Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Jekyll: Is there something you'd like to say to us, Britain?

Note: If you've been TiVoing/DVRing Jekyll on BBC America and are still planning on watching it at some point, stop reading now. However, if you've been watching it as it aired, are reading this from Britain, or don't care about spoilers, go right ahead.

For me, one of the happiest surprises of a busy summer has been Jekyll on BBC America. Not just the gory thriller that it's billed as in the commercials, the show is, more than anything, a psychological drama, and much of its success has to do with its star. James Nesbitt, like Alec Guinness and Jim Broadbent, has the happy talent of becoming completely unrecognizable in a role. (Have you ever seen Murphy's Law? Same guy. I rest my case.) An important point of the show is that there's a physical difference between Jackman and Hyde – height and shoulder width, for example. Those we have to take the show's word for it on, but Nesbitt brings enough subtle changes to the characters that I can almost tell at a glance which he's supposed to be at any given time (even without the clue of the sproingy/slicked-back good/evil hair). Jackman's got a crooked tooth, Hyde's Irish accent is broader, and that's just what I can put my finger on. The man is a chameleon.

Good thing that his performance is bolstered by good supporting characters, too. Miranda the private eye is tough and resourceful, but half of her charm comes from her relationship with her exasperating, flighty partner Min. I'm not terribly impressed by upcoming Bionic Woman Michelle Ryan as research assistant Katherine, but as she doesn't have much to do, I'll give her the benefit of the doubt. But I've been most pleasantly surprised by Claire, the wife, who has gone from whiny, inauspicious beginnings to a woman who won't be pushed around. It was the "Trapped in the Wine Cellar" episode that turned it around for me, when she slapped Hyde around and refused to let him off the hook for his actions with the "separate personality" excuse, and thereby won both Hyde's and my loyalty.

My biggest beef with the show is the beef that they have with the United States. I get that we're not the most popular country in the world right now, but in Jekyll the anti-U.S. sentiment is so ingrained that it's become a running joke. The evil shadowy corporation behind everything is American, of course, and when a British character who works for them is asked how he likes his employer, he says, as though it says it all, "American." And Hyde's first victim was none other than an American working for the same corporation, all of whose British underlings hated him and rejoiced to see him killed.

The thing that gets me is that it's casual hatred, understood and accepted by everyone. Because in the world of Jekyll, Americans aren't trying to take over the world, they're trying to take over Britain, and that's why the Brits resent them so much. Not that the show comes out and says this. It's a little bit passive-aggressive about it, actually. Ironic for a show about a guy who's all the way aggressive, and crazy to boot.


nazzams said...
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brenda said...

OK, I finally got caught up on all the episodes. Great series! I only DVR'd it because I have loved James Nesbitt in Murphy's Law. The ads made it look gory & over the top. But it is much, much better than that! Very subtle, very smart. And, damn, Hyde is creepy! Nesbitt is an amazing actor. Great show. And I agree that Claire has really showed some backbone. You go, girl!