Janet Cooper reviews episodes 3, 4, and 5 of ITV’s period drama series, Jekyll and Hyde as part of a three-part review to conclude last year’s spectacular series. Janet is a graduate in English and Creative Writing BA (hons) and is currently studying an MA in English Studies.
Sunday, November 29, 2016, signified the half way mark for Jekyll and Hyde on ITV by airing their fifth episode. I was immediately hooked with this ITV drama from the start and I must admit, I wondered if it could maintain momentum. How could this epic drama become any more enthralling?
Over the 3 episodes we have seen Jekyll’s alter ego, Hyde, becoming more and more powerful. He desperately tries to find out about his family history and turns detective, whilst still trying to repress the entity of Hyde that lives inside him, desperately trying to claw his way out and dominate Jekyll’s mind and body. He is assisted by his three comrades: Utterson, Hils, and Garson who, by the time the fifth episode airs, can be safely referred to as both his friends and most trusted advisors. The series is still keeping with the theme of cultural unrest including the women’s working movement, political issues and Jews seeking refuge in Britain as tensions rise with Germany’s uprising. Some are great allies to British intelligence whilst others clearly posing to be on the side of the British whilst really being on the side of the Tenebrae, whose values represent Nazism.
The back story of Ravi is an interesting one that carries on throughout the episodes. After escaping prison, he follows his father’s instructions and finds a hidden, underground room that holds medical information and experiment details that will help with Robert’s medical condition and help restore a balance of the right chemicals needed in his body to keep Hyde repressed. He manages to travel to England and is so close to Robert, and is then kidnapped. MI0, the British intelligence department who focus on the supernatural, hold him hostage and Bulstrode, hopes to persuade Hyde to work for them in their fight against the Tenebrae. Is there no lengths that a patriotic Britain will go to, in order to strengthen their cause? Somehow, I don’t think blackmail is the way to get someone like Hyde on your side and I can’t wait to see how this unfolds!
Robert is a stranger when he comes to London and he knows if he ever wants to get to the bottom of his condition, he needs to find out more. The character of Garson has proved a useful friend and resource in tracing Jekyll’s history and shedding some light on what happened to Henry Jekyll and his experimentation with Hyde as he worked as his assistant. After Jekyll saved his life, their relationship has developed and in episode 3, Garson trusts Jekyll’s intentions enough to feel able to inform him of who his grandmother is. They start their investigation to find Maggie in episode 3, with the help of Hils, and information from Isabella Charming. They do locate her in the end, as she lives in hiding but is shot by MI0, after they send in their own conditioned and brainwashed monster to fight with Jekyll. I think this highlights the brutality of tactics used in war. The monster is a little hulk-like as he is huge in size and an innocent old lady is injured by a weapon as a result of their attack.
Garson is also extremely useful keeping Lily away whilst Robert’s transformations are erratic, but he also uncovers Henry Jekyll’s potion to help Robert suppress Hyde as a temporary measure. A key ingredient called monocane is missing and this is only available from a rare lily situated in Ceylon, so they are in short supply of the potion. It’s good to see their relationship develop throughout episodes 3-5 and I can see the character of Garson becoming a loyal father figure to Jekyll.
The episodes also highlight the importance of female progression in the 1930’s, and women who had aspirations to do what would have been labelled as a ‘man’s’ job in Victorian times. Hils, Utterson’s daughter takes part in detective work, she drives (quite quickly in fact), and she does a lot of work for her father’s firm. The significance of the lily being the key ingredient in a potion that stabilizes Hyde symbolises the importance of Lily Clark, his love interest, being able to save Robert Jekyll from evil. Lily is not all that she seems as she shows Robert Jekyll her laboratory and it turns out that she was training in biochemistry at University before her mother became ill. She helps to save Maggie’s life in episode 3 by studying Hyde’s blood and working with Garson. Is Lily the character and the lily flower the key to saving Robert Jekyll from making a permanent transformation into Hyde? What’s interesting here is that the lily is in fact a known symbol of death. So will Lily be the key to saving Jekyll or effectively the killing of Jekyll?
The character of Hyde also has a love interest in Isabella Charming, the feisty nightclub owner. The female characters play important roles in helping Robert and unravelling the mystery of his past. Lily and Isabella are alike in some ways but opposites in others, and I wonder what will happen when they cross paths. I think that they both show traits of being strong, intelligent women which makes them similar. Lily is middle-upper class matching Robert Jekyll’s status. She conforms to social normalities of a lady by giving up her studies to care for her mother. Although she lives in a nice home, speaks and behaves properly, she shows intelligence and has aspirations too. She recognises that Robert has a medical condition and could be the key in treating this condition, enabling Robert to control and repress Hyde. Isabella owns a nightclub and is a very tough woman. She fights, drinks, and is quite capable of handling drunken men, unafraid to throw them out of her establishment. Isabella matches Hyde’s character, as he proves to be ungentlemanly, while she shows herself to be un-ladylike, yet she plays such an important role helping to unravel the mystery of Robert’s family as she has knowledge and information on Maggie’s whereabouts. Without her Maggie wouldn’t have been traced.
The Tenebrae also have a strong female figure as Captain Dance’s accomplice and lover. The story of Captain Dance and the Tenebrae continues through episodes 3 and 4. In episode 3, he arrives in England hot on Robert’s heels, along with a huge amount of monocane (the ingredient Robert needs from the rare Lily), in an attempt to control Robert. He is in fact inhuman, a monster himself and he is a key part of a Tenebrae: a ruthless leader. It isn’t entirely clear what their intentions are but it seems as if the Tenebrae are on some sort of take-over-the-world type mission and this certainly reflects Nazism. They want to recruit and use Robert Jekyll by any means necessary and even resort to kidnapping and blackmail, as they threaten Utterson’s life. Note that even though Tenebrae and MI0 are on different sides they both have a hidden agenda and are prepared to do whatever it takes (including blackmail) to get Hyde, who they view as an ultimate weapon, on their side. They introduce Robert to the Tenebrae entities that appear physically more monstrous than human. Dance is obviously a higher class member of Tenebrae, whereas the more monstrous creatures who appear zombie like skeletal figures don’t speak and attack on his command. He insists that Robert opens a stone jar (as a prophecy foretold that only Hyde can open this). MI0 snipers stand by on the roof as they cannot allow for the jar to be opened, yet Robert is in a predicament as Dance threatens Utterson’s life.
Even the change into Hyde can’t protect him as the Tenebrae have used what seems to be a force-field to keep Hyde at bay. They even hold the power to control when Robert Jekyll is himself, or changes to Hyde. Dance’s attempt to recruit and use Hyde means certain death for Dance. He was the ultimate bad guy of the story and it’s difficult to imagine what happens now without his character. He was ruthless for his cause and it made me wonder, who will replace him as the bad guy and how bad will he/she be? Maybe his lover will come back and seek revenge – a woman scorned! Another character is introduced by the name of Olalla, the name of another Gothic story by Robert Louis Stevenson, but we are still to see the significance of this. She was not with Dance, but she was with Tenebrae and managed to escape as a result of Dance’s death. I don’t know what the significance of this character is but I do hope that this is another strong and knowledgeable female character.
What’s interesting here is that the two opposing forces resort to the same tactics. The Tenebrae and MI0 all recognise the power of Hyde, and they want to use it to their own advantage. Robert is treat as an inferior creature because both gangs feel the need to blackmail him into helping them rather than treating him as an equal. Attempting to dominate the dominating force is only going to create further conflict because they don’t just want him, they want to control him and Hyde is never going to be treat like that. The only possible explanation here is that they are afraid of what it will mean if Hyde is unleashed. This behaviour is only likely to antagonise Hyde and it will certainly not entice him into helping them!
The Tenebrae certainly represent the Nazi regime but the British intelligence will also stop at nothing to grow their own forces and this was a desperate time in history. Everyone wants the most powerful weapon on their side and are trying to control it through any means necessary. This would certainly be the case during the war and some supernatural beings are already recruited on MI0’s side, so they have already been able to infiltrate others into joining their cause. This represents a whole world of spy tactics such as double agents, and Jews or non-Nazi Germans’ helping British intelligence to be rid of a common enemy.
In all of these episodes, Robert always turns into Hyde conveniently, at the right moment in order to protect Jekyll’s friends and family. In episode 1, he rescues a young girl and then Lily. In episode 2 he rescues Garson, in episode 3 he saves everyone, making sure they escape – including Maggie who he goes on to save in episode 4 with Hyde’s blood. In episode 4, he saves Utterson from Captain Dance and the Tenebrae. If Hyde is such an evil entity then why does he appear when it’s time to save Robert Jekyll’s friends? Why does Hyde care? Robert Jekyll is a fumbling, yet intelligent, young gentleman, yet his transformation into Hyde is refreshing.
Hyde has no fear, he is witty, strong and manly, even his demeanour, expressions and body language become more appealing when Hyde takes over. The interesting point here is that Hyde is the protector of Robert Jekyll’s friends and family, and even Robert Jekyll himself. Maybe Hyde’s persona hasn’t reached its full potential yet but I certainly see his character as an anti-hero. He is very much a rounded character in comparison to the flat characterisation of Robert Jekyll. Dare I say he is the better half? He is certainly someone I would like to have on my side and Tom Bateman plays both characters very well indeed.
Episode 5 seems to step away from the conventions of the other episodes. Just when it seems that there is no hope, a hint of a name of a distant family relative is traced: the Jezequiel family. On arrival at a pub, Robert and Utterson receive a less than warm welcome and are warned of the legend of a mysterious and murderous black dog that stalks the countryside.
Renata Jezequiel lives remotely in the countryside in a very periodic and grand home, yet it is unkempt, with no outside communication. There is a very Gothic atmosphere, and it’s a spooky place with their own little down-trodden chapel for good measure. Her husband died just a year previous and there is talk of her son but she states he is at University, but there is something very unwelcoming about her. She is a very strange woman and leaves the house during the night, in her bare feet. After Robert finds some letters from her son’s University saying he hasn’t been attending and will be thrown off his study course, he suspects Renata is Tenebrae and that she is the murderous black dog legendary to the area.
The introduction of the legend of a family and a mysterious hell-hound, start to remind me of Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles. The Jezequiel’s house is in the middle of nowhere and is surrounded by woods and fields. The twist here was that the dog can appear in human form and defends a weapon that could potentially destroy the Tenebrae. The introduction of different kinds of monsters is slowly introducing the viewers to an extensive range of supernatural beings. We have already seen a shape-shifter in previous episodes but the animal transformation was different to the types of monsters seen in the city. There are certainly all kinds of monsters in the world! Utterson grows to like Renata and when she explains she has never killed, he believes her. They race to save Robert as it is, in fact, her son who now has a taste for human blood and she has been trying to protect him by slaying sheep and feeding him to prevent him killing innocent people.
The weapon is going to be most useful to Robert but this quest ultimately results in the death of his friend and estate lawyer, Max Utterson. The character of Utterson has been a journey to say the least because out of all characters introduced to the supernatural, he was the one who maintained that there must be an explanation for all of the supernatural happenings but it’s this episode, after his run-in with Captain Dance, that he becomes a true believer. He even suggests to Jekyll not to drink his grandfather’s potion and that he might need his Hyde against the hell-hound creature.
Renata becomes Jekyll’s ally and gives him the sword he needs to help him defeat the Tenebrae. This is another powerful woman aligned with Jekyll. By this point of the series it’s admirable to see Jekyll’s determination to find out how he fits into this supernatural world. It was good to take a break from the domination of the Tenebrae and MI0. Robert has learned so much yet has so much more to learn and I wonder what Hyde makes of the fact that his brother Ravi is alive and being held captive in hopes to gain his allegiance. That notion didn’t go well for Captain Dance and I can’t see the character of Hyde backing down and joining their good-old patriotic cause so I’m certainly looking forward to the next episodes.