TV Review – Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (2016)

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Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (2016) follows the adventures (and misadventures, of which there are no small number) of Dirk Gently, a Detective with a sunny disposition, a dubious relationship with the unwelcoming CIA, and an impressive number of colourful leather jackets. In the first episode, he obtains an assistant and (briefly) a kitten, and the subsequent instalments detail the ever widening and bewildering parameters of his investigation, which includes, among other things, abduction, murder, body swapping, time travel, and a magic light bulb. Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency  is unpredictable, startlingly clever and thoroughly bizarre. This review will touch on a couple of reasons as to why it is also compelling TV.

Dirk Gently, the titular character, neglects to utilise any of the recognisable or expected methods by which cases are ordinarily investigated, instead postulating an approach with greater scope, undeniable freedom, and the regular employment of a range of questionable – though exciting – vehicles. He works on the basis of mostly unexplained knowledge backed up by profound enthusiasm (and the frequent repetition of “everything is connected”) and Todd, his assistant, initially does little more than get carried along for the frequently baffling ride.

Exceedingly well depicted and wonderfully written, Dirk Gently’s character arc is sympathetic and engaging, all the more so for the fact that it is not entirely – or even predominantly – explained in full. His depiction is not without depth and reasonable variation, for he is by turns knowledgeable and unaware, surrounded by friends and utterly alone,  confident and painfully uncertain, but the viewer is provided with only the occasional indication as to what he might have experienced prior to his current case. The gaps, however, encourage a sense of mystery rather than irritation. As answers are provided for other questions throughout the show, there is arguably some sense that this will, too, eventually be answered in full. The character of Dirk Gently is not without believable flaws, and he freely admits to a host of mistakes.

The other characters are equally interesting and experience considerable development, above and beyond the aforementioned plot. Amanda Brotzman suffers a disease that causes painful hallucinations, and at the beginning of the series is housebound. By the point of the finale, however, she has gained in confidence and certainty, leaves the house regularly, and lives her life on her own terms – often unapologetically, but always with compassion, and a thorough understanding of the less laudable quirks of human nature. Her depiction gains greater impact in that while she is frequently shown to suffer often from her particularly debilitating illness, she is also in possession of dependable insight and arguably the most reasonable perspective of all the characters in the show. There is no indication that her illness renders her incapable in any conceivable way, and no suggestion that the other characters even consider that to be a possibility, which too often transpires on other shows.

Every character in Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency is vital to the narrative, and as richly defined and vibrantly depicted as the next, whether they appear for just a handful of minutes, or in every single episode.

It is around the murder of Patrick Spring and the abduction of his daughter Lydia that the plot predominantly circulates, in the context of which the various characters often clash, frequently at length, and usually in the spirit of unutterable confusion and a vague sense of established and necessary opposition. Each episode works inevitably towards the possibility of the case being solved, and this lends a wide-reaching, cohesive structure to a show in possession of no small amount of increasingly incongruous content, and a reasonable if not entirely convincing reassurance that the weirdness does not in fact exist without cause. It may just be that the cause has yet to sidle into view.

Finally, while the specifics of the plot are no small cause for concern (that poor, tiny, defenceless kitten), and there are no few scenes that border upon the heart wrenching or at the very least decidedly painful, there are also moments of genuine happiness, good fun, and undeniable humour. Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency is neither relentlessly dark nor cheerfully light-hearted, but instead, like the plot and characters, contains the good, the bad, and the undeniable depth and surety of excellent storytelling.

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency is an brilliant show with strong writing, intriguing and diverse characters, and a narrative that is always peculiar and never tediously predictable. It is unique in its structure and extremely well crafted, and I would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone with a particular interest in the weird, the wonderful and the ceaselessly wacky, or with an admitted preference for people in leather jackets. It’s almost impossible to categorise this show with any certainty, other than in the realm of sci-fi, but wherever it belongs, it should be recognised to be of very high quality – and exceptionally gifted at generating considerable confusion.

Top reads of 2016

It was long and emotional, but the 2016 book year (that is, the most important kind of year) is now a thing of the much loved past. All that remains is the opportunity to reflect, and, of course, to make plans for 2017, however cautious and however loosely defined. Whether this involves committing to a new and improved reading goal, adding several exciting new titles to your ever-increasing TBR pile, or resorting to making your beverage of choice so that you might stave off the responsibility of compiling a 2017 reading list for just a little longer, change is upon us.

I pledged to read a grand total of 50 books in 2016, a goal that I later decided, while languishing painfully in the midst of a particularly long novel, had been innocently meant, but ludicrously ambitious. As it was, however, despite the occasional moment of uncertainty, through a startlingly beneficial combination of delayed train journeys and no small amount of stubborn commitment, I reached my goal, reading a wonderful 51 books.

Are you proud? I’m proud.

I enjoyed many of the books that my greedy little hands alighted upon, regretted my interest in a couple, and even abandoned some, too profoundly unimpressed to read any further. To my considerable surprise, I delved into more than one classic of my own free will – something of a novelty after my lengthy stint studying English Literature – rediscovered my love of sci-fi/fantasy, and even took the occasional cautious sojourn into the realm of non-fiction, buoyed by a similar compilation of Terry Pratchett’s work.

I did, naturally, have favourites. Some were unexpected – penned by authors I had not previously discovered, or structured in a manner that I do not usually find enjoyable – and others were familiar titles taken from the shelf for a comfortable re-read. They were as varied as they were numerous, and in attempting to pick my top read of 2016, I, well. Let’s just say that I struggled. A little.

(By that I mean: a lot.)

So I decided to pick a top ten, from which I could derive a winner. They are as follows (in order of consumption):

  1. The Dark Defiles by Richard K. Morgan
  2. Wolves of the Calla by Stephen King
  3. The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch
  4. The Vagrant by Peter Newman
  5. Treachery by S. J. Parris
  6. Lord John and the Hand of Devils by Diana Gabaldon
  7. Perdido Street Station by China Miéville
  8. The Trees by Ali Shaw
  9. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
  10. Wideacre by Philippa Gregory

From this list, I decided, with some solemnity, that my top read of 2016 had to be a book that was particularly memorable, and that I thought was genuinely incredible. It didn’t need to have won any awards, but it had to have a quality or aspect that more than adequately distinguished it from the rest, and that rendered it an appropriate occupier of the pedestal on which it would remain for the entirety of 2017. The ten titles listed above were considered at length.

Finally (drum roll please), I decided that my top read of 2016 had to be China Miéville’s Perdido Street Station.

Perdido Street Station is an incredible novel. From the profound diversity of the characters to the vivid grittiness of the landscape, it is well written, expertly crafted, and brilliantly portrayed. The imagery seethes with life, the prose is astonishing, and each chapter is more intense than the last, encouraging feelings of suspense, compassion and even heartbreak with undeniable skill. It is impossible to pretend at indifference when reading Perdido Street Station, and the novel is so richly detailed and so wonderfully immersive that there would be little value in even attempting to.

I honestly cannot recommend it highly enough.

Read more in my review here.

As for 2017, I do not yet know where my interests will take me, or what books I am likely to enjoy above all others. I do know, however, that my TBR pile contains the sequel to Perdido Street Station (which I clutched lovingly for some time), and that 2017 has the potential to be a fantastic book year.

I will always be grateful for the authors that make this possible, and whose work continues to inspire and delight.

Which book did you most enjoy reading in 2016?


Check out my most recent review here.

Bookish round-up: December

Books read: 4

  • Skin and Bone (Cragg and Fidelis Mystery #4) by Robin Blake
    Genres: Mystery, crime
    Rating: 3/5
  • Wideacre (Wideacre #1) by Philippa Gregory
    Genre: Historical fiction
    Rating: 4/5

Favourite read:

Philippa Gregory’s Wideacre

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“Beatrice Lacey, as strong-minded as she is beautiful, refuses to conform to the social customs of her time.

Destined to lose her family name and beloved Wideacre estate once she is wed, Beatrice will use any means necessary to protect her ancestral heritage. Seduction, betrayal, even murder – Beatrice’s passion is without apology or conscience. ‘She is a Lacey of Wideacre,’ her father warns, ‘and whatever she does, however she behaves, will always be fitting.’ Yet even as Beatrice’s scheming seems about to yield her dream, she is haunted by the one living person who knows the extent of her plans…and her capacity for evil. Sumptuously set in Georgian England, Wideacre is intensely gripping, rich in texture, and full of colour and authenticity. It is a saga as irresistible in its singular magic as its heroine.”

Read more from the source here.


Check out my most recent review here.