There’s something so special about taking a story we all know and love and supercharging it for modern screens. “The Artful Dodger”, an Australian Star Original Series streaming exclusively on Disney+, feels immediately familiar. But it isn’t the story you know; it’s a new twist on a classic and it’s gripping from the opening strains of Wolfmother’s “Joker and the Thief”.
Music plays a huge part in “The Artful Dodger”. Despite it being set in 1850s Australia, in the colony of Port Victory, the show features a modern, Australian rock soundtrack that perfectly matches the whip-fast drama onscreen. Music has always been a powerful force in Australian culture, and the series embraces this by featuring a stellar lineup of homegrown talent. From classic rock anthems to indie bangers, the soundtrack acts as a character, lending an extra layer of authenticity and emotional depth to the narrative.
Thomas Brodie-Sangster stars as Jack Dawkins, aka The Artful Dodger himself; you’ll know him from “The Queen’s Gambit” or perhaps as Liam Neeson’s son in “Love Actually”. His charisma and cheekiness shine through the show, which keeps the energy light and makes this new story incredibly engaging. In “The Artful Dodger”, Jack really wants to turn his back on the life he had before and forge ahead, redeeming himself in a new career with new skills and positive outcomes. He’s earnest and focused; who doesn’t love a hard-working pickpocket turned good?
However, turning good isn’t always a straight path, as Jack discovers when his past arrives in the form of Fagin, his former teacher. “The Artful Dodger” deals with the difficulty that comes with outrunning your past. Fagin’s solutions to Jack’s problems might look like a slippery slope back into his old ways, but now that Jack has turned his skilled hands to surgery and is helping the colony, can he be excused a misdeed or two?
Let’s talk about the surgery. Between the ups and downs of Jack’s life, we get glimpses into the medical practices of the 1850s, and it’s wild to watch. When Lady Belle (Maia Mitchell), the Governor’s daughter, decides to get involved and become the colony’s first female surgeon, things take a real twist. Plus, she might also be vying for more than a remarkable new career; she might also be a contender for Jack’s noble heart.
Maia Mitchell is a local Aussie talent – she was born in New South Wales and got her big break at the age of 12 in Mortified. She went on to star in “The Fosters” and the spin-off “Good Trouble”, and now she’s exploding on screen in “The Artful Dodger”. Belle and Jack have electric chemistry, but they also share the same dream. As part of his redemption, he wants to use his new skills as a surgeon to save lives, while she wants to do the same while also shaking off the shackles that come with being a woman in the 1800s. The way these two characters come together and the sparks that fly between them make for an incredible additional layer to the “Dodger” story.
David Thewlis – you might remember him as Remus Lupin from the “Harry Potter” franchise or his roles in “Landscapers” and “Fargo” – stars as Fagin and brings us a taste of his hustle from the start with accent work and scheming, but he also brings a love for Jack. “The Artful Dodger” was filmed in Australia, so the cast is rounded out by incredible Aussie talent, including Damon Herriman, Miranda Tapsell, Tim Minchin and Susie Porter. Plus, there’s a host of rising stars from Australia and New Zealand.
But just because it’s a story you think you know doesn’t mean you know what’s coming in “The Artful Dodger”. The series keeps you on your toes with humour and drama, twists and turns. Plus, there’s the discussion of class and whether you can ever change who people perceive you as.
We’re living in an era of remakes, but “The Artful Dodger” is much more. The existing characters, Jack and Fagin, have new goals, new plans and new outlooks. Rather than returning for another round at the same history, they’re here in a new light. A classic may inspire “The Artful Dodger”, but it’s a complete reinvention, turning the story on its head and giving you an entirely new story to fall in love with. Whether you’re familiar with the characters already, or you’re coming in completely fresh, you won’t be able to stop yourself rooting for them. After all, who can resist a redemption arc?
Watch Ash Magic Celebrate ‘The Artful Dodger’:
The Artful Dodger is an Australian Star Original Series now streaming only on Disney+.