Television

How the Hell Did 'Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency' Characters Survive?

The series comes back from the edge after a fatally flawed penultimate episode, setting up an intriguing season two.


Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency

Airtime: Saturdays, 9pm
Cast: Samuel Barnett, Elijah Wood, Hannah Marks
Subtitle: Season 1, Episode 8, “Two Sane Guys Doing Normal Things”
Network: BBC America
Air date: 2016-12-10
Amazon

“Have fun with your new friends. They seem insane.”

-- Lydia Spring (Alison Thornton). Amen.

Back and better than ever (or, well, more human than ever, at least), the return of Girl Lydia (as opposed to Dog Lydia), while a highlight, doesn’t even begin to tackle “Two Sane Guys Doing Normal Things”, the season finalé of the debut run for Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency. I mean, come on, guys. Check it out:

Dirk (Samuel Barnett) and Todd (Elijah Wood) almost die. But then they don’t. But now it looks like they might. And this all comes in the wake of saving Lydia and ostensibly returning the universe back to its Natural Order.

We learn that Bart (Fiona Dourif) was tasked with protecting Dirk and not killing him. “Phew!” says everybody who ever wondered how the hell that was going to work itself out.

Estevez (Neil Brown Jr.), Gordon (Aaron Douglas), and Ed, Red, Said, Fred, Med, Led, Head, or whatever those weird Nazi-looking dudes’ names all have one thing in common now and that one thing is the fact that they are all dead. This is particularly deflating because man, Gordon was quickly becoming an affable villain for reasons impossible to articulate.

Friedkin (Dustin Milligan) is back and suddenly makes the shift from goofy sidekick to psychotic leader without much effort. Which, of course, leads us to …

Oh, yeah. The world is about to end now.

The most interesting thing about the way this first season ends is how quickly resolution creeps into the episode’s narrative. We are barely halfway through the hour when Lydia is saved, Gordon is dead, Dirk and Todd survive their wounds, and Amanda (Hannah Marks) kind of/sort of makes nice with her brother. Laws of gravity alone immediately suggest that this thing is destined to take a turn.

Take a turn, it does, as within the final ten-minutes, we realize that the whole Blackwing thing was actually a pretty damn big deal. It’s so big, in fact, that all of our lovable, eccentric, holistic characters seem to now be destined for calamity. It kind of feels as though that’s the way it should be. It was easy enough to assume that these guys would get their happy ending; what was much harder to predict was the fact that it would all go to shit so quickly -- and so drastically.

It’s a welcome development after the Penultimate Blunder that we addressed the last time we addressed this show. In one fell swoop, after such a convoluted, twisty and turn-y narrative, the series allowed its namesake to explain everything away in a quick manner, and in doing so provided 2016’s laziest moment in television. But that was episode seven. This was episode eight, and episode eight had a lot for which it needed to make up.

Did it accomplish that? Not entirely, but it did make the blow a little less devastating, thanks to a series of genuinely entertaining sequences (the over/under on how many times I said “How the hell are they going to get out of this?” to myself about any character, at any time throughout this episode was 7.5), and a surprising amount of levity (one thing this version of Dirk Gently struggled with all season was its lack of empathy, yet you’d be lying if you said there weren’t a handful of believable emotional moments / exchanges throughout this finalé).

So, the bad taste from "Weaponized Soul" is still floating somewhere between tongue and teeth; it’s just getting a little easier to deal with now that my glass of water has been refilled.

Perhaps the most important takeaway from all this is that hope for an interesting, compelling and watchable second season should now be at an all-time high. So much of this debut run felt like it was setting itself up for one-and-done-land, what with the consistency in resolution so many developments ended up experiencing. Now, though? Well, now we have to wonder how the hell these people end up surviving, all “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency” signs be damned.

While that may seem too fundamental to be compelling at first glance, just remind yourself that now instead of dealing with serpentine mysteries that feel so complex, they are impossible to focus on, we’re going to be dealing with a good, old-fashioned tale of survival. Can our heroes band together for the greater good? Or will we realize that life’s inevitabilities can, indeed, weigh too much to ever truly overcome?

So, yes, Lydia. Those friends are insane. But how likely is it that all of them even continue to exist?

A Clue, An Accomplice or An Assistant

Todd now actually having the disease he lied about is either going to get super interesting or super annoying really quick next season. Just saying.

I really, really liked this observation from Michael Walsh at The Nerdist when talking about the episode, and I’m not so sure it could possibly be said better, so I won’t even try. Instead, I’ll just quote it: “The time loop itself could / can never be closed because to close it would be to wipe out Lydia Spring’s very existence. Patrick Spring was right: it always ends this way, because it has to. To try and erase our mistakes would be to erase who we are.” Wise words.

“What doesn’t kill you,” begins Ken (Mpho Koaho), before Bart, in truly the most emotional moment of her life on this series, interjects with, “Makes you hurt real bad; makes you cry.” Weirdly poignant, for a character who only seconds before this was trying to dig out a bullet from her thigh.

Honestly. I’m going to miss Gordon. He was such an odd character and now I have no one to call The Lost Trailer Park Boy. We all lose.

So … Riggins (Miguel Sandoval) talking to Dirk while he was conked out, saying all that “you are who you say you are and I’m proud of you” stuff -- that means Friedkin killed him, right?

Lydia just gives away a few million dollars like that? Damn.

I see no way out for any of these characters going into season two. No. Way. Out.

Or, wait. If Ken knows how to build one of those time machines, and if a time machine is the only way this cast can survive… Hmm.

Is it me or did Estevez get really annoying, really quick?

This Episode's MVP: Lydia Spring is the only option. Not only does she single-handedly finance the series’ namesake detective agency, but she also knew when to get real when she threatened to smash the time machine. Simply put, she’s been the center of this universe all along.

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