No doubt inspired by the huge success of Enola Holmes last year, Netflix now appears to have gone Sherlock Holmes crazy with its upcoming releases. On top of more adventures with Millie Bobby Brown as Enola Holmes, there’s also a ‘Sherlock Junior’ movie currently in development, as well as talk of a ‘Sherlock’s Daughter’ series. But before all of that comes a new eight-part series The Irregulars, available to stream on Netflix from today.
The Irregulars, created by Tom Bidwell, was inspired by mentions within the Sherlock Holmes novels of a group of London street urchins who would help Holmes and Dr Watson. They’ve also appeared in previous Sherlock Holmes TV adaptations. However, this time around, the focus is primarily on them, after being approached by Dr Watson with a request to help solve some strange supernatural mysteries that appear to be plaguing London. The show also benefits from a much more horror-driven take on the material that we’re used to seeing, leaning towards the fascination with the spirit world that was held by Sherlock Holmes’ author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Led by Bea (Thaddea Graham), the gang also consists of sister Jessie (Darcie Shaw), who appears to be suffering from some very disturbing nightmares, Spike (McKell David) and Billy (Jojo Macari). Following some very brief introductions, they are approached by Dr Watson (Royce Pierreson) who asks for their help in solving a case that the police have almost given up on. There’s no sign of Sherlock Holmes and Watson appears to have a lot on his shoulders right now, giving off an air of menace and mystery as he hands out his instructions and orders. The case causing so much trouble for the police is the theft of babies, taken from their beds at night, with no visible sign of entry by whoever is responsible. And when the gang are viciously attacked by a large number of ravens, after finding a raven feather at one of the crime scenes, it becomes clear that someone or something is controlling the birds. Watson reveals that something dark has entered London, threatening to destroy our world, and whatever it is, it appears to be causing ordinary people with a grudge to settle to obtain supernatural powers.
The first few episodes have a nice X-Files or Fringe feel to them – an overall story with some individual monster of the week type episodes that work well on their own while continuing to build on the main story. Episode two is just as grim as the first, with someone known as ‘The Tooth Fairy’ stealing teeth from people while they sleep. And not just a single tooth either, but the whole set! What’s worse is that those teeth are then being used to grow clones in the ground, rising like zombies in order to exact revenge at the tooth fairy’s bidding.
The consequence of such intense episodes, along with the introduction and setup of Victorian London, is that many of the main characters feel very underdeveloped for a while. Aside from Bea, who is thankfully a very strong female lead character, much of her supporting team are mostly just there to tag along and offer the odd random comment. They are also joined by Leo (Harrison Osterfield), who is actually Queen Victoria’s son Prince Leopold, escaping a life of luxury in the palace in order to see the real world, while keeping his real identity a secret from his newfound friends.
Meanwhile, Bea’s sister Jessie is revealed to be an Ipsissimus, someone possessing psychic abilities that allow her to reach into the mind of those that are causing supernatural chaos. But, much like any other show where someone is confused and troubled by newly discovered abilities, we end up spending far too much time getting glimpses at her nightmares rather than anything of any substance actually happening. Jessie can also be pulled from her nightmare into another, much calmer dream world by someone known as the Linen Man in yet another subplot that plays out throughout the show.
For something set in the world of Sherlock Holmes, The Irregulars does a great job of not actually showing us the man himself. But when they do show him, at the halfway point of the series, he’s in a very bad way. High on drugs, shaven-headed and slumped over a grave. It’s at this point that the show hits a bit of a slump for quite a while. But not because of the character himself (played by Henry Lloyd-Hughes), who is as interesting to watch as always and I would happily watch a show where this version of Holmes and Watson are roaming London, solving cases. It’s here that the story takes a number of lengthy trips to the past where a slightly more sober Holmes is working with Watson, and while the weird and wonderful occurrences are still going in the present, there is a lot to juggle and a lot that doesn’t quite get the attention it needs or deserves.
That’s not to say The Irregulars isn’t an enjoyable watch though, far from it in fact. It’s certainly not as family-friendly and accessible as Enola Holmes was, but it’s still an interesting take on what is by now very familiar subject matter and with the welcome addition of a nice horror/supernatural angle.
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