Elijah Wood, Samuel Barnett / Bettina Strauss, BBC America

If this is going to be a show that is often indifferent to the plot structure of an ordinary show, it would be nice if it was also indifferent to some overworked tropes, too. Such as using the violent death of a woman as a plot driver.

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The rhythms of Dirk Gently take some getting used to. The music is often purposefully off-putting. Characters speak in odd, mannered ways. Dirk Gently himself acts like a child in the throes of a deep sugar rush, and he’s the ostensible star. But when it’s working best, those differences work to its advantage, as is the case with the show’s unique visual style, showcased here in the scene in the room full of light bulbs. It’s a death trap, but it’s also an intense, arresting image, with Dirk and Todd framed within it. Light bulbs, of course, are a cheesy old symbol of inspiration, and what is Dirk Gently’s life other than a constant series of flashes of inspiration in unexpected moments?

But that creativity makes the Sammy/Lux plot all the worse. Lux, as we’ve known for a while now, has been put in Gordon’s body, a development for which he remains very resentful. There could be all kinds of ways to show he’s finally left that old life behind, but instead we get a female character who’s been absent since the pilot, and then returns for just long enough to cry nonstop on camera before she’s violently murdered.

How many other methods could have been used to show that Gordon was ready to leave behind his rock and roll lifestyle? The possibilities are near-endless, and yet instead we get this. Not only does she die in only her second appearance in the plot, but the little bit of information we get about her makes her seem awfully pathetic, up to and including the worshipful way she lets Gordon rest the guitar on her face. You don’t even have to be that much of a Freudian to see that as a dick symbol.

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It’s like Gordon gets turned into one long Nice Guy fable. He hopes that hanging around Sammy long enough and being kind to her will be enough to make her love him in his new body, but when she won’t, he kills her. But not without expositing about what his team of weirdos has been up to this whole time.

The rest of what happens here moves a lot more smoothly. There’s progress on the central mystery, some intense action setpieces, and we learn a little more about Farah, who thus far has been the most mysterious of the detective squad. It’s a bit deflating that we don’t get to see her provide the smackdown the fake detective clearly deserves, but it seems entirely possible that that is still coming.

The most helpful thing is that the episode jettisoned some of the other subplots to focus on its main two storylines. We don’t need to see what Bart is doing, we don’t need to see what the government is doing to capture Dirk. These things may have some impact on the rest of the story, but for one thing, it’s clear that the show is quite fine without them, and for another, less is definitely more. There’s just no need to check in with every single character every single episode.

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Even the return of the Rowdy Three finally makes some sense. We still don’t know who they are, but at least they’re folded more naturally into the action. And that very integration makes them a lot more interesting. Why Amanda didn’t feel the need to tell her brother about their involvement in her life prior to this is a bit more of the show manufacturing plot obstacles, but at least they’re not existing outside the rest of the show now.

Stray observations

  • “That fence was not climbed, just ambitiously fondled.”
  • Not to nitpick, but I feel the various traps of the death maze were inconsistent. If Patrick Spring needed to go into that place with some frequency, he’d need to be able to solve the traps on his own, and the rhino one definitely needed two people. I guess he could have brought some kind of device to connect the two. But if so, why wouldn’t he have left the device behind, if he truly wanted Dirk and Todd to save his daughter?
  • What color will Dirk’s next jacket be? We’ve gotten yellow and green so far.
  • “You’re kind of a weird person, huh.” This conversation might have been my favorite on the show.
  • For the record: Without the Sammy subplot, I think this one would be in B territory.
  • She also cried in her scene in the pilot. Her entire role on this show involved crying off her eye makeup.
  • I finally figured out what I recognized the head of the Rowdy Three from! He’s Michael Eklund, who was also the main villain on Wynonna Earp this year. I’m sure you’re all very happy I figured it out. Thank you for your support.

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