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A fellow critic recently joked that Netflix’s The Irregulars looked like “the Scooby-Doo gang in Victorian England.” While one can find thematic similarities in British creator Tom Bidwell’s latest show (his earlier series, My Mad Fat Diary, is available on rival streamer Hulu), The Mystery Machine never encountered the grisly, gruesome evil on display here.
The eight-episode series follows four London street kids — plus one lonely, sickly Prince of England seeking friends — aligning with a drug-addled Sherlock Holmes and a rather unpleasant Dr. Watson to save the world from a powerful supernatural force.
The show operates on its own internal, and occasionally infernal, logic and its narrative jumps can be abrupt and clumsy, particularly during an episode where Holmes recounts a story essential to the plot. But a strong, appealing cast and a grisly, gothic undertow — babies snatched by ravens from their cribs, a chilling nod to Frankenstein — counterbalance any structural defects.
While The Irregulars (★★★☆☆) is nothing you haven’t seen before and lacks a brain-bending narrative — it’s no Dark — if you enjoy this kind of thing, it more than satisfies the craving.
Bidwell is smart to not rely solely on the supernatural to drive the storyline, and the most unsettling motifs are mired in reality, including rape, syphilis, workhouse abuse, and miscarriages. Revenge is a dish served here for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks in between.
Once you start it, stick with it. It takes time to build its story but the final three episodes are the most satisfying as The Irregulars hits its stride, effectively mixing poignancy with full-on horror. LGBTQ content isn’t amiss either, though it’s also not at the fore — well, not initially. No spoilers here.
The young cast — Thaddea Graham, Darci Shaw, Jojo Macariis, and especially McKell David — are impressive, even if there are times where they strain a bit too hard. Henry Lloyd-Hughes and Royce Pierreson provide intriguing new takes on Holmes and Watson. And Harrison Osterfield, looking like a young James McAvoy, is perfect as the posh prince who plays pauper.
Still, for all the talk of him being sickly and frail, when he removes his shirt to reveal a startlingly ripped torso, you can’t help but think, “Gee, we should all be so sickly and frail.”
The Irregulars streams exclusively on Netflix starting Friday, March 26.
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