Other Media Review

Guest Review: Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, Season Two

This guest squee/review comes from author Rhoda Baxter, who discovered the Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency adaptation on Netflix. It stars the adorable Elijah Wood!

Rhoda writes contemporary romantic comedies with a hint of cynicism. She likes to write about smart women and nice guy heroes. She lives in East Yorkshire, England, where there are lots of excellent tea shops, which is just as well because Rhoda is fueled by tea and cake. Her latest book is Girl In Trouble ( A | BN | K | AB ). Rhoda can be found wittering on about science, comedy and cake on her website or on Twitter (@rhodabaxter).

Last year I watched the first series of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency and promptly went around telling anyone who would listen that they had to watch it. This year, when the second series landed on UK Netflix, I binge watched it in three days.

When the last series ended, Todd had just had his first attack of pararibulitis – the disease that gives him terrifying hallucinations, Amanda (Todd’s sister) had joined the Rowdy Three (of whom there are now four) and Dirk had just been captured by the shadowy government organisation known as Black Wing.

I was expecting weird and disjointed, but the opening scene of this series takes things to a whole new level of WTF-ery. Under a fantastical moon, a pink haired man in fairytale hero clothing fights off baddies with a sword that is actually a giant pair of scissors. His boyfriend shows up, helps him and then implores him to fulfill a prophecy that sounds like a load of noises mashed into a sentence.

This fairytale land, we find out eventually, is a land called Wendimoor. It all makes sense eventually (even the prophecy), but for now we’re still in WHAT THE HELL?? territory.

In the meantime, Dirk is being held in Black Wing by Hugo Friedkin, who is still stupid, but is now in charge of Black Wing. Todd (the hapless hero) and Farah (the kickass bodyguard) are on the run; Ken (the computer programmer and the only person to survive hanging out with the holistic assassin Bart) is chained up in a taxi. By the end of episode one, we have pink haired people in a war in Wendimoor, John Hannah killing a man with a pencil, a housewife who gets a magic wand, a car that fell out a tree, a man embedded in the same tree and two very, very bored police officers in the rural town of Bergsberg.

So yes, this season is even more weird than the first one and feels just as disorienting. Everything is still connected and the story is still compelling in its madness. It was great to see the characters from the previous series, all of whom were subtly changed by their experiences. The Rowdy Three (all four of them) were broadly unchanged though, and Martin saying ‘Boys! Lunch!’ before wading into a battle is a beautiful, beautiful moment. Dirk lets his upbeat mask slip and goes for exasperated and depressed from time to time. Todd has embraced the whole holistic detective thing and ends up having to talk Dirk into his own theories sometimes. Bart, bless her, is trying really hard not to kill anyone.

The new characters are fun, especially Hobbes, the kind and very earnest Sheriff, and his deputy, Tina, who is so bored she spends most of her days drunk or high.

The baddies in this are wonderful. John Hannah is the Mage, powerful, cruel and stubbornly two dimensional. All he wants to do is hurt people. Amanda Walsh as Suzie Boreton – small town housewife turned super powerful and completely uninhibited apprentice to the Mage – is terrifying. My favourite was Mr Priest – played by Alan Tudyk (I love Alan Tudyk! I loved him as Wash in Firefly and loved him even more when he played an dangerous madman in Dollhouse. Plus, he does silly voices. Be still my beating heart!). Mr Priest is Blackwing’s ‘recovery’ guy. He is as disconnected from reality as Suzie, but also very good at catching Blackwing’s test subjects.

There are several unexpected twists to the character arcs. For fans of Douglas Adams, watch out for Agrajag and the ‘Don’t Panic’ reference.

It’s almost as though the writers thought ‘we need to up the ante…we had a time machine and a cult before, what can we use now?’ So we have a pocket universe containing a 1950s birthday party, a maze of bedrooms, a love spell at a rock concert, a fairytale world where people have ridiculous names (like Ritzi Bits Trotz), and a one-eyed, one-horned, flying purple people-eater. And scissors… so many pairs of scissors. As before, everything is connected, even Todd’s pararibulitis.

There is a lot of violence, but the gore is all off screen. All you see is blood and there’s a lot of that. There are a few jump scares and many, many moments of high tension. And that flying-purple-people-eater song can be a nasty ear worm.

Overall, I enjoyed it, but not as much as the first series. This is partly because I felt it was about half an episode too long. We found out how everything was connected (yay!) in episode 9. The last episode (10) felt like it was merely tying up loose ends and there were moments of extended angst which felt a bit like filler. The ending contained a few good character twists, one of which made me very sad. It’s a shame the ending felt like an anticlimax, because it was rollicking good ride to get there.

On that basis, it’s an A-.

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  1. I second Rhoda’s opinion that this is one of the best series on Netflix. Samuel Barnett is wonderful as Dirk, with a mixture of otherworldliness and total idiocy combined with utter genius.

    You have to stick with it past the ‘what the hell is going ON’ stage, and then it all starts to make sense in a bizarre kind of way.

    Incredible stuff.

  2. Iona Lovell says:

    I loved the first season. It blew my mind. This season…

    I think they dragged Dirk’s angst out for far too long – in order to pad out the episodes. He drags his heels a lot on “things that are things! Right?” Which, sure it makes sense that he’s afraid of losing his friends and it’s nice to see that recognized but for like half of the seasons episodes? That’s too long.

    My other issue is Amanda. I loved her in the first season. I loved the relationship between her and the rowdy 3 (the bit with the note tied to the brick through the window? Probably the cutest thing ever). This season the rowdy three were out of commission for like three fourths of the show and when they do show up in full form they spend an entire episode chilling. -__- And Amanda deserved a better plot. I could see them trying to give her a proper arc – in the first season she was scared and angry and just along for the ride. In this season she’s more focused – but all of her initial actions seem forced since she’s “following her visions”. I think the moment the show lost me was when Amanda, cornered by Priest with a weakened Vogle, doesn’t -do- anything except beg fate/plot to intervene. (And the witchacoocoo stuff is too corny for words.)

    Susan Borton was probably the best part about this season. The way the show chose to reveal her true character? Genius. Pure genius.

    Other great moments include: Ken’s transformation, Bart’s attempts to not be a holistic assassin, and one of the Rowdy Three saying that Wendimore is clearly Canada…

    But overall I’d rate this season a B-/C+ .

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