First Impressions: Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (US, 2016) sets a new benchmark for weird

Based on the premise and casting alone, it’s easy to jump to conclusions with Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. Like a certain other series, it’s a modern take on a British detective and his sidekick solving the seemingly unsolvable. With the similarities even extending to the former-Hobbit filling that role of assistant, it’s easy to think you’ve seen this kind of show before.

However, you’d be wrong.  It’s a show as hyperactive as it is lackadaisical and based on our time with the first three episodes of the new series (coming to Netflix in December), there’s plenty separate it from something like Sherlock.

For one, Dirk (Samuel Barnett) doesn’t believe in searching for evidence, talking to witnesses or doing any of the things detectives usually do. He believes that if the universe wants him to solve a crime, it’ll bring the answers to him regardless. As a result of this holistic approach, nobody in the show ever really knows quite whats going on – but it remains fun nonetheless. 

Before diving into the mystery that opens the first episode (“Horizons”), the series spents a fair bit of time with it’s other lead – Todd, played by LOTR-alumni Elijah Wood. There’s some creative camerawork here as the series constructs an everyday world mired in the mundane and predictable, only to blow it all with the arrival of Gently into Todd’s life. 

Throughout the first three episodes, the chemistry and clash of personalities between Todd and Dirk proves a highlight. Todd’s continued skepticism and defiance towards becoming Dirk’s assistant makes for a fun contrast to the detectives stalwart faith in the universe and failure to comprehend even basic aspects of it. There’s something off-kilter about both of the them and that’s part of what makes it an interesting pairing.

The extended cast of Dirk Gently also proves a strong point, with the competing teams of law enforcement agents investigating Dirk providing some comic relief and Fiona Dourif’s holistic assassin hinting at where the series mythology might take us in future episodes.

Those fearing that the absurdist streak running through the original Douglas Adams novels might be lost in translation can rest easy. Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency is absolutely one of the strangest detective stories to ever grace the small screen. You get everything from possessed cats, post-apocalyptic gangsters, magic bullets and maybe even a hint of time travel.

If that all sounds a bit overwhelming, don’t worry too much. After all, Dirk Gently is a detective who doesn’t believe in looking for clues – and the show encourages you to take the same tact. The show invites you to see how strange it can get and embrace the unlikely.

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency is currently airing in the USA on BBC America. It will arrive in Australia exclusively on Netflix from the 11th of December.