The first season of The Artful Dodger (2023-) recently dropped on Hulu, and I decided to throw myself into the show, not really knowing what to expect, but figuring it was either going to be a complete disaster or wind up becoming one of my favorite period shows of the last couple of years. Folks, it’s a looking less and less like the former and more and more like the latter. The story revolves around Jack Dawkins (played by Thomas Brodie-Sangster), formerly known as the Artful Dodger (and occasionally as “Dodge” by those who are in the know…), the OG prince of thieves from Charles Dickens’ novel, Oliver Twist.
The story picks up 10 years after Jack was abandoned in prison by Fagan — Jack has shed his Dodger moniker and reinvented himself as a mostly respectable surgeon in Port Victory, Australia. Thing is, Jack’s got a wee gambling problem, which threatens to upend the careful facade of respectability he’s cultivated for himself after a stint in the Navy. Fagan (played by the perpetually great David Thewlis) shows up in the first episode, perhaps less than coincidentally, and upends Jack’s life even further.
The second story arc deals with Lady Isabelle “Belle” Fox (played by Maia Mitchell), the daughter of the governor of Port Victory, who is determined to be a surgeon herself, though that idea keeps getting shot down over and over by every other man in her life. It isn’t until she crosses paths with Jack that she sees a chance at getting what she wants, and Jack sees a way out of the predicament he’s in due to gambling debts.
The women’s costume struggle a bit, while the men’s costumes are all good enough. I think there was definitely A Budget involved with the costuming department, and it is more obvious in the womenswear than the menswear due to the complexity of their costumes and the amount of fabrics required. That said, there are some exceptions in the women’s costumes, such as those worn in the first episode at the Governor’s Ball. You can see what I mean in this shot from Jessica De Gouw’s Instagram post (she plays Peggy Gaines, fourth from the left in the back):
I’m honestly really enjoying the show — the writing is sharp, the acting is great, and it has a similar vibe to Desperate Romantics (2009) that I find endearing. So definitely give it a chance!
Are you watching The Artful Dodger (2023-)? Tell us about it in the comments!