Netflix’s latest supernatural thriller, The Irregulars, takes place within a familiar world.
It’s the story of a Victorian Era street gang, a group of orphans running amuck on the streets of London and solving crimes at the behest of wealthy benefactors, John Watson and Sherlock Holmes. Yes, that Sherlock Holmes.
Except, not that Sherlock Holmes because while past iterations of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s beloved British detective have centered him as a fanciful genius with questionable crime-solving methods (hello Robert Downey Jr.) and a “high functioning sociopath” existing in a more modern era (a hat-tip to Benedict Cumberbatch) this series doesn’t focus on the brilliant investigator at all. He’s there in the periphery, wading through his own internal struggles – ones the show dives into as the season progresses – while a motley band of street rats risks their lives to pick up his slack.
“It’s a very different Sherlock Holmes adaptation,” star Harrison Osterfield (Hulu’s Catch 22) tells UPROXX. “It’s got that sort of electronic aspect to it. It feels quite urban and edgy. It doesn’t feel stuffy. I think there are so many things that sort of push the boundaries of it being a normal period show.”
Like The Witcher and Bridgerton before it, The Irregulars injects everything from pop hits by Billie Eilish to a refreshing amount of diversity and a supernatural Monster-of-the-Week format to give it an extra dose of relevance and a more binge-able nature. That leads to some pacing and tonal issues early on which can sometimes affect the chemistry of the main cast, but as the season progresses that procedural approach slacks off and the show delves deeper into the mythology it starts spinning from the first episode.
“No matter what’s going on supernaturally, it feels very grounded, very authentic,” Osterfield says. It’s also very binge-able. Every episode has this high-octane action and ends with a cliffhanger so you’re constantly wanting to find out more. It’s just so much material.”
The cast itself is made up of relative newcomers and rising talent from across the pond. While Osterfield plays Leo, a new member of the gang who isn’t exactly forthcoming about his privileged past, Irish actress Thaddea Graham plays Bea, the group’s leader and the elder sister of Jesse (Darcy Shaw) a young teen with some troubling psychic gifts. Jojo Macari and McKell David round out the group while Henry Lloyd-Hughes and Royce Pierrson play morally corrupt versions of Holmes and Watson, respectively.
“Watching how these teenagers figure out and deduct things in a way that Sherlock maybe isn’t able to anymore, I think is really fascinating,” Graham says. “And it’s quite empowering to see normal kids take on these incredibly complex tasks and really figure out their own emotions with almost no ego attached. What I love about the Irregulars is that, without any one of them, if one of them was to walk away, the gang wouldn’t work. Each of them brings their own different quality and together they are unstoppable. They figure things out in their own way.”
There’s a specific YA fantasy bent to the show that should appeal to younger audiences and by focusing on the Baker Street Irregulars – characters mentioned only a handful of times in Doyle’s original works – the show sidesteps any continuity issues hardcore fans might have. Here, Holmes and Watson aren’t the offbeat, odd couple or the intellectual heroes they’ve been portrayed as in the past. Instead, they’re the absentee guardians, the out-of-touch adults unable and unwilling to do the hard work of figuring their own sh*t out.
It’s all very on-the-nose, but that doesn’t mean it’s not an interesting new take on a classic universe that’s been done to death. And it’s made better by a young cast who seem up for anything – from hunting sewer-dwelling monsters to attending high-society masquerades, navigating nightmare-scapes, and avoiding the dreaded workhouses.
“I think we started off with the Monster of the Week kind of vibe,” Graham says. “[But] by episode four or five, it’s really all tied together. It starts to hit closer and closer to home. Our monsters aren’t the boogeyman underneath the bed. They’re very real people who have been driven to these states because of grief. It comes from a very human place. I think that probably ties all of the monsters, even the weekly monsters to what happens later on.”
That “later on” is a spoilery-filled place we’ve been embargoed not to go, but we can say that the series only gets stronger the more it leans into its many connections between its charismatic squad of teens and the adults trying to lead them astray. And when it does find its footing – as a show that’s meant to explore the many benefits of seeing the world from a fresh, less-jaded perspective despite the lingering darkness and devilish monsters lurking in the shadows – that’s when O.G. Sherlock fans should rediscover their excitement and their love for Doyle’s universe as a whole.
“These five kids aren’t your regular heroes,” Osterfield says. “They’ve got their insecurities, they’ve got their own flaws, but that’s what makes them unique and special. Nowadays, with what the world is coming to, you always look inwardly and think, ‘I’m doing this wrong. I don’t have this, or I don’t have that.’ Hopefully, our show can make you realize that when you come together you add to each other’s qualities, then you notice how they can be a strength.”
‘The Irregulars’ begins streaming via Netflix on March 26th.