The Artful Dodger Review: A Rowdy New Twist on Dickens

Scalpels, Sutures and Sharp One-Liners: Inside The Artful Dodger's Chaotic Surgical Theater

In this new 8-episode Hulu series, we catch up with Jack Dawkins 15 years after the events of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist. You likely know Dawkins better by his nickname — the Artful Dodger, the streetwise kid who schooled little orphan Oliver in pickpocketing before getting hauled off to jail.

Played with plenty of charisma by Thomas Brodie-Sangster (the little dude from Love Actually all grown up), Dodger has picked up some unexpected new skills during his time down under. He’s become a respected surgeon in the colony, amputating limbs and stitching up bodies like a boss. But this ain’t exactly Grey’s Anatomy. We’re talking no anesthesia, raucous crowds cheering the doctors on, and patients wide awake as Dodger displays his legendary swift fingers.

When his old frenemy Fagin (a deliciously slimy David Thewlis) gets shipped to Australia as a convict, Dodger gets pulled back into the criminal underworld to pay off some nasty gambling debts. Helping him stay on the straight-and-narrow is Lady Belle (Maia Mitchell), a progressive aristocrat determined to become the colony’s first female surgeon.

So strap in as this wild sequel series brings together dodgy old acquaintances and new romantic tensions against the bloody backdrop of colonial Aussie medicine. We’ve got quippy dialogue, gritty surgeries, and plenty of sparks between Brodie-Sangster and Mitchell. Let’s delve in!

Reimagining Dickens Down Under

At first glance, The Artful Dodger might seem like any other steamy period drama about a roguish doctor. But long-time readers will quickly recognize Dodger and Fagin as the standout characters from Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist. This sequel series draws heavily on the original novel while charting its own course.

Fans of the book will be pleased to see Dodger as a grown man, now known as a talented surgeon with an auspicious military record in the Australian penal colony. But despite going semi-legit, he still owes gambling debts that pull him back towards a life of crime with Fagin, his on-again, off-again father figure.

Their complicated relationship, ranging from mutual exploitation to grudging codependency, remains the show’s emotional core. Just like in Oliver Twist, Fagin wields his psychological influence over Dodger, while also genuinely caring for his protégé’s well-being. Their scenes crackle with a mix of resentment and attachment.

In a more radical departure, scrappy aristocrat Lady Belle plays the angel to Fagin’s demon, coaxing Dodger to step fully into respectability. Her goal to become a trailblazing female surgeon offers an engaging feminist twist.

Some purists may grumble about deviations from Dickens’ vision. Fagin feels more like a cartoonish sleazeball than the darker, more manipulative character from the book. Gone too is Dodger’s colorful Victorian street slang that so vividly captured a London underclass.

But the show runners clearly know their source material, sprinkling the scripts with references to Oliver Twist’s events and dropping tantalizing hints about Oliver’s unseen role in pardoning Fagin. They’ve captured the playful, punkish spirit of Dodger himself. This may be a freewheeling remix more than straightforward adaptation, but it’s an enjoyable one.

A Winning Trifecta Anchors the Rowdy Procedural

At the heart of this rambunctious Dickens mash-up lies a compelling trio of lead performances. As the grown-up Dodger, Thomas Brodie-Sangster brings oodles of roguish charm, building nicely on early roles like the adorable kid in Love Actually. With puppy dog eyes masking an inner survivor’s grit, he deftly handles Dodger’s dual role as principled doctor and compromised ex-conman.

The Artful Dodger Review

The real revelation though is David Thewlis’ scene-chewing turn as Fagin. Previous versions portrayed Oliver Twist’s creepy crime boss as either a gaunt sociopath or a buffoonish narcissist. Thewlis strikes a delicate balance, capturing Fagin’s fatherly affection for Dodger alongside his self-gratifying scheming. With mercurial mood shifts and quavering physicality, he’s by turns pathetic and fearsome.

Rounding out the leads is progressive aristocrat Maia Mitchell as the plucky Lady Belle. Mitchell enlivens the stock character of a wealthy doctor’s daughter bucking convention for medicine. She jabs sharply at patriarchal restrictions while nursing an adorable crush on Dodger.

The show populates their orbit with a solid gallery of foils and cronies like Dodger’s smarmy surgical rival Sneed or Fagin’s short-fused heavy Charlie. The broad Aussie caricatures can veer into camp, especially Lady Belle’s foppish poetry enthusiast suitor. But they mainly serve to showcase the subtle interplay of the central trio.

Together, Brodie-Sangster, Thewlis, and Mitchell click as mismatched partners in surgery and crime. The series hooks you less through plot twists than its investments in their unstable bonds, especially as Dodger and Lady Belle begin sliding towards romance. Their thorny dynamic promises to only get richer should The Artful Dodger snag future seasons. For now, just sit back and enjoy watching three talented performers breathe life into this playful slice of Dickens.

“Navigate the complexities of modern discontentment with our The Feeling That the Time for Doing Something Has Passed review. Joanna Arnow’s debut film offers an insightful and relatable portrayal of life’s mundane yet profound moments.”

A Rowdy Romp Through Australia’s Gritty Medical Underbelly

Don’t crack open The Artful Dodger expecting some stuffy Merchant Ivory production. This raucous ride through 1850s Aussie medicine fuses punk rock energy with visceral surgery.

One minute, Dodger jams a leg bone saw to the bass riff of Wolfmother’s “Joker and the Thief” as he mocks his rival’s slow surgical chops. The next, he gently nurses a whimpering patient, easing her pain with compassionate bedside manner.

The show delights in this tension between grit and whimsy, brutality and tenderness. Limbs get hacked off in gory detail before an unruly crowd, then meticulously stitched back together. Gleeful long cons get punctured by pangs of remorse.

While pulling no punches depicting the crudeness of colonial medicine, The Artful Dodger also traces its steady evolution. We meet characters crazily pioneering germ theory and anesthesia mid-surgery. There’s a sense of hope piercing through the gore.

The writers nail that mix of playful irreverence and humane insight which marks the best of Dickens. Punchy banter leavens scenes of childhood trauma. Gallows humor underscores systemic cruelty.

Helping modernize this 19th century tale, the musical and visual approach feels more Top Gun: Maverick than Downton Abbey. The occasional blast of psychedelic indie rock adds a propulsive present-day edge absent from most petticoat dramas. The camerawork stays kinetic without seeming conspicuously modern.

The Artful Dodger carves out its own bold niche as a rock ‘n’ roll historical procedural. Fans of adventurous period fare like The Great should apply within.

Buckle Up As This Rowdy Homage Veers Wildly Through Dickensian Tropes

At its core, The Artful Dodger is a classic odd couple buddy story. Put-upon nice guy Dodger gets dragged back into petty crime by disreputable old friend Fagin. It’s a tale as old as time, mingled here with medical procedurals and saucy romance.

The first few episodes follow a predictable pattern as Dodger attempts to pay off debts through dicey means before finding his conscience mid-heist. But just as the formula threatens to get stale, his ambitious sparring partner Lady Belle raises the dramatic stakes.

Belle daringly blackmails Dodger into becoming her medical mentor, leading to tension-filled training sessions pulsing with sensual energy. Mitchell and Brodie-Sangster make the most of their forbidden teacher-student chemistry.

Meanwhile, the writers ratchet up tension between Dodger and Fagin, literally chained together as escaped convicts. Dodger starts seeing through his father figure’s manipulative schemes, even as he remains compulsively bound to the old thief.

As character dynamics deepen, the plot gains richness, weaving organically between brash humor and emotional insight. Supporting storylines like Lady Belle’s bumbling wannabe poet suitor offer amusing punctuations from the core drama.

If the pacing sags occasionally, it’s only because we’ve grown invested enough in the people to forgive slack passages. By mid-season, the show strikes a groove balancing lurid genre hooks with sympathetic portraits of Aussie outcasts and outsiders.

Our tour guides may drive wildly at times between satire, tragedy and soap. But the ride proves too thrilling to sweat the swerves. Like its namesake, The Artful Dodger picks your pocket before you even notice, leaving you greedy for more by episode’s end.

Scalpels and Sawbones as Social Metaphor

Like most good Dickens riffs, The Artful Dodger uses its period setting to slyly comment on thorny social issues. Class clashes, systemic oppression, and patriarchal limits on female ambition all embed within the show’s DNA.

The core drama stems from fractures along class lines. Aristocratic doctors dismiss the working-class Dodger as an unmannered upstart, despite his obvious talent outpacing his rivals. We see how poverty breeds cunning as Dodger gets forced to steal for survival.

Lady Belle likewise faces limits on realizing her medical potential due solely to inherited gender. She’s sharper than every surgeon in the colony, yet society bars her from advancement.

This injustice gets echoed in smaller moments, like a magistrate sentencing starving child thieves to hard labor. The show asks us to consider what options exist for the disadvantaged to find food and shelter without turning to crime.

Yet The Artful Dodger stays hopeful, locating progress inside its very microcosms of oppression. We watch the field of medicine slowly reform itself in discoveries like germ theory and anesthetics. Career doors inch open for those once shut out, like immigrants, orphans or intrepid women.

Within its grimy, visceral world, the show nurtures visions of things getting cleaner, safer, and more inclusive. It’s social commentary with heart, using sly humor rather than preachiness to prod viewers towards compassion.

Immersive Surgery Overcomes Budget Constraints

Given the modest budget, The Artful Dodger’s production values impress more through selective detail than lavish scope. With only a limited historical recreation of the Australian penal colony to work with, the show wisely keeps its focus tight.

We spend most of our time in either cramped waterfront taverns or Dodger’s basement hospital. Nursing homes, jail cells, and back alley hideouts fill out the surroundings. The sets have a suitably grimy, soot-stained texture without aiming for painterly authenticity.

Where the production design truly shines is in bringing the underground surgical theater thrillingly to life. We get all the grisly immediacy of open wounds, bone saws, and clamps without excessive lingering on guts and gore. It’s just visceral enough to feel our stomachs turn when Dodger’s fingers slip mid-surgery before going in for the final sutures.

While the exterior establishing shots of early colonial Australia seem dated at times, the show works better in confined interiors. When framing faces in candlelit close-up, the visuals grow evocative with shadows dancing across weathered expressions. MongoDB

If future seasons secure a bigger effects budget, wider establishing landscapes would further immerse us within 1850’s Port Victory. But for now, quick-cut montages and tight shots on medical procedures effectively conjure the period on a TV budget. What’s lost in spectacle gets recouped through scrappy B-movie charm.

Bumps and Bruises Typical of a Tricky First Surgery

As a rollicking genre mash-up, The Artful Dodger unsurprisingly suffers some suturing missteps and messy stitches common to freshman series. Yet its strong foundations and vital signs justify future treatments with some rehab.

The main area needing discipline is a tendency towards disjointed plots and quirky tonal shifts. Subplots like Lady Belle’s suitor or Fagin’s various schemes can feel shoehorned in rather than serving the central drama. And the mix of camp comedy, tense thriller elements, and emotive character beats doesn’t always gel.

With potential multi-season runs, the show would benefit from both tightened narrative focus and heightened production values. Key relationships like Dodger and Fagin’s uneasy bond only get surface exploration in Season One. There’s fertile territory for richer backstories and more resonant flashbacks.

Similarly, wider establishing shots better situating colonial Aussie locations would lend authority. We need a fuller sense of the surrounding dangers and exploitative social hierarchies pressing upon our leads.

Yet it’s precisely the leads’ sticky, complicated dynamic and the witty writing which ultimately makes The Artful Dodger’s prognosis hopeful. The foundation is solid– what’s needed is more intricate plotting machinery and a higher budget polish to better support the strong characters. Then we could witness Dodger not just surviving but truly thriving down under.

With careful further nurturing, this latest Dickens homage might shift from scrappy upstart to mature masterwork. But it’s already showing real potential to go the distance.

Closing Up Shop After a Rowdy Medical Romp

For all its messy plotting and campy digressions, The Artful Dodger makes for a bloody good time. Fans of adventurous period fare should eat up the playfulmixins of medical drama, crime fantasy, and Victorian romance.

What holds the stitches together is the infectious cast chemistry, especially between long-suffering buddies Dodger and Fagin. Their scenes spark and crackle as they warily reconnect after years apart, trading barbed insults laced with grudging affection.

Buoying the drama are plenty of loopy escapades for history buffs craving eccentric genre fare. Hideous tumors get hacked off to punk rock guitar riffs. Aristocrats mingle with orphans and ex-convicts. Tempests brew between scalpels and sawbones.

Admittedly the gory operating theater scenes could deter the most delicate viewers. Yet the overall tone stays more mischievous than mean-spirited. Darker aspects get leavened by Dodger’s essential decency and playful Aussie wit.

Some patches of narrative fat could trim for tauter seasons ahead. But the vital organs seem healthy enough to support an enjoyable few years rummaging through Australia’s medical underbelly. As long as Brodie-Sangster and Thewlis stick around, The Artful Dodger should retain a solid fan base hungry to see what scrapes Dodger gets into next. Consider this house call a success.

The Review

The Artful Dodger

8 Score

With its potent mix of medical drama, dark comedy, and romantic tension, The Artful Dodger makes for a wickedly entertaining ride. Thomas Brodie-Sangster is a particular standout as the roguish yet sympathetic Dodger, while David Thewlis lives up to Fagin's creepiness. A few messy subplots and cheap-looking sets drag down the momentum at times. But overall, this is a solid historical genre bending escape with enough style and sass to thrill Dickens fans open to a sexier, punk-fueled take.


  • Strong lead performances from Thomas Brodie-Sangster, David Thewlis, and Maia Mitchell
  • Entertaining plot blending medical drama, crime capers, and romance
  • Sharp dialogue and quirky Aussie wit
  • Fun punk rock energy and modern style
  • Gritty surgery scenes are visceral and thrilling


  • Subplots around supporting characters drag down pacing
  • Cheap looking sets and backgrounds
  • Deviates too much from Dickens' original novel at times
  • Tonally uneven between gritty and campy

Review Breakdown

  • Overall 8
Exit mobile version