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‘Dead Boy Detectives’ is Dreadfully Delightful in its Netflix Debut

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Netflix struck gold back in the summer of 2022 with the release of their DC series, The Sandman. After spending years in developmental hell, the show based on Neil Gaiman’s comic book series found life on the streaming service with a 10-episode initial run. It wasn’t long until a secret special eleventh episode was dropped and a second season was announced, after much praise and recognition received by both critics and viewers alike. There was a time when the world was abuzz with The Sandman, I heard about it almost everywhere I went. From clients in session to friends, everyone was obsessed with the adventures of Morpheus, who sets out to restore peace to his domain. So it’s not surprising that Netflix is attempting to capture lightning in a bottle with a spin-off, Dead Boy Detectives, which is set in the same universe as DC’s Sandman.

Originally developed for HBO Max, with a pilot ordered and everything, Dead Boy Detectives is finally arriving on Netflix, bringing about spooky thrills and devastating chills. While Charles and Edwin, our self-described Dead Boy Detectives, first appeared in The Sandman #25 back in April 1991, it wasn’t until the early 2000s that these two dead boys found their way into a four-part miniseries of their own. From that point on, these characters have appeared sporadically in different runs and limited series for the Vertigo imprint of DC comics, and have even made an appearance in HBO Max’s Doom Patrol.

With a new series focusing on this duo and their psychic human partner, has Dead Boy Detectives found new life? Continue on to find out if this series has a pulse, or if it’s dead on arrival.

[Warning: light spoilers from Netflix’s Dead Boy Detectives are below!]

Charles and Edwin solve ghostly crimes in this Neil Gaiman adaptation

When we first meet Charles (Jayden Revri) and Edwin (George Rexstrew), their lives as ghostly investigators are already in full swing. Both of them have been dead for a while, although Edwin’s got quite a few afterlife years on Charles, and they’ve banded together to solve paranormal crimes that no one else will touch.

Their main goal is to help those trapped on Earth cross over into the afterlife, but also avoid doing so themselves. It’s complicated, as I’m sure all things with the afterlife are, but Edwin and Charles seem to have made a comfortable life for themselves, being the best of friends and investigators they can.

That is, everything is going smoothly until Crystal Palace (Kassius Nelson) stumbles into their lives. A girl, possessed by her demon ex-boyfriend, who needs the help of the dynamic ghostly duo to separate herself from the problems that haunt her. Of course, Charles and Edwin have to help, but in doing so, the life they’ve built over the years is turned upside down. No longer are they safe from the watchful eyes beyond the grave, as Crystal and her newfound psychic powers draw much attention. 

Dead Boy Detectives-Charles, Crystal, and Edwin
(LtR) Edwin (George Rexstrew), Charles (Jayden Revri), and Crystal (Kassius Nelson). Dead Boy Detectives (Netflix/DC).

It doesn’t help that Crystal doesn’t know who she truly is, as the sucky demon ex has taken her memories. This small, i.e. large, problem pushes the Dead Boy Detectives out of London and into the frying pan, as Crystal’s need for help brings everyone into the line of fire.

Stuck in an environment that has danger around every corner, and a new case every week for these three to solve, Edwin, Charles, and Crystal must learn to work together, along with some help from some friends and unlikely allies, as the fate of the world (and these three) hangs delicately in the balance between the living and the dead.  

Netflix’s newest series in the Sandman universe balances structure and substance

Something that Dead Boy Detectives does well is blending the “monster of the week” structure with the overarching narrative that is threaded through the first season. While this structure isn’t unique to this series, as it is the same blend we see in Supernatural or any other procedural type of show, it feels different in this one. Perhaps part of that is that most other traditional procedural series of this nature have somewhere between 15–24 episodes in which to pace out the show, but Dead Boy Detectives only has 8 just short of hour episodes in which to do so. The pressure is on essentially to produce both a satisfying one-off story, while also providing enough connective tissue from one episode to the next, to keep viewers engaged in the lives of these characters.

Thankfully, this comic book-based series does it well, whereas some other DC/CW shows struggled to do so with longer seasons. I found myself equally enjoying the cases of the week, which have a very noir feeling to them due to title cards placed between scenes, as well as the larger narrative present.

You come to care for each character on the screen, except for some of the evil ones. But the main core begins to feel like a family, and you as the viewer become easily pulled into their warm embrace of togetherness. Part of that is due to the acting, but that comes in a later part.

In fact, there’s no other way I could picture a show titled Dead Boy Detectives to be structured. Much like Veronica Mars, which is one of my favorite series ever, to be a detective, well…you need cases. This was an integral part of their comic book series, you can’t ignore the cases that make it up. Those who developed the series could have easily focused just on that, but instead by giving viewers the larger narrative, they created a more balanced show and one that people will easily invest in.

Goofy characters that you can’t help but love in Dead Boy Detectives

What makes the show so special is the cast of characters that inhabit it, each one with such distinct personalities. Edwin is the straight-laced teenager who died in the early 1900s and has been paying for it ever since. He’s level-headed (almost frustratingly so), balancing out Charles, who is a bit more of a hothead.

Charles acts before he thinks and serves as the muscle of the duo, whereas Edwin is the brain of the operation. These two are polar opposites and are stuck together because of circumstance, creating a friendship that is built on both of them being dead and refusing to move on. But by the time the audience meets them, they are brothers, bonded for life. Or death in this manner.

Dead Boy Detectives
Charles (Jayden Revri) and Edwin (George Rexstrew). Dead Boy Detectives (Netflix/DC).

George Rexstrew and Jayden Revri do a fantastic job as Edwin and Charles, respectively. I’m sure the two actors from Doom Patrol are great, but these two make the entire show for me. Their storytelling is so expansive, saying more with their eyes than many veteran actors.

There are scenes between Rexstrew and Revri that gave me chills and brought me to tears. And yet, both actors have strong comedic chops that play so well off each other. It’s difficult to be posh and hilarious, but Rexstrew walks the perfect balance between the two, and I applaud him for that.

However, these two characters would be nothing with Crystal Palace, who reminds me so much of Veronica Mars it isn’t even funny. She’s witty and jaded, having lived a hard life and struggling with the cards she was dealt. Still, she perseveres through it all and still wishes to help the lost souls stuck on Earth.

She quickly becomes partners with Charles and Edwin, even if some members of the detective agency are resistant to help from a human. While her memories are missing and therefore getting them back is a strong motivation, Crystal is genuine in her desire to help others using her gift, even if she isn’t sure of how to properly do so.

Rounding out the humans in the cast are Niko (Yuyu Kitamura) and Jenny (Briana Cuoco). Both characters begin the season as secondary characters, with Jenny being the landlord of a room the detective agency is renting and Niko the neighbor next door. As the season grows, so do their roles and the importance they play in the larger narrative. Niko and Jenny also serve as the comedic relief for some of the more intense moments of the show, with their different deliveries of humor. 

Together, these five actors and their respective characters round out a brilliant cast that has some of the best chemistry in an ensemble that I’ve seen from a television show. You can see just how much fun they are having together, creating something special for those looking for a Supernatural replacement.

Representation matters and some varying CGI in this DC series

Something that is always a win in my book is getting more representation from minorities and marginalized groups, which is something that we are seeing a lot more in television series and films nowadays. Don’t get me wrong, Hollywood and the world in general have a long way to go in true representation of these populations, but it’s encouraging to see some progress being made.

Dead Boy Detectives does an excellent job with representation of many different walks of life, with the cast being diverse across the board. More importantly, the stories that are being told are representative of these individuals and their stories.

For me, I loved seeing how normalized these stories are in the series, such as characters being queer and just being accepted. This was a huge win for this series, as it goes a long way to show others that we aren’t different for who we are, but at the end of the day, we’re all human, dead or alive.

Dead Boy Detectives is another win for Netflix

Across the 8 episodes, some of the CGI appears a little goofy or unrefined, reminiscent of broadcast television’s attempt at higher-end effects. There are only one or two moments in the CGI that truly stuck out to me as funny-looking, with a more cartoon effect in a reality-based setting. I could easily forgive these small bumps in the CGI, as most of the visual effects are top-notch and feel rooted in the reality of the show.

Overall, this addition to the Sandman Universe is a superb series that hits all the right notes in a supernatural detective series. I laughed, a cried, and I found myself craving more. I hope that Dead Boy Detectives is a smashing hit, leading to many more seasons, as this show deserves many more. If you’re looking for a show that will give you both chills and sidesplitting laughs, then this is absolutely the show for you.

Dead Boy Detectives is currently on Netflix! Let us know on social media @mycosmiccircus or in The Cosmic Circus Discord your thoughts about this series!

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Brian Kitson

Working hard to bring you the latest news and thoughtful analysis of all things nerdy!

Brian Kitson has 379 posts and counting. See all posts by Brian Kitson