Dead Boy Detectives Netflix Series Review: Sometimes the magic doesn't work


Ls review of Dead Boy Detectives, a spin-off of Sandman dedicated to two young detectives of the supernatural that betrays expectations.

Image Credit: Netflix

The production of Dead Boy Detectives is a very particular story. The comic on which the series is based is written by Neil Gaiman and Matt Wagner, and the narrative universe is that of DC Comics. To be precise, it is a spin-off of the monumental The Sandman, which arrived on Netflix in 2022 with a solid and convincing adaptation. Originally, however, the Dead Boy Detectives series was not supposed to see the light on Netflix, but on HBO Max, where it was born as a spin-off of Doom Patrol, in turn connected to Titans.

Are you losing your bearings? Don't worry, it's normal! The point is that in 2021, in an episode of the brilliant and absurd Doom Patrol (a masterpiece that we recommend you recover as soon as possible!) the two protagonists of Dead Boy Detectives, Edwin and Charles, made their first appearance on the small screen played by Sebastian Croft and Ty Tennant (yes, David's son). Shortly after – we are still at Warner Bros! – things changed: the two performers were replaced, as was the entire cast, except Ruth Connell, and the series separated from Doom Patrol to land on Netflix, where it became a spin-off of Sandman, just like the comic.

What came of it? We'll tell you about it in this review of Dead Boy Detectives.

A plot characterized by the supernatural

Edwin Pain and Charles Rowland are two ghosts who solve supernatural cases that, otherwise, no mortal would be able to deal with. Edwin is the mind, Charles the arm: the former knows the ancient languages and masters the arcane, while his friend knows how to get him out of trouble when the going gets tough and the enemies become dangerous. That is, almost always!

As good ghosts, they can pass through mirrors, not be seen by people, and possess the mind of an individual, while being made visible and vulnerable by contact with iron. But above all, still being two ghosts on the loose, they are wanted by Death, that is, the sister of the protagonist of The Sandman, also played here by Kirby Howell-Baptiste.

What pushes them to remain in the world of the living is not only the desire to continue solving cases and helping other people: if Death reaches them, in fact, Edwin is destined for Hell, while Charles is destined for the Afterlife, and their friendship would be destined to end once and for all. For Edwin, perhaps it's something more than friendship: the boy is very jealous of his special relationship with his friend, even if he doesn't dare confess his feelings to him.

One day, the two are tasked with freeing the psychic Cristal Palace from demonic possession, and the pair of ghost detectives is also joined by the inexperienced girl capable of communicating with the supernatural. On their way, however, they will find an evil witch waiting for them, and the devil who resided in Cristal's body may not really be gone...

Image Credit: Netflix

Betrayed expectations

At first glance, Dead Boy Detectives had everything it took to win us over. Since 2020, we are all somewhat orphans of the legendary Supernatural. If we're talking about bringing together teen drama and the occult, we really appreciated the unfortunate Lockwood & Co. (here's our review). Now both series are concluded, and it was certainly the right time to pick up their baton.

Even if you just want to stay at DC Comics, The Sandman is a very compelling universe worthy of expansion, just like it happens in comics. In short, all the conditions were truly there, and it would have taken very little to win us over: the result, however, is truly disappointing, and it is impossible not to talk about a sensational missed opportunity.

What is not working?

In themselves, the special effects and production values are more than decent and far surpass those that characterized The CW series from the so-called "golden age" of DC television, but it is the script and dialogue that are incredibly dull and uninspired. The series really struggles to get going, and even when it does - in the last few episodes we can see clear signs of improvement - it still fails to make its characters interesting or charismatic, who seem to be bad copies of figures already seen and reviewed elsewhere.

The plots of the investigations are often rushed, with dialogues that are, to say the least, revisable, and boredom reigns supreme: Dead Boy Detectives always seems to run at full speed, without ever stopping for a moment to give us reason to grow fond of its heroes. It is a great disappointment to see how this time Beth Schwartz and the rest of the creative team behind the great successes of the Arrowverse are unable to transpose a DC comic to the small screen, instead giving us an insipid and objectively unsuccessful product, which adds almost nothing to The Sandman franchise.

Image Credit: Netflix

Give us back Sebastian and Ty!

Of course, the screenplay is certainly inadequate and the dialogues are very weak, but if Dead Boy Detectives doesn't work, part of the responsibility must also be attributed to the three protagonist actors, evidently uncomfortable both with the material at their disposal and with the construction of a solid and convincing alchemy.

Without bothering a legendary TV couple like Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles (brothers Sam and Dean Winchester from Supernatural), to understand what doesn't work in this series it is enough to go back to the previous interpreters of our protagonists in the episode as mentioned above of the series Doom Patrol, which was initially supposed to serve as a pilot for this series (the episode is the third of the third season, “Dead Patrol”).

With just 50 minutes available, the episode was much more compelling than the entire first season of Dead Boy Detectives thanks to the excellent interpretation of what should have been the two protagonists, namely Sebastian Croft and Ty Tennant. The comparison is merciless and exposes all the limitations of their successors George Rexstrew and Jayden Revri as the charismatic comic characters born from the pen of Neil Gaiman.

For her part, co-star Kassius Nelson is undoubtedly more at ease in the role of the psychic Cristal, but her performance is still not enough to redeem the fate of the overall picture. We hope that, with a possible second season available, the trio can still grow and mature in these roles, redeeming an objectively unhappy start. Yuyu Kitamura.


Dead Boy Detectives disappoints expectations, and offers us a dull and derivative supernatural teen drama: this spin-off of The Sandman doesn't hold a candle to the parent series and struggles to entertain.
Overall Score