Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency
Posted On March 11, 2019
The Dirk Gently books never did anything for me. Too twee. Too “LOL so random”.
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency represents one of those rare achievements where an American film company takes a foreign property, lets the executives demand changes to appease what they think the normies want, and actually improves on the original.
The plot of the first season revolves around two central lines. The driving mystery centers on the murder of a tech billionaire days after his daughter went missing. Obviously the kidnappers and killers are the same people, so finding one will allow Dirk and his new pal Frodo find the missing daughter. The second plotline centers on Frodo trying to help his sister live with a debilitating psychological disease, while also coming to grips with the fact he has been a total ass to everyone his entire life.
In the opening murder scene we learn that the murder weapon was a shark. In a ritzy hotel’s penthouse. Frodo catches a glimpse of himself, a beat up version of himself wearing an odd shirt and big white fur coat. The first on the scene he finds himself a person of interest and the cops show him video footage of himself sneaking around the hotel wearing a gorilla mask. It’s pretty messed up, but I can assure you all of the mysteries have a reasonable explanation by the end of the season…for certain values of “reasonable”.
It’s really hard to talk about any of the events of the show, because it takes a refreshing ‘kitchen sink’ approach to genre fiction with everything from vampires (kind of) to magitech (kind of) to superheroes (kind of) to Men In Black (kind of) showing up at one time or another. Each little revelation comes seemingly out of the blue, so going into any of them runs the risk of ruining a fun surprise for viewers. Suffice it to say, if you’ve ever wanted a lighter-hearted X-Files with a bit more relationship drama thrown in, this is the show for you. Imagine if Lost knew what it was doing and where it was going and took place in an idealized version of Seattle rather than a tropical island.
The woke quotient is surprisingly low for a BBC America production. Yes, it has the obligatory badass black wahman who weighs in at 112 pounds soaking wet beating up teams of well trained soldiers twice her weight. On the other hand, she is way out of her element and has, get this, a personality flaw in that her confidence is shot because she failed to protect either the billionaire or his daughter. It also has a badass psycho-killer girl whose ability to blindly shoot armed men in the head without looking and over her shoulder comes off as considerably less woke given that she does so by dint of being one of those (kind of) superheroes mentioned earlier.
Dirk Gently himself does come off as a much more twee Doctor Who than any of the modern incarnations of that character. The writers hammer home his “loose wristed, devil-may-care, everything will turn out okay because I’m magic” characterization HARD in the first two episodes, but if you can get through that, he settles down a bit. You also learn that his attitude is a mask worn to hide the pain he feels at the loneliness that results from his (kind of) superpower.
At eight episodes, it’s a short season, and one genre fiction fans should enjoy as it twists and turns and coincidences pile up on top of each other until the whole sordid knot gets untangled by the MacGuffin character that appears seemingly out of nowhere, but that’s only because of reasons that make sense and I can’t tell you without ruining things.
Seriously, if you get a chance, give it a shot. It’s worth it.
[Edit to add: Stay the hell away from Season Two. It’s got a great hook, but the presentation is checks all of the full-poz checkboxes. The servile bowing and scraping to the Narrative sucks all the fun and life out of what could have been some great television.]