An Unkindness In London
Episode 1 of The Irregulars begins with a girl called Jessie awakening from a bad dream about a plague doctor coming for her. Bea comforts her and encourages the girl to head back to bed.
In the morning, Bea awakens to find an excitable Jessie ready to celebrate her birthday. As we soon find out, they’re street kids and rent out a basement alongside fellow kids Billy and Spike. These two however, are gone.
Heading out to try and find them, Bea wanders through the streets of London as a slick expository shot sees wisps of smoke rising from multiple chimneys. As day turns to night, Billy happens to be out street fighting.
Just before he starts, Bea shows up and takes him away. Billy reminds her that they need to make money otherwise they’ll be kicked out their apartment. As Spike mentions the workhouse as an alternate, Bea takes off in a huff and hides under her blanket.
The kids are all worried about Jessie, especially with her bad dreams, and they convince her to help get some money. While they’re all talking and bickering, Jessie wanders off on her own. Thankfully Bea manages to stop her, pulling Jessie to safety and stopping her from being crushed by a carriage.
Still haunted by the ghosts of her past, Bea visits the graveyard to pay her dead Mother a visit. Only, a shadowy figure happens to be watching from afar. It’s Dr John Watson and he has a job for her.
Taking Bea back to Baker Street, Watson tells Bea he needs her to gather information for him. Specifically, heading to the disreputable parts of London he’s unable to visit.
Four newborn babies have been stolen and apparently Watson and Holmes don’t have time to do this. Instead, it falls on Bea to follow the breadcrumb trail to a woman named Susan Shipley.
Thanks to Spike’s ingenuity, Bea and the others manage to track down Susan. She tells them the night Laura went missing she snuck out and left the window open. With the baby still inside – three floors up mind you – Susan heard cawing and pecking before her child was taken. And just like that, a flock of birds suddenly rain down and attack the group. They scramble for cover, taking refuge inside an old building.
Unfortunately Susan meets a gnarly end, with her eyes plucked out. This brings Bea straight to Dr Watson. H doesn’t seem too phased by the grizzly murder, and in fact even goes so far as to tell Bea she needs to bring him credible information in order to be paid. After receiving some papers, Bea tries to work out what to do next.
Out in the street, she’s approached by Leopold, a boy who’s a Prince at Buckingham Palace. He’s sick and tired of being kept at the Palace and decided to venture out on his own. He’s clearly flustered and tries to make conversation. Leo follows her and learns about the investigation she’s wrapped up in.
Checking the papers she’s been given, he offers his expertise. He immediately gives credible information regarding the Town Hall and the hospital these babies were born in. With Leo growing closer to Bea, Billy watches from afar with a disapproving look. Have we got a love triangle on the cards?
Anyway, Leo finds there are six girls in total who were all born in St Mary’s hospital that day. However, they believe there could be human intervention here relating to the birds. As they head to the address for the final child, Bea tells Jessie to head home, dancing around telling her outright that she’s crazy.
With Jessie gone, this leaves Billy, Bea and Leo to enact their plan. Only, it immediately goes awry when the babe is awake and crying. While Billy holds the door shut, a massive bird snatches up the child and takes off. It turns out there’s a shadowy man called Arthur Hilton behind all this. He has the power to control birds and he’s driven on by the loss of his own child. He also works as the Head Ornithologist at London Zoo.
Jessie gets caught up in all this, with her mind somehow transported to Louisiana. A strange guy called the Linen Man appears and tells her she needs to figure out who this man is and remember her true power and calling.
As she suddenly sits upright, Jessie remains desperate to find the others. She races up to London Zoo, reuniting with Bea and the others in the process. Arthur is inside, claiming his own child was switched, and begins calling forth every bird in England.
As this raucous cacophony of cawing engulfs the greenhouse, Jessie steps up and touches the man. This inexplicably launches them into his memories where he sees the truth; no one took his baby. It turns out it died shortly after his partner gave birth.
With the case wrapped up and Arthur confined to Bedlam, Bea heads back to see Dr Watson. Thumping on the door, Bea eventually lets herself in to find Watson with a strange cut across his cheek. He throws over a pouch of silver but Bea is more concerned by her sister. Watson knew about her powers all along but quite how, remains to be seen.
The Episode Review
I’m not quite sure why this show has decided to ride the coattails of Sherlock Holmes because to be honest it’s really not needed. The show has a weird energy to it, channeling ideas from Stranger Things, Locke & Key, The Umbrella Academy and The Alienist into one heady cocktail.
It doesn’t always work that well, and the colloquialistic dialogue is quite jarring to begin with. Still, despite that the show is clearly trying to tap into the teen fantasy market and it has all the hallmarks to do just that.
There’s certainly some nice ideas here but it’s held back by weak characterization. The group dynamic hasn’t been fleshed out enough yet to make us care about these people but the episodic format should hopefully open things up a bit.
The supernaturally charged ideas certainly give this a unique edge and the show certainly has a lot of options over where to take its premise next.
It remains to be seen quite what Watson is hiding, but with no Sherlock Holmes in sight, this one is set solely on the kids – at least for now. It’s best to go into this one and pretend it’s some form of alt-universe, because whatever’s going on here is clearly not of this world.