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This is set in London, 1826, although it was filmed in Belfast in 2016. As such, the setting is gritty and realistic.
Police detective John Marlott (Sean Bean - Game of Thrones ) discovers the body of a child washed up on the shore of the river Thames. He has the body dissected by the chief surgeon, Sir william Chester (Samuel West - Sword of Xanten ).
Sir Robert Peel, Home Secretary and founder of the Metropolitan Police, involves himself in the case. He believes it may be related to a new law he wants passed. The bodies of the poor will be given up for dissection, solving the problem of limited supply caused by restricting it to hanged criminals. As well as putting the body-snatchers out of business, the new law will also ban unlicenced practitioners of medicine. In other words, there are a lot of suspects.
Marlott also has a personal issue. His syphilis has recurred, and the only treatment is a bottle of pills that will make him halucinate. Worse, they make him remember the wife and daughter he lost.
Marlott's investigations include buying a perfectly good pig carcass from pig-farmer Robbie Render ( The Last Light ). He also gets a sidekick assigned to help him investigate. Despite the highly secret nature of the case, the sidekick he picks is the only Afro-Caribbean cop in England. He may not be low-key in daytime, but he manages to conduct surveillance unnoticed at night.
The body-snatchers whistle Over The Hills, and Marlott reveals he was in the 95th Infantry regiment. All these seem to be references to Sean Bean's TV show, Sharpe.
Marlott does succeed in tracking down a Fagin type named Billy Oates. This is yet another Afro-Carribean person, although this one is actually convincing at his job.
Police detective John Marlott (Sean Bean - Game of Thrones ) pays a visit to the famous creative, William Blake (Steven Berkoff - ). Unfortunately Blake is on his death-bed, and his words are somewhat cryptic. However, a mysterious lady named Mary Shelley is reluctantly helpful.
Marlott has more success at framing a body-snatcher for theft. The unfortunate suspect tells the cop everything he knows. Apparently he has a rival who delivers the freshest corpses, and that means they are probably fresh murder victims. Marlott paroles the man for the next three days, but orders the black cop to follow him anyway.
Marlott decides to take a short-cut. He starts to read a copy of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein . If only all crimes could be solved so easily!
Police detective John Marlott (Sean Bean - Game of Thrones ) has started to read Mary Shelley's Frankenstein . Now he goes to meet the author herself again.
Flora, the young runaway girl, has run away from Billy Oates. She seeks shelter with Marlott, and he needs her as a witness. The Afro-Carribean sidekick offers to marry her, even though she is pregnant by one of her customers, but Marlotte has a better idea. He takes her to the hospital of Lady Hervey and her brother. This will kill two birds with one stone, keeping the girl safe and allowing investigation into the hospital.
The hospital used to be a monastery, before Henry VIII seized it. Lord Hervey, a self-taught doctor, is dismissed by the surgeons as a quack. He talks about natural remedies, and offers an alternative treatment for Marlott's syphilis. This makes him sound like a hippy, but he states it involves bread mould. Could he actually have stumbled across penicillin a century early?
Marlott sets a trap to catch Billy Oates. This involves trusting the bail-jumping body-snatcher and his new accomplice, a scavenger named Edward Barkis (Lalor Roddy - Game of Thrones ). Strangely, Barkis has a very Norn Iron accent.
Police detective John Marlott (Sean Bean - Game of Thrones ) and the bodysnatcher set some bait for the gang of suspects. Flora, the young runaway girl, has run away from Hervey. Marlott lets her stay at his place while he visits Hervey, and gets some mould-based medicine for his syphilis.
Charles "Boz" Dickens (Ryan Sampson - ) noses around the Bow Street Runners in search of a story. He spreads word that just as Sir Robert Peel seeks to modernise the medical profession with his new law, he also seeks to modernise Law Enforcement by replacing the Runners with a Metropolitan Police Force. First Boz indirectly undermines Marlott's investigation by turning the Runners against him, then he directly attacks it by publishing every detail of the investigation he can find.
It turns out that Mary Shelley and her husband, Percy, once entered into a conspiracy with the chief surgeon, Sir william Chester (Samuel West - Sword of Xanten ). They tried to pre-enact the movie Flatliners , only with Georgian-era technology. Naturally things do not go according to their plans.
Police detective John Marlott (Sean Bean - Game of Thrones ) is confronted by Lady Hervey ( Vanessa Kirby ). She complains that she is about to be trapped in an arranged marriage, and flatters Marlott by telling him that he is a true man of God. Basically she acts like a damsel in distress, but has the forwardness of a manipulative femme fatale.
Marlott assumes that the killer he is after was a surgeon. He even pressures Billy the Child-Catcher into making a confession that incriminates the man. Not that this would do much good, or that Marlott would be able to make good on the inducement he offered - namely to have the death penalty commuted to transportation.
We are given a few reminders of how different the legal code was. Abortion was illegal, but stealing a corpse was not - and the age of sexual consent was thirteen.
The murder-mystery has officially been solved. However, Marlott (Sean Bean - Game of Thrones ) now realises he may have gotten the wrong man. Unfortunately the fact he pressured Billy the child-catcher into implicating a specific person now means the real killer will get away with it.
Marlott takes minimal precautions, and gets framed for murder. He has a very short trial, with no sign of a jury. There is not much of a defence he can offer, except for insanity from syphilis he contracted about twenty years previously. He has to share the gallows with four other people, so we can be certain that he was not the only one being rushed through the courts. Ironically, a hanged man is still likely to end up in the hands of the surgeons.
The villain gives a nice monologue to explain his motivation. He does not have the vocabulary, as it had not been invented at that stage, but in modern terms he was harvesting stem cells from aborted foetuses. Yes, so much for the Mary Shelley method of reviving the dead by galvanic response!
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This takes up where the previous Season left off. Marlott (Sean Bean - Game of Thrones ) was lost, abandoned of all hope, and spends three years chained up in Bedlam - the Bethlehem Hospital for the Insane. Somehow his scars have healed, so you cannot tell that the head and heart both came from other bodies.
Marlott escapes and goes on the run. His old sidekick Nightingale, now promoted to Sergeant, is an expert murder-solver. However, rather than be given the big case - the murder of an Archdeacon in Westminister - he is put in charge of the manhunt for the escaped lunatic. Luckily he is given one other officer to assist him.
The rest of the Police go to solve the Archdeacon's murder. It turns out that the City of Westminister is not subject to the jurisdiction of Peel's London Metropolitan Police. They have their own Watchmen, run by the Anglican Episcopalian Church. This leads to some politicking, so evidently this will be a major plot point in the show. Also, the Home Secretary is trying to pass a Cemetary law so there will be more talk about that as well.
Marlott (Sean Bean - Game of Thrones ) gets himself a job where his super-human strength will be useful. He gets paid to collect bodies of plague victims in the slum, and dump them in a pit outside the city limits. Things have gone downhill from the days of the Plague of 1666, when bodies were placed in straight rows facing Jerusalem. We also get exposition about the Dean's plan to disinterr bodies from a city centre graveyard so there is more room for expensive burials there.
The seamstress also gets some paid work. A lady mathematician named Ada (Lovelace?) hires her to fix a dress.
Renquist (Marty McCann) visits the Home Secretary, Sir Robert Peel. The Dean wants to maintain the current system of parish church graveyards, because he gets funding from the burial fees. Peel blames the old graveyards for the current plague outbreak. He believes it is miasma, airborne transmission of disease, because the theory of water-borne bacteria has not been established yet. A pity Hervey has been written off as dead, because his penicillin discovery might have cured the cholera.
A third murder victim is discovered. The Dean's men have denied the police access to the bodies and to the autopsy reports. Of course, Constable Nightingale decides to exceed his authority in the name of the Home Secretary himself. Will he be fired or promoted?
Marlott (Sean Bean - Game of Thrones ) conducts his own parallel investigation. Just as Nightingale blames Marlott for everything, so is Marlott obsessed with pinning everything on Hervey. However, he uncovers hing more sinister. The plague may be a deliberate attempt at slum clearance.
Ada's employer is Mr Dibble. He is obsessed with building an anatomically accurate automaton. The Seamstress does not see the value in such efforts. This is strange, because cloth-working was the major driver of the Industrial revolution. In fact, it could have started a century earlier if Queen Elizabeth the First had not banned mechanical knitting machines in order to safeguard the livelihood of cloth-workers.
Marlott (Sean Bean - Game of Thrones ) investigates the poisoning of the well. Billy Oates gives some exposition about a plague ship currently in quarantine. Will Marlott's obsession with Hervey blind him to other suspects? This is what ruined the investigation in Season One. However, if this is a real-estate scam then who is collecting the human hearts?
The ex-priest publicly condemns the Dean's work. Of course, he is setting himself up as a potential victim. And since he is an acquaintance of Marlott, it is obvious that the Police will jump to the wrong conclusion. Nightingale himself states The killer was John Marlott, which makes two great errors on his part. First of all the man he identified was merely a suspect, since he did not see the killing take place. Secondly, he should have emphasised that the man merely looked like Marlott.
The seamstress is invited to the great unveiling of the work she contributed to. Mr Dipple, evidently a captain of industry since he has not the title of a landed aristocrat, has financed the creation of a clockwork woman. Ada did the mechanical work, although in real life she was a mathematician and not a mechanic.
Marlott tags along to the party as the seamstress's plus-one. Sir Robert Peel is there, as is the Dean and his minion. In yet another of the most incredible of coincidences, Nightingale's wife is Dipple's house-maid!
Marlott (Sean Bean - Game of Thrones ) has discovered the truth. He closes in on his suspect.
It turns out that Marlott was not the only man the mad doctor raised from the dead. And now the other undead man wants an undead bride. He tempts her by promising her that she will be able to see ghosts. This superpower was only added at the end of the previous episode. It seems the writers are making it up as they go along.
The Dean sends Renquist (Marty McCann) to deliver evidence to Boz. Their plan is to frame Mr Dipple. But does Renquist intend to double-cross his employer?
Marlott (Sean Bean - Game of Thrones ) is a prisoner of his enemy. The undead bride fell in love with her suitor unbelievably quickly, and now she falls out of love with him equally quickly.
Nightingale left a clue that even the police could follow. They finally get their hands on a suspect in the murders.