Dead Boy Detectives TV Review

A fast-paced and fun series set on the lighter side of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman universe.

Dead Boy Detectives

PLOT: Teenagers born decades apart who find each other only in death, Edwin and Charles are best friends and ghosts… who solve mysteries. They will do anything to stick together – including escaping evil witches, Hell and Death herself. With the help of a clairvoyant named Crystal and her friend Niko, they are able to crack some of the mortal realm’s most mystifying paranormal cases. 

REVIEW: Last year, the long-anticipated adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s seminal graphic novel saga The Sandman became a hit for Netflix. With a new generation of viewers discovering the morbidly fascinating world of The Endless, Gaiman’s expansive comic book and literary canon is finally being recognized by a wider audience. While we wait for the series’s second season, Netflix has a spin-off set within the same cinematic universe. Dead Boy Detectives features many direct and tangential connections to The Sandman that will keep audiences searching the screen for easter eggs. More importantly, it is a good show. With a lighter tone but no less dark and disturbing subject matter, Dead Boy Detectives is a more direct and binge-able series than The Sandman but every bit as fun.

Set in the present day, Dead Boy Detectives opens with Edwin Payne (George Rexstrew) and Charles Rowland (Jayden Revri), “the brains” and “the brawn” behind a private investigator agency that solves crimes for and featuring the undead. Their first case incorporates direct connections to The Endless with a cameo by Death (Kirby) that has been teased in the trailer. Right off the bat, we get the dynamic between the ghostly teens who died at very different times. Edwin is a bit more restrained, having been alive in the 1910s, while Charles is more cavalier and worldly as he hails from the 1980s. Respect and friendship tightly connect the pair, who have distinct strengths and weaknesses as they complement each other on cases. A solid chemistry between Rexstrew and Revri is paramount to why Dead Boy Detectives works as well as it does.

Rather than the existential scale of The Sandman, Dead Boy Detectives plays squarely in the teen drama genre. But before you lump this series in with Riverdale or similar fare on The CW, know that Dead Boy Detectives deals with the angst and emotions of teenagers but never feels overwrought or unnecessary. Much of the dynamic of the series comes from the growing agency when Crystal Palaces (Kassius Nelson) joins the team after Edwin and Charles save her from a demon who is also Crystal’s ex. A psychic, Crystal is a living person who can interact with the dead boys, making her a great addition to the team. It also adds a wrinkle as Charles has a crush on her, which throws a wedge in Edwin’s unrequited feelings. The trio expands into a quartet when Crystal’s friend Niko (Yuyu Kitamura) joins the crew. As they investigate mysteries, hinted at by the old school episode titles that often start with “The Case Of…”, the series finds a nice rhythm that continues through all eight episodes.

Dead Boy Detectives review

The series follows a traditional television procedural formula as each episode ostensibly works as a standalone monster-of-the-week with overarching connections to the main narrative. At the center of the series, Edwin and Charles are trying to avoid Death herself so that they do not get taken away from Earth and sent to the Afterlife, a big issue as Edwin would get sent to Hell on a technicality. Having seen the entire series, I am unsure how anyone could jump in and watch a single episode without starting from the beginning, but Dead Boy Detectives is a really easy binge that could draw in almost any audience, fan of the genre or not. It also helps that the series has some really fun characters like Lukas Gage as Cat King and Ruth Connell reprising her Doom Patrol role as Night Nurse. That’s right, Dead Boy Detectives also connects to the DC Universe, notably as it was originally set as an HBO Max spin-off from Doom Patrol. Sharing similar tonal qualities, this series is far better set as a connection to The Sandman.

Developed by The Flight Attendant creator Steve Yockey and produced by The CW/DC superproducer Greg Berlanti, Dead Boy Detectives boasts a solid roster of writers and directors, led by Lee Toland Krieger on the first episode. The series’ production values are consistently good as they avoid falling into the mediocre arena of television CGI. The monster and supernatural effects are achieved with more make-up than computer enhancement, which gives them a tangible quality, while the sense of humor feels decidedly British. The mix of UK and American talent in the cast gives the series a global feel despite the London setting for most of the action. I also felt similarities to Doom Patrol and The Sandman while watching each episode, even though this series has a unique sensibility that makes it all its own.

The first season of Dead Boy Detectives is fast and easy to binge which may make some feel it is not quite the same level of depth as The Sandman. While existing in the same world, they are very different series but ones that complement each other very well. While The Sandman evokes questions about our own existence and mortality, Dead Boy Detectives is a lot of fun with a group of characters that are enjoyable to watch. There are certainly stakes for these characters, and I would love to see them get raised in a second season, but as it is, Dead Boy Detectives is a show you can casually watch and enjoy or pay close attention to for connections to a larger universe. Whichever route you take when you put this show on your television, I am pretty confident you will enjoy it.

Dead Boy Detectives premieres on April 25th on Netflix.

Source: JoBlo.com

About the Author

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Alex Maidy has been a JoBlo.com editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. A Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic and a member of Chicago Indie Critics, Alex has been JoBlo.com's primary TV critic and ran columns including Top Ten and The UnPopular Opinion. When not riling up fans with his hot takes, Alex is an avid reader and aspiring novelist.