REVIEW: The Irregulars – Not your regular Sherlock Holmes tale

For the first in an occasional series of reviews, ‘Prospero’s Daughter’ takes a look at Netflix’s ‘The Irregulars’, filmed at many local locations, including the Palm House at Sefton Park, Canning Street and Rodney Street in Liverpool, St George’s Hall, the Victoria Gallery and Museum on Brownlow Hill and the Grand Entrance at Birkenhead Park.

Sherlock Holmes is surely the hardest working detective in fiction.

According to Wikipedia, the character is the most prolific in the history of cinema and, since he sprang full-grown from the pen of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in 1887’s A Study in Scarlet, he’s never fallen out of the public consciousness.

The last decade or so has played with the received conventions, from Benedict Cumberbatch’s autistic savant in Sherlock, to Lucy Liu’s female Watson in Elementary, and, most recently, Nancy Springer’s invention of a sister in Enola Holmes. But, just when you thought no stone had been left unturned in the representation of Sherlock Holmes, The Irregulars drops on Netflix.

It tells the unwritten story of the network of street kids, living on the fringes, who keep Sherlock’s beautifully manicured finger to the pulse of the underworld, without him actually having to get his hands dirty.

Episode 1 of 8, finds the tightknit band of unfortunates recruited by an indifferent John Watson (Royce Pierreson from Line of Duty season 4) to solve a case of stolen babies and murderous crows. The orphans, one of whom is some kind of seer, are joined by a haemophiliac royal escapee from Buckingham Palace and, with some spooky paranormal activity, the case is pretty soon sewn up.  Sherlock is notable by his absence and quite quickly the idea takes root that he is merely a figurehead and the real work is done by his band of moles, leaving Holmes, presumably, to deal with his opium addiction.

Far too scary and bloody for me, it’s clearly targeted at teens. Astutely, Netflix have realised that perhaps the deer-stalkered, pipe-smoking aristo of his original incarnations fails to find relevance with today’s audience and a band of streetwise yoof plays more neatly into young adult ideas of finding one’s tribe and forging an alternative reality below the surface of the mainstream. Add another classic motif from the YA genre, the supernatural, and you’ve got Buffy for the 2020s – not particularly clever but a good romp nonetheless.

The young cast make a good fist of it and it’s certainly atmospheric. Look out for some familiar locations in Liverpool’s Georgian quarter, and Sefton Park’s glasshouse guest-starring as London Zoo. 3/5 stars.

Filming ‘The Irregulars’ at Birkenhead Park, February 2020. Image:
Sherlock Holmes (centre) and Dr Watson (right), filming ‘The Irregulars’ at Birkenhead Park, February 2020. Image:
Filming ‘The Irregulars’ at Birkenhead Park, February 2020. Image:
Filming ‘The Irregulars’ at Birkenhead Park, February 2020. Image:

‘The Irregulars’ is now streaming on Netflix.

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