Our Spilt Milk this week spends time "In Another Life" and the crazy second season of "Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency."
Sandro Perri’s In Another Life mirrors my morning routine. I floated out of my bed this morning in a blue-gray fog. I showered, brushed my teeth, and scrolled through my phone, moving through monotonous motions with a strange sense of bliss. When I’m so robotic, how can I be sure that I’m alive?
The pinnacle of the album is the 24-minute title track, which considers how things could be different. Perri creates a meditative atmosphere by looping piano, synths, guitar, and vocals. The rhythm causes the listener to levitate. Variations in the track are subtle, and the twinkling bells and guitar chords that differ from the pattern bounce above the loop. Elements enter the track for a minute or two, only to fade out behind the horizon. It defies repetition, so even at 24 minutes, you’ll wish the track was longer.
Perri creates a dream state that captures the solace we find in our routines while forcing the listener to question whether these patterns are productive. He channels Arthur Russell in his mellow, non-committal voice, which he uses to contemplate truth in power, a level playing field, and love prevailing. He follows each alternative reality with the refrain, “in another life.” The lyrics invite comparisons to John Lennon’s “Imagine” as Perri knows that he wants to live in an “impossible dream,” but the beat suggests has come to terms with the fact that he is stuck in this life. When we wake up in the morning we may want to go back to our dream worlds, but we trudge through our fog, paradoxically hopeful that our routines will lead to another life. (Lisa Chupp)
The critical consensus says that the second season of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency is too over the top, but that’s wrong. It’s perfectly, exquisitely, magnificently over the top. The plot remains inscrutible at the midway point in the season, and new characters appear in the seventh episode of a 10-episode season (available on Hulu). A tortoise walks through the background of shot set in a forest clearing for no reason, and the show moves from bonkers scene to bonkers scene, each reveling in their own bonkers-ness. There’s a whole sword and sorcery plot, but the knights carry oversized scissors as their weapon of choice. When one character drops her magic wand, she duct tapes it to her hand to stop that from happening again.
This season is crazier than the first season, which is saying something. The show is very loosely based on the Douglas Adams book by the same name, and the first season shifted tonal gears pretty hard, going from comedy to violence to sci-fi adventure as unpredictably as possible as Dirk (Samuel Barnett) stumbles in savant-like fashion from improbable scene to improbable scene. Each unlikely development leaves him more certain than ever that the universe is guiding him toward the solution to the crime or the answer to the puzzle. Whatever the case, everything is connected, he says, but it’s often loosely, insanely connected. The universe, for example, also created an assassin that kills with the same unpredictable, follow the weird logic that Dirk employs to solve crimes.
Unlike a lot of weird-for-weird’s-sake film and movies, season two of Dirk Gently works because of the characters—not just Dirk and Todd (Elijah Wood) and the holdovers from season one that I’ve become attached to, but stoner-turned sheriff Tina Tevetino (Izzie Steele) and bad guys The Mage (John Hannah) and Suzie Boreton (Amanda Walsh). Hannah’s Mage is genuinely creepy, despite—or because of—his oily, leisure suit look, and Walsh goes through some compelling transformations in her journey from injured, downtrodden housewife to wicked witch—literally—so much so that you can almost feel for her at times during the show.
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency is made for binge-watching. Like its spiritual forerunner Twin Peaks, it would be almost impenetrable in once-a-week installments. Maybe it’s too much even for streaming audiences, as BBC America has announced that it won’t be back for a third season. (Alex Rawls)