This month, Netflix is back with another film version of the Sherlock Holmes stories. After the screen adaptation of the first of the young adult fiction series Enola Holmes last year, The Irregulars is the second Netflix production about Holmes aimed at a younger audience.
When Arthur Conan Doyle created the mastermind private investigator in 1886, the novels and short stories became an immediate, worldwide success. Even today, over 100 years after he appeared for the first time in A Study in Scarlet, the character still manages to fascinate a modern audience and continues to inspire filmmakers, writers and musicians.
Like Enola, The Irregulars is a Holmes pastiche that is inspired by, but not based on, Doyle’s original work. Holmes, Watson, and Lestrade are not very likeable characters and Holmes is mainly characterised by the struggle with his addiction. Due to his use of opium, his sharp mind is completely gone and he is merely a shadow of Doyle’s creation. Anyway, Holmes and Watson aren’t the main characters in this series (we don’t get to see Holmes until the end of episode 4), but a teenage street gang living on Baker Street. Bea, Jessie, Billy, and Spike are approached by Watson, who hires them to help him with a case. The group is later joined by Leo (very loosely based on Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany), who falls in love with Bea, and keeps it a secret that he is the son of Queen Victoria.
The Irregulars is set in a fantasy Victorian London with supernatural, mystery and horror elements. Netflix continues what made other shows like Bridgerton a huge success: the colourblind casting, the inclusion of homoerotic storylines and contemporary music like Billie Eilish’s when the party’s over.
The scenery and costumes are fantastic, the teenage gang are all sympathetic characters you want to hang out with, and yet, something is missing.
While the beginning of the series appears promising, and the plot creative, some of the later episodes lack originality. When a woman takes revenge by skinning men’s faces, and shapeshifts into them by wearing the faces like masks, we are reminded of Arya’s storyline in Game of Thrones. Another episode resembles Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and even the season finale shares some similarities with the Stranger Things plot.
The idea to give old Sherlock a new twist doesn’t function entirely, and the producers of the show missed an opportunity to create a series that stands out. While The Irregulars is not one of Netflix’s best shows, it is still a thrilling series and worth a watch on a rainy Sunday afternoon.
However, if you are a fan of Doyle’s fiction and enjoyed the BBC’s Sherlock, which stayed closer to the original short stories and their characters, The Irregulars is not for you. But if you are interested in a (much) darker version of Enola and a fresh approach to a classic, give it a try. It is too early to say whether the show will be renewed for a second season or not, but it seems that Sherlock Holmes is quite popular at Netflix currently. Even if The Irregulars doesn’t take off, Holmes will likely appear again in another form.