A Delicious Addition to the Sandman Universe: A High Five Review of “Dead Boy Detectives”

by Naomi Grace Cavaneyro
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What would your afterlife look like? If you were a wandering ghost, come to the Dead Boy Detectives, and they’ll sort out any strange occurrences or mysteries behind your death. This dark fantasy TV series is an adapted from the comics of the same name, created by Neil Gaiman, author and creator of home hitters like Good Omens, American Gods, and of course, Sandman.

The Dead Boy Detectives (DBD) are part of the Sandman universe through their appearance in volume 25: Season of Mists. Compared to the season 1 adaptation that had volume 1 and crumbs of volume 2 adapted, there’s still a long way before these detectives officially meet any of the Endless siblings, but we’re excited to see where they’re headed.

The TV show follows our dead boys, Edwin Payne (George Rexstrew) and Charles Rowland (Jayden Revri), who are ghosts who chose not to go into the afterlife to help solve death by supernatural occurrences. The pair have been solving supernatural murders for the past 30 years, however, with one little spell, the boys are stuck in Port Townsend USA and have to deal with all the drama, slithering mysteries, and ghosts the town has to offer during their stay.

Before I say anything more, let’s dive into our High Five review of this mystical oddball series. Beware, spoilers ahead.

A Mix of Up and Coming Stars and Industry Veterans

Dead Boy Detective Cast
The cast is a fun mix of new and seasoned performers. Young actors like Rexstrew (Findhorn Case 31.08.18), Revri (Winx: The Fate Saga), Kassius Nelson (Last Night in Soho), Yuyu Kitamura (Breaking the Silence), and Joshua Colley (Descendants: The Rise of Red) are prominent in their fresh new takes, while veteran actors like Lukas Gage (Road House), Ruth Connell (Supernatural), Michael Beach (Mayor of Kingston), Briana Cuoco (The Flight Attendant) and Jenn Lyon (Claws) show just how polished their skills are. It’s a delight to watch all of their interactions and the mix of their expressions and reactions.

The Creatives Team is Jam-Packed

Dead Boy DetectiveLike with Sandman, Neil Gaiman has had a hand in making this fantasy series, which is why it feels nostalgic and familiar to watch. It has that certain Gaiman je ne sais quoi that you’ll only understand once you’ve been exposed to his works: a mind-melding mix of fantasy and reality, which all feel grounded in actual lived experiences and emotions while feeling nebulous at the same time.

Other people involved in the creative team are Greg Berlanti, who is known for his involvement in the Arrowverse; Richard Speight, who has worked on Supernatural, the Emmy-nominated Steve Yockey, and many more wonderful writers, producers, and creators that made TV shows incredible. You know it’s a treat when you recognize most of the people working behind the camera.

Easter Eggs Galore

Dead Boy Detective-2We narrowed down some of the connections you may have missed while watching the show. As we mentioned above, the DBD will eventually interact with the Endless siblings from Sandman. In the first episode, we see Death, the one they’re running from. Later in the series, we see Edwin interact with Despair as she feasts on the pain of a former classmate through a mirror—which is Despair’s gray realm. If you’re still lost, then you might need to watch or read The Sandman to appreciate the deeper ties to its lore.

The references don’t stop there, as Charles namedrops Orpheus and Eurydice as he and Edwin escape Hell. A similar thing happens in the comics, and we all know that Eurydice disappears forever, a tragic ending for the two lovers. There’s also Tragic Mick, the walrus-turned-human that appears in the DBD comics in volume 6, and is played by Michael Beach in the series.

Not only that, but the pinning Cat King (Gage) and the duty-obsessed Night Nurse (Connell) are key role players in the series’ story; evidently, they are prominent characters in DC Comics, the latter being part of Doom Patrol, the superhero team whose comic the DBD first appeared in.

A Visual Treat for All Ages (Mostly)

Dead Boy Detective-3With an age rating of PG, the show melds comic book style visuals when comes to myths like Mick’s and Lilith’s past, but the set designs and costumes themselves add to the surreal vibe of the show. From Esther’s (Lyon) Marilyn Monroe and rocker vibe to the Cat King’s costume shifting to fit the type of cat he was as a human, the bizarre creative choices really add to the show’s atmosphere.

The series also superbly contrasts Niko (Kitamura) and Crystal (Nelson) with Edwin and Charles through their outfits. Niko and Crystal are portrayed as a product of the present, giving them an eccentric yet stylish vibe, while our Edwin and Charles have predominantly dark shades and olden styles to reflect them at the time of their deaths.

The show also superbly used lighting and neon effects to differentiate unique scenes. From Jenny’s (Cuoco) butcher shop to the Cat King’s lair, and even the trapping of David the Demon (Iacono) during episode one. There’s also Niko during episode two when the dandelion sprites caused a scene in the butcher shop.

Dead Boy Detective- 4In color psychology, neon colors can make you feel alert and energized, but depending on the hue, it can also cause anxiety. The series used those conflicting emotions well to add to their story, adding to the tense situations the DBD frequently face in their misadventures.

Lastly, they do not shy away from showing the nitty gritty look of reality, like showing Edwin covered in blood, the implied removal of crow feet for Monty’s transition to human form, and even Lilith, goddess of wronged women, rising from a pool of blood.

A Beautiful Coming of Age Tale

Dead Boy Detective- 5Lastly, we can’t forget to give homage to the themes that make the Dead Boy Detectives such a fun and unique watch: their exploration of gender as well as their improbable mystery-solving tactics. By the end of the series, Edwin accepts his feelings for the same-sex and even kisses the cheek of the Cat King. There’s also another scene with Jenny going on a date with the woman from the library, but the outcome is a surprise.

For the mystery tactics, both Edwin and Charles have an analytical mind with the typical, “He’s the brains, I’m the brawn” dynamic. Add Crystal, their resident psychic, and Niko, their innocent and naive neighbor, and you have a well-rounded mystery team.

SEA Wave rates Dead Boy Detectives a 4/5. All of the elements combined give us a unique and familiar show at the same time—something evoking old-school mystery fiction like The Hardy Boys while adding that fantastical feel that only Neil Gaiman pieces could bring out. And since the season ended with a cliffhanger, we’re all the more excited to find out what happens next!

Will our Dead Boy Detectives and their friends be able to get back to London and evade Death? Watch the series on Netflix to find out!
 

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