Picking apart Dirk Gently, Holisic Detective Agency

Spoiler Alert! If you haven’t seen the first season of Dirk Gently, Holistic Detective Agency, please be aware that there might be spoilers. I will endeavor to not give away everything but I may have to reveal some things in order to pick the season apart! You’ve been warned, unlike when I had the ending of the fourth season of Dexter ruined for me. Yes, I’m still mad.

I really love how we watch tv these days. I can marathon a whole season in a matter of a few days. Or, I can throw on a show and let it play in the background while I’m editing. I’m really spoiled now, not having to wait for the next episode of a show.

The most recent show my family and I marathoned was Dirk Gently, Holistic Detective Agency. It’s based on a book series by Douglas Adams. Of course, if you’ve read the book Hitchhikers Guide, then seen the movie, then listened to the old radio program, then read the graphic novels, you’ll realize that Mr. Adams wasn’t a fan of what we call canon. The same story, told a whole lotta different ways. With that in mind, may I just say that I am picking apart the first season of the show, Dirk Gently? I haven’t read the book yet and haven’t seen the second season of the show. So if you’ve read the book, or you’ve seen the second season and I’m dead wrong about something here, please keep in mind the material I’m picking apart.

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s proceed.

I loved this show. I mean I freaking loved this show. So let’s pick it apart and see why.

One thing that Douglas Adams has in common with Neil Gaiman (my favorite author) is his ability to insert extraordinary situations within the ordinary. Dirk Gently is a great example of this. It’s set in the real world, our world. It’s just that everything’s a little bit strange. And not superheroes hidden in plain sight strange. This cat turns into an actual shark strange. But it makes sense, in the end. That’s the thing that writers who write strange things often get wrong. You can make your book a strange and unusual as you want. But you should then make it make sense. It’s a simple, but an imperative rule of fiction, it has to make sense. That’s the real difference between fiction and real life.

Of course, you know I’m inspired by a character-driven plot. And Dirk Gently is character driven. We have Dirk, of course, a happy universal mistake for whom everything works out perfectly for at all times. Until they don’t. Then there’s Todd, who is just in a really freaking bad place in his life. He’s got a shit job, a sick sister and a crappy apartment. Then he meets Dirk, and kind of wishes he could go back to his shit job. He’s still got the crappy apartment, at least for the most part. It’s got some holes in it now.

He’s also got his sick sister, Amanda, who is probably my favorite character of the show. She suffers from a mental illness called pararibulitis that plagues her with vivid and agonizing hallucinations of things like drowning or catching on fire. (It’s not a real thing, by the way.)

Then there’s a holistic assassin named Bart, for whom everything also always works out. She always kills exactly who she’s supposed to.

How can you not love these characters? I would genuinely enjoy a story about these people going to the grocery store.

There is actually a scene with Amanda going to the grocery store that brings me to my next point about why this show works. Amanda’s illness is fake, but it’s similar to several mental illnesses. Like anxiety. I have mild anxiety, and it makes it kind of hard for me to go to the grocery store sometimes. (Shout out to Walmart pickup!) So when Amanda braves the store by herself to buy her own groceries, despite being terrified that her hands might suddenly believe themselves to be on fire, I can kind of relate.

The show also managed to juggle two fairly different starting points in a clever way. They index1managed to start at the beginning, with a frustrated Todd going through a shitty day. Then, he clearly sees himself, wearing a fur coat and patriotic shirt with a black eye, shouting at someone he can’t see. As the show progresses and he ends up with a black eye, then wearing a patriotic shirt, then wearing a fur coat, it all comes full circle. But you’re aware, right from the start, that he is going to end up in a bad place where bad things are happening.

The season answered a lot of the questions you have going into it. What happened to the lottery ticket? Why is Bart trying to kill Dirk? Why do Dirk, Bart and the Rowdy 3 have these weird powers? Why are the Rowdy 3 always showing up around Amanda? Who kidnapped the little girl? Why were three bodies that looked like they’d been ripped apart by a shark found in a hotel room? Those are just the questions I can remember off the top of my head.

There were a lot more left unanswered, though, which I hope they get in season two. Because there wasn’t a season 3, and as I said the books are totally different. But that’s what a season or a book in a series should do. Answer enough that a reader or viewer feels satisfied, but leave enough there to make you read or watch the next book or season.

Altogether, Dirk Gently ran the risk of being a wholly unsatisfying story. Something left unexplained, characters left at odd ends, the whole mystery of it still a mystery! But it didn’t do that at all! All of the jagged little puzzle pieces fit right into place with each other to form a solid, coherent story.

In closing, here’s what we can take away from Dirk Gently.

  • You can be as random as you want, but it has to make sense by the end.
  • Your characters can be as weird and unique as you want, but you at least kind of need to be able to relate to them.
  • You have to give a satisfying ending, but don’t wrap up everything unless it’s a standalone or the last book in a series.
  • You have to wrap up all your plotlines unless you’re intentionally leaving them for the next book.

If you haven’t seen Dirk Gently, I highly advise you give it a shot. I’ve added the book to my Goodreads list, personally. And if you have seen season two or read the books, feel free to not leave spoilers in the comment section.

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