Series Review: Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

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Anyone who follows my @aliskyrichards twitter knows that I have fallen in love with BBC America’s Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency the last two months.  I heard about this originally when Mpho Koaho (Anthony from Falling Skies) was cast as Ken in the series. Being someone who supports my actor friends, I decided to give this series a chance.  Eight episodes and way too many tweets later, I regret nothing.

Dirk Gently is based on the Douglas Adams’ Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency and The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, created by Max Landis and from the producers behind The Walking Dead.  The premise is probably the least confusing part of this wacky, unbelievable series where you have no idea what is happening:  When washed-up rocker Todd Brotzman (Elijah Wood) stumbles upon the murder scene of a millionaire, all hell breaks loose.  Eccentric detective, Dirk Gently (Samuel Barnett), wholly believes they’re destined to untangle the peculiar events surrounding the mystery together, whether Todd likes it or not!

 

FROM THIS POINT FORWARD, THERE WILL BE SPOILERS!

Colorful Cast of Characters

While trying to solve the mystery, Todd and Dirk are joined by a sensational cast of side characters who bring color and depth to the world.  Many of these characters have their own subplots that eventually connect back to Dirk.

You have Ken (Mpho) who is a nerdy tech that is almost killed by the terrifying holistic assassin, Bart Curlish (Fiona Dourif).  For a while Ken is pretty much a hostage as Bart is hunting for Dirk. As they get further along the road trip, Ken goes from being a hostage to a willing passenger, and now… well let’s just say that there are feelings involved on both ends. #MyOTP

There is also Amanda Brotzman (Hannah Marks), who is a shut-in that suffers from a fictional illness, Pararibulitis, which causes her to suffer hallucinations and feel them as if they were real.  She ends up befriending The Rowdy 3 (Michael Eklund, Osric Chau, Viv Leacock, and Zak Santiago) who are half anarchist vandals, half soul vampires. Their special gift gives them the ability to help Amanda deal with her illness and start to find a life outside of the home. By the end of the series, she is now a member of the team, being the fifth member of the Rowdy 3 – and she has a cool jacket to prove it.

Then we have Farah Black (Jade Eshete) who is a kick-ass security office who is trying to find Lydia Spring (Alison Thornton) after she disappears when her father dies.  Dirk and Todd end up saving her from the Men of the Machine (MotM), and with her help they are able to take on Gordon Rimmer (Aaron Douglas) and the MotM without, you know, getting killed.

Meanwhile you have Detectives Estevez (Neil Brown Jr) and Zimmerfield (Richard Schiff) trying to find who murdered Patrick Spring and who has Lydia Spring.  Instead, they are left with a lot of questions, a nagging suspicion that Todd is in on it, and a lost Corgi who is a major clue they can’t fit into the puzzle.  As they get sucked further and further down the rabbit hole, they are seeing the plot from the other side and how deep the MotM’s influence goes.

On the other side of the government is Col. Scott Riggins (Miguel Sandoval) and Sgt. Hugo Friedkin (Dustin Milligan) who are connected to Dirk, Bart, and the Rowdy 3 through the mysterious program called “Project Blackwing”.  There’s just enough said about Blackwing to know that all the powers our psychics have are related to this project… and the last 3 minutes of the finale pretty much punch us in the feels on how they are going to be involved with season 2.

And then there is the kitten.  One word of warning – do not piss the kitten off.

Live-Tweeting @ #DirkGently

I have to say, this cast has been great for being involved with live-tweeting during the episode airings. BBC America itself also has a lot of presence and interaction with those tweeting during the show.  So far it’s been the most fun and interactive live-tweeting weekly show that I’ve been a part of, and makes me just more of a fan.  The social interaction really ups the enjoyment of the show, and has a great community of fans that I have loved talking with.  Here’s the list of who’s who when live-tweeting during Dirk Gently:

@BBCAmerica – Official Twitter for BBC America

@DirkGentlyBBCA – The Official Twitter of Dirk Gently

@Uptomyknees – Max Landis (Creator/Writer)

@Arvd – Arvind Ethan David (Writer)

Actors:

@mrSamuelBarnett – Samuel Barnett (Dirk Gently)

@elijahwood – Elijah Wood (Todd Brotzman)

@hannahmarks – Hannah Marks (Amanda Brotzman)

@JadeEshete – Jade Eshete (Farah)

@MphoAK – Mpho Koaho (Ken)

@fionadourif – Fiona Dourif (Bart)

@1Neilbrownjr – Neil Brown Jr. (Detective Estevez)

@Richard_Schiff – Richard Schiff (Detective Zimmerman)

@MichaelEklund – Michael Eklund (Rowdy 3: Martin)

@OsricChau – Osric Chau (Rowdy 3: Vogle)

@VivLeacock – Viv Leacock (Rowdy 3: Gripps)

@zaksantiago – Zak Santiago (Rowdy 3: Cross)

@DustinWMilligan – Dustin Milligan (Sgt. Hugo Friedkin)

@Aligthornton – Alison Thornton (Lydia)

@PoorCorgiActor – Bentley the Corgi (Rapunzel)

The Plot According to Todd Brotzman

I’m not even going to try and sum this up myself. Honestly- I’m still not sure I can.  Instead, I’m going to just give you a piece of dialogue from the finale tonight (and yes, I was serious @DirkGentlyBBCA that I was going to use it).

More than 100 years ago, a man named Zachariah Webb built a machine that broke and went into the future where these tattooed wackos found it and used it to swap souls.  They swapped Lydia with a corgi to use as leverage to stop Patrick Spring, who was actually also Zachariah Webb having jumped through time to get his machine back. In 2002, after the Men of the Machine killed his wife, Patrick Spring, who was a fake identity created to be the son of Edgar Spring, who was actually Zachariah Webb, jumped forward in time to last week, destroyed the Men of the Machine, and then went to the Perriman Grand to confront his future self, which led to the young Patrick Spring accidentally killing the old Patrick Spring when a kitten went off and set off a shark explosion.

Wait … What?!

That is pretty much the million-dollar question that Dirk and Todd work through to solve during the first season.  The story follows the plot and manages not to jump around in time a lot until, well, the characters are actually jumping around in time. Most of the questions are answered with a reason and then another question, wrapping the viewer in so many circles that you feel dizzy by the fourth episode.

The good thing about the series is that you do get the payoff in the maze of connections as they start to come together in the back half of the season.  On top of that, the Douglas Adams’ style of humor is preserved, entertaining in its confusion while still making sense when you go back to look at it later.  I will admit that I have yet to read these books (fixing that now) so I will come back sometime during this hiatus to compare the two.

Not knowing the source material, I can only talk about the writing in the series – which is amazing. The writers have a perfect balance of character development and plot movement in each episode, keeping you engaged with the story and having emotional connections – good and bad – with each of the characters. You also have all these threads for the plot and subplots that we are constantly told are connected. The writers keep them consistent, not sacrificing any of the subplots to the main story arc so that they weave together perfectly as a complete story. By the end of the season, all the loose ends are resolved and you come full circle with the story while also closing off the time loop.  Happy endings for everyone!

If there wasn’t going to be a season 2, this would have been a perfect little mini-series with the heroes riding off into the sunset. But there is going to be a season 2, so it seems that the writers couldn’t just let it end on the happy note (damn them).  What’s worse is that season 2 won’t be on BBC America until October of 2017, so we will have some time before we know, once again, WHAT IS GOING ON?!

But hey, it could be worse – they could follow the season release schedule of Sherlock.

Great, So What Do We Do Now?

So until next October you are going to want to get yourself caught up on this series (if you haven’t already watched it).  The first season (8 episodes) of Dirk Gently is available starting December 11th on Netflix worldwide EXCEPT in the USA.  In the US, you can stream it directly on BBC America’s website, or for sale digitally on Amazon, iTunes, Google Play and Xbox.

Next, if you’re like me, you will want to grab the books, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency and The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul.

From there, best thing to do is follow the show, writers, cast, and corgi of the series on Twitter so that you can see Behind the Scenes tweets when they start filming again.  It will also prepare you for tweeting with #DirkGently when next season rolls around.

If you’re planning on cosplaying as Dirk Gently during con season, you’re going to need the jacket.  The jackets were custom-made for the series by Lewis Leathers in the UK. Costume Designer Antoinette Messan says in this interview that the Super Sportsman Jacket on their site is the closest you can get to it.  She also discusses where to get the ties in that article too.

And finally – you’re going to want to follow me on twitter @aliskyrichards or @threeifbyspace, as well as subscribing to the ThreeIfBySpace.net newsletter to stay on top of all the Dirk Gently news as I hear about it.

Alison Sky Richards