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The Irregulars Chapter One: An Unkindness in London

episode 1.1

UK 2021
produced by
Rebecca Hodgson, Greg Brenman (executive), Jude Liknaitzky (executive), Tom Bidwell (executive) for Drama Republic/Netflix
directed by Johnny Allan
starring McKell David, Thaddea Graham, Jojo Macari, Harrison Osterfield, Darci Shaw, Clarke Peters, Royce Pierreson, Rory McCann, Anthony Bessick, Suzie Chard, Daniel Fearn, Nicola Goodchild, Edward Hogg, Lisa Dwyer Hogg, Micah Loubon, Tania Nwachukwu, Marli Siu, Ian Whyte
written and created by Tom Bidwell, based on characters created by Arthur Conan Doyle, music by Paul Haslinger

TV series
The Irregulars, Sherlock Holmes

review by
Mike Haberfelner

London, circa the 1890s: Bea (Thaddea Graham), Jessie (Darcy Shaw), Spike (McKell David) and Billy (Jojo Macari) are a quartet of street urchins struggling to make ends meet - and cough up the rent money for their rather roomy Baker Street townhouse. Fortunately, they live right across 221b Baker Street, and thus have caught the attention of one Doctor Watson (Royce Pierreson), who together with his private detective friend (not in this episode) sometimes needs street urchins to get to placesthey can't go themselves as distinguished gentlemen. As it happens, babies have been kidnapped all over town, and the first assignment for our young heroes is to track down the mother of one of the babies, Susan Shipley (Marli Siu), mother of one of the babies - and while finding her is not the problem, she's eventually killed by a flock of birds. Soon enough, our heroes are joined by Leopold (Harrison Osterfield), a young aristocrat who has decided on mingling with the common people, and he helps them to find out all the kidnapped babies were born on the same day at the same hospital, and only one of the babies born at that place has not yet been kidnapped. Bea and gang decide to get their hands on the last baby before whoever-it-is can, and Billy actually manages to break into the baby's home, but is beaten to the punch by a raven that flies away with the little one. Our heroes now find out one of the babies at that particular hospital on that day was stillborn, and that baby's father, Arthur Hilton (Rory McCann), just happens to be an ornithologist - so it's off to the bird house in the zoo for our heroes. But how to defeat someone who can control birds? Well, fortunately Jessie, who has had wild nightmares of late, has just found out she's an empath, and by touching somebody she can enter their minds. So the others create a diversion while she gets close enough to touch him - and she finds out that Arthur was so devastated about his baby being still born and his wife dying giving birth that he ... well, just by accident during a seance to get in touch with his dead wife, he gained the power to control birds, and thus had all these babies kidnapped ...

 

Now on paper, it sounds like a good idea to make a series focussing on Sherlock Holmes' Baker Street Irregulars, showing their side of the story, and to some degree the series gets it right really, like when it comes to the portrayal of London's dirty underbelly, and the young leads can really hold their own and come off as convincing urchins. It's pretty much everything else though that doesn't work or doesn't seem to be thought through: For one, our heroes all seem fairly educated and relie on that much more than on their street smarts, and likewise, their assignment doesn't seem like something Holmes and Watson would have difficulties doing themselves, there's little they'd need urchins for. The weirdest thing though is all the supernatural stuff thrown in that seems to come out of thin air, like Jessie suddenly learning she's an empath, and the villain having acquired his powers only by accident - this all seems like narrative short cuts rather than logic and reason, which always were the backbones of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories. So in all, at least this first episode feels like a missed opportunity.

 

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