May 10, 2024

Keeping up with Netflix: Dead Boy Detectives

I finished the show the day before and am planning to rewind and rewatch. Hell, it was fun. Absurd, icky, and flashes its campy creds like a badge of honor -- I love how it manages not take itself too seriously and yet delve into some pretty awful character trauma from start to finish. As far as that goes, we get them in piecemeal, i.e., there's usually a hint about the character's past (especially Edwin's and Charles's), which is either brushed off or angrily avoided but snowballs gradually until a flashback shows us what happened. 

There's also the trauma that's just hinted at and left there for the viewers to piece together themselves (see: Jenny). 

The episodic approach with the "monster of the week" theme adds to the fun, but each episode still manages to tie together a pretty complicated arc where Edwin, Charles, and Crystal either find themselves almost literally (Crystal), actively suppress the past and fight hard not to be a product of a horrible cycle (Charles), or learn a significant aspect of their identity and then determine how best to move forward with that revelation (Edwin). And then tie all that up with a colorful, messy, and stunning ribbon of found family, friendship, and a bond that straddles platonic and romantic yet goes far beyond either. 

I really can't say more without spoiling anything (though a touch of spoilers still finds its way into this post, so be warned), but that paragraph above pretty much skims the surface of what I love the most about the storytelling. There's so much more beyond that, of course, and that's the reason why I want to rewatch everything. Even the penultimate moment involving Charles and Edwin fleeing Hell can be parsed in so many ways (all good, btw) so that a handful of minutes in that one scene reveals way, way more about each character than what's obviously on the surface. 

The cast (main and secondary) chew up the scenery, and you can tell they were having so much fun filming the series. Even the main antagonists (save for David) are hard to hate without enjoying their moments on-screen (see: Esther). Minor antagonists? Even more so (see: the dandelion sprites). 

The characters are aged up, though, and it's extremely difficult thinking of any of them as teenagers, less so sixteen-year-olds. And I think this should've been tweaked somewhat in some of the dialogue, especially with the Night Nurse, who keeps referring to Edwin and Charles as children. It's jarring, mentally, to hear her say that -- no, they're not children, and at the minimum, I'd see them as eighteen-year-olds. Early twenties? Yes. Definitely. Sixteen-year-olds? Children? Nope.

The series ends in a way that can be picked up easily should a second season happen, and while some fans are tearing their hair out over the possibility of cancellation, I've run across references outside social media about the showrunners being in talks for a second season. I hope it happens. There's a major loose thread by way of Niko's arc, and there's also a fresh start for Edwin and Charles (with Crystal and Jenny plus the Night Nurse) that promises future adventures. 

As for a final spoiler, here goes...

Edwin tells the Cat King what they both have in common is loneliness. I felt for him at that moment, and I honestly hope he finds someone if Charles doesn't come into his own self-discovery. But that said, I do appreciate the bond both of them have as a pair: unbreakable / to (literal) Hell and back / no one else will do. What they have really does straddle platonic and romantic yet goes beyond, but I still can't help but feel that ache over Edwin feeling lonely. Now that he's come to terms with his identity as a gay man, I'd love to see him enjoy a connection with someone, Charles or otherwise, especially since he's a ghost, and he's borderline immortal (apparently ghosts can still be destroyed in this universe).

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