Pallavi Yetur
4 min readJul 28, 2019

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency and the Millennial’s Place in the World

On Saturday, December 16, 2017, BBC America aired the season two finale of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. The quirky program’s sophomore season brought even more unlikely allegiances and absurdity to solve than its first, thoroughly appealing to its loyal base of sci-fi/fantasy fans seeking a genre-bending — and mind-bending — romp that is 100% true to itself, sometimes incomprehensibly.

Based on the novels by Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy author, Douglas Adams, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency has quickly gained its status as one of the weirdest shows on television by taking several seemingly arbitrary story lines and making good on its fundamental tenet that “everything is connected.” With weirdness at its helm, would it surprise anyone then that two days after the second season ended BBC America announced it would be canceling the show?

It is important to note that showrunner of Dirk Gently is Max Landis, who at the time of the show’s cancellation was already widely disliked and had been embroiled in several internet beefs via his random YouTube projects like a three-minute rant about Carly Rae Jepsen and his opinionated tweets bashing Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Arrival. Then, last month, news broke of accusations of Landis’ sexual miscoduct, and that he was psychologically abusive and physically violent with several women. For those of us who have been fans of his one-of-a-kind show, this is yet another painful exercise in whether its possible to separate the art from the artist.

In its first season, a gruesome murder mystery cum time-travel conundrum, Dirk Gently achieved a feat in blending levity, gory deaths, quarter life angst and fantasy in a balance that made each episode at once completely baffling and a joy to behold. Its naïve and juvenile titular anti-Sherlock Holmes strikes a humorous tone bordering on childish but finds an effective foil and reluctant Dr. Watson in a downtrodden emotionally self-flagellating hotel bell hop. It is a mirror held up to the Millennial TV viewer who finds herself negotiating these two bickering sides of herself — one an unabashedly enthusiastic and optimistic believer in the potential of life, and the other a mistrustful loafer drowning in hopelessness and ennui. With each new piece finding its way into the puzzle, the audience is not coddled through its confusion but then as a reward enjoys the emotional fruits that come with a satisfying distraction from its own malaise.

The second season, which brings back our beloved trio of misfit crime solvers played by Elijah Wood, Samuel Barnett, and Jade Eshete, as well as newcomers but no strangers to the genre Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine, continues the main characters’ conflicts but in the context of a new case centering around an alternate world called Wendimoor that comes with a novel take on whimsical tropes from a pink-haired gay hunk prince wielding an oversize pair of scissors to an evil mage who plucks his wand-waving apprentice from her drab Montana life. This time, it is the cynical assistant, saved in season one by seeing a world outside of himself, who is driven to solve and who must inspire the beaten down detective to remember his own power.

This season’s fairy tale gone wrong story line feels like another direct message to the emerging adult audience cruelly sandwiched between the fantasies of her youth and the offensive reality of power hungry fear mongers that we understand you. As in the first season, there is a sensibility that respects the audience’s intelligence and tolerance of discomfort, while acknowledging a need for fanciful intrigue as a cure from postmodern doldrums. There is no hand-holding here either. The viewer is unable to rely on formulaic plot devices for reassurance or to help navigate through the various turns of the story. Landis has stated in interviews that his foremost goal is to subvert formula wherever possible (allegedly, he also seeks to subvert women). It leaves the exhausted TV consumer renewed with the actual resolve to be engaged in something, because the characters mess up, get frustrated, and don’t know what they’re doing. You know, like real people.

It is unclear whether Landis’ behavior and personal conflicts were at play in the show’s cancellation, as the allegations were publicized just this year. It feels more like in its decision to cancel the program, BBC America reflects a current sentiment among baby boomers and Gen Xers that Millennials don’t deserve anything that they get. It is an aggressive turning of the back on the vulnerability and emotional complexity inherent in this new generation of media consumers and an affirmation of the skepticism older generations have vocalized about its capabilities. The cancellation underscores who is still in power right now and they are those set in a mind that thrives on formula and doesn’t allow its subversion. It’s still parents telling us what we can and can’t do. Dirk Gently treated us like the weird adults we are, and BBC America slapped us back to a powerless place where our only hope is to be rescued by Netflix.

Pallavi Yetur

Writer, Therapist, Pop Culture-phile