense, she comes across neglectful but I myself have never been in a position where I had to fend tooth and nail for my children or against a husband. She did, however, appear to ruin her son’s diet and cause a disgusting accident in school because of it, as well as seemingly ruling and confining his life.
The writers of the show make me hate, yet sympathise, her character all at once and it is very confusing for me.
Episode three was about development and character, and it most certainly gave this season of AHS a kick in the right direction; being one of the good ones. I, in particular, can’t wait to see more of the show and work at looking into – at least lightly – the things that go beneath the surface of an accustomed reality.

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Jekyll and Hyde: Episode 2

Michelle McCabe reviews the second episode of ITV period drama series, Jekyll and Hyde.  Michelle graduated with an English and Creative Writing BA (hons) earlier this year and is currently studying an MA in English Studies.

When I re-read The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886) last year, I asked my teenage son if he fancied reading it. His response was that there was no point as the big reveal at the end of the story has been over-exposed and therefore would spoil his enjoyment of the novella. I would disagree, however, as I believe the reader needs to step into the minds and shoes of those who were lucky enough to read this classic at the fin de siècle in order to bathe in the glory of the genius of RLS. Also, because the number of screen versions, are so different to the original that the discerning reader can look at it with a fresh pair of eyes and may be surprised. There are so many preconceptions and biases about the original tale because Jekyll and Hyde have been absorbed into the collective unconscious. It seems that anyone who is deemed to have a split personality is likened to the eponymous protagonists of this classic tale. I wonder though if this is why, when Charlie Higson decided to set the new series in the 1930s, he focused on Jekyll’s grandson rather than the original. This has been done before when the BBC made the six part series Jekyll (2007) starring James Nesbitt as a modern-day descendent of the mad scientist.

Last week’s episode was apparently greeted with complaints about the graphic violence and dark themes being shown at 6:30 pm and I wonder if this is why this week’s has being shown at a later time? Or perhaps it was just because the Rugby World Cup was finished. Whatever the reason, the second episode carried on littered with more little homages to the original such as the discovery that Grason, the barman in the Empire who helped Robert at the end of the first episode had been in service to Henry Jekyll as a Footman, or as he told Robert, as Jekyll’s ‘Assistant’ and indeed helped him in his experiments.

I loved the line ‘They do say that gloomy Victorian Gothic is coming back into style’ upon entering Jekyll’s deserted home.  This may not be true to the original text, but it was a nice tie-in: a living link between Robert and his grandfather. So Robert now has eyewitness accounts of who or what his grandfather was, as it appears that the other characters in the novella are now deceased and also a way of showing him what Jekyll’s experiments actually involved. Indeed Gabriel Utterson has, in the series, only recently died well into his nineties. This scene also mentioned Sir Danvers, the ‘beautiful’ MP, who is actually the only character murdered by Hyde in the story. In this re-boot, Carew is the supplier of ‘three vials of oil of monocane’ that seem to be the final ingredient that Jekyll needs to produce the compound that will split his personality in two. I look forward to more exposition of Sir Danvers’ relationship to Jekyll and Hyde as this seems to foreshadow why Hyde murdered Carew in this adaptation.

The series reminds me in many ways of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003), a film with crossovers from a diverse range of film and literature including Jekyll and Hyde, based on a comic book series, using these Ubermensch for the benefit of mankind. MIO (the Ministry of Intelligence Other – another nice touch about the Gothic) seems to be made up of monsters and a bureaucracy working for the greater good while helping the masses ‘cease to believe in gods and monsters’ as, according to Bulstrode, these monsters will ‘grow weak’ if this occurs. Bulstrode, played brilliantly by Richard E. Grant is the personification of the Establishment, acting in an Orwellian manner keeping surveillance on these monsters. Some things never change. We discover that Bulstrode wants to use Jekyll as bait for the mysterious Tanabrae organisation, which seems to be made up of dark satanic creatures. It’s revealed that Tanabrae is Greek for shadows, giving even more evidence of the evil it contains. Bulstrode mentions among others, Moloch, Loki, Beelzebub and most creatures of the zodiac, as being some of its members.

Another interesting trope that is being used in the series is the Madonna and the Whore scenario. Robert has met two very different women from opposite ends of the social spectrum in the forms of Lily and Bella. Lily being the upper middle class woman he meets on arrival in London and Bella, the East End landlady of the Empire drinking establishment. While Robert in the guise of Jekyll seems to be attracted to Lily, Hyde’s lustful thoughts seem to be about both. Jekyll seems to be the archetypal anally retentive product of his colonial upbringing in the British Empire’s Ceylon, while Jekyll’s personification of the id is rampant, randy and unrestrained. I do believe that Lily is ‘too good to be true’ and the mysterious mother who is never seen has to have some important reason for being mentioned, while Bella is vampish, voluptuous and very alluring, but has, in the time-honoured tradition, a heart of gold.

If the series continues as it’s started, I believe it will become a classic. Charlie Higson should be applauded for his research and staying true to the original, while still introducing original and exciting new storylines and characters that has left me on the edge of my seat and waiting impatiently for the next episode.

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The Walking Dead: Glenn vs Glenn and other deaths.

As part of the contemporary media series and fan fiction craze, Jennie Watson has reviewed the most recent episode of The Walking Dead series, against the comic book.  Jennie has recently graduated in English and Drama and is currently studying an MA in English Studies.


Credit: The Run Nerds

If you have not watched season 6 of AMC’s The Walking Dead, step away from the computer and watch it before reading any further! There is nothing worse than finding out one of your favorite characters in your favorite TV series has been killed off, than in a 140 character status. The warning signs were there, as you casually scroll through your news feed ‘OMG THE WALKING DEAD!’ followed only minutes later by ‘NOOOO THIS CAN’T BE HAPPENING’ leading to the penultimate status ‘NOT GLENN’. Whilst most TV series spoilers are few and far between, The Walking Dead loses main characters at a speed only matched by a walker’s ability to tear out somebody’s guts.
As a fan of the graphic novel series The Walking Dead I had an idea when they announced the television adaptation of who would be walker bait. Although the character relationships and means of death widely differ in some cases to the comics, what I like about the TV series is that they take the risks required to stay true to the comic book origins and kill off main characters. Not only by killing them but showing us their deaths in all of their bloody, gruesome, gut spilling glory. Don’t worry I am not one of those guys; you know the comic book super-fans who tear apart the TV series week by week.
Adapting any novel to the big screen requires a certain amount of change to cater to the mass market, especially when it is a series based production. The comics cater to a more niche market. AMC have handled this particular story with respect for the graphic novel whilst making changes that worked much better on screen than they would off. They opt for changes in deaths to add drama and suspense, an example would be Lori’s death in the TV series – people like a heroic death. They like a person righting wrongs in their last living moments and Lori does that. Whilst most women would sacrifice themselves for their child, Lori’s last speech to Carl is a touching moment. Carl then killing his mother to save her from becoming a walker feast again gives her a respectable death, she is eaten by the walkers post death, AMC are not that generous when it comes to characters avoiding some kind of gruesome end. But compared to the comics where she is unapologetically shot by Lilly on orders from the Governor, the death seems a more just end and leads for more suspense and drama between Carl and Rick.
This leads us to last week’s episode and Glenn’s underwhelming death. Whilst the internet is rife with theories that Glenn is still alive, in the comics his death was horrific, bloody and brutal leading to the question of, if Glenn is still alive, how many close calls will he see before his inevitable demise. In the comics Glenn is killed not by walkers but by villain Nagan. He lines up Glenn, Maggie, Michonne, Heath, Carl and Rick and insists one of them must die. Well we know where this is going…he of course picks Glenn and using his favourite weapon of choice (a baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire… nice touch!) He beats Glenn to an unrecognizable pulp.


The gory details can be seen in Issue #100 of The Walking Dead. It is pretty graphic so be warned! So for Glenn to die being torn apart by walkers in such an underwhelming, overused format would be a disappointment. Not only because Glenn deserves a good walking dead death, but it would leave a question over the direction the show was going, in relation to the comic book storyline. Nagan and ‘The Saviours’ play a huge role as main protagonist in the comic book series, coupled with Maggie’s pregnancy. Therefore there is still a lot of Glenn and Maggie drama teamed with nasty villainy to get through before Glenn should leave the show. I believe, after the success of the governor the producers and writers of the show would be crazy to miss out on another opportunity to introduce a villain and not just any villain probably the most brutal of the whole walking dead series. The question for comic fans is if Glenn is really dead, will we see Nagan? And if so who will meet this brutal end? Let’s find out next week on AMC’S ‘The Walking Dead‘.

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The Female Vampire in Children’s Animation

As an introduction to our new blog series: Children’s Gothic, Stephanie Gallon has provided a detailed look into the female vampire in children’s contemporary media.  Stephanie has recently graduated with an MA in English Studies.

The vampire is a universally recognizable creature, distinguished usually by its pale skin, odd dress and pointed fangs. For many American children, their first vampire is The Count, a character on the popular educational programme Sesame Street. With his Transylvanian accent and memorable laugh, The Count teaches children mathematics. He is a Dracula rip-off meant as an educational tool for the development of a younger audience. Most male vampires are deviated from Dracula; see Young Dracula, Count Duckula as examples.

Children’s television is unique in this manner though; while its primary objective is to entertain, the secondary objective demands education. It teaches children implicitly or explicitly lessons that can be applied to their own lives, whether it be a skill like spelling, or something broader like the value of friendship. It is interesting to see how they handle the vampire with this in mind.

This post will concern itself with the animated female vampire.

The animated vampire is most noticeably unhuman-like in its appearance. This because of the medium they are in, which allows for fantastical character designs that, may be unachievable on a live action budget. The vampire is often characterised with pale or oddly-coloured skin. They dress in eccentric or formal clothing, marking them as older and othered, even in worlds where they are not the only supernatural or strange being. They have fangs that are prominently displayed.


From 1999-2003, a popular children’s television show was Mona the Vampire. It was based on the short stories of the same name by Sonia Holleyman. Mona is not a true vampire like the other examples. She is a young human girl with a vivid imagination, who imagines herself as a vampire who goes on adventures. The episodes were structured in a formulaic manner: something strange would happen in Mona’s life which she would attribute to some unseen supernatural force. As her vampiric alter-ego, Mona could investigate the odd happenstances in her town. In the end, there was usually a rational, non-supernatural reason for the drama, though some episodes hinted that Mona’s stories had some truth to them.

Despite being human, Mona fits the appearance criteria for a vampire. She has pale skin and dark hair. As a vampire, she has prominent fangs, as does her familiar Fang the cat. Her uniform as the vampire was a white shirt, a bow tie and a floral cape. As part of her vampiric fantasies, she believes she is vulnerable to garlic and other vampire hunting tools. She of course is not.

What others Mona is her creativity. In a world of suburban problems, Mona sees the potential for something more. Here, vampirism is escapism. There is no reason for her to pretend to be a vampire other than a fantasy created by her own imagination.


In Adventure Time, a cartoon created by Pendleton Ward, the main vampire character is Marceline, the Vampire Queen. She is an old being, who is half-vampire and half-demon. She is one of the most popular characters in the franchise, and very much an alternative character in the colourful world of Oo. She wears grunge rock clothes and carries a guitar; she sometimes sports a half-shaved head.

Oo as a world is literally Candyland. Anthropomorphic pieces of candy roam the lands, with a monarch of one of the kingdoms being a literal piece of bubblegum. There are other monarchs, almost all princesses, but they are all edible or humorously odd, such as Muscle Princess. Marceline is played as a serious and important character. She is an embodiment of darkness with incredible powers, such as flight and turning in to monsters or a giant bat. She is a powerful and strong character who is drawn and written as different.

Direct sunlight can kill her, but she can avoid that with a large sunhat or parasol. She is not a villain character though. She lives on the border of good and bad, taking glee in mischief but operating on a moral code which puts her loved ones ahead of everything. Perhaps her most interesting attribute is how she eats: Marceline does not need to drink blood. Anything red will do.

Part of what makes Marceline an Other is that she is a queer character. To be specific, she is the ex-girlfriend of Princess Bubblegum. There is coded subtext within the episodes, but official confirmation came from the series creator and Marceline’s voice actress.

Marceline’s vampirism is a celebration of darkness in a bright show. She is not the only dark character, but she is given the most attention and is the only one the series hero calls a friend. She is sensitive, she is talented and she is deep. Her music is melancholic and sincere. Adventure Time is a silly show on its surface, but Marceline is never silly. Everything is played seriously.


Monster High is a web-series based on the popular doll line by Mattel. Its main cast are a group of teenage girls who happen to be the daughters of famous monster: Frankie Stein is the daughter of Frankenstein, who we assume is the doctor as opposed to his Creature; Clawdeen Wolf is the daughter of the Wolf Man, one of several litters; Cleo de Nile is the daughter of the mummy and a princess; Lagoona Blue is the daughter of the Creature of the Black Lagoon; Ghoulia Yelps is the daughter of a zombie, one of many who crowd the hallways of Monster High.

And of course, there is a vampire amongst them; Draculaura, the daughter of Dracula. Draculaura is 1601 years old, making her only a teenager in vampire years. She is bubbly, enthusiastic and a compulsive trend-follower.

Draculaura’s signature colour is pink. She has pink highlights in her hair, light pink skin, and wears a pink shirt covered in glitter and black lace. Her style is more formal than the clothes her friends wear, similar to the Gothic Lolita style popular in Japan.

What is interesting is that while Draculaura is a main character, she is not the protagonist. Often in these monster mash TV shows, the vampire is the protagonist. In the 1980’s paranormal classic Monster Squad, Dracula is the main antagonist. More recently in the animated children’s film Hotel Transylvania, the main story follows Dracula in his hotel. Even Gothic soap opera Dark Shadows is remembered predominantly for its Barnabas the vampire storylines. Not only this, but in media for young girls, the pink character is usually the main character—think Blossom in Power Puff Girls or Apple White in Monster High’s sister series Ever After High. Despite all this, Frankie is the protagonist who acts as a stand-in for the audience—someone new to this world, just as we are.

Perhaps the only drawback to Draculaura is her primary concern in life: she cannot see her own reflection, so she’s never sure how she looks. Her vanity and self-image issues are not a healthy message, but she is not the only character concerned with fashion. The series is, ultimately, about dolls and the many accessories that come with them.

Draculaura is not the only vampire in the series. In the season 2 TV special Fright On, we’re introduced to an all-vampires school called Belfry Prep, which had previously been alluded to. The vampires from this school are more aristocratic with preppy clothes, though they dress exclusively in black and red. They are more similar to a Twilight-type vampire, with similar hair and a hatred of werewolves. Draculaura exists as the typical good vampire—accepting, friendly and strictly vegetarian. She even dates Clawd wolf, the casketball star and her friend Clawdeen’s brother, proving she is more accepting that the other vampires.

Here, vampirism is made acceptable by alienating bad attributes. It offers bad vampires to play the villains, acting in the same capacity as the Twilight villains. She is made palatable by dressing her in harmless pink and hearts, and making her weak at the sight of blood. With her fainting, old-fashioned clothing and strong, supernatural boyfriend, Draculaura fulfills the role of Gothic heroine in a paranormal romance than she does the femme fatale we’ve come to associate with vampire women.


There are overarching themes in creating animated vampire women, but a common theme has emerged: they are always the Other, even in worlds where they are not the only one. Whether they are young girls with over-active imaginations, the shadow in a world of light, or the sensitive every-girl surrounded by cold others, these women are Others of their respective worlds. That they are vampires seems pure incidental, a sure-fire shortcut for conveying that these creatures of darkness are not like the others.

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“Checking In” On Fear

In conjunction with American Horror Story Tuesdays, Connor Taylor is writing a four-part review of individual episodes from the fifth season. He will discuss their relation to different aspects of fear. This first review discusses the pilot episode: Checking In. Connor is a second year English and Creative Writing student.

If you have not checked in already, the new season of American Horror Story has started and once you stay the night you surely won’t regret it.

If you have seen the first episode then you surely recall the appearance of ‘the addiction demon’ which gave us one of the most twisted and uncomfortable scenes we have seen from AHS in a long time. The scene involved the greasy, pale leathery, skin of the faceless demon, a large metal cone strapped to his groin and New Girl’s Max Greenfield (who we can no longer look at in entirely the same way).

Yet what really scared us about this shocking scene?

Everyone has something they fear, something deeper than the rational deterrence from pain and suffering which caused us to turn our head slightly away from the screen.


“The direct fear of abandonment. This can be irrational and possibly extends from the fear of letting others down. This can include a fear of being dismissed, cast out or excluded.”

There have been many studies into the effects of human isolation and the detrimental alterations it causes to the mind. Naturally we begin to function differently when placed in situations which render us incapable of human contact in even the slightest way. In its most minute form, that feeling we get when we’re alone, the one where we feel watched or uncertain, can sprout from the unease of the mind screaming for at least the presence of another.

What does this have to do with AHS though?

Well there were three characters present in the traumatic scene; The Addiction Demon (Alexander Ward) Hypodermic Sally (Sarah Paulson) and Gabriel (Max Greenfield).

It’s a common theme among works which sympathise with the immortal or estranged. We of course feel something for Gabriel during the time at which he is bound, it appeals to our need or want to see a dismissal of suffering…
But we do not sympathise with Sally, I hear you say. Are you sure about that? In the last few moments of Greenfield’s on-screen suffering we hear Sally ask for love. She seeks an utterance, a whisper, of affection which will remove from the world the suffering which plagues him. Don’t we all sympathise with wanting at least some affection, recognition, from someone? How long has Sally been alone and seeking such an insatiably need, addiction, for comfort? Is she the demon herself, like two sides of one rusted coin? …

What makes us so scared, so unnerved in the contract between Sally whispering for love, Greenfield’s tears and the macabre encounter happening half in and half out of shot. We want to turn away but we are forced to endure just a little longer and that played quite heavily into the autophobia most of us feel. In both cinema and writing, the sadness that comes from everything and everyone you love being dead is really something which resonates with audiences because it’s the exact opposition to the common family stability. What’s worse is the fear which comes from recognising isolation within yourself and searching outward for affection beyond addiction.

Autophobia aside, what we see is an appeal to one of our most primal fears, pain, and one of our most terrifying aspects, loneliness, conjoined together in a traumatic scene of death, rape, and suffering. Of course it’s made worse by the aesthetics and shock alone (we must not forget that) which at this point have already intrigued and somewhat bored us. As terrifying as it is I don’t think I can take another long hallway shot (even though I know there are many to come). They are meant to make us feel lost, that everything is the same… but it gets very old fast. Lady Gaga is oddly haunting and better within her role than I honestly expected. I thought perhaps it would be a season long advertisement for a new ‘alternative’ or ‘edgy’ album but I am yet to see any of that (although I don’t think I’d like to listen to music inspired by this season’s oddities).

All in all I am intrigued at where this is going. I have watched ahead and am preparing myself for episode four. Of course I am not without questions, questions I am preparing to answer with a look at more fears and perhaps something else too. Who is the strange woman? Why on earth are there vampires in the first place and when will I see more Evan Peters?

How Extreme Isolation Warps the Mind. Michael Bond. 14th May, 2014.

“Checking In”. American Horror Story: Hotel. Ryan Murphy. Fox. October 7, 2015

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A New Species of Jekyll, in ITV’s Jekyll and Hyde

As part of our Halloween Month, Janet Cooper reviews the first episode of new ITV period drama series, Jekyll and Hyde.  Janet is an MA English Studies Student and has a particular interest in Gothic Literature, particularly Victorian and Irish literature.

Credit: ITV

Credit: ITV

Sunday meant the arrival of the new Gothic series, Jekyll and Hyde.  I was not entirely sure what to expect and how the series would differ from the original novella, but I wasn’t disappointed.

The original novella was written in 1886, but this series begins 50 years later which takes us into the 1930’s.  The plot twists and demonic terrors kept me on the edge of my seat and I can’t wait for next week’s episode!

Robert Jekyll, travels to London when he is contacted about his possible entitlement to a family fortune.  Jekyll is an interesting yet unnerving character, as in minutes of the episode starting he displays super-human strength and a mysterious dark side.  He lives with his adopted family in Ceylon and is dependent on pills prescribed by his father.

His father supplies him with eight weeks of medication and this suggests that the drug is especially made for Jekyll, and will not be available on his journey.  This fits in well with the scientific element of the novella as Henry Jekyll is a Doctor of Science rather than a medical Doctor.  It is apparent that Robert Jekyll is suppressing an uncontrollable, yet supernatural urge inside of him and this builds up instant tension.  He appears to suffer from a brain imbalance caused through stress and anxiety, and no sooner does he take his pills, the chemical imbalance is restored and the darker side becomes suppressed once more.  The most obvious difference here is the fact that Robert Jekyll is taking the tablets to suppress the entity of Hyde, in comparison to Henry Jekyll in the novella who takes a potion to bring out the entity of Hyde (initially).

Credit: ITV

Credit: ITV

The appearance of Utterson, a lawyer, whose father is also a lawyer in the original version, gave me a comfortable sense of familiarity.  He believes that Robert Jekyll is the son of Louis Hyde, who is thought to be the illegitimate son of Henry Jekyll and therefore his long-lost grandson.  Louis Hyde was renowned for his strength, but he was also thought to be a murderer, like Edward Hyde.  I suspect that the mystery of Robert Jekyll’s birth will unfold in later episodes as we follow his past and present journey of self-discovery.

Strength is an important factor that links these men, as there is little evidence to suggest they are related.  The names Robert Jekyll and Louis Hyde are a delightful dedication to the original author of The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886), the talented Robert Louis Stevenson.

The excitement continued throughout the first episode as several undercover agencies are introduced, and are either chasing or employing degenerate and ab-human demonic creatures and some appear animalistic with longer necks, or on all fours.  Some can even shape shift.  Not only does the episode focus on Robert Jekyll as the protagonist, it also incorporated a strong back story of a demonic culture thriving in London.  During the 1930’s in London, a lot of changes occurred as refugees fled to London due to the movement in Germany.  This caused a lot of social and cultural unrest, and tensions were building in the years leading up to World War II as Germany became problematic and a threat to society.

In the meantime, a psychotic man takes a small army of demonic, ninja-like figures to visit the house of Jekyll’s adoptive family in hunt of him. The man himself is ruthless and will stop at nothing.  This small group is possibly a representation of Nazism spreading to London as they set on their hunt for Robert Jekyll.  His purpose is currently a mystery which makes the story much more interesting and another mystery that will unfold.

There is no doubt that the interference of these agencies contribute to Jekyll’s turn to the dark side.  Jekyll’s hotel room is burgled and his pills stolen by MI0 – a government agency that deals with monsters and apparently protects humanity. This type of undercover work fits in well as spies and detective work of all kinds were taking place in London, to prevent the enemy from gaining the upper hand and attacking.  The news arrives of Jekyll’s adoptive family being murdered in Ceylon, and without any pills to treat his condition, Jekyll loses control and is dominated by his very own demon.  Loss is a key trigger and he is left in London, alone, not knowing who, or what he is.  Without his drugs to turn to, he resorts to alcohol.

On his initial arrival in London, Robert Jekyll becomes attracted to, and strikes up a relationship with a girl named, Lily.  He saves her life on their first meeting and when he visits her at home to return her purse, he becomes angry with her elderly mother for being demanding and interrupting their time together.  Jekyll seems to be instantly drawn to Lily and goes out of his way to meet her again.  There is a fine line here between lust and obsession, and I am interested to see how their relationship develops and how he copes with Lily’s mother, and her continual demands and control over Lily.  Is love enough to save Robert Jekyll from a troublesome fate, or is Lily just an obsession, and will the nature of Hyde be too much for Jekyll to suppress on his own?  Only time will tell…

Credit: ITV

Credit: ITV

It’s hard not to pity this monster, as his initial good deed of saving a child in Ceylon has brought him suffering and turmoil.

What do you think of the first episode? Do you find yourself loving or hating Robert Jekyll?  Is society to blame for his behaviour or is he just simply evil?  Is evil in your genes?

So much happening in just one episode means that episode 2 has a lot to live up to next week.   With a new species of Jekyll, I am left wondering what the new species of Hyde has in store for us.

If you didn’t catch the first episode, you can catch up on ITV player and don’t forget to tune in next week on Sunday, ITV, at 6:30pm. 

*The images used in this article are the property of ITV, and permission was kindly given for them to feature in this article.

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Vampires and werewolves and warlocks, oh my…

As part of our Halloween Month, Tegan Stevenson, talks about paranormal romance and provides us with a recommendation of Dragon Bound, the first book in the Elder Races series by Thea Harrison. Tegan is a 3rd year English and Creative Writing Student at The University of Sunderland

Paranormal romance is the mix of the supernatural and the mundane. It is the idea that something more or less than human can have a relationship that transcends their limitations, whether they are social, lifestyle or personal boundaries. It is not always the case in modern fiction as it was in the early days of paranormal literature, such as Dracula by Bram Stoker, that the couples are a mix of creature and human. Often, contemporary writers use a completely supernatural relationship, e.g. a witch and a vampire, to mark the absence of humanity or the prevailing humanity in creatures who are traditionally inhuman.

The attraction to a creature such as a vampire or a werewolf is always up for debate. Is it power, experience or an animalistic nature that makes them so tantalising? There are an endless amount of mythological or legendary creatures to choose from for any writer wishing to break into the paranormal romance genre, but folk history makes some creatures more popular than others for mainstream fiction. Vampires, werewolves or other shapeshifters and magic users have shown an incredible popularity in recent years. For example, the popularity of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series saw an emergence in magic-related fiction.

Much of the contemporary paranormal romance on the market has a preference for female main characters. While the image of the brooding hero has endured, the characterisation of the female lead has changed dramatically over the last couple of centuries. The simpering maiden is no longer the most obvious representation of femininity within the genre. The women often have fighting skills or attitudes to rival the men.

When I’m asked to recommend a book I’m usually struck by the thought, “Which one?” For complex female characters and exquisite worldbuilding I honestly believe that Thea Harrison’s Elder Races series is as good as it gets.

Dragon Bound is the first book in the Elder Races series. It introduces the female lead, Pia Giovanni who is half-human and half-Wyr and finds herself doing a bad job of keeping a low profile. Dragon Bound also introduces Dragos Cuelebre, the most feared and respected of Wyrkind… and he is also a dragon some of the time.

Navigating a world of shapeshifters, vampyres, fae and more, the series is captivating in its storytelling and each book in the series introduces new couples, so it’s always a refreshing read in a familiar world. It is a great commentary on the effect of social power on romantic relationships as many of the characters, both male and female, have professionally dominant working lives.

Any more information about the series and the author can be found here:

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