Few addresses conjure as much history and adoration as that of 221B Baker Street. Since the late 1800s, the fictional address of the legendary super-sleuth Sherlock Holmes and his loyal companion, Doctor John Watson, has loomed large in popular culture as an iconic locale matched by few others. Since Sir Arthur Conan Doyle first introduced the world to Holmes in 1887’s A Study in Scarlet, the world surrounding his brilliant detective has been adapted and reimagined in any number of ways both in print and on screen, countless times. Now, continuing the long running tradition of reinventing Sherlock’s world for contemporary audiences, Netflix is getting in on the Baker Street action with their exciting new supernatural drama series The Irregulars.
First of all, it is important to realise this series is not really about Sherlock Holmes at all, and that is what really makes it an intriguing concept. As the series creator and writer, Tom Bidwell, warned audiences: don’t “go in expecting to see a very traditional adaptation of Conan Doyle’s work because this isn’t that. We don’t intend to be that and we’re not protecting the canon: we’re taking elements and twisting and turning them”.
Whilst Sherlock does indeed exist at the periphery of this series, the main focus falls on a group of troubled street youths who are drawn into a series of increasingly sinister and supernatural mysteries by the disquieting presence of a “world-weary” Doctor John Watson, played by The Witcher’s Royce Pierreson with such careful precision and quiet reserve that you never really know whether he is indeed “on the side of the angels” or not.
These youths, who evolve over the course of the show to become Baker Street’s newest generation of Irregulars and decidedly competent detectives in their own right, are led by the fiercely loyal and sharp-witted Bea, played by the emerging and enormously talented young actress Thaddea Graham (The Letter for the King), whose strong performance is more than worthy of hefting the enormous weight of expectations that naturally come with attempting any Sherlock Holmes reimagining.
Joining Bea in her investigative errands for Doctor Watson is her younger sister Jessie (Darci Shaw) who is struggling with her own strange gifts, the charming Spike (Mckell David), tough guy Billy (Sex Education’s Jojo Macari) and the young Leo (Harrison Osterfield), who is secretly seeking to escape his life as a cloistered younger son of Queen Victoria herself. With these young actors leading the series with such incredible onscreen chemistry and camaraderie, it is almost hard to believe that prior to their first read-through they had never encountered each other previously.
As Jojo Macari himself explained, however, that “after almost a year of living in the same hotel” during production they became almost as close nit a group offscreen as they appear on, and it is their believable sense of fellowship which draws audiences right into their story.
Rounding out the cast is, of course, Sherlock Holmes himself played by Henry Lloyd-Jones (Killing Eve, The English Game). Audiences don’t actually get to fully meet Sherlock until half-way through this series, but when we finally do, he’s far from the legendary figure he has been built up to be in previous manifestations of the character.
As Lloyd-Jones himself recognised, “each version of Sherlock is a product of its own time”, and his version is one that perfectly encapsulates the idea of a new generation having to recognise and overcome the shortcomings of those who have preceded them. Deeply damaged, and a victim of his own vanity and excesses, it quickly becomes apparent that Sherlock Holmes is no longer the brilliant man destined to win the day, and that it is upon the shoulders of the new Baker Street Irregulars that weight must fall instead.
With a bold and exciting concept, coupled an incredibly talented and energetic young cast, The Irregulars is an interesting new spin with something for both new audiences and old-Sherlock fans alike. Streaming now on Netflix, you would be remiss not to add this one to your watch list. The game is afoot!
Lead image by Matt Squire