Sommerleigh Pollonais, Horror Head Writer
The Baker Street Irregulars were a group of street urchins created by author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle that appeared in some of his works, specifically the ones centered on a certain brilliant detective and his stalwart doctor sidekick. Yes, the great Sherlock Holmes paid these young street wise kids (originally made up of only boys) to help him on a few of his cases as they were able to “go everywhere and hear everything”. Netflix and show creator Tom Bidwell took these characters and with a change here (there are now two girls in the group, as well as characters of colour) and a twist there (the supernatural stuff) came up with The Irregulars. This new take is set in Victorian London and tells the tale of four friends who are hired by Dr John Watson to investigate cases that are anything but ordinary. They ultimately discover secrets about each other as well uncover the horrifying source of all the weird and paranormal things that have been happening in London.
I love the stories of Sherlock and Watson and I love supernatural tales, so anyone putting the two together is going to grab my full attention. But after catching all eight episodes (called Chapters here) of Netflix’s latest YA series did it live up to my expectations? I would say…mostly. Mostly. With a mild SPOILER ALERT here are the FOUR BEST THINGS ABOUT THE IRREGULARS (AND THREE OF THE WORST):
Worst #3 Leo the Broken
Even if you haven’t seen it yourself you’re probably familiar with the recent interview that took place between Megan Markle, Prince Harry and Oprah, where one of the topics discussed was how restricting the life of a royal can be. In The Irregulars Leopold, or Leo to his friends, struggles with this as well.
He’s a prince with no power and due to his illness he’s treated like a fragile child, a “broken” thing as he puts it. Now I totally understand where he’s coming from and this isn’t the first time we’ve seen a character such as this one. He just wants to experience life and make friends but he’s forced to put duty first. My issue with Leo comes from just how trivial his problems are in relation to what the others who make up The Irregulars have to deal with. He constantly wants you to feel sorry for him and I’m just rolling my eyes when I compare his problems (I’m rich, royal and have no friends) to say Bea, Jessie, Spike and Billy, who are struggling to make rent, find food to eat, deal with past traumas of abuse and loss, and of course, supernatural entities trying to kill them left and right!
It’s the weakest part of every episode and while I totally understand the whole “bird in a gilded cage” aspects of his life, it’s still just another rich kid moaning about how hard it is to be rich. Pass me with that nonsense.
Worst #2 Wheel of Genres
I came into this show looking for a fun supernatural twist on Sherlock Holmes and I got that. But I also got adventure, comedy, romance, fantasy, crime and the kitchen sink.
It’s tempting when doing a series or a movie set in a specific period to touch a bit on everything, but the problem here is when the show loses focus and meanders into too many genres while losing sight of the main one. The Irregulars is at its best when the gang is fully focused on a supernatural case, with my favourite being Episode Three: Ipsissimus. But when they shift from the investigation and start leaning into the angst of teenage love and blah blah blah, this is when the wheels fall off the cart. Thankfully, it’s more of the former and less of the “CW-series-of-the-week” latter.
Worst #1 This Song Sounds Very Familiar
As much as The Irregulars have to offer in terms of adding a supernatural spin on the investigations of Holmes and Watson, I still found myself able to figure out where most of the story beats would end up.
Like a lot of young adult stories the characters can get a bit pigeonholed into doing and saying things that are exactly like every other YA adaptation you’ve seen before. They have a problem, they work to solve it, at some point everyone is mad at everyone else, and ultimately they put their differences aside, forgive each other, and team up to fight the Big Bad. It doesn’t mean the show/movie isn’t good, but it does make viewing a tad tedious in places.
Well that’s the bad stuff, now on to the good stuff.
Best #4 Bea and the Gang
Without a loveable cast of characters here The Irregulars would’ve been just another one and done for me. Thankfully, this gang more than carry the weaker elements of this series.
While I wasn’t surprised to learn they updated these characters to be more representative of the times, I was delightfully astonished they would put not just a female, but an unknown Asian actress in the lead role. Thaddea Graham as Bea (Beatrice) is the rock of this entire thing and she does a tremendous job of making the character feel fully realised on screen. Bea is strong, smart, and resourceful, but she’s also just a teenage girl who has been forced to grow up very fast so she can protect her younger sister.
Graham knows just when to show the gentler sides of Bea and when to toughen her up, and she’s not the only one. Darci Shaw as Jessie could’ve EASILY been an annoying character and one always afraid or always needing saving. Instead she grows into her own. McKell David as fast-talking Spike and Jojo Macari as tough and protective Billy round out the gang nicely. The four get you invested in their stories and they’re the reason the show as a whole works so well. Hell, I’ll even give Leo a pass here as he’s not ALL bad. Or at least, he’s a little less annoying when he’s hanging out with this crew.
Best #3 Supernatural Shenanigans
Even though the era wasn’t that long ago, there’s something almost surreal about Victorian London that makes it the perfect setting for macabre stories such as these. London here feels like it has layers to it, with the ordinary day-to-day of people walking along dingy streets, hanging out in taverns and just going about their lives, while beneath the surface deadly and demonic forces are running lose and manipulating innocents into doing their bidding.
The creepy stuff is handled really well here and what I enjoyed the most was seeing stories told that you don’t usually get. Who needs vampires or werewolves when you have an entity that sneaks into your room at night and steals all the teeth out of your mouth? Or a man who can control birds to attack you? Or even a woman who cuts the faces off her victims so she can become them? The cases here are fun and intriguing to watch unfold as they all connect to one major event that could be the end of everything in this world. It’s a wild ride indeed.
Best #2 Holmes and Watson, the Sidekicks
So this one may be divisive. You see, in The Irregulars while Sherlock Holmes and John Watson might still be considered the best detectives in London this isn’t their story. Both characters here are relegated to being side characters in their own tales. That’s because both characters have been beaten down by their inability to stop this evil from invading London and possibly by their guilt in the roles they played in letting it happen.
I for one really enjoyed this. Sherlock (Henry Lloyd-Hughes) has always been a bit of a mess, especially in more modern versions of the character. Here he battles with drug addiction, he looks like he hasn’t showered in days, and he’s directly responsible for some of the bad things that have happened to Bea and Jessie. But the really big change comes in the characterisation of Watson. He is someone who has always been depicted as likeable, dependable, and an anchor for Sherlock. Here he’s well…well he’s a bit of an ass. He’s rude to Bea and talks down to her constantly. He’s selfish in his desires to “protect” Sherlock at any cost. And you could argue he’s almost as awful as the villains they hunt down.
If it wasn’t for the stellar acting by Royce Pierreson, who was able to balance the darker aspects of this Watson so well, we might’ve ended up with a version of this character that was totally unredeemable. And yet I still think the choice to make these characters so different from their original counterparts was a smart one and made this element of the series feel fresh and new.
Best #1 Sticking the Landing
The Irregulars isn’t perfect, but all in all it lived up to its potential. A big part of this series success lies in the charm and charisma of our lead characters. They deliver great performances, even when the stories themselves weren’t great or focused enough. The finale episode, in what’s hopefully just the first of many seasons, hits all the right beats, delivering on the emotions as well as the thrilling main story. I’m not sure what the plan is for The Irregulars but they definitely gave me enough to leave me like Oliver Twist, “Please sir, I want some more!”
So what did you think of the Irregulars? And would you be interested in a second season? For more supernatural investigations you can check out my ranking of the Conjuring universe films by clicking here. Or for Feature Writer Alice’s review of Egyptian horror series Paranormal you can click here.
Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.
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