The clever twist in this week’s episode is that while everyone, including Hyde (Tom Bateman), is out on the hunt for Victorian folklore figure, Spring-Heeled Jack (Malachi Kirby), the real villain, Kephri: a god of creation and rebirth, is able to literally get away with murder. When Jekyll takes his turn and uses his level head, the body-snatching, insectoid deity is finally ousted, but then it possesses Spring-Heeled Jack anyway; who goes off to steal body parts for the resurrection of a fallen enemy.
On the face of it, that sounds rather exciting, doesn’t it? Like one of Jekyll’s chemical brews, we have the mixture of cultural mythotypes with the combination creating something familiar but exotically original; but the execution left me feeling rather deflated this week after so much promise in the narrative and the atmospheric build-up of the last two episodes.
Last week, the legend of the Black Shuck was set off against a host of gothic tropes; drawing on specific images and references to previous dog/wolf stories. This week, Spring-Heeled Jack’s given a comparatively evocative opening scene: stalking the foggy London roof-tops at night, bats flying overhead as Jack offers close up glimpses of leather gloves and an otherworldly crow-like mask, his heavy breathing intermingling with the hissing of machinery. Jack drops off the ledge, then flies into the distance as the camera remains frozen in place, and a woman’s screams are heard. Here we have a steam-punk Batman-esque villain, it’s insinuated, but the character fails to sustain the same momentum throughout the show.
Yes, newspapers claim “Bodies found with missing organs”, and an angry mob wants to “flush out this animal”, but it’s all misdirection; Spring-Heeled Jack is actually Burton, an engineer’s apprentice who wants to fight crime, like his grandfather. This draws comparisons with Jekyll, who’s trying to turn his own family image into something more positive — but what we end up with is a variation on The Rocketeer (which is also based in the 1930s), which again sounds absolutely fantastic at first, but amounts to a winged youngster in a gimp costume, ready to fly into danger but entirely limited by his amateur capabilities and the budget constraints of the show. Riddle me this: When you know that flying in open spaces is your only tactical advantage, why would you chase the villain into the sewers or into an old music hall?…
The full 2,200 word version of this review is published at PopMatters.com, where you can read the rest of the article for free.