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

As you may recall, I initially had a hard time getting into the Netflix/BBC adaptation of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. It was a strange, seemingly obtuse show with little connection to its source material. But by the end of season one, I’d been converted.

The logo for Netflix's adaptation of Dirk Gently's Holistic AgencyA year later, season two has appeared on Netflix, and I’ve been more than converted. I’ve been absolutely floored.

Compared to season one, season two’s plot is a fair bit more straightforward, but I use the term loosely. It’s still so bizarre and complex that I’d have a hard time knowing where to begin summarizing.

I can say it involves magic, scissor-wielding knights, pocket dimensions, a holistic method actress, a boat that fell from the sky, a purple people-eater, an epic gay love story, and the best worst cops ever.

Oh, and you might just learn the how and why of Dirk Gently’s existence along the way. Before, I disliked the attempt to provide an explanation for Dirk’s abilities, but seeing how it now fits into a greater mythology, I’ve come to appreciate the idea.

Much of season two deals with events in an alternate reality, a fairytale kingdom called Wendimoor. A surreal place of rainbow colours and childish ideas, Wendimoor initially seems like a place of utter silliness and absurdity, but I guarantee you that by the end of the season, you’ll be taking events in Wendimoor very, very seriously.

That said, while the show can still go to some fairly dark places, season two does have a lot more levity than season one. There’s more jokes, more humour, and a more whimsical tone in general, as well as some genuinely heartwarming moments.

Sherlock Hobbes and Tina Tevetino in season two of Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective AgencyA real highlight of season two comes in the form of two new characters, Tina Tevetino and Sherlock Hobbes, the only two cops in a tiny Montana town that lies at the heart of Dirk’s latest “case.” Bored out of their minds from their life in a town where absolutely nothing ever happens, Tina and Hobbes become almost frighteningly eager to assist Dirk’s friends on their exciting adventure.

They’re the worst cops ever, breathtakingly undisciplined and unprofessional, and yet almost overwhelmingly lovable and entertaining. They’re the best part of season two, and that’s saying something in a season that’s virtually flawless from top to bottom.

And truly, this is a season of television that has it all. Humour, drama, action, mystery, suspense, shock, horror… Name an emotion, and season two of Dirk Gently will make you feel it.

As before, the season begins seeming like chaos, like nonsense. Weirdness will be thrown at you hard at fast, and none of it will make any sense. But with each passing episode, more pieces will fall together. Everything will come together, and (nearly) every question will be answered. Anarchy becomes a symphony.

These are the kind of stories that both inspire and depress me, because I want so badly to be able to write like this, but I know I’m just not that good. Maybe one day I’ll become a good story-teller, but I’ll never be this good.

If I have one small complaint, it’s that Dirk himself takes something of a dark turn this season. He spends much of it in a state of depression, his confidence shattered and his sense of wonder replaced by cynicism. Now, this makes perfect sense given all that’s happened in his life, but it just doesn’t feel the same without Dirk’s usual manic enthusiasm.

A shot from season two of Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective AgencyIn every other way, this is about as good as TV gets.

In researching this post, I was very saddened to discover that the BBC has cancelled the show. My hope is that Netflix may pick it up for a third season themselves, because this is definitely a show that deserves to continue, but if not, the silver lining is that season two does have a mostly conclusive ending, so it’s not like we’ll be left with an unfinished cliffhanger at least.

Regardless of what the future holds, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency is a show that has now earned my unequivocal recommendation. Season one took some getting used to but was worth it in the end.

Season two, on the other hand, is a masterpiece.

Overall rating: 9.6/10 Whether you know it or not, you need this show in your life.

Netflix’s Dirk Gently Series Is the Strangest Thing

Being a long-time Douglas Adams fan (as you all should be), I was excited to see a TV adaptation of his novel Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency appear on Netflix and started watching almost immediately.

The logo for Netflix's adaptation of Dirk Gently's Holistic AgencyIt didn’t blow me away out of the gate, though. It was a strange, confusing show that didn’t seem to have much to do with the Dirk Gently story I know. I almost gave up on the show after the first two episodes, but something about it stuck with me, and I decided to give it another shot.

This turned out to be a good call.

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency is a very, very strange show. Far stranger than I have the ability to adequately communicate through a mere blog post, and almost certainly the strangest television show I’ve ever seen.

It’s also almost entirely unlike the book it’s supposedly based upon. Really the only common threads are Dirk himself (and even he’s changed somewhat compared to the books) and the underlying concept of the holistic detective and the “fundamental interconnectedness of all things.”

So much has been changed that the show is now a totally different genre. While the book was a lighthearted comedy, the show is definitely a drama, and a surprisingly dark and sometimes gory one at that. It’s not without occasional moments of levity, but it’s definitely more serious than silly.

Still, I’ve never been much of a purist. I generally try to judge each incarnation of a story on its own merits, and while the TV Dirk Gently is a radical departure from its source material, it manages to be pretty interesting in its own strange way.

Farah Black and Dirk Gently in Dirk Gently's Holistic AgencyAnd it is strange. I can’t overstate that. This show is just so weird. I don’t know if I could even attempt to summarize the plot, but it involves a kitten, a shark, time travel, anarchist energy vampires, and an heiress/corgi.

Alison Thornton plays dog very well. She’s very convincing as a corgi.

Early on, I was turned off by the show’s surprisingly gritty tone, by how different it was from the books, and how unrelentingly strange it was. However, over time, it began to grow on me.

There are a few reasons for this. The main cast members are all pretty likable and managed to feel pretty convincing as real people despite the oddness of the situations they find themselves in. Dirk is pretty bizarre, but that’s the point, and he’s entertaining.

Dirk is obviously the main character, but much of the story is told from the perspective of Todd, his hapless “assistant,” played by Elijah Wood of Lord of the Rings fame. Rounding out the core protagonists are Farah, a highly competent but not entirely confident bodyguard, and Amanda, Todd’s punk rocker sister, who suffers from a severe mental illness involving frequent and painful hallucinations.

There’s also a side plot following a strange woman named Bart, a holistic assassin who utilizes a method similar to Dirk’s (IE just wandering around doing random things for no reason) but with a lot more murdering.

Todd and Dirk in Dirk Gently's Holistic AgencyWhat really started to hook me in, though, was the realization that the show does share one important quality with its source material.

As popular as he is, I don’t think Douglas Adams gets enough credit. His books aren’t just fun; they’re brilliant. When you start to analyze his books, you realize there’s an incredible depth and complexity to many of them.

Douglas Adams books always began with numerous bizarre, seemingly unrelated plot threads. It would seem like he was just rambling without purpose. Then, slowly, all the threads would begin to come together, and gradually you would realize that it was all connected, that he had a grand plan behind everything. What began as chaos became a symphony.

The Dirk Gently TV series has that same quality. At first, it seems like nothing but an incomprehensible spray of random, nonsensical events. Over the course of the season, you will begin to see the connections form, to see events align, and eventually every question will be answered, every loose thread tied together into a grand and beautiful whole.

As a writer, it leaves me awestruck. I could never write something like this.

There are still things that bother me about the show. The biggest is that I really dislike the attempt to give something approaching a rational explanation to Dirk’s abilities — the mystery is his whole charm — and the very cliche plots that spring from this explanation.

YeahStill, a show that I initially met with profound skepticism has won me over. I got more into the series with every episode, the season finale was spectacular, and I’m looking forward to season two.

Also, “Two Sane Guys Doing Normal Things” is going down as one of my all-time favourite TV episode titles.