“Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency” enters its second season on BBC America on Saturday, but that doesn’t make the sci-fi/mystery/comedy/adventure series is any easier to summarize — even with a year under its belt. A new season doesn’t bring clarity, rather even more chaos and lunacy. Perhaps this is because it’s wholly the creation of Max Landis, who only kept the hero and the absurdist tone from Douglas Adams’ novels on which the series is based.
In its first season, the technicolor-clad Dirk Gently (Samuel Barnett) adopted has-been musician Todd Brotzman (Elijah Wood) as his assistant to help solve a murder using “holistic” methods in which the universe randomly provides him with the answers he needs. In short, there is no coincidence where Dirk is concerned. Along the way, the two encounter a time machine, a corgi, a holistic assassin, a kitten, four psychic vampires known as the Rowdy 3 (yes, math), a kick-ass security officer, and a government conspiracy.
At Comic-Con this past summer, the cast and crew of the series attempted to tease what was coming in Season 2 without too many spoilers. But Landis’ stamp is felt so keenly on this show that eventually turned into paying tribute to his wild writing and imagination. Once they dispensed with the accolades (“He’s original!” and “So brilliant!”), the discussion turned to figuring out what alchemy is at work, and these statements are in some ways far more telling about the world of “Dirk Gently.”
Below are seven blunt statements about Landis and the crazy story in Season 2:
“I promise you all that stuff is going to make sense in the end.”
Fiona Dourif said she had to reassure her friends with this statement when they began to watch the first season on Hulu. While all the seemingly random threads eventually do come together — it’s that holistic thing, after all — this idea could also apply to the show’s optimism: Don’t worry about the stresses and setbacks because everything right is meant to be.
Katie Yu/BBC America
This is sense of satisfying destiny is seen in the two main relationships. In Season 1, it was revealed that as a child, Dirk was known as Project Icarus and studied by a government agency. In the present time, he opened up Todd’s world in a way that offered him some redemption for mistakes made in his youth.
Barnett said, “In Season 2 it’s great because they have a kind of role reversal where Todd is utterly on board with Dirk’s way of thinking, and Dirk is having a total crisis about the way his life works because everyone keeps getting hurt. He’s like, ‘Clearly this doesn’t work so I’m not doing it anymore.’ So they have to find their way through that. But ultimately their friendship has cemented and deepened.”
On the flip side is holistic assassin Bart (Dourif), whose destiny is to kill people wherever the universe leads her, and yet she spared Ken (Mpho Koaho), who became her assistant and even her very first friend. This odd-couple relationship allows her to appreciate some of the mundane joys in life that she’s missed before. This season, they’ve been parted after they faced down the government goons, and Bart is on a mission to find her pal.
Katie Yu/BBC America
“I don’t think Ken’s ever been cared for at the level that Bart shows him,” said Koaho. “So I think that’s something that Ken will hold onto. They’ll always be one, I feel like. There’ll always be that kinship, and I feel like we’ve already established that relationship to where a lot of people will want to see Ken and Bart back together.”
“Max writes with this giant font.”
Actress Hannah Marks, who plays Todd’s sister Amanda, made this observation about receiving the script, but in a way it encapsulates everything about Landis and the show. It’s loud and unabashed, it takes up as much room as it needs, and in the end succeeds in grabbing your attention.
In the case of Amanda, she has a big, bold disease called pararibulitis that causes her to hallucinate that she’s being harmed in incredibly painful ways, while in reality she’s totally fine. It’s an utterly ridiculous fictional malady, and yet it’s this vivid ailment that drew the Rowdy 3 to her and the psychic energy she emits while she has an attack. Last season, it was revealed that they could leech off this excess energy, creating a symbiotic relationship. This year, she learns of a curious side effect of her episodes with the help of Rowdy member Vogel (Osric Chau). Also, Todd must deal with the debilitating symptoms as well after years of pretending to have it.
“It’s a fucking sandbox for [Max].”
Elijah Wood, who plays Todd, used that statement to convey the joy that Landis has in playing in this world. “It fills him with no end of enthusiasm, but also inspires everybody else working on the show,” Wood said.
But also as in the world of make-believe in a sandbox, some scenarios are easily bulldozed and erased to make way for fresh new structures and stories. Starting from scratch this year means that Landis opted to jump ahead two months from the events of last season’s finale, giving him plenty of time to play with to press reset on many of the known storylines. And, he was able to introduce new blood organically.
Katie Yu/BBC America
Alan Tudyk joins the cast as a mysterious man known as Mr. Priest who works with Hugo Friedkin (Dustin Milligan). “I’m supposed to be intimidating,” Tudyk said. “I have guns. I have a machine gun. I’m on track to hunt down these people. I’m a good bounty hunter and I’m after the Projects people. I’ve been good at it for a long time.”
Tyler Labine described how he fit into this year’s story. “My character is Sheriff Hobbs. If I had to make one direct correlation from Season 1, me and Izzie Steele — she’s playing Tina Tevertino — we’re like the new detectives in this season,” said Labine. “We’re the cops in the fictitious town called Bergsberg, Montana. We are sort of there to go along on the ride with the heroes. I’m on the good side, but I also may dabble into the evil side a little bit.”
Katie Yu/BBC America
”It’s like we’re shooting a live-action cartoon.”
Labine’s comments were his attempt to describe the experience of making the show to his wife, and in some regards, he’s not wrong. There is a level of casual violence that is at home with the best “Tom & Jerry” cartoons, but the difference is that things can get fairly bloody and people often die.
In the trailer below, Bart is still doing what she does best: killing. But keep an out for John Hannah at the 0:27 mark. As the new character known as the Mage, he appears to get his hands dirty quickly.
The cartoonishness gets promoted this season to a bright and literally fantastical realm. Although it’s not clear how this magical world of Wendimoor fits in with Dirk’s world, a prince with pink hair is running around in it, so he and the detective should bond over their appreciation for pops of color.