Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency
Episode 1.1 “Horizons”
Created by Max Landis
Written by Max Landis
Directed by Dean Parisot
Starring Samuel Barnett, Elijah Wood, Hannah Marks, Fiona Dourif, Jade Eshete, Mpho Koaho, Dustin Milligan, Miguel Sandoval, Neil Brown, Jr., Richard Schiff
Air date: Saturday, October 22, 2016
If you watched the series premiere of BBC America’s Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, and you’re highly confused about what went on, you’re not alone. A lot of characters and scenarios were introduced during the first episode, titled “Horizons,” which brings writer Douglas Adams‘ title creation to American television audiences. Max Landis (Chronicle) created the television series and wrote all 8 episodes of this first season, which stars Samuel Barnett as Dirk Gently, a holistic detective who believes in the “fundamental interconnectedness of all things,” and Elijah Wood as his highly reluctant new sidekick Todd.
Here, Landis is not giving an adaptation of Adams’ Dirk Gently novels, but instead expands upon the universe created with Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency and The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, the former of which was birthed from two Doctor Who serials the author penned, hence why Dirk is very Doctor-like. The new TV series takes Dirk Gently from his native Britain and transplants him to America’s rainy equivalent, Seattle, Washington. (The series was actually shot nearby at our neighbors to the north, Vancouver, British Columbia in Canada.)
[Samuel Barnett as Dirk Gently with his new blue car — well, maybe not his, but it is new.]
Now, like I said, if you watched the debut of the new TV series, and you’re like, what the hell is going on?, then you’re like the rest of us who viewed it. At its core, Dirk Gently is a murder mystery, sprinkled with fantasy and humor. I watched the first episode four times now, and each time, I see something I didn’t catch before. I’m pretty sure I’ll watch it again, because every time I do, I enjoy it even more as well. I’m a fan of Adams and the Dirk Gently novels, and I’m fine with this not being a straight adaptation, but rather a “further adventures of Dirk Gently” kind of offering. There were some call-backs to the books, though, such as when Dirk mentions a previous case about a sofa, and another involving Thor. I’m guessing they’ll be more in-universe references mentioned in future episodes.
As for the premiere, I think I finally have a handle on all the characters. Basically, you know how you feel watching ensemble shows like Game Of Thrones or The Walking Dead and you’re like, who the hell are all these people? Well, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency might be even worse because the characters talk really fast, and I’m still not sure all of them even introduced themselves. But, I at least now kind of sort of know what happened in the episode, even if I don’t why it happened or what it will mean over the course of the series, but we’re sure to find out each week.
Here’s a recap of events from Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency Episode 1.1, so SPOILERS…
The episode opens with Dirk Gently (Samuel Barnett) being woken up by a call on his cell phone. The caller says “It’s time,” and Dirk responds that he’s already on his way and that he’s almost at his destination.
[A black kitten in the Penthouse suite where the murders were committed.]
Next up is a crime scene, with dead bodies, some of which have their limbs torn off (I can’t tell if there’s at least 3 dead people I think, although it’s hard to tell because of the body parts.) There’s smashed windows, overturned furniture, a collapsed piano with a body on it, burned walls, and bloody handprints throughout the hotel room. A black kitten runs by, and we see a hand reach down and pick it up as it meows. Apparently, this kitten is of some importance. (Dirk would say everything is important and somehow connected, so basically everything we’re shown in this show will have some kind of meaning.)
[Elijah Wood as Todd Brotzman with his irate landlard Dorian, played by Ty Olsson.]
Here’s Todd Brotzman (Elijah Wood). He’s down on his luck. Like, seriously down on his luck. We meet him as he’s being woken up by the sound of his car alarm going off outside and his landlord Dorian (Ty Olsson) smashing the vehicle with a hammer, screaming “Where is my money?” Looks like Todd hasn’t paid the rent, although he swears he already did the day before. He tries to calm down his irate landlord, who’s screaming for his $600 rent money, but it’s too late – his car is totaled. Plus, he’s now locked out of his apartment building. So, he climbs up his fire escape and in through his window. Once inside, he sees six missed calls from someone named Amanda, who we later find out is his sister. On the television, the news talks about an ongoing police investigation for a missing young woman named Lydia Spring.
Dressed in an old-fashioned hotel bellhop uniform, complete with hat, a very sad Todd takes the city bus. From the window, he sees a corgi run by. Once at his job at the Perriman Grand Hotel, he remembers the violent threats from Dorian earlier that morning. He’s snapped out of his upsetting memories by his manager, Mr. Palacios, who tells him to go up to room 745 to check on a report of a drunk woman acting crazy, and then to check the Penthouse, which has had a Do Not Disturb sign on the door since 2pm the day before. Todd, though, is more concerned with getting an advance on his next check, since he really needs that money now, so Palacios says they’ll talk about it later. Of note, Todd misplaced his master key, so his manager lends him his. We’re learning more and more what a fuck up Todd is.
Todd heads to room 745, and as he’s about to knock, a frustrated man opens the door telling someone inside that he’s there on assignment, and then rudely tells Todd to get out of his way. Inside, a woman is sobbing and throwing her shoes across the room. Todd enters to find a woman on the bed in a black bra and panties, with black eye makeup smeared from her tears. She pulls on her robe and apologizes, asking if she can stay just a little while before she’s made to leave. When she asks if he’ll sit with her, he awkwardly complies. “I hate men,” she tells him, as she leans her head on his shoulder. Next we see Todd leaving, with the woman telling him she’ll be out in an hour. She slams the door on him with a smile as he’s in the middle of telling her to call him if she needs anything. He doesn’t get his name out in time, which shows just how disregarded he is as a person.
[Crime scene at the Penthouse suite at the Perriman Grand Hotel.]
Now it’s on to the Penthouse suite. On the elevator ride up, Todd finally return’s Amanda’s calls, leaving a message for her that he doesn’t know if he’ll have the money he promised her, due to unforeseen circumstances. Before he can say what she’ll do with the money, the elevator doors open on the 18th floor, where in the hallway is a man screaming at someone off screen. The screaming man is in rock star attire with a black eye and he’s Todd’s doppleganger! They both look at each other in shock before the man runs off in the opposite direction with the off-screen person and the elevator doors shut on Todd. Still stunned, Todd finally arrives at the Penthouse suite; the lights are flickering in the hallway and he finds a bloodied LOTTO ticket dated January 25, 2016 on the floor, which he pockets. Turns out he didn’t need that master key, because the suite doors are already opened. He steps in and looks up — and soon, we’ll find out why.
[Neil Brown, Jr. as Detective Estevez and Richard Schiff as Detective Zimmerfield]
Enter law enforcement. Strutting in are missing persons detectives Estevez and Zimmerfield (Neil Brown, Jr. and Richard Schiff) to where the CSI team is already investigating the homicide at the Penthouse suite. It turns out one of the victims was millionaire Patrick Spring, whose daughter is Lydia Spring, the missing girl shown on the news. Inside, they see huge bite marks on the ceiling, and one of the victims bitten in half (yes, bitten).
Estevez and Zimmerfield question Todd, who was late to work that day, late getting to the Penthouse, and was missing his master key to the suite — all suspicious. While most of the security tapes were badly scrambled because of a power surge (remember the flickering lights?), they did get enough footage to show someone in a gorilla mask using a key to enter the suite two minutes before Todd arrived there. Todd asks if they have footage from the 18th floor – they don’t. They warn him not to leave town.
In a convoluted conversation, Todd’s manager fires him because he was the one who opened the door to find the dead bodies. “Some doors shouldn’t be opened,” he tells Todd. Todd asks for his final paycheck, but his boss declines saying that he can’t because it’s a “same-day termination.” On his way home on the bus, Todd sees a missing persons flyer for Lydia Spring. Out the window, he once again sees the corgi walking along the sidewalk. He checks his pocket — the bloodied LOTTO ticket he found is still there.
[Samuel Barnett as Dirk Gently (top), Elijah Wood as Todd (bottom), at their first encounter.
When Todd arrives home, a man in a yellow leather jacket is climbing through this window. He attacks the man, who says “Hi!” in a British accent, and defends himself. While Todd is screaming that the man can’t just break in, the Brit tells him he’s trying to decide whether he’s a clue, an accomplice, or an assistant. After asking if Todd’s life went from humdrum and boring to interesting and strange in just one day — yes — he decides on “assistant.” The Brit is Dirk Gently, a detective. “I live here now, and I’ll be sleeping here tonight,” Dirk proclaims as he lies on the couch. Next thing we see is Dirk and his duffle bag being flung out into the hallway by Todd. “You’re a terrible assistant,” Dirk yells.
[Miguel Sandoval as Colonel Scott Riggins and Dustin Millikan as Sergeant Hugo Friedkin.]
Outside, two men stake out Todd’s apartment from a car. The men are Colonel Scott Riggins (Miguel Sandoval, who played the DA on NBC’s Medium – I love his voice), the leader of a failed CIA secret experiment on investigations into the paranormal, and his younger, trigger-happy officer Sergeant Hugo Friedkin (Dustin Millikan). When they see Dirk leaving the building, Riggins declares that “‘Project Icarus’ is leaving the building.” They don’t know what the deal is with the “other guy” – meaning Todd. Setting his rifle sights on Todd, Friedkin asks if he should “take the shot?” Even though Riggins says no, Friedkin does anyway. When Todd bends down to pick up a toy off the floor, the bullet misses him and goes through the ceiling into the apartment upstairs, hitting a man in the head.
[This is what Todd was bending down to pick up that prevented him from being shot by Friedkin. What is this thing, and what is its significance?]
In the upstairs apartment, which is lit in red, a woman is bound and gagged, her captor now dead from Friedkin’s errant bullet. As Dirk leaves, the military men follow him. But Estevez and Zimmerfield were also outside staking out the building, and were surprised to see that the person they’re tailing (Todd) is with someone else (Dirk) who’s being tailed by other people.
[Jade Eshete as Farah Black, seen here in a future episode. She’s the woman being held captive in the upstairs apartment.]
In the upstairs apartment, the captive woman is banging the headboard she’s cuffed to against the wall. “I let everyone down,” she says to herself. “Stupid, stupid, stupid,” she yells.
Downstairs, Todd is on the phone with Amanda, who’s saying her life sucks. She has her good days and bad days, but that she was a little better today. She asks how it was for him when it happened to him (at this point, we don’t know what they’re referring to, but we will). He says he’s going to come visit her the next day and that he’ll figure out a way to get her the money he promised her.
[Fiona Dourif as Bartine “Bart” Curlish, a holistic assassin.]
By the seaside, a computer hacker named Ken (Mpho Koaho) works on his laptop; nearby, a bald man named Red with a tattoo on the back of his head carrying a rifle hurries him. Then, a woman named Bart (Fiona Dourif, Brad’s daughter) drives up to Red and kills him, then goes after Ken. When she finally captures him, she says “Dirk Gently, you are a dead man.” He explains that he’s not Dirk, which frustrates her. He doesn’t even know who Dirk Gently is, but apparently, neither does she.
But we know that Todd certainly know him. He finds Dirk outside his apartment waiting for him. He tries his best to get rid of Dirk, but seeing as he still doesn’t have a car, he takes the detective up on his offer to drive him to visit his sister, especially since here comes Dorian with his hammer demanding the rent money! They speed off towards Amanda’s house in a blue car that Dirk says isn’t his, but it is new.
[Mpho Koaho as Ken, Bart’s captive and reluctant accomplice.]
Meanwhile, Bart, who’s covered with Red’s blood, is driving with a frightened Ken, whose hands are bound. She had threatened to kill him if he didn’t accompany her. She stops to get gas, though Ken points out they don’t need any. “Call it a hunch,” she tells him in her gravely deep voice, as she goes inside the store, where the clerk has been killed; his killers turn their guns on Bart, but she shoots them first. When she goes back to Ken, she explains that she’s a holistic assassin who believes in the fundamental connectedness of things (sound familiar?). She reveals that even though she’s never actually been hired to kill anyone either, she’s never killed the wrong person.
Turns out, Todd and Dirk needs to gas up, so they pull into a gas station. Here, Dirk reveals that he was investigating Dorian’s building (for a reason he has yet to disclose), and that’s how he came upon Todd. In Todd’s apartment, he found “nothing,” which is says means something (Todd is still skeptical though). It’s hard to tell if this is the same gas station that Bart and Ken were in, but Dirk sees something off-screen and panics, telling Todd they have to go now.
[Hannah Marks as Todd’s sister Amanda Brotzman.]
At Todd’s sister’s house, Dirk watches a TV news story about the Patrick Spring case. The news anchor says that the death was thought to be an animal attack rather than a murder, but they still don’t know if there’s any connection to the recent disappearance of the millionaire’s daughter, Lydia, who had been missing for four days. We learn why Amanda is getting money from Todd: She needs it for the expensive medication to treat her genetic disorder, Pararibulitis, which makes the person have hallucinations that feel real and usually painful. (It’s a condition made up for the show.) Apparently Todd had this illness too, but he overcame it, so Amanda has hope for herself.
The siblings jam — Todd on guitar, and punk rocker Hanna on drums — while Dirk watches, envisioning himself playing along on the bass (bass solo!). Outside, Riggins and Friedkin are once again watching, and crazy Friedkin has Todd and Dirk in his sights. Riggins stresses again how the rifle is unnecessary, because their goal is to “observe and protect” the “Primary” (Dirk), not to kill anyone. Right after this lecture, Friedkin says “I’ve got a shot.” Love it!!!
[Elijah Wood as Todd, comforting his sister Amanda after she has a Pararibulitis episode.]
Back in the house, after Amanda has a Pararibulitis episode, Todd and Dirk cut the visit short, and Todd gives his sister his last $300, promising to get her more money as soon as he can. On the ride home, Todd says that the disorder has run in his family for five generations, and he reveals that his parents lost all their money paying for his treatments, leaving nothing left to help his sister now that she’s a sufferer. That’s why Todd is doing whatever he can for her. Something about this altercation made it feel like perhaps Todd is not completely recovered from his Pararibulitis. Also, a graffitied black van is now following them, along with their usual tails.
Back at Todd’s apartment building, the captive girl is still trying to escape her bounds. She talks to herself about how she should have seen this coming, but that there’s no way she could have known. “I’m coming to get you, Lydia” she keeps saying, crying.
After Todd gets back to his apartment, he wants Dirk to go away, but the detective says that he lives there now — he had made an arrangement with Dorian. When Dirk enters the apartment, he picks up the squeaky toy that saved Todd’s life and says “Hey, that’s mine!” seemingly happy to have found it. Dirk wants Todd to work on the Patrick Spring murder case with him. He reveals that Spring actually hired him at a very high rate six weeks prior to his death to investigate his own murder — bizarre! Dirk goes over the connection: the killer used Todd’s key to enter the Penthouse suite, and Todd was working at the hotel on the day of the murder and was the person who found the bodies. Dirk explains that the universe will make Todd a part of all this even if he doesn’t want to be, and that he will be compensated even if he doesn’t technically earn it (which is good, because Todd has no job or money now).
[The four members of the Rowdy 3.]
Outside, Estevez and Zimmerfield in their car, and Riggins and Friedkin in theirs, watch the loud arrival of that black graffitied van, which says “Rowdy 3” on the side, referencing the four guys in this group (yes, 4, played by (Michael Eklund, Osric Chau, Viv Leacock, and Zak Santiago). Riggins refers to them “Project Incubus.” They are described as “psychic vampires,” but I don’t know if that means they are vampires who are psychics, or if they are psychics who suck the lifeforce out of people (or something to that affect). One yells “We are not professionals!” as the Rowdy guys trash everything in the apartment, except for the guitar Todd is clutching for dear life. (I think this same guy yelled about not playing games anymore, as in Chess, Checkers, and Monopoly). They surround a fallen Dirk and seem to suck energy from him. Outside, the two unrelated law enforcement teams are ready to move in, and upstairs, Farah is yelling for help. The Rowdy 3 exit through the fire escape, and the leader takes Dirk’s squeaky toy and then grabs a framed photo of Amanda on his way out.
[Elijah Wood as Todd clutches his guitar while the Rowdy 3 gang trashes his apartment.]
Todd is left to wonder why these men trashed his place, and Dirk says it’s complicated, and reveals that he’s good at getting into situations, but not very good at getting out at them. This is when Dorian bursts in with a gun; he’s about to shoot Todd, but instead shoots at the microwave after it beeps, but the bullet ricochets back at him and into his head, killing him. Todd then smashes his guitar, his last possession, in frustration. Outside, the various law enforcement teams — which now includes the FBI — end up pointing their guns at each other. Meanwhile, the captive upstairs is still trying to get everyone’s attention, yelling “Find me!,” which doesn’t work; instead, she accidentally knocks herself out when she pulls the headboard off the bed.
Todd ends up at the police station for questioning, but they let him go, since the CSI techs found that Dorian’s death was an accident, but he’s still considered a person of interest. He’s somehow connected to four dead bodies in two separate cases. As to why the FBI was there, they had surveillance on the building because Dorian was a big-time drug dealer.
Back at the Perriman Grand Hotel, Todd’s former boss comes across two bald men with the same tattoo style on the back of their heads as the man that Bart killed, and tells them they’re not supposed to be down there. One man called Ed asks if he’s Hermano Palacios (yes), and then whether he found a kitten in the penthouse. Palacios says no, and then the nameless man, who had been setting something up down there, tasers him. (This feels very Men In Black to me.)
When Todd leaves the police station, he sees the missing flyers about Lydia Spring on a pole. This prompts him to pull out the bloodied LOTTO ticket. Dirk arrives and starts babbling about how no one had mentioned the Rowdy 3, and that it must have been the CIA keeping things quiet, but a frustrated Todd cuts him off. “Shut up, I don’t care,” he tells Dirk. Todd is upset about Dorian’s death, and confesses to Dirk that while he had originally paid his landlord the rent, he then stole it back from him to give to Amanda for her medication. Now, he’s homeless, broke, with no prospects; plus, he’s a suspect in several murder cases. Dirk presses him to help with his case, and Todd screams, “I’m not your Watson, asshole!” Todd doesn’t want to be a sidekick in something he’s not involved in. Dirk observes that Todd has been making choices out of desperation for too long, and implores his reluctant assistant to break the pattern and take control of his life. But Todd doesn’t want to hear that, and walks off.
[The mysterious corgi that Todd keeps seeing.]
Todd gets back on the bus; we see another missed call from Amanda. Outside the window, there’s that corgi again. This time, Todd gets off the bus and runs to it. He walks carrying the dog to the address on its tag. A strange man answers the door and takes the dog. After four viewings, I realized that he was the seemingly insignificant man that Dirk almost hit with his car when he was driving with Todd back from Amanda’s house!!! I paused the moment and saw that the man is holding REWARD flyers for his lost dog – a corgi! Behind the man inside the house is a young woman also acting strangely — is that Lydia Spring??? The BBCA website says this man’s name is Gordon Rimmer, a high-ranking member of a cult called Men of the Machine, and he has horrible secrets. Gordon is played by Canadian actor Aaron Douglas, best known for his role as Chief Galen Tyrol SciFi’s revamped television series Battlestar Galactica.
Back at the police station, Estevez and Zimmerfield look at surveillance footage that looks like Todd climbing into his apartment through the window, and they recognize that it’s him. Why is this relevant, I’m not sure.
[Police surveillance showing someone climbing into Todd’s apartment; they believe it’s Todd.]
Back at Todd’s building, the captive girl (whose name is Farah Black, per BBCA’s site, who is a security officer who was assigned to protect Lydia Spring) comes to; she’s lying on top of her dead captor. We see someone step on a hand saw that is on the floor beside her that she was reaching for.
A terrified Ken is in the passenger seat, with Bart, who seems happy to have a companion, driving.
[Rowdy 3 Leader holds Dirk’s squeaky toy while looking at the framed photo of Amanda he stole from Todd’s apartment.]
The Rowdy 3 are by their van dismembering a mannequin, while their leader is holding the squeaky toy as he looks at the framed photograph of Amanda he stole.
Todd walks down the street and stops in front of a 24-hour grocery store. The TV inside shows a woman saying, “Every moment is an opportunity. Every second is a change to change your life. Every choice is a new beginning. The smallest choices can have the biggest consequences. It’s never too late, this is your chance to fix everything.”
[In Dirk’s duffle bag is the black kitten from the hotel crime scene, and the gorilla mask.]
Meanwhile, Dirk walks into an apartment and opens up his black duffle bag. Inside it is the gorilla mask and the black kitten from the penthouse suite murder spree. He takes the kitten out — was this kitten in the bag when Todd threw it out into the hallway? That was my first thought when I saw him take the kitten out of the bag. Also, who’s apartment is this? Because Todd’s was completely trashed, but this one is in pristine condition.
[The apartment that Dirk goes to with this duffle bag. Who’s apartment is this?]
Back to the grocery store: A page from a newspaper flies by Todd — it has the missing sign for Lydia Spring. Then the woman on the TV reveals the $10,000 winning LOTTO numbers from the daily midnight drawing — 7, 4, 5, 15, 0, 1 — and the numbers match the ones on the LOTTO ticket that Todd found at the hotel. This is how the episode ends. But wait — I just noticed that the woman calling the winning numbers is the crying woman from room 745; and look, the first three winning numbers are 7-4-5!
[Woman calls the winning LOTTO numbers – this is the same woman who was crying in room 745 at the hotel.]
So, as you can see, even with all this information, there’s still a lot to figure out. Who is Todd’s doppelgänger? Who/what killed Patrick Spring? How did Patrick Spring know he’d be murdered? Who kidnapped Lydia Spring and why? What’s the importance of the black kitten? What role does the corgi play in this mystery? Who exactly the corgi’s owner and was that Lydia he had at his house? What’s the connection with the crying LOTTO hostess in room 745? Who are the tattooed-headed bald men and what do their tattoos signify? Who are the Rowdy 3 and why did they trash Todd’s place and steal the photo of his sister and the squeaky toy? Does Pararibulitis tie into the murder case; is it some part of the CIA experiment? Why is Bart looking to kill Dirk and why did she insist Ken come with her (does she also need an assistant)? Who is the woman being held captive and who abducted her? I think it’s easy enough to conclude that aliens have something to do with this.
From what I’ve seen in interviews with Landis, he promises that all will be revealed this season. And I know I’ll be watching!
If you want to watch Episode 1.1 again, it’s online for free right now at BBC America. Chances are, you’ll spot even more things with each viewing. Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency returns to BBC America with Episode 1.2 “Lost & Found” on Saturday, October 29, 2016 at 9/8c.
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