Netflix’s ‘The Irregulars’ Is a Strange Spin on the Sherlock Holmes Genre

This past week Netflix released their new show The Irregulars, which is an odd hybridization of a Sherlock Holmes story with a supernatural teen drama twist. Imagine if the CW combined all of their shows from the past decade and their plotlines—that’s basically it. The series follows a group of street dwelling teens, led by sisters Bea (Thaddea Graham) and Jessie (Darci Shaw), who find themselves in the midst of a world of magic monsters powered by a tear between the dimensions of the living and the dead. The story somehow leads down a path more akin to a Doctor Who plot than something out of BBC’s Sherlock or CBS’s Elementary

Sadly, the science fiction element of this show is the exact opposite of what a true Sherlock Holmes enthusiast looks for when searching for new takes on the classic style of Arthur Conan Doyle’s super sleuth detective story. In fact, Holmes (Henry Lloyd Hughes) is not even present in the show until the second half of the season and he has practically no impact on the main plotline of the show. In a way, The Irregulars use of the Sherlock Holmes franchise resembles the use of the DC Universe in The Joker. The name, while it elicits credibility from audiences, is really only there to get funding from studios that know it’s easier to make something successful if audiences already know the characters. Whatever the case is, the seemingly tangential relevance to the Sherlock Holmes name doesn’t feel necessary to the series in the least. 

Additionally, the dialogue as well as the wardrobe for this period drama is extremely modernized. Instead of feeling intentional, this mishmashing of contemporary speech and ideas in a Victorian-like setting seems like a mistake. While it may make the show more digestible for its target audience, namely teens and young adults, it takes away from the credibility of the storytelling. One aspect of the show that is conflicting for many of the viewers is the attention to diversity in casting the roles of the lead character. 

While Netflix making a greater attempt to cast characters that represent different backgrounds is amazing and a good step forward for the industry as a whole, the fact that this show doesn’t address race at all is somewhat of a let down. What’s the point of representation if the show glosses over the struggles of minorities at that time period? In a way, it’s a misrepresentation of society and having racial struggles play a part in the story of Doctor Watson, may have helped with his story arc and his overall feeling of being unloved. 

On a different note entirely, the story starts out in a weird place. What’s the reason? Well, since the audience is looking forward to a detective whodunnit and ends up with a melodramatic teen romance with a commentary on class as one of the main storylines, the expectations for genre and form are not met in the ways in which one might have intended. While this is not exactly a disappointing occurrence, this scenario does evoke the feeling of being misled. With all this being said, most episodes do have a “case” of a monster wreaking havoc on London and there is definitely a mystery element present throughout the series to keep viewers interested. Whether or not this show actually feels like it’s part of the detective genre is another question entirely. 

What makes up for this blunder of an amalgamous genre is the intrigue developed by the interpersonal relationships of the characters and their growth throughout the eight episodes of season one. The sisters are a strong pair and their bond is one of the only reasons the show works so well. Bea and Leo’s relationship, while cliche, has a heartbreaking impact on the show’s overall emotional toll and Doctor Watson’s growth as a half-parental-type-figure is satisfying to see develop. In the end, while The Irregulars is not exactly what it seems to be, it’s still an exciting ride into a fantasy world with love, drama and even a little bit of CGI action. 

‘The Irregulars’ is available on Netflix.

By Kyra Matus

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