‘Dead Boy Detectives’ Review: Netflix Supernatural Series Is A Fun Time Largely Due To Its Charismatic Cast


Detective teams like Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson; Scooby-Doo and the squad of meddling kids; Byomkesh Bakshy and Ajit Bandyopadhyay; and Feluda, Topshe, and Jatayu are iconic as hell. And while they’ve spent most of their careers debunking myths, I think it was The X-Files that not only doubled down on the supernatural investigation aspect but also provided the blueprint for shows about detective duos taking on various kinds of creatures via Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. Then came Supernatural, which took over pop culture discourse with the collective charm and swagger of Dean and Sam Winchester. Several shows, in both live-action and animated formats, have tried to emulate its formula to varying degrees of success. Dead Boy Detectives is the most recent candidate to enter this category of series centered around paranormal activities, and I feel it has passed with flying colors.

Steve Yockey’s Dead Boy Detectives, which is based on the DC comics by Neil Gaiman and Matt Wagner, tells the story of the titular ghostly duo, Edwin and Charles, as they go around helping fellow ghosts solve the mystery around their deaths so that they can enter the afterlife. But they themselves don’t want to leave the mortal realm, and that’s why they keep avoiding Death (who appears for a few seconds to please The Sandman fans) whenever she arrives to take a soul. This cat-and-mouse investigation process brings them to Crystal Palace, a powerful psychic who has been possessed by a demon named David. They do manage to exorcize Crystal, but that leads to the deletion of her memories. Since Crystal can’t remember where she has to go, she sticks around with Edwin and Charles and helps them solve their paranormal cases with the help of her special abilities.

Netflix’s Dead Boy Detectives takes a one-episode-one-paranormal-case approach. Unlike in Supernatural, where the Winchesters travel all around America for their cases, they limit the characters’ scope to Port Townsend via a creative pact between Edwin and the Cat King. But with each case, the writers show how a small, forgettable town can be so flavorful, dynamic, and teeming with fantastical lore. Of course, the writing around the central trio is great. However, the attention to detail when it comes to supporting characters like Niko, Jenny, and Esther Finch is top-notch. Every single piece of dialogue and situation, no matter how preposterous it is, feels organic and relatable. Litty and Kingham undoubtedly get the funniest lines in the whole season. And while all the cases are great in their own right, the fifth one is my favorite, as its take on misogyny, and how men maintain this “nice guy” facade while ruining the lives of women, is eerily relevant .

Dead Boy Detectives feels like an expensive show. You can clearly see the effort that has been put into the CGI and VFX, the elaborate sets, the lighting rigs, the action sequences, the costumes, the make-up, the creature designs, and everything that exists in the Tongue & Tail butcher shop. The music by Blake Neely and Murat Selcuk gives off Gravity Falls vibes. The camera work and the editing are truly insane. So many recently released shows have been hyped for apparently doing match cuts. But if you want a crash course on match cuts, you need to watch this (and The Sympathizer). The bar is really low because a lot of high-budget movies and shows just forget that the camera can be moved in meaningful ways. Hence, it’s refreshing to see some actual bloody filmmaking being used to elevate the premise. As far as I can remember, there are two animated flashback sequences in the series, and anything that uses animation to do a flashback scene gets two thumbs up from me. However, I do have an issue with the show’s annoying, hazy “Netflix original” look. It robs every single frame of its texture and crispness, and I don’t know why so many Netflix properties suffer from this phenomenon. It seemingly started with Ozark and has become a recurring problem. The Brothers Sun and The Gentlemen are the rare examples that have bypassed this flaw. Therefore, creators should take notes from those shows.

The cast of Dead Boy Detectives is genuinely fantastic. George Rexstrew portrays Edwin’s snobbishness and empathy with such perfection. Jayden Revri’s jovial nature is infectious. Kassius Nelson is the gravitational center of the show, and the way she unpacks all the layers around Crystal is fascinating to watch. Briana Cuoco’s sense of humor is very subtle, and she essays Jenny’s sense of frustration with her tenants brilliantly. Ruth Connell is as sassy and adorable as she was as Rowena (from Supernatural), and she has my whole heart. Max Jenkins and Caitlin Reilly probably had the funniest lines in the whole show, and they made me laugh every time they spoke. Lukas Gage oozes seductive and manipulative vibes. Jenn Lyon absolutely knocks it out of the park with her wicked performance as the last witch of Port Townsend. Michael Beach is great. I think I could’ve watched an entire episode focused on just Tragic Mick and his customers. Lindsey Gort, David Iacono, and Joshua Colley are solid despite their limited screen time. The rest of the supporting cast is pretty good, and that includes the stunt performers. With all that said, my favorite out of the lot is Yuyu Kitamura. She is excellent when she is in the frame. She is amazing even when she is in the background and the camera is out of focus. Her micro-reactions and her chemistry with every single member of the cast are to die for. I am going to go out on a limb and say that Yuyu’s work as Niko is one of the best performances of the year.

To be honest, I didn’t expect to like Dead Boy Detectives at all. Based on the trailers and promotional pictures, it seemed like a run-of-the-mill, Y.A.-oriented, Supernatural-esque show that I was going to forget as soon as the credits rolled on the final episode. I was wrong. In my opinion, it’s a really great show. If it didn’t have the visual haziness and gave its queer characters something to be truly happy about, I would’ve given it full marks. It utilized the potential of its premise to the fullest with the help of some imaginative storytelling, creative visuals, and an insanely talented and beautiful-looking cast. Even though the hour-long episodes seemed daunting, they were paced so well that I didn’t feel the minutes passing by at all. I don’t know how Netflix, its executives, and its algorithm work. So, I don’t know if it’s actually going to get the green light for more seasons despite being so, as Charlie likes to say, “Brills.” All I can say is that I want to go on more wacky, mind-boggling, thought-provoking, and funny adventures with the Dead Boy Detectives! Hence, make it happen.

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Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit loves to write about movies, television shows, short films, and basically anything that emerges from the world of entertainment. He occasionally talks to people, and judges them on the basis of their love for Edgar Wright, Ryan Gosling, Keanu Reeves, and the best television series ever made, Dark.

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