TW: This show contains depictions of suicide and sexual abuse, extreme gore and violence.
I know what you’re thinking when it comes to this show. You might have opened Netflix recently and seen the cover image for The Irregulars; a crow hovering over a baby accompanied by an eerie tune. Maybe you read the synopsis and noted it was yet another Sherlock Holmes-esque series, but with supernatural elements (oh no). For some reason, they made the tagline “Dark things have come to London”, which doesn’t even need an explanation for the cringe.
However, despite its teenage protagonists, I promise you, it’s not another Riverdale. Stick with me.
The main plot follows a gang of five London teenagers, The Irregulars, as they undergo a series of shadowy and fantastical investigations on behalf of the mysterious Dr Watson (Royce Pierreson). However, not is all as it seems; murder mysteries bloom into supernatural spaces, as leader Bea (Thaddea Graham) investigates their strange benefactor, desperate to protect her sister Jessie (Darci Shaw) from the haunting, psychic nightmares she faces. Alongside the other members in the gang, Spike (McKell David), Billy (Jojo Macari) and the secretive Leo (Harrison Osterfield), the girls delve into the truth of their unnatural cases, and into the mystery of their own past.
Told over 8 (hour long) episodes, The Irregulars is a perfect, bloodied show to binge on a Saturday; the Victorian Stranger Things, as one critic notes.
Why should you watch this?
What really shines for The Irregulars is the plot and subplots. Each episode is an entirely contained mystery case, also contributing to the overall plot through clues and easter eggs. It’s a fantastic way to tell the story; each episode a gut wrenching and heart stopping supernatural murder mystery to engage us, ever so slowly building a sense of terror and darkness that haunts us throughout the show. And these mysteries themselves? So cool! I honestly could say that I only guessed the ending of one. The way each crumb and clue is revealed creates an engaging and exciting experience for us. Each case is unique, and the magic within the series keeps it fresh; I love a lot of fantasy shows, and I’ve hardly come across such new, original material. For comparison, I would say anime Fullmetal Alchemist, American Horror Story or Netflix’s Sweet Home, have a similar way of creating suspense through their episode layout.
Similarly, the monsters in The Irregulars themselves are fantastic because they have realistic motivations; driven by family, money, fame. The Irregulars see themselves within their enemies, and it is truly scary and magnificent. The show walks the line with socio-political issues; presenting a very real picture of poverty and surviving on the streets tempered by the fantastical elements. Although the show does mostly sidestep Victorian London’s views on gender and race, it is great to see such a diverse main cast in a Netflix adaptation.
Speaking of the cast, their protagonists are vivid and interesting, shining in a show driven by character. Many of the subplots are dedicated to the nitty gritty of character motivation; each move thoughtfully explained. However, unlike most ragtag crews (ie. all male), the Irregulars gang is centered around leader Bea and sister Jessie; a sisterly familial bond, front and centre. It reminds me of Practical Magic and is refreshing to watch in a teenage show, which often pits sisters (and women) against each other.
In a move controversial but celebrated by some, there is queer representation in the main characters; no spoilers on who, though.
However don't watch this if you’re looking for:
A lighthearted period romance
Yes this is (technically) a period drama! There are love conundrums for our main characters Bea and Leo somewhat similar to Bridgerton. However, this drama is framed by severe gore and violence. If you’re not okay with lots of blood, brutalistic murder happening on screen, or birds plucking people’s eyes out, please don’t watch this.
Something similar to The End of the F*cking World, or I Am Not Okay With This.
Both of these shows, whilst dealing with some pretty heavy content, are very different character studies of teenagers firmly in the modern and (mostly) normal world. These shows also tend to play up the comedy of the situation, whereas The Irregulars, funny in parts, doesn’t offer much of a break in terms of serious themes.
You love BBC’s Sherlock, or hate Henry Cavill’s Sherlock in Enola Holmes
This is an interpretation of Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes; key word being "interpretation". The series, rather than exhausting the Holmes material as per usual, focuses on developing the street urchins that are usually featured as Sherlock’s runners; what if they were the ones solving the mysteries instead?
Following in the footsteps of Netflix’s other Holmes adaptation, Enola Holmes, The Irregulars really isn’t about Sherlock. It deigns to feature him at all in the first few episodes. Instead, the shadowy Dr Watson is given the floor; adding an ambiguous dimension to his character that I, and other fans, welcomed.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a good Sherlock adaptation as much as the next person, but if you’re here for the slightly deranged but still brilliant genius BBC Sherlock, or even the charming Henry Cavil’s Sherlock in Enola Holmes, then you have come to the wrong place. Henry Lloyd Hughes’ performance of Sherlock as a gritty, desperate drug addict is fantastic, informed by swathes of emotion and the terrifyingly supernatural charge of the show. Again, if you’re looking for a Sherlock removed and cold, this isn’t the place to find him.
This show is a great storyteller; a dynamic cast of young talent placed into a supernatural period drama set against a gothic London backdrop. There’s really something for everyone here; whether or not that feels like too much is up to you. However, with a second season on the way, and finals the shadow of our UNSW streets, now is the perfect time to escape into the gory fantasy of The Irregulars.
Author's Bio: Alexa Stevens is currently studying a double degree of Commerce and Arts. Self-proclaimed
book nerd, she’ll read (and watch!) pretty much anything; the more gore, the better. When she's
not listening to BTS or memorising random trivia, she’s writing poetry.