Thoughts and Ramblings on “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency”

Author’s Note: I was challenged to write a detailed opinion piece this past weekend after I marathoned Dirk Gently. In an effort to do more writing, I took the challenge, and decided to share that piece here. The ColossalCon and subsequent convention posts are coming soon!

Let me preface this by saying that I think Max Landis is a complete and total tool, and while I often have issues with the idea of separating the art from the artist, in this case I was halfway through the series before I even realized that he had anything to do with this. (Please don’t share your opinion about him with me, I don’t really care.) This is not really a review so much as something like an opinion piece. Also, this will likely contain spoilers.

I actually watched the first episode a few months ago with my roommates, and then mostly forgot about it in the whirlwind of real life. Having finally gained a Netflix profile to actually keep track of My List, I decided to go back and actually watch the whole thing – especially given that I’ve had a few friends both lament the lack of news regarding a second season (apparently it’s back in October), and lament the lack of people talking about the show.

Having only watched the first episode before, I had no idea where the show was going or what to actually expect. This isn’t a judgment call on the show itself, but instead I found that feeling of uncertainty almost sums up the show as a whole. I often felt like we were figuring out what was unfolding at the same time as our protagonist, Todd (played by Elijah Wood), and saw a lot of my confusion toward the events reflected on-screen. Unlike Todd, I did not feel betrayed by the other characters when the events started revealing themselves, but I am also a bystander and thus significantly less personally invested than an actual character in the show. (I also recognize that sometimes we do get hurt and angered by the actions of fictional characters, but I didn’t experience that at this time.)

I don’t know if I could reference specific moments when trying to explain why I liked this show, but I wrote down some of the feelings and ideas that came across over the 8 hours I sat watching. The most important of those is the idea that everything is connected. This is literally stated by the holistic detective, Dirk Gently, and the holistic assassin, Bart Curlish, referencing the “interconnectedness of all things” when describing their professions. And while, of course, we see this in the wildly improbable events that occur, what struck me most was the connections between the characters themselves. I’m a sucker for supportive female friendships, and I absolutely adored the dynamic between Amanda and Farah, and Farah and Lydia. (Okay, I basically just loved Farah’s character overall.) Amanda initially swooning over how absolutely badass Farah is, and later coming to realize that Farah might actually be crazy, was so important in the development of their friendship. (Honestly, that they were allowed to have a friendship at all is something I still find refreshing.)

The other big theme, that I didn’t actually pick up on until close to the end of the season, is the idea that some things can’t be fixed. Obviously we see this with the main plot, where no matter what he did, Dirk could not save his client, Patrick Spring. (As a side note, this show had one of the best representations of time travel that I’d seen in a long time.) As the season ends, we find not all the relationships have happy endings. Todd and his sister did not have an amicable parting. When confessing about his disease (or lack thereof) to his sister, he mentions that he wanted better timing, and she makes a retort about how there isn’t really a better time. A “better time” wouldn’t have changed the words or softened their blow. Todd did a bad thing, and better timing, paying her off, or trying to keep her safe wouldn’t fix the mistake he already made.

As the eighth episode was rounding up, I did find myself unhappy with how most of the plotlines had been resolved, but the Blackwing operatives hadn’t shown up in quite a while. I had started writing this, mentioning the “loose ends” when Riggins showed up in Dirk’s hospital room, and then Friedkin showed up with Estevez and all hell broke loose. It felt a little like the last ten minutes or so took all the neatly resolved storylines and threw them out the window to set things up for season two. It reminded the audience that, oh right, there’s still the issue of cleaning up the psychics. Apparently we’ve got some pretty big names to look forward to in season two, with Alan Tudyk, Amanda Walsh, and John Hannah joining the cast.

The way the show mixes comedy with some pretty dark themes, while still maintaining a vibrant colour palette is refreshing, since many shows and movies are still ascribing to the grimdark equals good mentality. (Though it does seem like media is starting to finally veer away from that and learn about colours again.) The visuals were eye-catching, and the dialogue was funny and smart. It felt like the writers respected the characters and respected the audience, and I can’t think of a time where the jokes felt forced or fell flat. I will admit to partial ignorance with the source material, being familiar with Douglas Adams’ work, but not specifically with Dirk Gently, so I’m not sure how much of that was him, and how much of that was the scriptwriters.

There are some things I did want to mention specifically, because they either stood out, or were my absolute favourite. For example, I loved the Rowdy 3. I love that they are thrown in without explanation, and even Dirk has no idea who they are. I love that even when we do get more information about them, we still don’t really know what they’re about, other than that they are another Blackwing project gone wrong. I was initially wary when they showed up around Amanda, expecting terrible things to happen to a female character as is common in…most media. Instead, they completely surprised me by not only helping Amanda manage her disease (in a way that was initially self-serving, but seemed to evolve into something they did to help her), but by also taking her in and making her part of the group. They looked out for her when they needed to, but they also let her kick ass and cause her own destruction. It definitely helped that Osric Chau played one of these rowdy boys, having been a fan of his sort-of through Supernatural, and sort-of just through the geek community in general. He’s a great actor and also a great dude, so seeing him attached to a show that’s actually pretty good is always a bonus.

On that Supernatural note, I’m a little disappointed that Dorian (Todd’s landlord played by actor Ty Olsson) was such a short-lived character. I did really enjoy him as Benny in Supernatural, and wouldn’t have minded seeing more of him. I’m also interested in the dynamic his character could’ve added to the show had he been allowed to stick around longer, even if I definitely get that his character and death was there to serve a very specific purpose.

Also shout-out to Aaron Douglas, who is most notable for me as “Chief” from Battlestar Galatica, as well as just being a general good Canadian dude to apparently hang out with at conventions. He is nearly unrecognizable as Gordon Rimmer, and a lot of that isn’t so much in the appearance as in the performance. We see a little bit of Aaron as we know him when he’s explaining that he was Luz Dujour, and he loses the demeanor and the voice he’s adopted as Gordon, but then it’s back into the character within the character that he’s playing once his explanation is over.

tl;dr: I liked Dirk Gently, and I’m excited to see where season two takes us.