Warning: This contains some spoilers for Dirk Gently Season 1. Not caught up? Read our spoiler-free review of the first season here.
“Tina, we’ve got some holistic going on!”
There are a lot of problems with Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, the biggest one of all being its title. This, despite what its name professes, is not Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. If you were wary of that dramatic departure from Douglas Adams’ source material in Season 1, your opinion will not be changed by Season 2, which doesn’t do anything differently. If you enjoyed Season 1, meanwhile, you’ll know exactly what to expect. If anything, it does all of it even more, turning up the hyperactive plotting, vibrant colours and over-the-top performances to 111.11 recurring. Times 11.
And so we catch up with Dirk (Samuel Barnett), a detective who believes in the fundamental interconnectedness of all things, and his friend-slash-sidekick, Todd (Elijah Wood), who sort of solved a mystery last season involving time-travel, a corgi and energy-sucking vampires. Now, Dirk finds himself a prisoner of Project Blackwing, a secret government organisation that is capturing and studying people with super powers. (Dirk, much to his and their frustration, keeps insisting that he’s not psychic.) Todd, meanwhile, is on the run with tag-along Farah (Jade Eshete), as they get chased by the FBI. And Todd’s sister, Amanda (Hannah Marks), who genuinely does have a stranger condition that involves extreme hallucinations, is hunting for fellow members of the Rowdy 3, a group being kidnapped by Blackwing.
That three-pronged narrative gives Dirk Gently the chance to expand its world to an impressive degree, stuffing every inch of the screen with ideas, imagination and absurd details. Within the opening four episodes alone, we’ve been introduced to bodies hidden in trees, a fantastical world called Wendimoor, where people wield giant scissors as weapons, a magic wand and a bunch of old floppy disks. This is, and it has never been, a series lacking in ideas. The problem is that it lacks the discipline to organise those ideas into a compelling story – and relying on the fundamental interconnectedness of all things as a get-out clause starts to wear thin as a plot device.
The cast are impressively committed, with Elijah Wood committing to his everyman role as the show’s John Watson stand-in and Hannah Marks enjoying the chance to have more agency as Amanda, who refuses to forgive Todd for lying about him having her condition too (only for him to wind up getting it anyway – a karmic twist that sounds clever, but is still yet to really paid off). Samuel Barnett, meanwhile, is genuinely delightful as the manic lead, able to turn any line into something amusing or unexpected. This season also sees the introduction of Alan Tudyk, who goes full Alan Tudyk as Mr. Priest, a sinister Blackwing bounty hunter, and John Hannah as The Mage, a powerful wizard who is prone to evil cackles and even eviller doings.
While it’s a treat to see Tudyk get a major role to showcase his talents, and a true joy to see Hannah back on our screens after what feels like a long absence, their introductions only highlight the disparate nature of each story strand, which begin to coalesce come the Season 2 midpoint, but never have you entirely engaged in any of it. There’s some more emotional weight to events, thanks to Amanda’s beefed-up role and Todd’s improved relationship with Dirk (whom he no longer despises) and Farah (upon whom he has a crush). Every now and then, meanwhile, someone will stop and say something like “fate and chance aren’t mutually exclusive”. But the show has always relied on its frenetic pace rather than anything else to keep viewers watching, and that endless rush of primary-coloured craziness starts to lose its novelty.
“What if this is exactly what’s supposed to happen for you to find him?” asks Sheriff Sherlock Hobbs (Tyler Labine), as he and equally clueless Deputy Tina Tevetino (Izzie Steele) provide some welcome added comic relief to events. But as Dirk launches a new quest to find a missing boy, that question only leaves you asking whether the show can really come up with a satisfying answer. There is spectacle galore to admire, but whether you’re a Douglas Adams fan or not, you just wish all this holisticness was more, well, interconnected.
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency is available on Netflix UK, as part of a £7.49 monthly subscription.