From the pages of Douglas Adams, author of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” comes a quirky television series that plays off of the ages-old trope of an intelligent, yet socially awkward detective who solves crimes for a living. This setup is not outside of the BBC’s domain, as the network is well-known for their modern adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes in the acclaimed series “Sherlock.” However, in this case, the name is Dirk Gently, and the game is solving crimes in the most holistic, matter-of-chance manner allowed in the murder business.
Over the past few years, the BBC has kept relatively close to its own territory, struggling to deviate from its more developed and popular series, so it’s nice to see the network taking chances in “Dirk Gently.” From start to finish, “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency” is as eccentric and exotic as its name suggests.
The lead of “Dirk Gently” ’s pilot is not the titular detective himself, but rather Todd Brotzman (Elijah Wood, “The Lord of the Rings” series), a hapless hotel employee whose life is turned upside down by an impossibly grisly murder scene. This role marks Wood’s return to television, following a running lead on the cult comedy “Wilfred,” a stint that prepared him for his role as a struggling young man on “Dirk Gently.”
Adapted for television by screenwriter Max Landis (“Chronicle”), the series glances at the detective business through an indie film lens, not unlike the work of Wes Anderson. From a trapped young woman in the upstairs flat that glows red to the corgi that follows Todd in a distinctly un-canine manner, nothing about this series is generic. In its own way, the series is venturing into cult-classic territory through dabbling in the abnormal and impossible.
In fact, the premise of the series seems to pull a lot from the world of impossibilities. Dirk Gently (Samuel Barnett, “Penny Dreadful”) is horribly reminiscent of the weird kid down the street who reads just a little too much Star Wars fanfiction than should be comfortably allowed. Gently is a self-proclaimed “holistic detective” — as in, he literally does nothing to solve a case. Believing in chance and the universal interconnectedness of events, he lets fate do the heavy lifting, opting to just sit back and enjoy the ride. More times than not, Gently’s manner of solving a case doesn’t actually work, but it’s all in good fun, as Barnett’s mannerisms and personality make him the perfect choice for the eccentric detective. You’ll find it difficult not to burst into a grin when his character steps on screen.
Even the real detectives are almost as absurd as Gently. Everyone seems to be after Dirk Gently for one reason or another. The CIA, the FBI, two bumbling Black Ops, the local cops and a crazed holistic assassin all seem to have it in for Mr. Gently, for reasons unknown to us at this point in the season. However, these colliding plot lines indicate a direction for the show, which is a promising thought after just the first episode of the season. Who is the holistic assassin? What happened to the girl in the Red Room? Who is Dirk Gently, though — really? The previous questions just prove that we’re in for quite the show in the coming episodes.
As the detective-assistant crime fighting formula tells us, you cannot have a relationship between a private investigator and their assistant without first dragging in an unwilling participant. It is in this manner that Todd finds himself thrown (quite literally) into the absurd world of the time traveller Dirk Gently. Desperately needing the money to fund the care for his sister’s delicate psychological condition, Todd reluctantly agrees to follow Gently around on his crime-solving escapades. However, secret organizations and assassins aside, there are still a hundred and two other forces threatening to tear the duo apart — even if the universe seems intent on keeping them together. All of this may seem like a lot to swallow after only the first episode of the season, but direction is everything and “Dirk Gently” is certainly on the path to becoming a successful crime-com for the modern day Sherlock enthusiast.