3:00 pm EDT, April 8, 2021

‘The Irregulars’ review: So much more than a Sherlock Holmes story

Netflix’s The Irregulars is so much more than just another Sherlock Holmes retelling. Read our The Irregulars review to find out why this is must-see TV.

The Irregulars season 1’s trailer captured my attention right away—from the premise to the setting to the diverse cast of characters—but it wasn’t until I watched the first episode that I realized how special this show was.

So special, in fact, that I found myself watching it at a snail’s pace. I enjoyed basking in the atmosphere of every single episode, allowing myself ample time to sit with the one I had just seen before moving on to the next.

In a culture of binge watching—and with all eight episodes available at my fingertips—this truly is a unique show if it can force me to take pause after each installment, just to live inside it for that much longer.

‘The Irregulars’ review

The Irregulars season 1 follows the story of a group of street kids in Victorian London. They are hired by Dr. Watson and his mysterious colleague, Sherlock Holmes, to investigate a series of supernatural occurrences.

the irregulars jess bea spike billy

The Baker Street Irregulars come straight from Arthur Conan Doyle’s mind, and while they have appeared in various adaptations throughout the last four decades, it’s safe to say they’ve never quite looked like this.

Our Irregulars are made up of sisters Beatrice and Jessica, as well as friends Spike and Billy. All four of them are a tight-knight family where love, anger, and joy intertwine on a daily basis.

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But where so many Sherlock tales work to keep its characters grounded in reality, Netflix’s The Irregulars allows them to spread their wings and travel to a world where the supernatural exists. This world still struggles with all the familiar issues of Victorian England, but with an added twist that makes life, shall we say, a bit more interesting.

Jessica (Darci Shaw) has a gift no one understands; she experiences unspeakable nightmares and visions. Bea (Thaddea Graham) is the leader, the overprotective sister, the person who loves so deeply, it crushes her beneath its weight. Billy’s (Jojo Macari) past fills him with an anger he can barely contain, and his only outlet is a desperate desire to prove his worth. Then there’s sweet Spike (McKell David), who might be the most innocent of the four, but could charm the socks right off your feet.

All four of these personalities at once fight for domination and integration. Each person is unique, and yet, as a unit, they are the perfect Irregulars. They might not always see eye to eye, but at the end of the day, they are family. There is nothing they wouldn’t do for each other.

So, it should come as no surprise that when Leo (Harrison Osterfield) shows up, it throws everything into chaos. Bea and Billy’s almost-romance is put on hold as the newcomer’s presence captures Bea’s attention. They’re not entirely sure they can trust him, and yet there is a pull bringing all five of them together.

It’s true that Leo has his own secrets to hide, but he might just be the least of their worries.

If you go into The Irregulars season 1 hoping for a familiar and comfortable Sherlock Holmes tale, you’re bound to be disappointed. This show is not about Sherlock, after all; it is about the Irregulars. They are our heroes, which means some familiar faces are bound to become the villains.

Dr. John Watson is not an easy man to love. Royce Pierreson plays his role exquisitely, but this is not the Watson we know from Sherlock or many other beloved iterations. He is a cold and unforgiving presence in the lives of the Irregulars, which suits him just fine.

While Watson has his reasons for his attitude, I can see it rubbing some fans the wrong way. Watson is typically our window into the life of Sherlock Holmes, and as such, he must be relatable. In The Irregulars he does not serve the same purpose, which allows us to see him through Bea’s untrusting eyes.

Sherlock’s unveiling comes a touch later in the series, as you would expect. It does hold weight, but while he may not be our hero, he is still the star of his own show. The Irregulars plays around with the legend of Sherlock Holmes by asking us whether he’s as brilliant or sane or composed or magnificent as we’ve been led to believe.

sherlock holmes irregulars

There are touches of the Sherlock we know and (sometimes) love, but don’t expect him to outshine any of the Irregulars. While his past is irrevocably wrapped up in the current mystery Bea and her friends are trying to solve, he is by no means sitting high-and-mighty on a throne of his own making.

It bears mentioning that, as is the case in any period drama, the setting is a character in its own right. I have no better explanation that to say it feels like a video game—you can embed yourself in every street corner, touch every cobblestone, hear every fistfight, taste the soot in the air, and smell the sweet fragrance of bread mixing with the coppery scent of blood.

But this isn’t exactly the Victorian England from the history books. Supernatural events aside, it’s clear Netflix’s Irregulars walked into this story with a mind to ignore certain historical facts in order to bring us a more vibrant reality.

They never once mention that Bea is Asian (Graham is Chinese-born) or that she has a white sister. It is also never mentioned that Watson, a well-respected gentleman, is Black, as is Spike. In this version of history, there is no such thing as existing in certain spaces despite your ethnicity. It simply isn’t a factor.

In that same vein, there is a small moment during a party where two women are standing close, touching each other’s waists and clearly flirting. One prominent character in the show has a same-sex love interest, and though it is not given the same attention as some of the straight romance plots (for extremely valid reasons, I will add), it gives me a sense of hope. It is a breath of fresh air to see the same normalcy brought to the characters’ sexuality as we have seen with their race.

john watson irregulars

By and far, however, the largest departure from history (that we know of, at least) is the inclusion of supernatural elements. In a show full of genius strokes, this is the largest one they’ve given us. It allows for an added element of danger and intrigue, and reminds us that while Bea and her friends may be capable of surviving the streets of London, it’s a whole different story when their world goes topsy-turvy.

The Irregulars season 1 toes the line between fantasy and horror, with some episodes providing ample jump scares and grotesque imagery. It keeps you on the edge of your seat without making you want to cower under your bed covers.

The supernatural element also kicks the door open to an at once strange and familiar world. We know most of the rules when we walk through that opening, but a few of them are still foreign. With a Rip in the fabric of the universe causing mysterious abilities to find their way inside people all across the city, it’s only a matter of time before things get a little, well, weird.

The Irregulars season 1 contains a sea of triumphs, from the setting to the characters to the digital effects. It gives us a Sherlock Holmes tale unlike anything we’ve ever seen before while also shifting the spotlight to a group of people who deserve to shine right alongside the infamous detective.

If it wasn’t already abundantly clear in this The Irregulars review, I highly recommend the series, and I sincerely hope Netflix gives it a second season.

‘The Irregulars’ season 2 projections

the irregulars cast

Major spoilers ahead.

If Netflix gives The Irregulars season 2 the green light, I’ll be interested to see where they take the story and this wonderful cast of characters.

In the end, both Sherlock and Alice have gone through the Rip. Bea, Jess, Billy, and Spike have returned to a somewhat normal life. Watson continues to grieve over Sherlock’s disappearance, while Leo chooses to move on to his prospects with Helena, despite the fact that he is in love with Bea.

The Linen Man is dead. The Rip is closed. London can go on as it had before.

Or can it? There’s no denying every single character has been affected by what they experienced in season 1. No one can unsee all of that, and I don’t think they’d want to. As much pain as they have felt, those recent events have infused them with a strength that can only cement their unbreakable bond.

So, what would I like to see in The Irregulars season 2?

For one, I’d love to have Bea and the others to bring Sherlock and Alice back in a way that won’t destroy the fabric of reality. Even the fallout of returning from Purgatory will be interesting to explore—Alice will not be the same person she was when she left 15 years ago.

I’d also love to see Watson step out of Sherlock’s shadow and move on with his life. As angry as I have been with him throughout the first season, I don’t think he is irredeemable. The events of the last episode have gone far to put him back in our good graces, but he still has a ways to go. His budding friendship with Bea has promise.

the irregulars jess bea

Jessica’s powers provide ample opportunity. Will closing the Rip have any side effects? Will there be any repercussions? We know other ipsissimi exist around the world. Will Jess meet another one? Will she become part of something bigger? Whatever happens, I hope Spike gets to stand by her side in whatever capacity works best for both of them.

Leo is a difficult thread to weave because I can see the show going in either direction. On the one hand, he must fulfill his princely duties and leave Bea behind, but on the other hand, he will never forget his time with the Irregulars. It felt like a closed chapter when he said goodbye to Bea, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to how the series could bring him back into the fold once more.

Whatever happens in The Irregulars season 2 will have to be bigger and better than what we saw in season 1, but if this show has taught me anything, it’s that there is a world of possibility out there. I have faith that Tom Bidwell and his team will bring us something just as special as we’ve already gotten.

What did you think of ‘The Irregulars’ season 1?
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