The Artful Dodger Review | The Reimagined Charles Dickens Story is Hulu’s Best New Series

The Artful Dodger Review | The Reimagined Charles Dickens Story is Hulu’s Best New Series


Summary

  • The Artful Dodger is a brisk, engaging, and completely delightful series that puts a stylish spin on Charles Dickens’ character from Oliver Twist.
  • Thomas Brodie-Sangster delivers an exceptional performance as the skilled surgeon and pickpocketing Dodger, with great chemistry alongside Maia Mitchell’s Lady Belle. David Thewlis is masterful as always.
  • The series features a vivid cast of characters and clever capers, offering an exceptional reimagining of the Dodger story with nods to Oliver Twist.


The Australian original series The Artful Dodger is a fast-paced story that drops you into a historic place, providing a contemporary spin on an adapted Charles Dickens character from Oliver Twist. The series often feels like a creative sibling to the Netflix hit One Piece, in that it flows at breakneck speed, often layering a modern score over a period piece with a slew of twists, as the protagonists feverishly maneuver their way through one madcap escapade after another.

The Artful Dodger is one of the best new series to hit Hulu this year, and ambitiously explores the adult double life of Charles Dickens’ infamous “prince of thieves” Jack Dawkins (played by Thomas Brodie-Sangster of Game of Thrones and Love Actually) — a.k.a. The Artful Dodger, whose precise pickpocketing fingers now work in his favor as a skilled surgeon in this inventive iteration.

The tale is set in 1850s Australia, in the bustling yet gritty colony of Port Victory. It takes work to survive here, but this version of Dawson can’t shake his twisted past, which boomerangs back to taunt him with the arrival of Fagin (David Thewlis of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2), who lures him back into a world of crime. Sharp, engaging, and ambitious, there’s a lot to love about The Artful Dodger.


Thomas Brodie-Sangster’s Performance

The Artful Dodger

Release Date
November 29, 2023

Cast
Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Maia Mitchell, David Thewlis, Damon Herriman, Damien Garvey

Genres
Drama, Comedy, Adventure

Seasons
1

To be sure, Thomas Brodie-Sangster carries this exceptional spectacle. It’s one of the actor’s finest roles, and his commanding performance throughout the series — from physicality to facial expressions — adds to the allure, giving us a character we love to root for. The eight-episode series also stars Maia Mitchell as Lady Belle Fox, the shrewd Governor’s daughter who’s determined to make a dent as the region’s first female surgeon.

There is some great, often witty interplay between Dawkins and Lady Belle, serving up a potential romance in which viewers can easily become invested. Brodie-Sangster and Mitchell have excellent chemistry, and the rest of the all-star Aussie cast includes Damon Herriman, Tim Minchin, Miranda Tapsell, Susie Porter, Damien Garvey, Kym Gyngell, Vivienne Awosoga, and New Zealand’s Albert Latailakepa, wonderfully occupying this fascinating fictional world.

But it’s the interchange between Dawkins and Fagin that becomes the most enticing to watch as the series moves through its first four episodes. Charles Dickens aficionados already know Fagin left Dawkins in prison, so Fagin’s appearance here offers a great opportunity to explore an extended chapter in the Dickens-verse. Thewlis masterfully captures viewers’ attention, wonderfully balancing Fagin’s shady side while also offering viewers a window into the humanity of this well-rounded version of the character.

Fast-Paced and Engaging Story

The Artful Dodger star David Thewlis stands in a church
Hulu

The first few episodes of the series make it clear we’ve dipped into a re-imagined world of the Dodger. Now a young adult, the series wastes no time in setting up a high-stakes dilemma: outwitted by a cheating gambler, Dodger must come up with the money he now “owes” — or lose his hand.

There is a feverish pace to this gutsy endeavor created by James McNamara, Andrew Knight, Vivienne Walshe, and Dan Knight. It ambitiously sails through the dense realities of life in the mid-1800s Australia. Between its life-and-death surgeries and high-stakes vibe, The Artful Dodger gives viewers plenty to enjoy. As one character quips: “The world is full — understanding all of it requires some focus.”

Related: 20 Best Limited Series on Hulu to Watch Right Now

The Artful Dodger commands focus as well, though it isn’t obscure or difficult to follow. To earn back the money he was cheated out of and pay back his debt, Dodger ups his game as a surgeon. There’s wit in the grit here, as our Dodger becomes quite the performer in front of a crowd, where he’ll be found stitching up one man, or consoling another who’s about to go under the knife. The medical procedures lean more toward the graphic side — think Grey’s Anatomy, 1850s Charles Dickens style. Amputated arms and other severed body parts abound.

An Eclectic and Vivid Cast of Characters

The Artful Dodger Cast stand in a street
Hulu

Two things distract Dodger’s attention — Fagin, and the lovely Lady Belle. In between, the well-executed series does a wonderful job at tossing in its fair share of clever capers in a vivid criminal underworld. There are also a gaggle of noteworthy characters around to pepper the overall plot, turning the endeavor into one of redemption and reinvention. The series stands alone without any knowledge of Dickens, and its characters are vivid enough and easy to get to know, but fans of the classic writer will enjoy the nods to Oliver Twist, as well.

Related: Best Adaptations of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Ranked

Damon Herriman stands out as Captain Gaines in the tale, and the script funnels that Dickensian energy his way. The military man is blind to his marital challenges, and he loves to prove his status by looking into Dodger and Fagin’s connection. Lucy-Rose Leonard is a nice inclusion in the mix too, as Lady Fanny Fox, Lady Belle’s prim, proper, and thoroughly optimistic sister. Damien Garvey delivers an excellent turn as Governor Edmund Fox.

All the other characters add layers to this unique, well-crafted, and exceptional re-imagining of the Dodger. It also parallels some aspects of Oliver Twist in theme and tone. Bold and breathtakingly fun, The Artful Dodger is worth a vigorous dive.

Beach Road Pictures, Curio Pictures, and Sony Pictures Television, The Artful Dodger is set to be released in Australia on streaming service Disney+, via its Star hub, on 29 November 2023. That same day, the series will also premiere on Hulu in the United State and Star+ in Latin America. In the United Kingdom and Ireland, the series will premiere on Disney+ on 17 January 2024. You can check out the trailer below:



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