Saturday, March 27, 2021

SPOILER POST -- The Irregulars on Netflix

" I may not be the hero of the story any more, John. But I can at least help."

-- Sherlock Holmes, Netflix's The Irregulars

"I'm here. I'm not going anywhere."

-- John Watson, Netflix's The Irregulars

Okay, let's get down to business. Don't read this unless you've already watched all of The Irregulars on Netflix, or are silly enough to decide you're just not going to. While it might seem like a tale of five teenagers, supernatural shit, and a topcoat of Sherlock Holmes brushed over it, there's a lot of deeper stuff here, and stuff that hits at the core of Sherlock Holmes and John H. Watson.

So stop right here, because I'm immediately getting into it.

I loved the story that The Irregulars had to tell, and I loved it as a Sherlockian most of all.

The Irregulars is a tale of people broken by love and loss. John Watson's love and loss.

This Watson has no interest in any Mary Morstans. He loves Sherlock Holmes, completely.

So when Sherlock falls in love with a woman named Alice (which is straight out of William Gillette's play, an excellent touch) and the three of them face a crisis where John must help Sherlock save Alice, but is too focused on saving his own love to do the job, everyone loses.

Sherlock loses his love. As he disappears into his broken, drugged state, John loses Sherlock. Sherlock's daughter and step-daughter lose any chance at traditional home and family. The hill that The Irregulars climbs is dealing with every part of those losses, while dealing with the villains created by and taking advantage of that situation, a situation entirely created by John H. Watson.

Even though, as always, Watson isn't the focal point of this story, he is the spark that ignites the fire of the plot, and, in the end, literally the steady hand that says, "You aren't alone against this."

It's a John Watson story that way. The Irregulars, formed in the ashes of a failed previous team of Irregulars, are about a group of people supporting each other and holding life together in ways they could not alone. Yes, the story has monsters and magic, but that's just the set-dressing for that heart-felt core of the story this show tells. Anyone who says "This isn't a Sherlock Holmes story!" has never thought long and hard about the subtitle of Christopher Morley's 1944 Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson: A Textbook of Friendship. Yes, Sherlock Holmes is the flashy attention-getting part of the team, but is Watson and the friendship he brings that creates the Sherlockian Canon itself.

And by putting that relationship at the core of its story, The Irregulars becomes a Sherlock Holmes story more true than many a cold pastiche of observation and deduction. Somebody thought about this for a while, and it shows.

I don't know if The Irregulars will be popular enough for a sequel, or what that story would be. It certainly won't have Sherlock Holmes in it. But John H. Watson finding a new friend, a next generation Sherlock (or Sherlocks) to commit to, seems to give his character a place to grow in a second season. Like many a current series that tells its story in one arc, there's always the question of where the characters go when the story they were originally built to exist in is done. Do they have other stories to tell?

The Irregulars just might. John Watson definitely does, as ever.


  1. After reading this spoiler am glad I already took The Irregulars off my to watch list. One episode was enough, and this proved it. (for me)

  2. I'm not a purist about our friends Holmes and Watson. I don't insist on a color, gender, or era. I do insist, however, that a writer who scripts a series based in Victorian London do some research and offer some consistency. First, why do Jessica and Beatrice look so different from each other? Jessica must have had an Asian parent--couldn't we get a word of explanation? I'm all for diversity, but we can't pretend that we all look alike. Second, the vocabulary is atrocious. I only got to episode 2, where the word "clone" is mentioned. The word was not in common usage until 1903, according to the OED. Third, why would Doctor Watson (for we learn in episode 2 that it is he) assume that a street urchin like Jessica could read? Yet he blithely thrusts papers upon her, telling her to study them. Fourth, in episode 2, he threatens her with appearing before a "District judge." The District judges were appointed to hear civil matters only and weren't "real" judges--there were so many other choices available, but they would have require actual research. Finally (and only through episode 2), who could imagine a Duke (a peer) of color? Again, I'm all for diversity but not impossibilities.

    In short, I'm not even going to watch this long enough to have any comments about the characterizations of Holmes or Watson. The writing is so sloppy, so poorly researched, and so ill-grounded in Victoriana to make it unpleasant. Why not just make it a contemporary drama, where the writer could have gotten away with all of these things? Because--and we should be grateful--Holmes sells. Unfortunately, Holmes sells some things that shouldn't be sold.



  3. That's a splendid look at a splendid piece of work: the best canonical-based drama in any medium for a good many years.