July 24, 2007 Jill

I finished reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and am now back to tv. I have decided to wait for the final episode of Jekyll before watching ep 5. I’m looking forward to the mini-binge and dreading saying good-bye to the show.

Meanwhile, so much is building up that I may have to give up sleep to keep up (thanks for the tip, Bill). But before I comment on Mad Men (omg, Denis, I can’t wait) and John from Cincinnati (Will is keeping the discussion warm), I have to finish with the pilot of Jekyll.

I wanted to discuss the rising tension in the pilot, but my first post on it got way too long. So here’s what I found when I broke it down:

Time is an essential part of how tension is built in this show. Not surprisingly then, the first shot of the series is of a ticking clock. It doesn’t create tension for us yet, but it will when we form an emotional connection with Tom Jackman, the series lead. In Jeckyll, time plus emotion equals tension.

The tease and first act are fairly flat in terms of jeopardy, but by the end of the first act, we’ve begun to feel something for Jackman. So Hyde’s impending appearance (time) in front of Jackman’s wife (emotion) creates an exciting act break.

Then the tension drops again for the top of act two.

Two sequences into the act, we learn that Hyde is due in twenty minutes. Still Jackman is determined to pursue a clue in the mystery of who is following him. This leads us into a long mid-act sequence of tension that keeps turning. Each turn seems to crank the stakes a little higher.

And when the knife is literally at Jackman’s throat and we feel like things can’t get any worse, Hyde appears. The heat keeps rising.

The sequence which follows is long, funny, tense and violent. The tension here is the product of a couple of marriages of opposites. Toward Hyde himself, I feel both a revulsion and fascination. He is funny and good-looking, but vicious and the nemesis of Jackman with whom I’ve finally bonded. And then there’s the situation. We want this bullying kid dealt the blow he deserves but we know that wanting that is wrong. We sit at the edge of our seats anticipating that violence.

And after it comes, after this long long mid-second act sequence of high tension, Moffat brings us relief in the form of a drink at the local pub, a good-looking woman and some comedy.

Even though, he plays the rest of the act and most of the following one for comedy, the sense of danger boils beneath the surface. There have been too many surprises. We’ve felt contradictory emotions, rooted for evil (however quietly) and learned to like Jackman. So here we are on edge and still, the third act curtain is a surprise as it cranks the stakes way way up.

Now Jackman’s worst fears are realized; Hyde’s next target may not be some (semi-) deserving punk. This time it may be the innocents.

Most of the fourth act plays with time and toys with our emotions in order to achieve another long, agonizing sequence of tension.

But when we finally have the answers that relieve that tension, Moffat turns up the heat one last time. The dams break on Jackman’s anger and we realize that the rest of the series will be a battle between the two men who inhabit the same body.

What we have is a long long section of tension in the middle of the long long second act. And then a sense of growing danger held at bay with comedy through the rest of act two right up to the third act curtain. The fourth act is one long agonizingly drawn out sequence of tension and fear until almost the end.

Thinking back, it’s that long second act sequence of action and drama that bonded me to the series. The plot kept turning and the stakes kept getting higher. It was a powerful viewing experience and left me dying for the next installment.

Comments (2)

  1. Bill Cunningham

    Jill —

    You’re welcome…

    [slams red bull and tosses can onto pile of empties threatening takeover of the whole apartment]

  2. Anonymous


    I just finished watching Jykell, and I’m wondering if I can talk you into writing up a comment about the ending of the series. I understand it’s pretty much the opposite of what your blog is about, but I’m interested on your take.

    I’d say what I think, but I don’t know if you’ve seen the whole series yet and don’t want to spoil it for you if you have.

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