October has gone by, and while our collective manic wait for Stranger Things 2 may have made it seem like it was the only worthwhile show out in October 2017, we know it’s not really true — Mindhunter debuted on Netflix mid-month and it was brilliant and creepy and all sorts of awesome. Mr Robot and The Walking Dead returned for their third and eighth seasons respectively, and new network shows like The Gifted made engaging debuts that have held up really well for weeks now.
In the midst of these more talked-about shows, there’s another show that quietly returned for its second season; quietly except for those of us who’d watched and loved season one of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency — for fans of the show, its return on 14 October was like an invitation to a kind of secret club that not too many were invited into, and once you got in, you realised it was so weird and funny and outright absurd-yet-awesome that you never wanted to leave.
After a brilliantly manic first season that included time travel, a holistic assassin out to murder our titular holistic detective, a corgi who turned out to be the kidnapped teenaged daughter of a murdered wealthy businessman, and a band of mayhem-creating anarchists who feed on the energy of “special” folks, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency is back in our lives with its second season. From the looks of the first three episodes, it’s guaranteed to be even trippier this time around. And I’m all for it!
I’ve heard the show being referred to as “Sherlock Holmes on acid”, but that’s not true of it at all. A whirlwind first season introduced us to Dirk Gently (Samuel Bartlett), a holistic detective who solves cases not by any of the conventional Holmes/Poirot/Marple means of detecting; instead, he just waits around letting the universe do its thing. In short, instead of following clues, Dirk follows fate. See, not Sherlock Holmes-y at all! As someone who is sort of mildly psychic, Dirk had the misfortune of being part of a government organisation (Project Blackwing) that studied people with “special abilities.” He’s a lonesome but a sweetly excitable and eternally optimistic fella, and in Todd Brotzman’s (Elijah Wood) everyday human with no special skills and almost no money, Dirk finds his perfect reluctant-at-first-but-then-game-for-it assistant/sidekick. The two of them, armed only with Dirk’s resonating belief that “Everything is connected”, spent all of last season bumbling through fate and chance to find the kidnapped daughter of a murdered businessman.
On the way, they were joined by Farah Black (Jade Eshete) — a kickass security officer to said murdered businessman — and at times by Amanda Brotzman (Hannah Marks), Todd’s sister, who suffers from Pararibulitis (a fictional illness that causes vivid and often gutwrenchingly-painful hallucinations). Keeping Amanda company soon after was the Rowdy 3 — a group of four punk anarchists who’re also being studied as part of Project Blackwing, and who feed off of the energy of people like Amanda. Then there was Bart Curlish (Fiona Dourif) — a character unlike any other on television, Bart is a holistic assassin who lets the universe lead her to the people she needs to kill.
For a large part of season one, Bart believed she had to kill Dirk, despite not knowing who he was and never having met him. Their first meeting was hilariously nerve-wracking, as Bart tried to kill Dirk with a single-minded focus that would’ve shamed any of us on exam night. With Bart, for the entirety of season one, was Ken (Mpho Koaho), an electrician who happens to be at the scene of one of Bart’s holistic killing rampages, and then goes on the run with her. A lot of sh*t went down, and at the end of season one, Dirk had officially set up his “Holistic Detective Agency” with Todd and Farah, before being captured by members of Project Blackwing, which is now being led by the delightfully daft Sgt. Hugo Friedkin (Dustin Milligan). Todd realised that he really did have Pararibulitis as well, something that he’d lied to Amanda about. Bart and Ken were also surrounded, and Ken was taken in by Friedkin’s men. Amanda was traveling with the Rowdy 3, of which three of the anarchists were captured by Project Blackwing agents. I think Dirk and the others do a better job of recapping season one than I do, so you can just watch this instead:
Essentially, everyone was dispersed by the end of season one, so they now need to find each other first. But as we’ve begun to see in the second season, everything and everyone are still very much connected!
As if the the sci-fi and time travel in season one weren’t enough, Dirk Gently has upped its charmingly-weird quotient this season by introducing high fantasy in the mix. The opening scene of season two involved the gay, pink-haired, sword-scissor fighting Lord Prince Panto Trost being chased by knights, or, well, men dressed in period garb. It was our first introduction to the fantasy realm of Wendimoore, from where Panto makes his way to our world, with instructions to “find Dirk Gently”, and where references to a Mage gone rogue seemed to hint at the big mystery this season.
We saw the Mage (John Hannah) for the first time in our world/realm, when he came to a rundown office near a quarry just outside the town of Bergsberg. Suzie Boreton (Amanda Walsh), a depressed and insecure soccer-mom type, is the secretary at said office. Suzie’s home and work life are a mess — she has an annoying delinquent teenage son who takes his mother for granted, a husband who ignores her and takes his wife for granted, and an abusive boss who thinks it’s his imperative to take his meekish secretary for granted. To top it all, a recent accident has left her in pain and limping. An all round mess!
The Mage ends up killing her boss Dan (stabbing him with a pencil!), and in the process, Suzie comes across a magic wand that belongs to the Mage — a wand that, for the past couple of episodes, has helped her regain some semblance of control over her otherwise stagnant life by giving herself and her life a slight makeover. Suzie seems sympathetic at first, but the most recent episode provided more background into her situation — she’s a disgraced and fallen former prom queen who injured herself while driving a car full of her friends’ kids while high on Xanax. I don’t quite like or hate her completely, yet, but it looks like the Mage is looking to use her as his apprentice to unleash evil and conquer a world that’s not his own, thereby fulfilling the prophecy as conveyed by the Lord Prince Panto Trost in the latest episode — apparently, once the Mage finds his apprentice, no one can defeat him or his army. There are other parts to the prophecy as well — about fierce foes uniting and a great weapon that must be retrieved, and a “she who sees all” who will “open a door into a dream.” When Dirk asks Panto a series of questions about the who’s and what’s of the prophecy, Panto makes it very clear that he doesn’t know sh*t — except that the man that he was meant to find is called “Dirk Gently.” Dun dun dun! In typical Dirk Gently fashion, it’s all very weird and nonsensical. And in typical Dirk Gently fashion, it’s all going to be awesomely connected!
Before Panto makes his way from Wendimoore to shed some light on the main mystery this season find Dirk, our main cast is trying to find each other. Todd and Farah begin the season driving around small town America, hoping to find Dirk and Amanda, while being on the run from the FBI for their exploits in the previous season. Convinced about Dirk’s notion of the interconnectedness of things, Todd spends most of the first episode looking for signs from the universe and following random notions, on the off chance that they might lead to Dirk. This includes following the titular “space rabbit” in the first episode, near an abandoned house which he’s convinced was a former Project Blackwing facility. His notions, thankfully, aren’t completely off their mark — they’re led to a tree with a car stuck upside-down in it, that seems to indicate…something!
Meanwhile, Dirk — held at the Project Blackwing headquarters — was being inanely experimented on by Friedkin and his minions in the hopes that his “special abilities” would lead them to some important breakthroughs in finding who and what they’re looking for. These experiments/tests had disastrous results because Dirk, despite his penchant for oddities and his other peculiarities, is not particularly psychic or specially-abled. Friedkin, who can’t really understand why his subject isn’t able to give him the answers he’s looking for, is dim-witted enough to not see the problem with his assumption in the first place.
While in captivity, Dirk dreams/hallucinates a fair bit, including dreaming of being rescued by the uber-cool-and-efficient Todd and Farah. His eventual rescue comes at the hands of a water-loving fairy (?) who essentially manages to make him vanish from his heavily-guarded cell without anyone noticing. When she appears next to his bed, he seems to recognise her — could she also be a subject? One with true special abilities? Before she disappears, she asks him to “find the boy”, a clue directly related to the prophecy Panto narrated — turns out, Dirk is supposed to find a boy, i.e. the lost son of the Inglenook family of Wendimoore. Well, well, well! In a brilliantly everything-is-connected move, Dirk vanishes from his cell only to directly appear falling from the trunk of the car that Todd and Farah have been led to. You know, the one that was stuck in the tree. The ensuing reunion is triumphantly heartwarming, and funny.
Earlier in Bergsberg, Todd and Farah had run into Sheriff Sherlock Hobbs (Tyler Labine), an “under-stimulated” sheriff who arrests them all when he finds Amanda’s Pararibulitis medication (with her name on the bottle) that Todd had dropped when he had a Pararibulitic episode himself; Hobbs figures out that they’re the fugitives on the run from the FBI. While questioning the trio, Hobbs turns out to be enthusiastically onboard with Dirk’s idea of holistic detecting (he discloses that he was named by his parents after Sherlock Holmes, duh), and when he realizes that Dirk fell out of the very car trunk that also held the body of a long-dead person from a long-cold case that everyone in Bergsberg has grown up hearing about, he decides to not inform the FBI about them and instead agrees to use their skills to solve the case, thereby also eagerly helping out Dirk and co. solve their mystery. Together with his formerly-drunk-but-now-sober deputy Tina Tevetino (Izzie Steele), the Bergsberg sheriff’s office is a welcome addition to the show.
Amanda, meanwhile, has been trying to find Todd; with her is the only member of the Rowdy 3 who wasn’t captured by Blackwing agents — Vogel. Friedkin sends Mr Priest (Alan Tudyk), a bounty-hunter who works for Blackwing, to find and capture them; Mr Priest, who’s famously violent and ruthless, has no intentions of doing it peacefully. The last we saw Amanda and Vogel, they were cornered in a motel bathroom and were being fired at by Mr Priest and his men — until the water pipes burst and, in a fashion similar to Dirk’s disappearance from the Blackwing cell, they both vanish. Bart’s been trying to find her “best friend” Ken, who (along with the corgi from the previous season) is being held captive by Friedkin, in a cab (yup!) at the Blackwing building. After a brief run-in with Suzie, where she doesn’t end up killing her, Bart has found her way to the Bergsberg sheriff’s office, where she’s now being held. Bart’s delightfully frank naivete is as endearing as ever — when she asks them all about Ken, Tina says she knows a different Ken in Bergsberg, to which an incredulous Bart responds, “there are two Kens?” Ah, I love me some Bart!
There’s plenty left to unravel this season. Besides connecting Wendimoore to the happenings in the series’ own world, there are the more important issues to explore and resolve — such as Dirk’s backstory and Todd’s fractured relationship with Amanda. Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency has always been a whole lot of absurdity, sure, but the fast-paced nature of the witticisms and weirdness make the emotional moments feel truly genuine. In the latest episode, we saw Dirk’s concern over Todd’s Pararibulitis; when he was by himself, he was always excitable about mysteries and the interconnectedness of everything, but now that he finally has friends, Dirk has more at stake. You can see him question his whole belief system now because his previous go-to “things just are” justification doesn’t seem enough anymore. In a way, Dirk and Todd seem to have reversed their roles this season, with Dirk being more sceptical, while Todd is more embracing of the “holistic” philosophy. We’ll see how it all pans out, but for now, I’m just going to enjoy, in the Mage’s words, the “acceleration of strangeness in my life” each week, with a new episode of the most awesomely weird show on television.