Just when I was starting to think that Jekyll and Hyde was never going to get going the way I wanted it to, failing to live up to last episode’s opening scenes, and disjointedly hobbling around like the unnatural Harbinger man-beast who deserves to be heavily sedated until science can fix his all-kinds-of-freaky, “The Calyx” delivers a thumping adventure story. It plays out like a B-movie you might have found whilst channel flicking late at night and stayed up to watch the end of, even when you should really have known better. This week, it was totally worth it.
I should preface that by adding: unless you’re averse to seeing attempts at rope-bound human sacrifice, although it’s with an entirely petrified Utterson (Christian McKay), so maybe it’s not such a bad thing that he has found his Fay Wray place in the story. Oh, and the toad. The Seeing Toad. The toad that’s screwed into the eye cavity of an underling like a particularly difficult light bulb, except naturally, this slimy oculus grants some kind of mystical second sight. Of course, you don’t see this magical surgery, but you do see hear the screams and croaks and evil laughs. Something you do see though, is Captain Dance (Enzo Cilenti) turning a dead lackey into a Ventala. At one point, it’s all you can see (unless you close your eyes), as the camera’s in close up when the body gasps, gurgles, and jolts, with the face transmogrifying into something unnatural and terrifying and screaming straight into your face.
Also, now that the basic color-coded premise of how the Jekyll to Hyde transformation works is out of the way — the damp squib of Ceylon with it’s exotic fool’s gold promises of intrigue have been vanquished to the saffron-scented bins of history — and the MIO and Tenebrae are finally in a position to start courting and corralling the young doctor, the story offers what it should have done from the first episode: real motivation. Jekyll’s (Tom Bateman) journey to London was a means to an end; a thinly veiled metaphor for his own physical and mental shift, but now we know why Robert is the bull’s-eye of everyone’s attentions.
Opening with an inspired flashback of the Tenebrae Headquarters — which looks like a combination of the Modernist house atop Mount Rushmore from North by Northwest, and the Guggenheim Museum if it was operated by a shadowy sect with an Andy Warhol fetish uniform policy — the interior’s wooden walls, embedded with Greco-Roman figures, are witness to the handing over of an ancient clay calyx from a beguiling, silver-threaded priestess to a smirking Captain Dance. Within this propitious vessel, we are told, is sealed the heart of Lord Trash; it was “rescued” from the Ukraine when the Soviets killed the monks that were guarding it in the monastery. If Captain Dance can get Hyde to use his power and open the container, Trash’s heart will restart and they will all become gods once more. Once the obligatory references to floods and drowning of all enemies are out of the way, you almost want to join in with the maniacal cackling; after all, since the feeble “monster of the week” climactic fight from episode three, I reckon we’ve all earned it.
Interestingly, whilst the Vetala, Yakshaya, and Asura references from past episodes are drawn from Hindu mythology, as far as I can tell there is no Lord Trash within that particular, or indeed any other, belief system. Could it be, that the further up the organization we peer, the closer we get to the “old gods” of an ur-religion, which only the Tenebrae and MIO are aware of? So, when Dance sends out the shockwave at the end of the episode, is he passing on his spirit to another vessel? Color me intrigued.
Yet, to complicate matters, at one point in the throes of fervent apocalyptic ecstasy, Dance shouts at Jekyll (in the mutual recognition of Hyde’s nature): “The corner of the curtain’s been pulled back, and you have glimpsed the face of the great god, Pan”. Hailing from Greek mythology, I’m not sure why Pan – goat-legged god of the wild — has been invoked. By this point in the series, it could be metaphoric hyperbole or Jekyll’s Hyde could be the trapped spirit of an immortal greater being, desperate to break out into the world; like those raptor eggs you see in Jurassic Park but minus a cooing Richard Attenborough on hand to tickle him under the chin.
Other references are slightly easier to spot. Now that Sackler (Tom Rhys Harries) is out in the field after a brilliant scene in which he takes target practice at silhouettes of the Vetala, Harbinger, and Cutter, with random other characters standing in the back brandishing firearms for no other reason than it looks cool; with his brass-plated sniper rifle to hand and staring down the barrel at the back of Jekyll’s head, his litany of quotes have become less ponderously philosophical and a tad more bloodthirsty to match the occasion. The nursery rhyme, Cock Robin — which, like Jekyll and Hyde, has been considered suitable for children despite the grim content — is quoted (“‘I,’ said the Sparrow, ‘With the bow and arrow, I’ll kill Cock Robin'”.), as is Alfred Lord Tennyson’s Maud (“dead, long dead, and my heart is a handful of dust”), a cynical poem about love, death, war, and insanity.
Not just Sackler, but the rest of the MIO are all out in full force this episode; from Mr Wax (Oliver Gilbert), the shape shifter who takes glee in his dislocating his face to infiltrate the Tenebrae, to Bulstrode (Richard E. Grant) taking the battle to the halls of Parliament. It has taken them four episodes to get going, but this is where the episode also slightly falters, as after their inertia-breaking Charge of the Night Brigade, they then all gather around the sniper like a knitting circle, debating the pros and cons of their actions (“His soul is ours if we can prove that Jekyll is stronger than Hyde”), possibly drinking tea, eating lemon drizzle cake, and ignoring orders to take immediate action, all while 20 foot away from the bad guys and their world-ending magic circle of death.
New characters are also introduced this week, as Captain Dance may have a daughter called Olalla (Wallis Day). We see a beautiful, blond-haired young woman skulking about Tenebrae’s mountain base as though she is trying to avoid capture like a slinky Indiana Jones; however, Dance strolls straight up to Olalla, with her disgusted expression, and creepily purrs “Daddy has to go away”. There may have been a hint of face-stroking, but to be honest, I was too busy pretending I wasn’t in the room with them.
Olalla is also the name of a gothic short story by Robert Louis Stevenson, author of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In Olalla, an English soldier is convalescing at the estate of a down-on-their-luck Spanish family, where he falls in love with Olalla, their daughter. Things do not work out well (the mother drinks blood for a start), and the soldier is forced to go, leaving behind his love. While none of this is alluded to within Jekyll and Hyde, Olalla’s storyline hints at narrative depths that the Narjaran’s wish they had before they were summarily immolated.
For those of you that are keeping tabs on The Adventures of Ravi Narjaran (Michael Karim): The Most Redundant Character in Fiction — well, he’s finally made it to London, and within approximately 30 seconds of screen time, finds himself in trouble again. Because this review can’t face-palm itself, could you do me a favor and put your hand on the screen, yeah? Cheers.
Given that both Jekyll and Hyde already have their respective partners in Lily (Stephanie Hyam) and Bella (Natalie Gumede), one might imagine that the Olalla storyline could be transposed onto a narrative involving Mr Sackler, especially now that his unique ability has finally been utilized, making him slightly redundant moving forward. They’re approximately the same age, and of the same junior status within the story, and it would be another welcome reason to sideline Jekyll’s story for something more interesting. Actually, this week, that’s a little harsh, because we have the developing family storylines.
It transpires that the foam-mouthed Home Secretary (Tim Woodward) is fuelled in his fulminating hunt for Jekyll for reasons that differ from the MIO he commands: “You know I take a personal interest in this business. Edward Hyde murdered my father, Sir Danvers Carew”. Well, now we know. Jekyll’s romance subplot also encounters another wrinkle when he appears as Hyde and taunts Lily about her mad woman in the attic: “You’re hoping your mother will ring the bell and save you from any unpleasantness [….] You know, I sometimes think you don’t have a mother at all. It’s just a trick of yours”. To be fair, we still haven’t seen her, and it would be nice if she came down just to show her face (if she has a face) and prove she exists.
These are all counterpoints to Jekyll’s desperate attempt to find out more about his father, Louis Jekyll, and what he got up to when he disappeared leaving only a luxuriously warm coat in his wake. Off-camera, Belle tells him that his Pappa fought against the Tenebrae, and they now “want him”, yet Captain Dance informs him: “Your real father was one of us. Your father was one of Tenebrae. We look after our own”. Whilst this has the faintest echo of Darth Vader about it, leap to conclusions we must not.
This desire to add Jekyll to their friends’ list is also more complicated than we have been led to believe, as nobody is that interested in Jekyll, who’s like the dorky kid brother of cool guy, Hyde — if by “cool guy” you mean the lynchpin in a centuries-old supernatural ritual and eternal war that could destroy all of mankind.
In another one-punch fight scene, Belle enlists the help of Hyde in fighting a gang that clearly mean to cause her harm — although this scene has far more humor to it than the previously awkward one-note encounters, and was not caused by Hyde, which is character progression of a sort.
Furthermore, in the climax of the episode, in which characters finally collide after enjoying separate narrative strands, but quite cheaply won through the old bait-and-switch of providing familial information (see recent episodes of Gotham for examples of how annoying to watch that can be), Bulstrode gives Jekyll a chance to “pass the test” and prove that he can handle Hyde. Interestingly, that does not equate to repressing Hyde, but rather, using his strength and forthright attitude to fight the enemies of the MIO.
Proof that Hyde may be more useful, or more neutrally balanced than originally thought, also comes when Garson (Donald Sumpter) and Jekyll are attempting to heal Maggie (Sinead Cusack) with the power of microscopes and scientific talk after the shambolic debacle of the last episode. The revelation that Hyde’s blood has the miracle healing properties — and not Jekyll’s — to create a “magic bullet” also feeds into the idea that Hyde is not innately or biologically malevolent. When Garson tells Jekyll that “Hyde is evil”, Jekyll’s non-committal mixed response is: “That’s not how he sees it”; and later on, when Dance is semantically remonstrating with Jekyll, he suggests: “Hyde is your true self, can’t you see?”
Less convincingly, Dance also offers that the Tenebrae are “not the ones who kill monsters”, so perhaps they’re also not entirely to blame in this conflict. However, they are trying to resurrect Trash, a chap who Bulstrode reminds us “was one of the most important monsters of all time. A lord of chaos, sustained by human sacrifice”, so I wouldn’t buy into the party political broadcast just yet, just as I wouldn’t expect there to not be side effects to injecting Maggie with crazy juice.
Given its literal presence at the front and center of the story, the theme this week is: the heart. We start with Lord Trash’s heart, but also there are also repeated comments that the only way to take out Captain Dance is through his heart; Dance also places his hand over the heart of the corpse to perform the Ventala resurrection ritual. When Bulstrode is taking action, he goes to Parliament — the heart of the British government — just as Dance goes to Tenebrae headquarters in the flashback. Equally stretching the metaphor are Jekyll and Hyde’s affairs of the heart – pushing Lily further away and bedding Belle — but also pushing his grandmother for more information about a son who broke her heart. Hils (Ruby Bentall), who after her one-woman John Rambo escapades from last time, has been almost entirely neglected in this episode, utters the completely unmotivated line: “Lucky, it’s nothing fragile like my heart”. (Seriously, who has ever used that as a throwaway quip when dropping paperwork?). As the episode draws towards its endgame, Fedora announces: “If the jar touches you, Mr. Utterson, it’ll stop your heart”; finally, there’s the alarm when Sackler relates to the MIO that Dance has been shot “right in the heart, but he’s not dead”.
Ultimately, the link that ties the episode together is another quote from Sackler, “Tell me where is fancy bred, Or in the heart or in the head?”, which is a line sung within Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. As we have seen, “The Calyx” is entirely about biological and hereditary desires, or “fancies”; where they come from and what we can do with them. After this rip-roaring episode, we’ll miss Dance and his maniacal energies (is he really gone?), but I’m beginning to think that my enjoyment of Jekyll and Hyde is finally shifting from my head to my heart; just so long as it isn’t used to end the world.