Octavio Karbank reporting from at the Dirk Gently season two event at New York Comic Con,
One of the breakout shows over the past year has been the eclectic show Dirk Gently. Based off the novels by Douglas Adams, the latest iteration of the holistic detective known as Dirk Gently, is kooky and tons of fun. There have been Dirk Gently TV shows before, but now, under the guidance of showrunners Max Landis and Arvind Ethan David, this new Dirk Gently speaks to a brand new audience. Season One finished nearly a year ago and Season Two will be starting any day now. If you haven’t gotten the chance to check out Gently, you really should. It’s everything you love about shows like Doctor Who with more of a supernatural flavor and it doesn’t take itself seriously at all.
In sitting down at a recent press roundtable, myself, along with a few members of the press, got to talk to the cast and Landis about what to expect for the upcoming season.
We first spoke to Jade Eshete and Hannah Marks, Farah Black and Amanda Brotzman respectively. They mentioned how Fara is now on board with Dirk and letting the universe guide him. She finally sees and understands that everything has developed a respect for it and lets Dirk do his thing. On the other hand, Jade, Todd’s sister is now the leader of the Rowdy Three and is on a mission to try and rescue her new family, who were captured at the end of the first season. Lastly, unlike Season 1, the two women apparently won’t have any scenes together this time around.
From there, we spoke to Fiona Dourif (Bart) and Mpho Koaho (Ken).
When talking about what to expect with Bart during Season Two, Fiona said that:
Ken is my driving force of all things. Eveythn I want to do is find Ken again and the root of all the adventures Bart gets into. She also has a new approach for how she does things; Bart’s no longer killing everyone in her way. I think of it like she’s trying to strike a deal with the universe.
She went on to discuss the emotions within the series:
I think it’s a testament to Max Landis, because there’s a lot of stuff happening, but the emotional themes in Dirk Gently are well thought out. Season 1 was about loneliness and both of our characters were extremely lonely and found each other. Season 2 is about self-control, it’s trying to control your circumstances, even though I don’t think life or the universe operates that way.
Fiona finally discussed what to expect from the coming season as a whole, stating:
Where Season One was creating this mystery where we progressively found what was going on, Season 2 is much more linear, so we know why people are doing what they are doing, and when the mystery presents itself, we’re left asking why. It’s going to be easier to watch it week by week, unlike season 1.
Finally we got to Max Landis, which as always, was about a wacky and poignant experience as you might imagine. After all, the very first thing we discussed was how he looked like his father, after an observation I’d made upon seeing his dad a couple weeks earlier at a movie premiere.
I look like, in the most literal way possible, as if someone had smashed my parents together… I’m a guy with very low confidence and in my mind, the only time I feel handsome, is when someone says I look like my dad, and I say I’m cuter. Anyway, what’s up?
It was a heck of a way to start a roundtable discussion, but we took off with talking about the human connection of Dirk Gently. According to Max:
It’s a show about friendship. It’s about a series of friendships and connections between people. Ultimately all the mystery stuff is just fun stuff to do with those characters. All the crazy stuff is just fun toys to play with to explore relationships between flawed and broken people. Everyone has their own identity that they’re struggling with and looking for answers in the people around them.
Following that train of thought, we asked whether he finds the show therapeutic?
Oh my god, yes! Writing is therapeutic for me. I’m a very stressed out guy; I relate to the characters on the show. It’s funny because a lot of people say I’m a lot sillier and crazier than my characters and they say I’m weird, but I sometimes write dark or grounded stuff. This is the one show I sort of go “screw it” and go all in and play with every toy. There’s all the colors of the rainbow and I want to touch every single one in the show.
He went on, focusing on how Dirk Gently subverts genres:
…everything in Dirk Gently is an attack on formula. I still use formula and there are secret formulas in my stuff, repeating themes that I do subconsciously…but a lot of them are deliberate subversions, but that element of being deliberately subversive and attacking tropes…especially in having a lead cast of characters who are not equipped to deal with the shit they’re dealing with and fail constantly. Dirk and Todd, and even the incredibly capable Fara, they fail constantly to keep up with the dangerous world around them. Writing that causes subversions even if you don’t mean to. I just go into it assuming everything has to be hard and cause them struggle. It makes subversions because no one is a badass. The only badass on the show is a pink-haired gay prince from another dimension. That’s a badass!
…Dirk Gently is not a detective. He’s forcing people to engage with the narrative he puts forward, which is “I am a detective.” He’s not a detective, he’s just some guy who’s connected to the fabric of reality; he’s a detective in the loosest sense of the word. The whole idea of him being a detective is a coping mechanism…he’s the convergence of a lot of things. He could never be a detective, because he’s not useful he can’t solve crimes, he can only solve weird problems with reality.
One of the press member then asked about making the villain of season 2 something of a “bro” soldier, to which Landis replied:
Are you talking about Friedken? Why are you judging him? He’s just trying to do a good job. You don’t get to judge him! Don’t hate him! He’s trying to do a good job! He’s in charge of the government thing; none of it makes sense!
And then, in extremely unconventional fashion, Max started doing impressions of the character he was talking about:
I’m just doing the best I can! Everyone’s being a jerk! This Dirk Gently guy, they say he’s psychic, then there’s these vampire guys who yell and break stuff. In the file, I read a part where it said the dog was a ghost, but now it’s just a dog so we’ve got to keep it, but I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with that. Man, when I worked at Wendy’s everything was way more simple. Then I take one job in the army reserves and suddenly everyone is like, you can’t just shoot people!
At this point two things happened, Elijah Wood snuck his way unnoticed to sit at the table; all the while Max broke out of character and explained what just happened.
One of the problems with Dirk Gently, is that in the writers room, we do the voices for the characters while we write them. It’s the best way to write for characters who are this out there, because once you start paging it, the script gets really long, so we do stuff like doing an impression of the character responding. What’s funny is that other writers do the voice and if you do Dirk I can do Todd back to you. One of the big problems is that once you start doing Dirk and pontificating to disinvest yourself form the situation, which is Dirk’s coping mechanism, and you get up to writing monologues that are more than half a page long.
And then Samuel Barnett suddenly sat at the table!
More than half a page! I think you gave me a six-pager once!
Sadly, Max had to depart, but Samuel and Elijah stayed with us with Elijah chiming in:
Yeah, we can’t follow that.
In wrapping up the press roundtable, what the duo did do was conclude with talking about the universal appeal of Dirk Gently:
EW: I think while it’s a mystery-based show and an exploration into genres like sci-fi, action, and comedy, and there are many references there that are universal. Yet it’s about humans and people. The core of the storytelling is not necessarily resting its hat on the fun of the mystery. If you take that out of it, you’re left with a series of characters who I think, are very human interesting.
SB: They are very flawed and endlessly fascinating.
EW: I think, and I hope, that that is the draw.
SB: What effects Dirk is the realization that once you have friends, there’s the possibility that you might lose them. for him, every single choice he makes seems to land him and his friends in danger. It gives hi an existential crisis about working the way he does. He just wants to be a normal, boring detective and universe is not going to allow him to do that.
And so concluded the super fun press roundtable that was Dirk Gently. Tune in to BBC America this Saturday to check out Season Two.