Theres no shortage of supernatural young adult shows on Netflix. It seems like everyone under 25 has some sort of special power.It might feel like it’s a genre that’s being overstretched but at least the newest entrant, The Irregulars, has a hook familiar to all. So, you won’t have to spend ages trying to feel your way through a new world while also trying to accept that killer birds could pull your eyes out.
Oh yes, that happens in the first episode of The Irregulars, a series that comes with a “strong blood and gore” warning.
In the 100-plus years since Arthur Conan Doyle penned his Sherlock Holmes stories, scant attention has been paid to Sherlock’s network of “street urchins” who gathered information in the parts of London a dapper gentleman like him can’t go.
Now, the Baker Street Irregulars are the focus of their own series with Conan Doyle’s famous detective virtually unseen in the early episodes.
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In Victorian London, a group of resourceful and smart teenagers are recruited to work for Dr. John Watson (Royce Pierreson) to solve a strange mystery involving missing babies snatched from locked rooms.
Their ringleader is the tough and fierce Bea (Thaddea Graham), who’s trying to pay the rent on the dusty cellar she and her sickly sister Jessie (Darci Shaw) call home along with their makeshift family Billy (Jojo Macari) and Spike (McKell David).
They resort to petty thievery to survive because the alternative is the Dickensian workhouse that no one wants to return to.
They’re joined by a fifth member, the well-threaded, adventure-seeking Leo (Harrison Osterfield), who’s keeping his real identity a secret from the rest of the group.
But the mystery of the missing babies isn’t at all straightforward when supernatural elements creep into the case. Well, not so much creep in but barge in, smashing through the fabric of reality.
And that’s when it becomes apparent that Dr. Watson’s interest in their skills has more to do with Jessie’s terrifying dreams. There’s a dark force in London and Jessie might be the key.
The Irregulars is very much a high-concept fantasy series, so if resurrections, seances and tarot magic doesn’t appeal, it’s probably not going to be for you. At least you’ll save yourself a gruesome face-skinning scene.
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But if you’re already excited at the prospect of a Holmes-adjacent supernatural battle between the forces of evil and an underdog group of teens, then The Irregulars is a diverting choice.
It’s an interesting twist on the classic Sherlock stories, even though the source material has inspired many interesting twists, as recently as the gregarious Enola Holmes movie starring Millie Bobby Brown, also on Netflix.
Then there’s the fact that Dr Watson is played with a menacing air, which adds a different dimension to what you think you know about the Holmes world.
Whether The Irregulars works is hinged on whether you think adding a supernatural layer to an already rich narrative universe gives it an extra kick or if you think it’s piling on too much.
Holmes purists might not want their detective stories to have an explanation that’s not logical and scientific – there’s not going to be a Scooby Doo reveal that unsheets the ghost. Here, there are literal ghosts along with the blood, guts and violence.
The writing is rote, the emotional beats sanitised and it’s never as gothic as you want it be. Still, most of the characters are engaging, the production values look great, its colourblind casting is fresh and there’s enough impetus in the central mystery to keep casual fantasy fans on the hook.
Just don’t expect it to blow your mind.
The Irregulars is streaming now on Netflix
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