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‘Dirk Gently’ Review: Season 2 Premiere Is a Messy ‘Acceleration of Strangeness’

The table setting for Dirk’s new case feels like it has too many weird little forks and knives for now.

"Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency"

“Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency”

Ed Araquel/BBC America

[Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers from the Season 2 premiere of “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency,” titled “Space Rabbit.”]

“How did I forget how annoying you are?” asks Todd Brotzman (Elijah Wood) in the trailer for BBC America’s “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.” It’s a familiar feeling for viewers reentering the world Max Landis adapted from Douglas Adams’ source material because just as with last year, this season is not content to unspool a story quietly, logically, or with any sort of restraint.

The overstuffed episode checks back in with eight returning characters (yes, we’re also counting Rowdy 3 member Vogel and the dog Rapunzel), and introduces at least eight more. Despite that surfeit of players, we have yet to even meet Alan Tudyk, who joins this year as the gun-happy Mr. Priest.

A little over two months have passed since all hell broke loose in the Season 1 finale, and it appears that our ragtag group of heroes have all survived, albeit separately. Having effectively split up the superteam – which is a shame because Dirk and Bart (Fiona Dourif) joining forces would be unstoppable – the goal now seems to be drawing everyone together, along with all the new faces. Servicing this many plotlines, however, creates a disconnect as information overload reigns supreme. Magic is real. Pararibulitis is mysterious. Dirk has to find “The Boy.” Bart needs a bath. Ken needs a shave. And John Hannah is a mysteriously charming psychopath who kills with writing instruments. Let us all take a collective breath.

All that said, this is very much the M.O. from the last season: dump a bunch of incongruous stories and oddball characters on the screen, and eventually they will all sort themselves out because “everything is connected,” and Dirk’s presence makes it so. For those viewers who may have binged the show on Hulu or On Demand though, this will be an exercise in patience. “Dirk Gently” is a show that is best consumed in bigger chunks, if only to get to these connections faster. Perhaps BBC America could have done at least a special two-hour premiere, which would have alleviated some of these frustrations. For now, though, the table appears to have a few too many settings and utensils, and not enough courses.

The premiere was not without its charms and intrigues though. Below is an investigation into the highlights of “Space Rabbit”:

Everyone Should Be Connected

Fiona Dourif, "Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency"

Fiona Dourif, “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency”

Katie Yu/BBC America

Bart continues to be one of the most compelling characters created for the series in that she seems almost the purest of heart even if she’s the most deadly by a quirk of fate. There is a heartbreaking moment when she spares Suzie’s (Amanda Walsh) life and then asks if they can be best friends. Having tasted her first and only positive relationship with Ken (Mpho Koaho) last year, she’s eager to recapture that human experience that so many take for granted.

The concept of connection was initially proposed in way that made Dirk and Bart tools to solve cases or to eliminate bad people, respectively. But these drives appear to have taken over their lives, leaving personal relationships as collateral damage. Dirk found a friend in Todd last year as well, so perhaps this universal force has changed enough to bring them to the people they need the most. Keep in mind that Bart was supposed to find Dirk Gently in Season 1. It would not be surprising if a sort of Holistic Justice League were created at some point.

Read More:‘Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency’ Season 2 Photos 

A Malady of Psychic Proportions

Almost everyone on the show has some sort of quirk or dark backstory that has held them back from realizing their true potential. It’s this very human failing that has been brought to the forefront in the most vivid ways. And even though Dirk and Bart’s holistic abilities have allowed them to achieve remarkable things, they’ve also held them back.

The Brotzmans’ pararibulitis is probably the most mysterious malady of the bunch, especially since a new twist has been added to the symptoms. Currently, Todd only knows of the nightmare symptom: hallucinating that he’s being hurt or killed in the most painful ways. His sister Amanda (Hannah Marks), however, has had the benefit of being exposed to the Rowdy 3. Their ability to siphon off her psychic distress not only eliminates the hallucination, but also brings with it psychic visions that appear to be some sort of clairvoyance. While the siblings initially seemed like hapless victims of circumstance in the first season, it appears that have powers that they’re just learning to harness. Our question is how soon can Amanda and Todd reunite so that he’ll finally get some Rowdy relief?

Elijah Wood, "Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency"

Elijah Wood, “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency”

Katie Yu/BBC America

David and Goliath

The Project Blackwing conspiracy has deepened this season. And while Dustin Milligan’s Hugo is a fun incompetent to have running the ship, this secretive government stuff hasn’t stuck quite yet. We know it’s important since it will most likely explain why so many people have odd powers, but for now, it’s kind of hard to care. A person who is working or Blackwing who has powers but doesn’t know it would be an intriguing twist though – sort of like how Rachel (Tatiana Maslany) was the self-aware clone on “Orphan Black.”

The government portion is still important to the overall story though. It follows Douglas Adams’ beliefs that those in power are the ones who are least suited to those positions because of that desire to rule others. “Dirk Gently” has been setting up this questioning of those who have authority since the beginning.

In general though, this story could be seen as anyone challenging the status quo and whoever is in power. New character Suzie Boreton is a damaged human – physically from an accident, but also emotionally from surrounding herself with horrible men that include her boss, her husband, and even her son. Now that she was able to work the wand and has a book of spells, how she decides to use this power will be telling about her character.

The Weirdest Thing

On a show where weird things happen in literally every frame, there’s so much to choose from. But those inured to the “Dirk Gently” formula were probably not that shaken from seeing a boat in the middle of a field (that will be explained later, natch), or a care to fall out of a tree. Hell, even a shapeshifter making her way to Dirk’s cell as a bubble or remote control car was not that odd.

Nope, the honors this week goes to the fantasy land of Wendimoor and its… giant scissors-swords. We’re totally on board for a pink-haired hero named Panto Trost (Christopher Russell) and star-crossed lovers in a land where the moon has a face. But seriously, why are people fighting with giant scissors? We know it’ll all be explained at some point, but for now it just seems hella goofy.

Christopher Russell, "Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency"

Christopher Russell, “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency”

BBC America

The Gently Menagerie

Animals have played a big part of the storytelling in the series from the beginning. The first season involved a kitten, a shark, and the corgi Rapunzel. In the premiere, we see Todd going on a wild rabbit chase that did eventually lead him to the holistic happenstance he needed (the car dropping from the tree).

But can we sic the SPCA on Blackwing? First of all, Ken should not be subjected to imprisonment in a taxi with just an IV (and we assume a catheter) for two months. But does Rapunzel have to stay with him? Since the corgi doesn’t look the worse for wear, we’re going to assume she’s been fed, watered, and walked, but come on! This is inhumane! Bart needs to swoop in STAT.

MVPs

Small shoutouts to absolutely batshit performances by John Hannah as the gleefully homicidal and mustachioed Mage and Osric Chau as the delightfully enthusiastic but vociferous Vogel. He definitely lives up to the Rowdy pedigree.

But the MVP honors this episode go to Wood and Jade Eshete for the exchange that Todd and Farah have in the field. It reveals her dedication and frustration with a man she believes to be delusional, while also showing the depth of Todd’s desperation and guilt. They’ve both been punishing themselves by not speaking, but now that it’s out in the open, things can change. Despite the vehicular punctuation on the scene, it’s the least gimmicky and most emotionally honest moments from the episode.

Grade: B-

”Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency” airs Saturdays at 9 p.m. ET on BBC America. Here’s a sneak peek at Episode 2:

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