What The Dickens? Hulu Has New Take On The Artful Dodger

Whatever happened to the Artful Dodger after “Oliver Twist”?

I have never ruminated on this question, but an answer is on the way for anyone who has.

It is a new series coming to Hulu this week that imagines the life of the “Dodger” as an adult 15 years after the conclusion of the story in Charles Dickens’ 1838 novel, subsequent movies, and a hit musical made into a movie more than a century later.

The Artful Dodger -- Jack Dawkins -- was a skillful boy pickpocket in Dickensian London who ran with a gang of other boy thieves in the employ of a manipulative adult named Fagin.

At the end of the Dickens novel, the Dodger was caught red-handed with a stolen item and presumably shipped off to Australia, where the British Empire sent many of its felons.



This is where we find him in the Hulu series, “The Artful Dodger,” dropping Wednesday. 

In the TV show, he is not shipped forcibly to Australia. Instead, he somehow broke out of the fetid London jail they threw him in, and made his way to Australia on his own. 

He reached maturity down under and gave up pickpocketing in favor of applying his nimble fingers to the medical profession -- such as it was in the 1850s -- emerging as a gifted surgeon.

The surgeries are performed without anesthesia before audiences of gamblers who wager on the death or survival of the patient. The Dodger ekes out an income this way.

But be forewarned, an amputation scene in Episode One might present a challenge for the squeamish, although there is not much of this in the episode, which the TV Blog previewed on Friday.

The title character is played by Thomas Brodie-Sangster (pictured above), along with David Thewlis as Fagin, who shows up by surprise in a gang of newly imported felons and soon insinuates himself into the new life of Jack Dawkins.

Basically, this is the show: While Dr. Dawkins proceeds on his path to legitimacy, the presence of Fagin threatens to pull him back into the life he left behind.

Still, although the Dodger isn’t going around stealing, he is an inveterate gambler. And when it comes to surgery, he may be a bit of a con man. 

At no time does anyone mention the existence of a medical school in the Australian colony.

Into the mix comes the local lord governor’s beautiful daughter (Maia Marshall). She’s a feisty one, she is!

Though she’s a woman, she has ambitions of becoming a physician, and has even assembled a library of text books and a collection of equipment from which she is self-educating herself.

Ha! A woman doctor? Who woulda thunk it? Well, despite the obstacles, she defiantly sets her chin in the up position and pursues her goal.

The show moves along at a reasonably brisk pace, but despite that, I realized about three-quarters into the premiere that I had no skin in this game. 

I just could not muster up the requisite interest in the grown-up Artful Dodger or his life in the lawless Australia of the mid-nineteenth century.

“The Artful Dodger” starts streaming on Wednesday, November 29, on Hulu.

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