When I’ve been looking through Netflix to try and find awesome SFF movies and tv shows I saw Sean Bean was in something called The Frankenstein Chronicles, and I was like “yes please, more Bean, please”.
The show opens with John Marlott, played by Bean, finding a dead girl by the side of the river. She was young, maybe 12 years old and she had been adrift for a while. When Marlott got closer he saw that her hands looked like they had been sewn on, he went to examine it closer and the girl grabbed his arm. She immediately became inanimate after that and didn’t move again. He doesn’t know what to make of it, and no one else saw it. He doesn’t say anything because he doesn’t want to look crazy. It’s obvious it’s a murder, but when the autopsy is complete it’s revealed that the girl was a composite of 7 different children. The physicians of the city believe it’s an attempt to discredit surgeons by stirring up unpopular opinions of medical professionals, which was easy to do in that time period. There’s a bill in parliament that would make it so that only licensed professionals can practice medicine, cutting out all of the ‘quacks’ and ‘charlatans’. The other part of the bill said that all of the unclaimed bodies of the poor would be automatically donated to the physicians to try and cut back on their body snatching problem. This caused a huge uproar, especially among the Christians in London because they believed that to have the body dissembled after death would deny them a chance at heaven. It was thought to be a punishment for criminals to have their bodies used like that, and to use ‘good Christian people’ for surgical training was unthinkable.
Marlott is part of the river police, and he’s been tasked with figuring out what’s going on with the bodies and it’s been made clear to him that this has to be his number one priority. He starts by trying to find out how many children are going missing in London, but that wasn’t as easy as it sounds. People are reluctant to come forward, and the children themselves speak of a “monster” that comes to take children away at night. Some of the children he was paying for information turn up dead – in fact, many of the people Marlott befriends through this series end up dead. The whole thing is pretty grim. The more he investigates, the deeper the rabbit hole goes.
You can tell early on he’s deeply affected by the crimes, he’s an ex-soldier and part of the police force so he’s seen some shit go down – but it hasn’t hardened him to the point where he can look at a dead girl and feel nothing. Marlott has lost his wife and daughter and he blames himself for it, it’s a big part of his character and it makes him a very somber and stoic person. He doesn’t smile much and he doesn’t seem to be enjoying life anymore. I’d like to see Bean play a role where he gets to smile sometimes. He also has syphilis, and it’s getting to the stages where it’s causing him to hallucinate, it’s how we get a lot of his backstory – he’ll dream or hallucinate scenes of his past and it can get a little disorienting until you get used to it.
The atmosphere itself is gloomy, it always rainy or foggy and they use low light and muted colors to create a more solemn tone to everything. There wasn’t much in the way of comic relief, there weren’t many lighter moments so the tone is very intense throughout the episodes.
The effects were okay, there are many shots of the cut up body during the autopsy in the first episode but it doesn’t look all that convincing. At points it was bad enough to bring me out of the moment, I’m not sure why they skimped on that because the costumes, sets, and makeup were well done. There wasn’t a ton of blood or gore in this though so it may have been a lower priority.
Overall I liked this, the acting was well done, there were twists I definitely didn’t see coming – but there were a few problems. The main one being Marlotts second in command. He’s a black constable working in London in the 19th century. Now, there was a black officer working in those days, but just one, and only for seven years until he was dismissed. That officer was harassed and called all sorts of names and generally disrespected, he had a VERY rough go of it. Race played almost no part in the role of this character, where it should have been a very large motivating factor. He was portrayed as a godly man, and that’s where most of his internal and external struggles derived from, which is fine, but it should have been more than that. I felt like it was just glossing over how his life really would have been, it would have lead to a much deeper character with a lot more realism to the time period if race was a struggle for him. (Not that I ever want to watch someone to be bullied because of their race)
Final Score: 76/100