We’re now a month into Fox’s new series Houdini & Doyle and, I must admit, I’m hooked. Sure, the show has some kinks to work out, but I consider it a good sign when some of those are already being resolved. Case in point? The matter of mystery.
As I mentioned in my review last week, I’ve been hoping for a bit more originality in the series where the crimes being solved by Houdini, Doyle and the fantastic Constable Stratton are concerned. ‘Cause, really, if you took out the historical element, it wouldn’t be too unlike any other crime caper out there.
Since the show has dismissed any possibility of the mystic or supernatural by discovering a very rational reason for every crime thus far, I was starting to wonder if Houdini & Doyle would ultimately be a modern day Scooby Doo minus the dog and, you know, in living color.
Not that there is anything wrong with that in general — if the show was going to stick to historical facts, some may argue that leaves little to the imagination. Those people, though, are the Houdinis of the world who don’t believe there is any explanation outside of science and logic.
I boast more of a Doyle frame of mind, whereas I’m open to the possibility of other. Of true mystery. Of that which defies comprehension. And this week, for the first time this season, Houdini & Doyle hinted there may indeed be some things science cannot explain.
Each week this crime-fighting trio faces a different foe. On this week’s episode, that foe was Spring-Heeled Jack who, as Michael Weston (aka Houdini) tweeted, is based on a real legend.
this is based on the real legend. First sighting 1837! Spring Heel'd Jack created mass hysteria in Londontown! #HoudiniAndDoyle
— Michael Weston (@_Michael_Weston) May 24, 2016
In the episode, a phantasmal menace begins to plague Londontown, earning the name Spring-Heeled Jack for its acrobatic ability to leap from rooftop to rooftop. As the episode wears on and the victim count rises, Houdini is convinced the crimes are being committed by a man and not a demon or anything similarly paranormal.
Near the episode’s end, Houdini, Doyle and Stratton do manage to uncover a conspiracy between a sketchy reporter (and former friend of Houdini’s) and a gymnast in the traveling circus. Case solved.
Only, not quite. When Houdini goes to visit his former friend in jail, the friend claims he had nothing to do with the first crime and only piggybacked off of it to sell papers and pump up his byline. So, who then, was responsible?
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Although Houdini claims he is unconvinced by his former friend, he seems a bit rattled. Doyle, of course, jumps at the chance to point out that Spring-Heeled Jack may not be of this world. Then, as the two begin to walk off together, a shadowy figure is seen moving atop a building.
A-ha! Houdini & Doyle just threw their mystic-hearted viewers a proverbial bone by hinting that Spring-Heeled Jack may not be a human after all. I’m apparently not the only fan who loved the intrigue of this twist, judging by a poll the show posted to Twitter.
Do you think the Spring Heel'd Jack is still at large? #HoudiniAndDoyle
— Houdini & Doyle (@HoudiniandDoyle) May 24, 2016
What makes this mysterious twist even more fun, though, is the fact that history backs the show’s play. To this day, Spring-Heeled Jack remains unexplained.
Here’s the story. According to the BBC, the first sightings of Spring-Heeled Jack in London occurred in 1837, smack dab in the middle of the Victorian era of science and reason. However, there was an undercurrent at the time of mysticism — of the belief in phrenology and fairies and other fantastical things.
Spring-Heeled Jack was just such a thing.
Sightings were reported all over Great Britain, particularly in the Black Country in the 1880s. The latest sighting of the specter was supposedly in Liverpool in 1904. So, uh, 1837 to 1904? That’s a huge span of sightings. One might say it’s impossible to explain.
His physical appearance also remains a mystery of supernatural proportions. Descriptions peg him as a cloaked figure with a goatee, pointed ears, horns and fiery red eyes. Sound familiar? Houdini & Doyle definitely paid homage to the legend’s rumored visage in this week’s episode.
— Houdini & Doyle (@HoudiniandDoyle) May 24, 2016
In London, Jack became a sort of legendary boogeyman. To this day, the story is reportedly still passed down from parent to child — often as a threat when the latter won’t go to bed on time.
If one were going to posit Spring-Heeled Jack is merely the byproduct of overactive imaginations or mass hysteria, how do you explain the fact that every report contained one consistency: that this cloaked figure could often be seen leaping from rooftop to rooftop. Surely no man is capable of such a feat.
It was, in my opinion, a fantastic episode and I hope the start of a continued trend.