A holistic detective agency. What a bloody brilliant concept. This title alone was enough to convince me that this series may be worth my time. I’m happy to say that it was, even if it was not the most polished show of all time.
It will come as no surprise to hear that Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency was spawned from the brain of legendary author, Douglas Adams. Before we jump in, it should be noted that this adaptation is different to others. Max Landis (showrunner and creator) made a point to separate Dirk Gently from its source material. From what I understand, all that remains is the titular character and some well placed references to the books. The rest is Landis’ creation, in the spirit of Douglas Adams. As Landis more or less said in a Comic-con panel, “Douglas Adams is pork belly. You can’t cut away the fat.”
Todd Brotzman (Elijah Wood) is a deadbeat 30-something who lives paycheck to paycheck as a bellhop. He sends what little money he can to his sister Amanda (Hannah Marks), who suffers from a rare genetic disease called pararibulitis. Pararibulitis causes the sudden onset of horrific hallucinations. Todd was cured of the disease years ago, but not before his parents went broke paying for his medication. Basically, his life is shit and meaningless. But one day a murder occurs at his hotel under nightmarish circumstances. A billionaire inventor, Patrick Spring (Julian McMahon) is a victim – meanwhile, his daughter Lydia Spring (Alison Thornton) has gone missing. (The Spring’s head of security, Farah (Jade Eshete), leaps into action in hopes of saving Lydia.)
Todd suddenly finds himself to be a person of interest in the proceeding investigations. Enter Dirk Gently (Samuel Barnett), a Brit who is eccentric not only in terms of his personality but also in his occupation. Dirk Gently is a holistic detective investigating the aforementioned murder. Together, Dirk and Todd leap down a metaphysical, psychic, completely absurd rabbithole.
“The term ‘holistic’ refers to my convictions about the fundamental inter-connectedness of all things. I do not concern myself with such petty things as fingerprint powder, telltale pieces of pocket weapon, inane footprints. I see the solution to each problem as being detectable in the pattern and web of the whole.”
As I’m sure you can tell, the show is decidedly quirky. This is mainly Dirk Gently’s fault. He is that archetypal hyperactive-bordering-on-annoying British guy, barging his way into people’s lives with no explanation or consequence. Sometimes it is charming, other times it is just way too much to handle. And by that I mean cringe. I believe that Samuel Barnett played Dirk exactly the way he was directed to, so this isn’t a criticism of him at all. I just felt that sometimes Dirk Gently tried too hard to win viewers over, when there was already a slew of other reasons to watch the show.
Not all the performances were great. Elijah Wood, Samuel Barnett and Hannah Marks (who I now have a massive crush on) kept the show chugging along.( Just for the record – Wood was perfectly cast as Todd. If you liked Wilfred, I think you’ll like Dirk Gently purely for the similarities between Todd and Ryan (from Wilfred).) Jade Eshete thrived as her character, Farah, did. By that I mean her performance faltered as Farah’s did. I felt the same towards Neil Brown Jr’s character.
Let me explain. Dirk Gently‘s premise, was let down by the personal struggles of its subplots. The whole point of the show is that everything is connected and the universe is unforgiving. All you can do is deal with the cosmic set of cards you have been dealt. Why would I then happily sit through minutes of poorly spoofed dialogue, clearly attempting to parody police dramas? This is what Eshete and Brown Jr had to contend with. Dirk Gently mismanaged its time with characters that the audience simply weren’t very interested in. Monologues, clearly directed in the style of serious police dramas, were out of place, poorly acted and therefore, hard to watch.
This was something I struggled with throughout the show. First off – the sentimental moments were not handled well unless they involved Todd (Wood) or Amanda (Marks). Douglas Adams’ universe is both meaningless and meaningful. All you can do is hope you have a good friend to keep you company on your journey. Sentiment is basically a waste of time. But would Dirk Gently be too devoid of feeling, had those sentimental moments been erased? (Had they been well written, of course.) I’m not sure. I think the series found meaning in unexpected moments, and that would have been enough to carry it through.
No matter its faults, Dirk Gently had that je ne sais quois that kept me watching. I’m over subpar TV shows. I don’t finish them anymore. But in spite of its flaws, I kept watching Dirk Gently. This is because the first episode did a great job of intriguing me. Why was a kitten running from the scene of a grizzly murder? Why does Todd keep seeing the same corgi every day? Who are those punk guys in that beat up van? These small mysteries, entangled in an overarching mystery, reminded me of those strange dreams you have – where absolutely nothing and everything makes sense. Although I wasn’t entirely satisfied by the “answer” (once again, too…quirky for my tastes), the setup for the show’s second season was too good to ignore.
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (2016): 7.5/10