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


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.


TV Review: Preacher – 1×03 ‘The Possibilities’


AMC’s Preacher stormed onto our scenes, hitting hard and fast. Heralded by a number of increasingly vague trailers that hinted at the action but didn’t offer much in the way of detail, ramping up the sense of intrigue and anticipation, it came into play with all the subtlety of a battering ram, quickly and firmly establishing itself at the very top of many lists.

It hasn’t let up since. Frequently shocking and often controversial, it pulls no punches, and never shies away from difficult, controversial topics. It doesn’t allow for a quick and easy division of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ in its plotlines, and certainly does not offer the scope for a breathtakingly simple identification of trope-heavy heroes and villains. As far as the characters are concerned, variety is the name of the game, and their motives are suitably dubious, preventing easy categorisation. They’re layered, complex and diverse enough to be realistic, but retain enough similarity to believably exist in a single community.

(Pause for breath.)

The third episode of Preacher is just as gleefully, shamelessly, unequivocally dark as the first two, gifted with a veritable boatload of oozing, evocative atmosphere. Entitled “The Possibilities,” the thematic focus of the episode seems to be on choices, and the ramifications. Some are made well, others badly, and from Jesse’s eventual acceptance of his odd new ability to Tulip’s insistence on pursuing revenge, there’s genuine and realistic diversity across the board. In this episode, as in the previous two, Preacher doesn’t fail to take into account some particularly harsh truths.

The pacing of the third episode is interesting, as it is primarily characterised by an intriguing mix of long periods of slow movement and relative inactivity, and then sudden bursts of shocking – and often violent – action. Preacher is heavy on blood and guts (metaphorically and literally, it’s like Christmas) and the structured pacing provides for a startling contrast between scenes, setting Preacher apart from shows that favour the consistent bludgeoning approach (that is the official term) of forty-five minutes of intense, death-defying drama. The weather in Preacher is oppressively hot, with little evidence of relieving rain or an occasional cool, stirring breeze, and this contrast between action and lethargy certainly has connotations of hot summer days. Preacher’s depicted weather goes a long way towards implementing a particularly anticipatory atmosphere, as in lingering heat tempers fray, and boiling points are reached absurdly quickly.

(I’m nodding approvingly.)

I thought this was a good, solid episode. Preacher has settled into a strongly recognisable pattern, featuring typically shocking material and a distinct fondness for exploring controversial topics and opinions with impunity. I thought the first episode dragged on far too long, bolstered with scenes that were useful neither for establishing the universe nor for developing the characters, but the second and third ticked along nicely, providing various new threads to existing plotlines, and further developing the introduced characters.

In the third episode, Cassidy chooses to reach out to the vampire hunting vigilantes, who, to his immense surprise, turn out not to be vampire hunting vigilantes at all, but rather a couple of blokes on the side of the angels with an inexplicable fondness for cowboy hats, Tulip (unsurprisingly) chooses to make another doomed effort to reach out to Jesse, and Jesse chooses, somewhat predictably, to yet again bewilder anyone and everyone by setting out on the long road to some sort of believed redemption, with the rest of the town getting dragged along behind him, regardless of their opinions on the matter.

Did I enjoy it?


It was irreverent, unapologetically dark, and very well structured, furthering the main plotlines without losing sight of the all-important world-building detail.

However, it was also a little predictable. Tulip has been trudging the same path since day one, Jesse’s vacillating faith is par for the course, and Cassidy’s confrontation of the two blokes that he believes are stalking him is surely only to be expected, given his previously-aired prejudice against anyone reckless enough to hunt him down. As such, my favourite parts of the episode were the parts I couldn’t predict, which were in short the shock revelation in regards to the two taciturn antagonists claiming to be from ‘the government,’ and, subsequently, Cassidy’s interactions with the two men in question.

Cassidy’s major involvement in their plotline was nothing less than genius. Watching the three odd creatures bond over their shared beliefs (and general oddness) was decidedly entertaining, and inexplicably heart-warming. With many reasons to dislike each other, they nevertheless located shared ground, and despite mutual distrust, it was that shared ground that prevailed, an interesting response in a town in which violent behaviour is common on every day ending in ‘Y.’ The singularly bizarre nature of their conversation was great material, both entertaining and intriguing.

On a similar note, Cassidy and Jesse’s dubious testing of Jesse’s shiny new ability was also thoroughly amusing, and yet it did not lose sight of the darker options and consequences of what said ability might plausibly achieve.

(Cassidy may or may not be my favourite character. I admit nothing.)

As for what I didn’t like, it seems safe to say that I was simply a little unimpressed with the predictability of the rest of the episode, as the first two had, in every respect, been the opposite. This isn’t a major concern, but just my given reason for why I wouldn’t rate it as highly as the others.

To sum up, I enjoyed the third episode of Preacher a lot. Thoroughly dark and frequently hard-hitting, it doesn’t make things easy for the viewer. There are no attempts to use a cleverly discreet camera angle by which violence might be implied but not explicitly depicted, and the viewer is obliged to see and understand everything in truly graphic detail, complicit to the violent acts that have been committed. With such a talented cast, and clever writing and production – in particular, I found the exceedingly varied dialogue admirable, as it is a rare show indeed that conveys more in the spaces between what characters say than in long, flowery speeches – even the parts that did not, strictly speaking, exceed my expectations, were still very good. It was a strong, entertaining episode that bodes well for what comes next.

(Please excuse me while I clamber down from this soapbox.)



TV Review: iZombie – 2×01 ‘Grumpy Old Liv’


We’re back!

How good is that?

Might I suggest: very good?


This episode begins in much the same way as the previous series ended: with a murder, brains, and Blaine’s vaguely unsettling presence. But the stakes are higher, light, easy-going conversations are fraught with deep meanings and deeper tension, and Peyton is missing, and while there might be – and is – humour in abundance, it is somewhat over-shadowed by, well, everything else.

iZombie-2x01-6Personally, I think it works.

There has been a shift in tone from the first season to the second, but it is a shift that works. That, contextually, makes sense. That is, to put it simply, believable. These familiar characters now occupy a different world to the one in which the first episode of the first season was launched, and if that hadn’t been acknowledged, it wouldn’t have felt right. This is a necessary change in tone, and, furthermore, one that does not undermine the consistency of language, style or attitude of the show as a whole.

Nicely, cleverly, done.

Have I said that I liked it yet?


The episode settles quickly enough into a familiar structure, offering a murder that will soon become suspicious, the subsequent involvement of the kick-ass Detective team that is Clive and Liv, complete with interesting wardrobe choices and an apparent dedication to hard work, and an all-new personality to consume in the name of justice. It’s a tried-and-tested arrangement that works well, and with the addition of several overarching plot points brought into play during the previous season – such as that involving Liv’s brother, badly injured last season, and now in hospital – offers plenty of action alongside the expected acknowledgement of the ground yet to be covered.

With both long- and short-term plot points to sink one’s teeth into, the episode was, to stretch a metaphor I haven’t really applied, and that I’m not sure I really want to, a meaty one, with the apparent assertion of similar depth to follow in the future.

So to speak.

At the very least, the ante has been well and truly upped, with well-established, familiar characters furthering new plot points, generating new twists, and lending the action an additional tension. Now that the viewers know the world and its characters, there’s no need for any handholding – and there’s a refreshing certainty to what remains.


Liv is, as ever, a delight, under the influence of brains or otherwise, but Liv in the form of ‘grumpy old man’ is better still, and the scenes involving her and Clive are particularly entertaining, tapping into a brand of humour familiar from the first season. It was fun, cleverly put together, and wonderfully enacted.

I have a few reservations in regards to keeping Clive in the dark – that’s getting a little old – but I’m sure the show will resolve them soon enough.


Final comments:

There’s plenty to enjoy in this episode. It’s well constructed, tastefully and cleverly done, and, as ever, humorous. It also does a great job at hinting at what is to come without erasing any possibility of surprise, develops some groundwork for future plot points, and treats its characters well.

TV Review: Gotham – 2×03 ‘The Last Laugh’


You’ve looking at one very happy consumer.

Last week, I asked – well, demanded, petulantly – for more Barbara, and this week Gotham delivered in fine style, meeting every single one of my expectations and seemingly thoroughly convinced of its place among the brilliantly vibrant spectrum of shows offered to the standard viewer.

And why not?

The early episodes of season 2 lack the uncertainty that emerged so often in the first season – like a bad penny – typified by an apparent inability or unwillingness to commit to one particular genre. They have, seemingly, left any attempts at creating a defined crime drama procedural in the metaphorical dust, turning, instead, to a more fluid – although still recognisable structure allowing various characters to take centre stage – sometimes literally – without seemingly to forget quite so fundamentally about the others. There was the touch of the ensemble to this episode, and it worked.


I do like a good ensemble.

Now, onto the particulars:

In 2×03, the merry band of Arkham Asylum escapees hit Gotham city with a good old-fashioned hostage situation, complete with hysterical women, lots of innocent-looking youngsters – yes, Bruce, I mean you – and Alfred. It’s the perfect theatrical follow-up to last week’s stunning (pun intended) debut, and ups the ante nicely, driving into the new season on a particularly destructive note.


Jerome, naturally, takes pole position, conning his way into the fundraising gala as the replacement magician – an assured nod to the circumstances under which he appeared in the first season, if a little predictable – with Barbara in tow, and from there, he takes the entire group of rich, vaguely benevolent people hostage. Tension builds nicely, ramped up by Bruce and Alfred’s involvement in the rapidly worsening situation, and is broken only by a concerted effort of opposition, led initially by Gordon, but circumvented by Galavan himself.

Now that’s a turn up for the books.

The episode was low on further surprises, however, including Jerome’s death. I’m no sleuth, but ‘The Last Laugh’ implied enough, given Jerome’s role so far, to set me onto the right track. Neither was the manner of his death much of a shock, as it was, again, implied, but it was certainly nicely done – she says, graciously – and had an effect, even if that effect wasn’t shock.

I enjoyed the implication of the title – that Jerome’s death enabled him to have the last laugh, as he would have wanted it – and the final few scenes of the episode, which suggested that it would be far from the only laugh, too. That’s the kind of foreshadowing I can get behind, placard in hand.


I would, however, have liked to see more of Selina. As amusing as her ability to appear almost at random is, she deserves more.

Maybe next week?

TV Review: Gotham – 2×02: ‘Knock, Knock’


The new season of Gotham was heralded by a refreshing shift from the ‘villain of the week’ structure that typified the first season, and, of course, the standard crime drama procedural that I know and love, and this pattern follows through into the second episode quite smoothly. Arguably, when the focus of the episode does not rest, solely, on the ‘whodunit’ aspect of the crime that’s been committed, then there’s less pressure to conform to the often-labyrinthine twists and turns typical to the modern crime drama, and more space to establish a unique identity beyond that.

Now, onto the particulars:


In episode 2, the Arkham escapees conduct their debut performance, led by Jerome – I’m no Sherlock Holmes, but I saw that coming at least three miles away – and wreak merry havoc on the poor citizens, who seem to be, in the main, utterly unaware that they’re living in the kind of city likely to be extremely bad for their health – and that’s on a good day. Leading the opposition is, Jim Gordon – naturally – but without his usual partner in crime prevention, as Bullock is giving life as a civilian and bartender a go.

Gotham 2x02 This episode was, as I’ve already rambled on about, absent of the usual crime of the week, and that allowed for a much freer, looser structure centered more or less entirely around the main plot point of the Arkham escapees, with the occasional side trip to the Wayne manor. As an episode, it felt far more cohesive than some of those in the first season, and thus much easier to follow, too.

(Which, as a more or less dedicated fan of multiple shows, all of which have returned at roughly the same time, I appreciated)

Although they were, relatively speaking (I like to speak relatively), sparse, I found the scenes involving Jim and Harvey to be the most enjoyable. They were well crafted, alluded nicely to the strong friendship developed throughout the first season, and while not as humorous as the viewer has come to expect from the duo, were far from dull. Additionally, while it was somewhat predictable for Harvey to return to the force, and at such a critical time, too, it was nice to see their partnership restored.

Yes, I’m a sap.

Other than that, I enjoyed Jerome’s scenes – great acting, wonderful dialogue, etc., etc., – but I had hoped for more of Barbara. Now that she has a part beyond that of Jim’s girlfriend, she’s become an asset to the show and an interesting development to follow, and I’m very interested in watching her character arc pan out.


To conclude with Bruce and Alfred, I think the show has established a wonderfully realistic spin on the origins story, and with each episode bringing another hint of what is to come, and another shift made by Bruce into the kind of person that he’s going to grow up to be, it’s cleverly done and great to watch.

As for Alfred…well. I think we all deserve someone like Alfred in our lives.

TV Review: The Flash – 1×18 “All Star Team Up”

The Flash 1x18

In this episode, Felicity and Ray’s visit to Central City coincides nicely with the doomed rise of Brie Larvan, formerly a mechanical engineer at Mercury Labs. Brie turned nasty when her robotics project was shut down for ethical reasons, and subsequently became a super-villain. (Arguably, not the wisest career choice). Naturally, Felicity and Ray take part in the dismantling of Brie’s robotics empire, thus explaining the name of the episode – “All Star Time Up” – and replicating the ensemble feel that the previous crossover employed to such success.

It was a strong episode that delivered both on humour – The Flash is, notably, a lighter variant on its counterpart, Arrow – and on genuinely emotional drama, and that managed to take advantage of the extra characters without allowing them to overwhelm its own regulars. It was clever and entertaining, but the stakes are getting steadily higher, and that, too, was clear.


Although there were a few subplots – Barry’s determination to discover everything he can about Wells, and Iris and Eddie’s relationship issues, for example – the majority of the episode was concerned with the villain of the week, and it enabled the whole range of characters, guests and regulars, to, well, team up, to glorious effect. It was almost ridiculously cheerful in that respect, and even the momentary danger to Barry’s life felt inconsequential, possibly because it was so momentary. It was not devoid of serious moments, but retained enough good humour and entertaining scenes to ensure it delivered on all fronts, and retained, also, the light-hearted personality The Flash has had from the start.


First things first, including Ray and Felicity – the cheerier members of Team Arrow – worked wonderfully. It gave the viewers an opportunity to see Felicity in happier circumstances, not to mention in her element at Star Labs, and the writers an opportunity to work on Ray in a new environment. It worked. The end result was a group of smart, entertaining people all working toward a common goal, and in doing so, inducing that feel-good sensation often associated with The Flash.


On the other hand, the subplot involving Iris, Eddie, and, to a certain extent, Barry and Joe, has not only become tedious, but felt clumsy. Iris West was portrayed as a strong, confident woman unafraid of pitting herself against significant opposition in order to achieve her dreams, and yet, in the recent few episodes, she, as one of the few important characters still unaware of Barry’s identity, has become the unfortunate Lois Lane of the show, dismissed from the central group of ‘very smart’ people and often the subject of many an awkward conversation.

She’s been kept in the dark for too long, perhaps as a tool to ensure that the viewers are aware that Barry’s identity is still, in the main, a secret, but it’s become tedious, and has subsequently pushed Iris into a particularly unflattering box as she struggles against the pressure of knowing that the people around her – the people she cares about – are lying to her face.


Equally, the conversations between Eddie, Barry and Joe about Iris, and, in particular, protecting Iris, have become ridiculous. The aim is, apparently, to protect her, but as an excuse for the lengthy deception, it fails to hold wait. Forewarned is forearmed, and surely Iris would be in a far better position to protect herself – for she is actually capable of that, as we saw in some of the earlier episodes – if she was privy to all the facts. But she does not get that choice, as instead the male characters get the deciding ‘vote.’ Quite aside from the fact that this relegates Iris to the position of helpless girlfriend in a show that at first seemed determined not to allow that trope to exist, it’s inconsistent with her earlier characterisation as the tough, no-nonsense friend perfectly capable of doing absolutely anything she sets her mind to.

The only redeeming factor was Iris’s response to that treatment – justified anger – but in the context of the rest of the episode, it came across as anything but justified. She, of course, is being unreasonable, because every other person around her knows better.

Concluding Comment:

When’s the next crossover?

TV Review: iZombie – 1×05 “Flights of the Living Dead”


This week, the obligatory dead body was that of a girl named Holly, an old friend of Liv’s, and the subsequent case surrounding her death hit much closer to home. Lying on the slab in front of Liv wasn’t some poor stranger who she sympathised with but never really knew. Lying on the slab in front of Liv was the body of a girl that she not only knew, but also talked to and laughed with, and that change in circumstances had a considerable influence on the prevailing mood. It was, essentially, a somber affair, and the various entertaining moments – those involving Ravi and Liv, and Lowell and Liv, respectively – only served to further highlight the less-than-uplifting mood. Not, however, to detrimental effect, as it was a strong episode (if I had a dollar for every single time I’ve said that about this show, I’d have lots of dollars, none of which I’d be able to spend in my current location), and, arguably, its sympathetic representation of grief and the different ways in which it can potentially manifest, was a significant contribution to that.


In some respects, iZombie is a crime drama. A dead body turns up, there’s some suspicion over how said body ended up dead, people investigate, and then, to conclude, the mystery is solved and the case is closed, allowing everyone involved to home for dinner and/or booze with hot sauce.

In many other ways, however, it is not, and “Flight of the Living Dead” was a prime example of why that is the case. It was, in short, primarily about people, not crime. Rather than a lengthy discussion of motives and MO’s, it was about the different ways that grief manifests itself. It was about friendship, whether lengthy and enduring or recently discovered, about how people behave when they’re desperate, and, most importantly, about living, even if – especially if – your version of living involves semi-dubious cocktails and hair dye.

This is a clever, unique show that is, ultimately, character-driven but that never fails to deliver multi-layered, engaging plots focusing on very real and very human concerns, and that is a truly impressive combination.


Ravi had considerably less screen-time in this episode than he had in 1×04, but his contribution was far from negligible. He continued to provide many of the entertaining scenes, just as he has all series – particularly enjoyable was the way he teased Liv over Lowell – and it is, arguably, refreshing to watch a show that has so many friendships that are just that – friendships. No subtext, no suggestion that a romantic relationship might exist somewhere in the future, when the two characters in question inevitably discover the worth of the other person. Just friendship. Now that so many shows – crime drams included, incidentally – seem to consider romance to have not only more mileage than friendships, but to be of higher importance, it’s nice to have the opportunity to enjoy the latter without having to worry about the sudden interference of the former.

iZombie --

More importantly, Ravi, in the role of ‘friend and co-worker,’ shines. He’s an interesting character in his own right, undeniably funny, clever, and sympathetic. He has his own life, but he’s a good friend to Liv, and their interactions lend a now familiar touch of humour to every episode.

Onto the romance! (So to speak)

In this episode, we are introduced to Lowell Tracey, a mysterious, vaguely pale character who turns out to be – hold the horses – another zombie. After a somewhat rocky beginning, he hit it off with Liv, who not only appreciated the company, but also the opportunity to connect with someone who knows exactly what she’s going through as an inexperienced member of the undead. Their subsequent scenes, while arguably not quite as entertaining as those involving Liv and Ravi, had a genuine softness that the show, with its clever humour and profusion of bodies, occasionally fails to include.

iZombie --

In short: I liked it. A lot.

Concluding Comment:

This was, again, a good, strong episode, and the profusion of cliffhangers towards the end of the episode ensured that I can’t wait to see what happens next.