The phrase “one step forward, two steps back” normally has a negative connotation (outside of Paula Abdul songs), but that approach is the best part of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, because the show is at its most entertaining when it answers one question about the grand mystery, but that answer raises more questions, just like it was in this week’s third episode “Rogue Wall Enthusiasts.”
At this point the overwhelming number of clues, characters, timelines, events, and small mentions of even more additions to come (Patrick Spring had a pet rhino, and why mention that if we aren’t getting a rhino?) are so complex it would require a week to try and plot them all. I attempted to do that early on in this episode, with the great flashback scene featuring Lux DuJour and the “supreme soul” he called Rainey (they are “simply energy,” they need a new location for their temple, they have a cause, and they are looking for “another machine), but it’s not worth it. Not because it isn’t fun to try and piece it together, but because it’s so relentless and insane it’s more fun to embrace the confusion, just getting by with a general feeling of what is happening as a guide.
Yes, I am basically arguing that you should take a holistic approach to the insanity, so kudos to the show for pulling that off, but like Dirk said, “Absolutely no one has any idea what’s going on,” so why fight it? With literally anything possible it would be hard to make accurate predictions anyway. So long as you know that these “energy souls” are looking for a machine that seems to be an energy source, that’s good enough.
Now while the bonkers mystery is the show’s strength, one of the other things it has done well is made all of the main characters likable. Even Dirk, who is profoundly needy, annoying, and generally incompetent (it feels like his successes are total accidents/fate as opposed to anything he does, no matter how many times other characters compliment him), is someone worth rooting for in spite of irksome traits. His joke about Farrah hating those walls was (intentional or not) a reference to Steve Martin’s great line from The Jerk (“He hates these cans!”), and that’s a great comparison for who this version of Dirk is. Both are naive, with a childlike innocence, who seem to be successful despite their shortcomings. If Dirk were less insecure he would be Navin, and that’s a good thing.
Todd, Amanda, Farrah, Bart and Ken, even the former Lux DuJour now bitter Gordon, are all characters that deserve some level of empathy, and that characterization helps the mystery, because it’s more fun to care about the people wrapped up in it.
That’s not to say there aren’t still some problems, ones that don’t seem to be going away; primarily this backstory for Dirk, the one with Project Blackwing. I’m sure it will tie-in, because I’m sure everything will tie-in, but it feels completely unnecessary. We don’t need to know everything about a character to be interested in them, and with so much else going on it feels like an element that isn’t as fun as the rest.
The same is true of the apparent budding romance storylines, between Dirk and Amanda and Todd and Farrah (though that seems far more one way). At some point even in a completely insane world, the things happen to these people would seem to make it so love wasn’t on their minds. When the Rowdy 3 were saving/protecting/sucking the soul/energy from Amanda (who the hell knows what that actually was–it’s great–and her visions during it were equally great), I was completely invested in what was going on. When she was fawning over Dirk I wasn’t. I wanted to just focus on Todd’s apartment being at the center of the city’s power source.
Those romantic subplots will end up mattering, but like Dirk and Bart’s Blackwing background it would be better if they never existed.
Overall though this was probably the best episode of the three, and with only five left the fact we are still having more questions raised means the insanity is only going to go up as we get closer to the end, which is great since that’s what the show does best.
Zachary Webb, three generations of the Spring family, the Rowdy 3, energy sucking souls, hammerhead sharks, rhinos, magical lightbulbs, murdered mothers and fathers, rare diseases, rock stars, secret rooms, the CIA, humans as dogs and vice versa. There’s enough madness there to keep us invested without romance and origin stories.
But what did you think of this week’s episode? Tell us in the comments below.
Images: BBC America