It’s very rarely that I find myself torn between both reactions at the same time. But I can honestly say after finally finishing it, “Jekyll” succeeded in creating a paradox of emotions in me. Something only writer Steven Moffat could pull off, I think; I blame Moffat for everything these days (I’m a “Doctor Who” fan, remember? We’re allowed to blame Moffat for everything.)
All I can say about that is: someone lied to me when describing “Jekyll.” The show is not a modern reboot, but rather, a sequel – a sequel that treats the original story as if it were a work of nonfiction rather than fiction. The entire basic premise behind the show and its story is this: Tom Jackman, a modern day descendant of a man who never fathered any children, is roaming England, switching between the roles of a caring father and husband, and murdering psychopath.
Oh, and there’s a government conspiracy plotline as well. Actually becomes the driving point of the show halfway through. Yes, I’m being serious.
Clocking in at a total of six episodes (few of which hit the one hour mark) that teeter between legitimately creepy and humorous (both in good and bad ways), the show also features characters like a psychiatric nurse (played by Michelle Ryan) who aids Jackman in his efforts to control himself. Jackman’s wife (Gina Bellman), completely in the dark and thus angry at a husband who constantly disappears in the middle of any day or night without notice, is at first merely there as a lecturing shadow in the background; fortunately, she takes on a much more prevalent and even central role in the story in the second part.
Seriously, writers: you can’t do that to viewers. You just can’t!
However, for me, the saving grace of the series is not the writing (which admittedly got a bit outlandish, to the point that a friend never felt much interest in going beyond the pilot episode): it’s the acting. Nesbitt plays a stunning modern day Jekyll and Hyde. He not only plays off of other actors perfectly depending on which character he is (his scenes with Mrs. Jackman in the second half of the show in particular stand out in my mind) – in flashback scenes that show Hyde being born within Jackman himself, we have the chance to see Nesbitt play off of himself, interacting as two very different personalities within the same body.
Overall, I would say the best way to describe “Jekyll” is entertainingly over the top.” Nesbitt’s portrayal of Hyde is a perfect example of this description, but the story overall definitely earned this title as well – after all, the original novella is a simple morality tale, not an extravagant battle between a citizen and the government.
Still, even in its over the top moments, I appreciated the show’s efforts and toying with ideas that we have about the human mind and body. It takes the step beyond being a morality tale and transforms into a mild psychological thriller, which provides the backdrop needed for Nesbitt to portray his two personalities so well in the series.
If any of what I just said interested you, then I recommend “Jekyll” in all of its eccentric and sometimes messy glory. If it didn’t…at least read the novella, which I’ve also reviewed and enjoy immensely. And if this show isn't for you, perhaps the newest upcoming TV series that modernizes this tale will appeal to you more.