Netflix's 'The Irregulars' Puts a Magical Spin on a Sherlock Holmes Trope
Yes, "the Irregulars" were in the stories!
Nowadays it feels like we've been getting a new Sherlock Holmes adaptation every few years. Benedict Cumberbatch, Robert Downey, Jr., and Johnny Lee Miller have all put their personal spins on the classic detective character in recent years, and even before that, Hollywood was sending him after Nessie, turning him into a mouse, a gnome, or a dog, and generally playing around with one of literature's most iconic characters. Netflix's new series The Irregulars isn't really a Sherlock Holmes adaptation—though it's set in that world and Holmes and his assistant Dr. Watson are both characters in the show—but it does put its own supernatural spin on a well-known detail from Arthur Conan Doyle's stories.
The Irregulars stars a group of young actors as Victorian street urchins (plus one adventurous aristocrat), who are roped into Holmes' mystery-solving career by Dr. Watson (Royce Pierreson), after one case reveals itself to be unsolvable by mere reality-based fact. Bea (Thaddea Graham), the leader of the group, gathers her friends together to find out how the crows of London could possibly be stealing babies out of their cribs. Bea's friends, known collectively as the Irregulars, are actually based on a "real" group of children from the Sherlock Holmes stories, whom the detective pays to locate certain locations or items for him in order to solve his cases.
They first appear in the very first Holmes story A Study in Scarlet, in which Holmes pays them to locate a murderous cabman for him, and later show up in The Sign of the Four and "The Adventure of the Crooked Man." Holmes refers to them as his "Irregulars," the "Baker Street boys" and "street Arabs" (an antiquated phrase for a homeless person). They're led by a boy named Wiggins, who is the only one Holmes allows into his apartment at 221b, and according to Holmes are invaluable to his research, able to see everything without being noticed themselves. In BBC's Sherlock series, they're changed to a "homeless network" of both children and adults, and in CBS's Elementary, they're a group of adult experts in various fields that Holmes occasionally consults with on difficult cases.
It's here that The Irregulars diverges from the Holmes canon, as the show takes a more supernatural approach to solving its mysteries, more X-Files than Law & Order, revealing that Sherlock Holmes, who is more drug addict than detective in this show, on his off hours is obsessively investigating a cabal of magic users intent on opening a gateway to the world beyond, and one of the Irregulars themselves, a young girl named Jessie (Darci Shaw), may be the key. The show is a lot of fun, and exceedingly bizarre, with a delightful low-budget feel like something from the mid-2000s Syfy Channel (this is a compliment). Holmes purists may take issue with the whole magic thing, but, really, who's to say that Sherlock Holmes wouldn't have jumped at the opportunity to investigate a club of evil wizards?