Hulu’s “The Artful Dodger” is an unnecessary spin-off of “Oliver Twist,” but great characters and acting make it fun escapism.
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“The Artful Dodger” General Information
“The Artful Dodger” Plot Summary
Wolfmother’s “Joker and the Thief” blasts as the soundtrack to Jack Dawkins cutting open bodies to a bloodthirsty crowd. All of this signals to the viewer that “The Artful Dodger” is not your typical period piece of entertainment. The Hulu series may be set in the 1800s, but it’s bloody, quick-paced, loud, and often witty, with characters that are filled with surprises.
“The Artful Dodger” follows the adult double life of Jack Dawkins (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), a skilled surgeon who was once considered the prince of thieves. Partly based as a sequel/spin-off to Charles Dickens’ “Oliver Twist,” Jack Dawkins was once known as The Artful Dodger, a masterful pickpocketer and thief in London.
Now set in 1850’s Australia, Dawkins has created a new life for himself as a respectable doctor with the ability to perform surgeries in record time. But Jack’s past returns to haunt him when an old partner in crime, Fagin (David Thewlis), arrives to tempt him back into the world of crime. Jack’s career is also challenged by the governor’s daughter, Lady Belle (Maia Mitchell), who wishes to become a surgeon and is more affluent with innovations in surgery. While Jack is desperate for money and to escape from his troubles, the ghosts from his past and nemeses from his present start to corner him. One antagonist in particular, Captain Gaines (Damon Herriman), wishes to catch Jack as the criminal he is and execute him in front of the colony that respects him.
“The Artful Dodger’s” existence is inconsequential and baffling. The creators took a book from the 1800s and continued a story that no one really asked for. But “The Artful Dodger” is fun, the cast has chemistry, and it is fine escapist television.
Other Noteworthy Information
- You do not need to read “Oliver Twist” to understand “The Artful Dodger,” but the characters Jack and Fagin come from the classic tale.
- Check out the cast and character guide here.
Let us know your thoughts in the comments:
- What did you think of “The Artful Dodger?” If you enjoyed it, what do you hope happens next?
Our Rating: Positive (Watch This)
Notable Performances, Moments, or Episodes
Episodes To Anticipate
1.1, “The Yankee Dodge” introduces all of our core characters.
1.6, “Bully in the Alley” demonstrates a clash between political philosophies, power, and characters.
1.8, “Untapped Potential” attempts to wrap up most storylines.
Great Character Development and Chemistry
Each episode of “The Artful Dodger” pulls back the curtain a teensy more on Jack, Belle, and Fagin and their relationships with one another. The show firmly establishes who each character is, why they may be at odds, and why they respect and care for each other too. The dialogue shows constantly shifting power dynamics, and the actors relish each opportunity to play off each other. Maia Mitchell and David Thewlis, in particular, demonstrate agency in countless situations when their characters are powerless. Best yet, the show teases a supporting cast of color characters that could be more fun if the show continues.
Jovial Tone Provides Warm Escapism
“The Artful Dodger” makes gory 1800s surgeries look fun. The authorities may be corrupt, the streets may be dirty, and every character may be out for themselves, but the show leans more into the absurdity of the times than the grittiness. Bouncy music and playful hijinks keep the tone light in this historical crime comedy. The atmosphere ultimately makes for a reassuring show to tune into at the end of the day to escape 21st-century troubles.
On The Fence
Episodic Structure Creates Predictability and Inconsequential Stories
Jack is commonly tasked with an impossible surgery, and Jack successfully completes the surgery within each episode. Our gang of thieves finds themselves in hot water at the start of each episode and somehow gets out of it by the end. This structure is common in television, but it dilutes the drama and presents predictability in the plot. While the threat of Jack getting caught is present throughout the season, all of the sideplots (Belle’s illness, Fagin’s side hustle, Belle’s family insisting she gets married, multiple affairs, Twist’s arrival) feel tossed about and hastily tied together.
The Purpose of “Oliver Twist”
“The Artful Dodger” is a spin-off or continuation of characters from Dickens’ 1838 novel “Oliver Twist.” Perhaps the story is more popular in the U.K., but the series’ very existence makes newcomers potentially uninterested and fans of the novel wary of a sequel. “The Artful Dodger” stands alone without elements of “Oliver Twist.” The show could have easily been about a thief-turned-doctor in the 1800s, but the inclusion of Oliver Twist detracts from the story rather than enriches it.
Also Worth Mentioning
- Renewal Status: As of this writing, “The Artful Dodger” is only one season.
Who Is This For?
Fans of adventure, historical escapism, or fans of Charles Dickens’ work might enjoy “The Artful Dodger.”
What I Hope To See
Although Jack is “The Artful Dodger,” we rarely get a glimpse of that artful dodginess. Subplots make Jack a bystander to action rather than a protagonist in his own story. If there’s a second season, less subplots and more tightened focus on the three core characters would strengthen the story.
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