TV REVIEW Taken to the cleaners
Writer: Jamie Mathieson
Director: Tom Shankland
THE ONE WHERE Somebody is murdering Dirk’s clients and his cleaner is acting very oddly.
VERDICT This was a fine way to finish an all-too-short series. Jamie Mathieson, who has been giving us the best non-Toby Whithouse episodes of Being Human for the past couple of years, gives us a Dirk Gently that balances the lunacy and the case-of-the-week perfectly. There are moments that are just downright ludicrous, such as Dirk’s on-the-hoof, rooftop interview with his new client with the police giving chase or the Post-It notes anecdote, and yet they work brilliantly in context because the show has found its tone and voice, and isn’t afraid to use it. The West Wing ’s Aaron Sorkin, the US scriptwriter famous for his ways of making exposition interesting, would have been proud.
The case of the week is wonderfully ludicrous and the denouement is a masterpiece in hilariously bamboozling gobbledygook that somehow just about makes sense. A superb subplot involving Dirk’s cleaner ingeniously turns out to be the A-plot all along, and almost feels like the scriptwriting paradigm for the “interconnectedness of all things” at the heart of the show.
There are too may great moments and wonderful snippets of dialogue to list, but the seemingly throwaway gag about the rug covering the hole in the floor turning out to be the instrument of the cleaner’s demise is a doozy. The idea that Dirk has been stalking – sorry, covert experimenting on – the wrong woman is also ingeniously woven into the overall plot, and the fact that it’s all Janice’s fault kinda makes a twisted poetic sense.
Once again, there’s a creditable attempt to make the relationship between MacDuff and Gently more believable, and it’s good to see Gently show some self-awareness about his showing off. On the other hand, now that MacDuff has seen his word can gave an effect, in future it would be a nice change to see MacDuff being a bit cleverer in his handling of his wayward partner, rather than just ranting at him all the time. The sudden revelation that Dirk’s in line for a massive reward also comes across as a slightly inelegant plotting sleight of hand in an episode where everything else has been so intricately linked up or foreshadowed, but hey, it’s a minor quibble.
Jason Watkins finally gets some decent time as Dirk’s sarcastic nemesis DI Gilks (“It’s a feng shui approach I’m taking – clear office, clear mind” “Clear bank account…”), and makes you wish he’d been given more screen time in previous episodes.
Quirky music, elegant direction, effortless performances, labyrinthine plotting and some sparkling dialogue (you have to love MacDuff’s suggestion that Gently should take on the thuggish Robbie as a client to see if he ends up dead)… It would be criminal if this were the last we see of this TV version of Dirk Gently.
DID YOU SPOT? Dirk arrives for his ill-fated date with Melinda carrying a bottle of Abyssinian Maid wine. The Abyssinian Maid is a character in the infamous, brilliant, unfinished poem Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. It was unfinished because, according to legend, Coleridge – who was in an opium-induced creative haze at the time – was interrupted while writing it by a knock at the door, and he never recovered his muse. This mysterious caller is known only as “the man from Porlock”. In the book Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency , Douglas Adams reveals that Dirk is the man from Porlock.
NITPICKS There's a glaring typo on one of the newspaper cuttings on the wall ("psuedo"). Still, maybe it's from The Guardian , eh?(opens in new tab)
HOW TO RUIN THE ENTIRE SERIES FOR YOURSELF SFX 's Ian Berriman has noted a similarity between Mangan’s portrayal of Gently and Wallace from Wallace and Gromit. Hell, he’s even got the cheese fetish. Now we’ve told you that, you won’t be able get it out of your head…
NOT SO DEADLY ASSASSIN No wonder The Cleaner uses poison to kill – her aim with the knives is bloody useless.
MacDuff: “What are you looking for?”
Gently: “I have the strangest feeling the solution to this case is to be found on the beach of another country. Preferably one with no extradition treaty.”