Supernatural Sensation

‘Dead Boy Detectives’ channels ’90s supernatural dramas and plenty of queerness

Your newest queer sensation might be a undead one. Adapted from the work of Neil Gaiman, Dead Boy Detectives joins the list of properties from the accomplished author to make its on-screen debut. Joining fellow Netflix/Gaiman show The Sandman, Dead Boy Detectives brings together plenty of heart, strong character development, on-screen chemistry, and tons of queerness.

Following the efforts of Edwin (George Rexstrew) and Charles (Jayden Revri), two British teenage ghosts, who, instead of venturing into the afterlife, start their own detective agency where they solve the murders of ghosts lingering around on Earth. Entrepreneurship brings the duo to Washington state, where they come into contact with psychic medium Crystal Palace (Kassius Nelson) and Niko Sasaki (Yuyu Kitamura), two young women who can see ghosts. Soon, with Crystal and Niko’s help, the newly formed quartet take up the task to resolve more cases in Washington state that lead them to learn more about death, the afterlife, and each other than they bargained for.

DEAD BOY DETECTIVES. (L to R) Yuyu Kitamura as Niko Sasaki and Kassius Nelson as Crystal Palace in episode 4 of DEAD BOY DETECTIVES. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2023

What makes Dead Boy Detectives shine the brightest is its strong character development. From main characters like Edwin, Charles, Crystal, and Niko (Yuyu Kitamura) to big bads like the alluring Thomas the Cat King (Lukas Gage) and witty witch Esther Finch (Jenn Lyon), each one is as dynamic as the last. 

Audiences will most certainly be drawn into Niko’s eccentric nature, whose presence is hard to miss and is a scene-stealer amongst the Dead Boy Detectives cast. While Edwin’s uptight nature keeps the unit focused, Charles’ good-hearted nature and Crystal’s witty comebacks keep everything lighthearted. 

But this only functions well because of the chemistry between the characters. This is no easy feat to foster, especially when the series keeps audiences engaged with constant world-building, tons of magic, gloomy settings, and creepy visual effects. But those are all anchored around the intricate relationships between the main characters. 

Many newcomers to Gaiman’s work will notice a more primetime TV feel to the show, similar to that of supernatural dramas like Buffy or Angel. While the world of The Sandman intertwines with that of Dead Boy Detectives, the latter harkens back to the days when Sarah Michelle Gellar was kicking supernatural a** and taking names.

DEAD BOY DETECTIVES. Lukas Gage as Thomas The Cat King in episode 2 of DEAD BOY DETECTIVES. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2023

Speaking of Buffy, like other young adult/teenage-focused properties, Dead Boy Detectives has no issues creating romantic tension between all of its characters. And we do mean all, as this show is incredibly queer without having to call attention to labels and identities. With Gen Z, a generation that seems to view labels and identity politics as unnecessary, Dead Boy Detectives speaks directly to this audience by casting them away as well. 

Multiple queer moments pop up without naming anyone’s sexuality, but rather highlight the realities of repressing one’s true self, falling in love for the first time, and unrequited love from a queer lens. It’s not that gender, sexuality, race, and nationality don’t play a role within the show, but that it’s never any of the characters’ focal points. Instead, they’re accessories to other narratives that make the characters more complex and relatable, regardless if they’re undead or living. 

And while Dead Boy Detectives takes some of the best components from its ‘90s supernatural predecessors, it also tackles darker topics that the living navigate today. From abusive parents, toxic relationships, queer awakenings, mental health, and, naturally, death, Dead Boy Detectives handles each of these with grace and care to fuel the story without making it an “after school” special. 

DEAD BOY DETECTIVES. (L to R) Kassius Nelson as Crystal Palace, Yuyu Kitamura as Niko Sasaki, George Rexstrew as Edwin Payne, and Jayden Revri as Charles Rowland in episode 3 of DEAD BOY DETECTIVES. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2023

One thing that does need work is the CGI. While the show feels similar to Charmed, some of the visual effects feel like they could be from ’90s and needs to be a bit modernized. Still, the moments where this exists are far and few in between and don’t take away from the overall story. 

Sure, Dead Boy Detectives is a supernatural drama, but at its heart is the story of two boys whose love and loyalty for one another extends beyond the afterlife. And within that narrative comes an understanding that not even death can pull people apart. But rather, in this case, only bring them closer together. 

Dead Boy Detectives is streaming now on Netflix.

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