The Artful Dodger – Season 1


Dodging Love and the Law

Thomas Brodie-Sangster and David Thewlis’ characters as former fugitives of the law should be the sole focus of the next series.

After the first episode of Hulu’s The Artful Dodger, the scene between Jack Dawkins(Thomas) and Norbert Fagin(David) meeting again after years of separation reminded the viewers that the series will still cling to its native Dickensian roots of thievery and criminal exploits for the two characters. Though the series does have a female lead and love interest in the form of Lady Belle Fox, played by Maia Mitchell, the more interesting relationship is with Jack and his former mentor. The series, co-created by  David Maher, James McNamara, and David Taylor, is an 1850’s historical drama that sequels the famous Oliver Twist novel by Charles Dickens. Focusing on Jack’s ascension from a street urchin in London to a hospital surgeon in the Australian Outback, his character’s narrative shifts between high-stakes criminal escapades and medical surgery drama.

The eight-episode series created a brand new storyline after the events of the Dickens book. Now a surgeon and officer of the Royal Navy, Jack Dawkins, also known in the streets of London as The Artful Dodger, is reminded of his troubled past once more as Norbert Fagin enters his isolated world and decides to take Jack back into the lawbreaking fold once again. In a rather fortuitous encounter, Jack meets Lady Belle(Maia) who is also a keen admirer of the medical profession, crossing their paths and sharing ambitions to elevate the world of surgical science. Jack’s motivation to advance his stature in life now branches between his innate skill as a thief and his passion for saving lives.

Jack Dawkins(Thomas) and Norbert Fagin(David) getting ready for a card game

Thievery vs. Surgery

The Artful Dodger tried to perfect each opposing theme but fell short of reaching its full potential as a unique and character-driven narrative. Contrasting Jack’s sleigh-of-hand skills to his surgical precision served as the pitching point for the series’ encompassing themes; Belle symbolizes Jack’s hand for healing and Fagin represents Jack’s other hand for stealing.

The romantic setup between Jack and Belle was a bit implied given the limited number of rotating characters surrounding the protagonist. Furthermore, Their use of high-intensity surgical procedures became the only common ground between the two lovers almost as if their relationship is constrained to that aspect, giving it less room for a more natural flow. In defense of this series, being an eight-episode run, they tried to give a proper build-up for the couple’s courtship ballad, yet it was overshadowed in comparison to the more familiar dynamic between Jack and Fagin.

Jack and Fagin’s exploits, although restrained within the confines of a small town, had the variety to carry the story throughout the show’s run, with the stakes getting bigger and bolder.  Fagin’s engaging persona made the heists amusing and delightful at every turn. Here lies the conundrum for the series and its overall narrative as they progress towards another season.

Jack Dawkins and Lady Belle Fox (Maia Mitchell) after a successful surgery.

Two Separate Ideas Melded to One

Juggling two great ideas at the same time will eventually lead to one outshining the other. Constantly trying to level things out will lead to a mish-mash of convoluted scenarios that will not be advantageous to either one. When the second series comes out, the storyline should not be focused on whether or not Jack Dawkins will lead a criminal or surgical life. The answer should be both. Combine the life of thievery with the help of surgery. Jack’s constant battle in choosing which side to go to duly depends on his mood in the series, which is a crux on its own as there was no decisive argument to completely relay his intention to switch sides every single time. Therefore, Jack should choose the side of criminality and use surgery to help his cause.

The historical world of The Artful Dodger is heavily influenced by social stature and influence. Going through the story route of becoming a respectable surgeon will only lead to a dead end, as Jack is a fugitive from the law and has no remarkable wealth to further his career. Therefore, exploring a narrative that is more criminal in nature will prove more fruitful in creating a fascinating storyline and can be improved upon by becoming a Robin Hood-esque figure to justify his illegal acts. A criminal doctor of the people is an enticing narrative in comparison to the chronicles of a poor surgeon who does shady business to survive. A war-torn battlefield plagued by abuse and corruption is more appealing than a small-town pickpocket drama. 

Never a dull day of heisting for Jack Dawkins(Thomas) and Norbert Fagin(David).

Embracing his criminal past while using his aptitude to heal others will also lead to creating a more adversarial antagonist the show is in dire need of. An absolute disciplinarian of the law, governed with a modern view of society, will be a great addition to the issue of morality for the protagonist, giving purpose in choosing this direction. The division in the protagonist’s ideals in surviving the outback should be about the moral quandary of using his hands and not about which hand he should use.

A more gripping historical narrative can boost the show’s visibility while marking its territory as a rightful spinoff of an adored classic. Jack Dawkins is a perfectly flawed character with an unscrupulous background that has a natural gift to repair human anatomy. His journey for personal growth will be a great emotional investment for the viewers given the right circumstances. With these in mind, the series will have more depth and complexity for its next run and have more room to stretch its un-amputated legs.

About the Author – Alvin Asiaten

Alvin is a multifaceted creative who finds inspiration in binge-watching various TV series and immersing himself in the world of video games. As a skilled graphic illustrator and video editor, he brings his unique vision to perspective and is well informed in the art of captivating visuals and storytelling.


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