[Season 1 !Season 2 ]
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!
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 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!
This takes up where the previous Season left off. Marlott 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.