TV review: Netflix’s The Irregulars is rather a disappointment

The series about street urchins who help Holmes and Watson expose supernatural villains is both overcomplicated and underdeveloped


THE IRREGULARS (Tom Bidwell). All eight episodes now available to stream on Netflix Canada. Rating: NN


The Irregulars is the latest in the endless march of sideways adaptations of venerable IP, and if that isn’t enough to hook you… well, you aren’t alone. An eight-part series from writer/producer Tom Bidwell, the series follows the street urchins who famously helped Sherlock Holmes solve his most challenging mysteries by shadowing suspects, pinching evidence and helping the master detective with his costume changes.

They’re thought of fondly by readers of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, but Conan Doyle himself never gave them much space; what The Irregulars asks is: what if he did? And also, what if there was sorcery and curses and demons and stuff?

It’s all a bit much, even though Thaddea Graham is eminently watchable as the resourceful Bea, leader of the eponymous street crew. Indeed, as the show is quick to establish, she’s got a lot more on the ball than the men who employ her: the Irregulars version of Holmes (Henry Lloyd-Hughes) is a useless cocaine addict with Watson (Royce Pierreson) as his enabler, paying our heroes a pittance to do the real work while the “proper” sleuths claim the credit and play down any spectral woo-woo that might lurk beneath their expensive boots.

Bidwell – who gave us that gritty all-star adaptation of Watership Down a couple of years back – seems desperate to hold his viewers’ attention, so he constantly throws new complications into his story. There’s the expected criss-crossed romantic longings between the members of Bea’s teenage “family,” all of whom speak in a modernized vernacular that isn’t shared by the more posh members of the narrative, to a flurry of other stylistic business, including a blatant lift of the gag from the Ant-Man movies where a character relates a story in hyper-agitated flashback. Everyone in said flashback speaks in his voice as the camera races from one face to the next.

One or two of these flourishes would probably be fine, but The Irregulars chucks them at you by the dozen. The result is a show that keeps whiplashing from one idea to the next, its actors racing from one location to the next, shouting plot at each other so we can keep up – and not really solving much of anything.

God’s honest truth, I did my best to care about who was longing for whom, and whether any of the possessions or purification rituals was consistent from one episode to the next, but in the end, it’s all just tiresome. Let me know if Enola Holmes shows up in season 2; that’ll get me back on board.

@normwilner

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