Episode 1 -| Review Score – 3/5
Episode 2 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 3 -| Review Score – 3/5
Episode 4 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 5 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 6 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 7 -| Review Score – 2.5/5
Episode 8 -| Review Score – 2.5/5
The Irregulars rides the coattails of Sherlock Holmes lore but distorts it in a way that does the fictional detective – and this show – absolutely no favours. Netflix’s latest teen drama blends some familiar characters with the unfamiliar, in a show that grabs every young adult cliché in the book but rushes through them all to an unsatisfying and somewhat nonchalant ending.
The story here – at least from the premise anyway – is actually quite intriguing. I’ll admit, this is one show that’s been on my radar for a while. The Irregulars refer to the Baker Street Irregulars, fictional characters who crop up in three separate Sherlock Holmes stories. Within the novels, they’re street boys employed as intelligence agents who can move around undetected and feed back crucial intel to Holmes and Watson.
Here, The Irregulars wisely takes a more diverse approach, with a mix of colourful characters that never get a chance to shine beyond their surface level personas (more on that in a minute.) This time though, we’re plunged into an alt-Victorian world on the brink of being consumed by darkness. Whispers grow of a big threat and for one of the girls, Jessie, she’s experiencing frightening visions.
This falls to sister Bea to rally the group together, thrusting them headfirst into the throngs of the supernatural thanks to Dr Watson recruiting her to his cause. With no Sherlock in sight, a very moody Watson offers Bea money in exchange for solving several gnarly and twisted cases. Unlike the fictional detective’s cerebrally challenging mysteries of old, most of the cases here are waved away through magic and, more specifically, an inter-connected, world-ending event called the Rip. Yep, we’re dealing with another apocalyptical event here folks!
The early episodic approach works pretty well though and the first half of the series is easily the strongest – at least plot-wise. While the tone is somewhat iffy at times, throwing in random Umbrella Academy-esque jokes, there’s very little depth to many of the characters to make these emotional payoffs resonate.
Bea and Jessie have a tough upbringing after being raised in a workhouse. Bea however, finds herself caught in a tepid love triangle between two different boys, which works to distract her from this pain. Fellow street-kid Billy is also tormented by his time at the workhouse, although we don’t actually learn this until episode 6. There’s also comedy relief Spike, who really doesn’t have a lot to do, and new kid Leo who just so happens to be a Prince – a secret he’s keeping from the others.
All of this would be great if the series had a few more episodes to flesh out the players in this ensemble and allow us to understand their plight. Instead, the show rushes through any worldbuilding early on to thrust us head-first into these supernaturally charged cases.
One particularly good example of this working well though comes from an episode that throws Jessie into the driver’s seat. Here, she goes on the hunt for a face-stealer and there’s a really nice resolution to the conflict. It not only closes the case out well, it also develops Jessie’s character too. Sadly, these glimmers of brilliance are few and far between.
Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of this show comes from the way Sherlock lore and the ultimate big-bad are used (no spoilers here of course!) The latter is so disposable that they feel ripped right from a 90’s cartoon. Beyond “take over the world” and “tragic past” archetypes, there’s absolutely nothing to this person’s character at all.
Likewise, the Sherlock Holmes characters and lore feels awkwardly shoe-horned into this teen drama. Almost every character is unrecognizable and while this in itself would be interesting, none of the characters are that endearing so these ideas ring hollow most of the time.
The Irregulars is a show that borrows so heavily from what’s come before that you’ll feel a sense of Deja vu while watching. There’s a good dollop of Umbrella Academy here, along with The Magicians, Locke and Key and The Alienist for good measure. While these ghosts of TV’s past do sometimes work in tandem, most of the time this series feels like a rehash of what we’ve seen so many times before.
There will be an audience for The Irregulars though, especially with the way it taps into those very familiar story beats and supernaturally charged cases. Unfortunately, weak characterization, an eye-wateringly bad villain and a run-time that could have benefited from a couple of extra episodes makes The Irregulars a bit of a mixed bag.
If you can go into this with an open mind you may find something to like but The Irregulars doesn’t do enough to stand out from the crowd.