The City of London had a serious dead body problem in the early 19th century. The body snatching business was booming with surgeons and various other medical crackpots needing a fresh supply of bodies. This is the world Netflix introduces to us in The Frankenstein Chronicles.
The story begins on a dreary night in the middle of the Thames River with John Marlott (Sean Bean) a river police officer. During an undercover operation to arrest a dangerous group of opium smugglers, Marlott finds the body of a girl on the riverbank. This is no ordinary dead body, upon closer inspection, he finds the girl is a composite of multiple bodies.
Hearing the news of the discovery, the Home Secretary summons Marlott and entrusts him with a secret mission to find the person responsible. Assisted by Constable Joseph Nightingale, they discover many unwanted children have gone missing throughout the city. The only description of the abductor is the name “monster” coined by the street kids.
After the first episode, I thought this series was going to be one wild ride, but I was gravely mistaken. Between episodes 2-4 the word monotony comes to mind. The entire time is spent all over the place. During these episodes, their pursuit of the “monster” does nothing to advance the story in a meaningful way.
Yes, real police work can be very boring, but do we really need to see the step-by-step details of the entire investigation. There are important scenes in these episodes but there is also a lot of useless fluff. Luckily by the start of episode 5 things start to pick up speed and it continues to the final episode. Many of the unanswered questions are finally explained and Officer Marlott who spent so much time chasing his monster loses his soul in the process.
There many scenes showing how society turned a blind eye to the suffering of the lower class. During their first meeting, Mr. Nightingale tells Marlott he was scolded by his superior for arresting a man for spousal abuse. Marlott tells Nightingale his superior was correct because the woman did not have the money to pay for the prosecution.
Marlott himself on two occasions placed young children in dangerous situations without a second thought during his investigation. It would seem the well-being of the unwanted did not exactly win the hearts of the more fortunate.
1827 London and the attention to detail was amazing. Everything had a lived-in feel and as Marlott traveled through London you could see the varying differences between the haves and have-nots. The wealthy live in beautiful houses with cobblestones streets. The poor live a destitute life with broken down houses, grimy unwashed clothes, and muddy streets. The use of any CGI effects also went unnoticed as everything seemed to blend seamlessly.
The Frankenstein Chronicles has a good story hidden inside its first season. You just need to wade through the boring mid-section to get to it. The cast does a great job of showing the daily life of the time period. The sets, clothing, and locations are all remarkably well done. It’s worth a watch for anyone interested in the time period or murder mysteries.