The scruffy ranks of the Baker Street Irregulars have been a staple of Sherlock Holmes mysteries since their first appearance in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Study In Scarlet. A gang of street-smart urchins gathered from London’s back alleys, the Irregulars were Holmes’ eyes and ears on the ground, ferreting out basic information while the Great Detective concerned himself with loftier affairs. Not so here. Reimagined by Tom Bidwell (My Mad Fat Diary, Watership Down), Netflix’s YA take not only ages the Irregulars up slightly, but positions the gang as the real investigative muscle, carrying the can for an opium-sozzled Sherlock (Henry Lloyd-Hughes) and his shady sidekick Watson (Royce Pierreson) as they pull back the curtain on dark forces stalking Victorian London’s cobbled thoroughfares.
Comprised of scrappy orphan Bea (Thaddea Graham), her sickly sister Jess (Darci Shaw), smooth-talking chancer Spike (McKell David), and hot-head Billy (Jojo Macari), the gang are approached by an abrasive and aloof Dr Watson after several babies are abducted from locked rooms around the capital. Initially tasked with locating a witness, the gang soon prove more than capable of solving cases on their own, serving up the culprits to Watson and his mysterious partner. Rather than tackling mundane crimes, however, the teenage sleuths are tasked with investigations of a more supernatural variety and are aided by new recruit Leo (Harrison Osterfield), a token posh boy who, unbeknownst to the others, is actually Prince Leopold, playing hooky from Buckingham Palace and on the lam from his overbearing valet.
Young Adult may be the target audience here but, like Netflix’s Fate: The Winx Saga, The Irregulars is aimed at the teen market’s upper end. The episodes serve up a wide assortment of grisly goings-on, from raven-pecked eyes to flayed corpses, gruesome murder tableaux, and even a collection of Us-like doppelgängers grown from human teeth. Throw in anachronistic slang (“When you have a cold you’re even more of a bellend”), some creative swearing (“Well, shit in your hat and punch it!”) and thumping soundtrack contributions from the likes of SBTRKT, and the show successfully manages to lend the period setting an edgy, contemporary kick.
like Netflix’s Fate: The Winx Saga, The Irregulars is aimed at the teen market’s upper end.
But while the tone is sufficiently fresh, the episodic monster hunts are too often stale as week-old biscuits. That this Holmesian adventure leans hard into the supernatural is a pleasing twist, but its line-up of mystic perps is lifted from the same sub-Buffy playbook that’s been doing the rounds since the late ’90s, be they shapeshifter, evil tooth fairy or ornithological wizard. Luckily, the episode-specific mysteries are merely the bones of the show, the real meat coming from a gradually unfurling narrative involving a supernatural apocalypse, Jess’ emerging psychic powers, and the potentially sinister goings-on at 221b Baker Street. There’s also a love triangle and Clarke Peters as a mysterious Southern dream-walker with a thing for butterflies. Once all these elements start to converge, the story takes hold, bringing with it an overarching mystery that might not knock your socks off but offers more than enough intrigue to warrant hoovering up the show’s entire eight-episode run.