‘Dead Boy Detectives’ Recap (Episodes 1-8): Everything That Happens In Netflix Series

Arguably mangaka Yoshihiro Togashi’s second-best work, Yu Yu Hakusho, was released in 1990. It was a supernatural/detective manga that revolved around a deceased protagonist who gained the ability to stay on the mortal plane in a ghostly form on the condition of assisting in various paranormal investigations. A year later, in 1991, prolific comic-book writer Neil Gaiman adapted a similar concept in his Sandman universe created for DC Comics, and by adding his signature gothic flair to provide a macabre spin to children’s detective stories, he introduced Dead Boy Detectives to the world. The grim yet hopeful nature of the stories perfectly complemented the overall tone of his Sandman universe, and even though the later runs of Dead Boy Detectives have gradually become more sporadic in nature, they remain one of DC’s more experimental, character-driven stories, which highlights the overall versatile nature of the comic franchise. 


With Netflix managing to produce a decent small-screen adaptation of the epic Sandman graphic novel series, fans were expecting a possible spin-off or tie-in adaptations, given how immense and intricate the world-building is to begin with. Given the horror fantasy backdrop of the source material, it makes perfect sense as to why the makers chose Dead Boy Detectives as the first spin-off installment. Despite having an interesting start, the series has turned out just decent by the end due to Netflix’s clichéd humor horror treatment, which is a shame as there was a potential clever, brutal, dark comedy hidden inside the timid, generic garishness that, like most other adaptations, exists simply as a money-maker. 

Spoilers Ahead


Episode 1: Toxic Exes and Evil Witches 

As the series begins in present-day London, viewers meet longtime friends Edwin Payne and Charles Rowland, two forever teenager ghosts who have wilfully avoided being spirited over to the afterlife, as they want to dedicate their time to helping other spirits attain justice by investigating troublesome situations that are plaguing them. During their lifetime, both Edwin and Charles met their end as victims of injustice, with Edwin ending up as a sacrifice in a demonic ritual in 1916, which landed his spirit in hell for seven decades, and Charles lost his life after being severely bullied in 1989. Neither of the duo found justice as their deaths were neglected, which is why they feel a moral obligation to do right by other lost souls who have been wronged in some way and have formed the agency “Dead Boy Detectives” to do so. With only people having psychic abilities or those having witnessed death from up close being able to see them (aside from spirits and other supernatural entities), the detectives don’t really have to bother about their secrecy that much. 

Evading the afterlife means hiding from death—in this context, Death of the Endless (the same character from the Sandman series). In the first episode, we see the detective duo helping the ghost of a first-world war soldier cross over to the afterlife and the duo hide from Death, who makes a memorable cameo appearance by comforting the soldier’s spirit with Rudyard Kipling’s “The Sack of the Gods,” referencing the Indian concept of the soul’s reincarnation. Later, the detective duo comes across Crystal Palace, a medium/seance girl who is tormented by her literal demon ex, David, and as they help her get rid of him, Crystal finds out that she has lost her memories. A kind and exuberant Charles takes pity on Crystal and convinces Edwin to let her join their team as well, much to Edwin’s dismay, as his unsociable and introverted demeanor, along with his past experiences, make it tough for him to put trust in a human. Additionally, Crystal’s psychic powers as a medium also turn out to be quite useful, as while investigating the abduction case of a kid named Becky Apsen, the team goes to the other side of the world in Port Townsend. Crystal boards a room for a couple of days at a butcher shop run by Jenny Green, a reserved yet admiring landlord, and the detective team learns about a local witch named Esther Finch, who has been abducting kids to prolong her youth. Eventually, as Esther corners the trio, Charles saves the day by temporarily possessing her. However, a furious Esther swears revenge upon them, while Charles act of possession draws attention from the Night Nurse of the Afterlife’s lost and found department. 


Episode 2: Dandelion Sprite

In the second episode, Edwin gets summoned by the enigmatic Cat King for having used magic on one of the cats for investigation, and it seems the Cat King has gotten infatuated with Edwin. Edwin is punished with a caging spell—a bracelet preventing him from ever leaving Port Townsend—until he manages to count all the cats in the town. As a result, the team has to stay in Port Townsend for the time being, despite all the risks that may entail.

Dead Boy Detectives episode 2 also introduces Niko Sasaki, an otherwise withdrawn yet quirky, noble, and knowledgeable teenager and Crystal’s current neighbor in Jenny’s building. Niko turns out to be suffering from Dandelion sprites, who feed on attention from others, and the team helps her capture the two sprites, Kingham and Litty, before the affliction results in fatal consequences. Niko and Crystal come closer after sharing their common grief with each other and longing for their families. Having come close to death, Niko starts seeing Charles and Edwin as well, and Crystal decides to reveal everything to her. On the other hand, Esther transforms her crow familiar into a ravishing young teen named Monty, as she plans to use him to get back at the ghost duo who thwarted her plans. 


Episode 3: Dreadful Fathers 

In the third episode of the series, an Amityville Horror incident-inspired scenario takes center stage as a ghost named Susan Kessler asks the detectives to investigate the murder of her sister, a victim of the Devlin family killings that occurred in 1994. The father figure of the family had slaughtered every member of his family, consisting of his wife and two daughters, brutally, using an axe, before killing himself at the end, and it is suspected that his psychotic episode was triggered by the knowledge of his wife’s infidelity. However, as the trio of Crystal, Charles, and Edwin go to the haunted house to learn more about the incident, they discover that the family is stuck in a loop of enacting the fateful day over and over again forever, and the real reason was something else. They learn that the control-freak, overbearing father was infuriated at the news of his eldest daughter leaving the family after gaining better academic career opportunities and therefore orchestrated the killings in blind rage. Charles is especially taken aback by this revelation, as growing up in a toxic environment where his abusive father caused much misery to his mother and him, he can very well relate to the situation. Which makes it even more harrowing, knowing that he is unable to change the outcome anyway. The extreme pain of past memories causes Charles to get locked into a loop as well, and ultimately Crystal and Edwin work together to break all of them free. 

On the other hand, Night Nurse’s request to go to Earth to retrieve Edwin and Charles, two fugitive souls, gets rejected by the Notary Department for lack of proper details. But after the investigation of the Devlin murders is completed, the trapped souls of the family pass over, and the teenage daughters of the family are approached by the Afterlife Lost and Found department, who question them about the fugitive ghosts. During the course of this investigation, Edwin meets Niko, and the two seem to be on friendly terms from the beginning.


Episode 4: A Haunting Lighthouse

In Dead Boy Detectives episode 4, Niko and Crystal learn about Jenny’s secret admirer, who sends her love letters and try to get her as excited about it as they are after learning the news—only to find her less enthusiastic due to fear of disappointment. 

The team comes across a new case of mysterious serial suicides occurring in a nearby lighthouse, and upon investigating, they find all of the victims are lured by the calls of their loved ones. Crystal, who dearly misses her family due to a loss of memories, almost gets taken as well, and Niko saves her just in the nick of time. It turns out that Niko’s inquisitive nature is helpful for the investigations, as she speaks with a local gift shop owner to learn some possible clues involving mystical figures like mermaids and the Washer-woman – which can help the team get more clues about the perpetrators. The team is able to communicate with the Washer-woman, who suggests the involvement of a sea monster in the situation. The team goes to a local magic shop owned by Tragic Mick, a walrus cursed to become human, who shares news of the possible involvement of Angie, a giant anglerfish, after learning details of the situation, and provides them with a mystic bell that can put her into slumber without using unnecessary violence. 


Meanwhile, the Night Nurse catches up to the team after learning their present location from the Devlin family girls, and as they prepare to make Angie swallow the bell, she apprehends the bunch to take Edwin and Charles to Afterlife. Edwin, who escaped Hell, is terrified at the proposition of returning, and he tries to reason with the Night Nurse to no avail. Night Nurse confronts Charles with his sordid, tragic past, catching him off guard as a result. An enraged Charles beats up and kicks Night Nurse off the cliff along with the bell, both of which Angie swallows whole, and disappears in the dark depths of the ocean. With this, the team manages to crack the case of the haunted lighthouse, but Charles’ violent outburst starts concerning Crystal a bit, as she is beginning to have feelings for him. 

Episode 5: Mad Love

Niko finally learns the identity of Jenny’s secret admirer, the librarian Maxine, and she plans to arrange a date for the two. The rest of the bunch investigates the murder case of a couple of college students and baseball prodigies, Brad and Hunter, and learns how their careless, vile actions have destroyed the lives of their female batchmates. Eventually, as the investigation starts rattling the right suspects, Crystal discovers Brad’s girlfriend to be the culprit—who herself was a victim of their heinous behaviors in the first place. On the other hand, Jenny finally agrees to Niko’s proposition of having a date with Maxine at her shop, which begins on a great note but soon turns into a freak show as Maxine turns out to be a creepy psychopathic stalker. As Jenny feels repulsed and decides to break off the date, an enraged Maxine starts chasing her with knive with malicious intent, only to eventually trip and impale herself to death later. It goes beyond saying that Jenny’s fear and insecurities increase further, and Niko blames herself for the entire mishap. All the while, Monty and Edwin come closer during their meet-ups, but as they share their first kiss, Edwin confesses that he doesn’t feel the same as Monty does. It turns out that Monty had started having feelings for Edwin after all, beyond his directives ordained by Esther, and the refusal breaks his heart.


Episode 6: Ancestral Powers

Crystal continues getting haunted by David, who continues persuading her to allow him to take control of her body and mind, and in a desperate attempt to stop the hauntings, she seeks Mick’s help, who provides her with an enchanted heart that will help her. However, after using the item, the hauntings stop, but Crystal’s psychic powers disappear as well. 

Under Esther’s command, Monty lures Edwin and Charles to the forest on the pretext of searching for his lost ghost friend, Gladys, and not knowing that Crystal has lost her powers, the detectives ask her to join as well. As the team splits up, Edwin tries to approach Monty, who reveals that he knows that Edwin is in love with none other than his best friend, Charles. The conversation revolving around troubles of the heart gets more complicated when the Cat King pays a visit to the duo and reveals the entire conspiracy of which Monty is a part, detailing Esther’s plan to lure the detective duo into a trap. A dejected Edwin rushes to warn Crystal and Charles, but Esther finally catches up to them after destroying Monty’s human form—and unleashes a forest elemental entity upon them. Just as it seems that the ghost buddies will meet their end (as this particular forest elemental has the power to consume them), Crystal remembers the Washer-woman’s cryptic message about her future and takes a journey within, which introduces her to an astral plane where her ancestors connect with her. With a new source of strength, Crystal regains her psychic powers in an even stronger form and manages to convince the forest elemental to retreat, all the while taking Esther with it as well. Niko and Jenny converse with each other to get rid of the uneasiness pervading their interactions post-Maxine incident. 


By the end of Dead Boy Detectives episode 6, Night Nurse returns to the group after escaping from Angie’s belly with help from another captive named Kashina, but before she can take the detectives back to her department for assessment, Edwin’s worst fears come true as he is taken back to hell. 

Episode 7: Drag Me From Hell

Desperate to get his friend back from hell, Edwin makes a deal to return with Night Nurse in exchange for her allowing him to enter hell. Crystal wishes to accompany him, but speculating about the potential threat to a mortal of visiting such a place, Charles forbids her from doing so and goes alone. Infuriated, Crystal decides to seek David to get her access to hell instead, and mistaking her ramblings about possible interaction with an abusive ex, Jenny follows her out of concern. David momentarily possesses Jenny and tries to get at Crystal by using her. With her new powers, Crystal shows David the demon his rightful place as she buries him in her ancestral plane, gets her stolen memories back in spherical orb form, and rescues Jenny. 


After getting tormented by several despicable horrors in hell, Edwin meets Despair of the Endless and later gets rescued by Charles. With possibilities of escape seeming low, Edwin confesses his feelings for Charles, who shares that, although he doesn’t feel the same, Edwin is nevertheless the most important person in his life. Eventually, Charles manages to rescue Edwin out of hell, and thanks to Niko’s quick wit, the team once again manages to beguile Night Nurse, allowing some time for the ghost buddies to stick around together in the mortal plane. On the other hand, Esther manages to return from the elemental’s realm and gets her revenge on Cat King by beating him to death (third out of nine lives lost). Upon learning that Edwin has survived hell for seven decades and has come back, she plans to create a contraption that will allow her to feed on the essence of his pain and suffering. Meanwhile, having suffered a near-death experience, Jenny is now able to see Edwin, Charles, and other supernatural entities as well, something with which she struggles a bit but eventually accepts.

Episode 8: Mother of Witches

In the final episode of Dead Boy Detectives, Crystal consumes her memory orbs and learns that, contrary to her belief, her socialite parents don’t really miss her, and she is an overall pretty horrible human being. Unable to cope with the truth, she decides to return to her home in London to sort things out and takes her leave from the team, right when Esther arrives to take the two ghost buddies captive. Niko and Crystal go to the Cat King, who reveals Esther’s past life and her connection with Lillith, the first woman and goddess of wronged women, from whom she was able to gain the gift of immortality, but with the caveat of aging in a regular process. To retain her youth forever, Esther feeds a mystical giant snake, which she keeps in her basement (shown a bit in the first episode as well). Before the final showdown, Niko and Crystal ask for Mick’s help, who provides the duo with a totem as a gesture of gratitude for Niko’s past behavior with him. 


Niko and Crystal go to Esther’s house, and as the duo distracts the witch, Charles gets free with Monty’s help, who has now turned into a crow once again. To save Crystal, Niko intercepts an oncoming attack by Esther and sacrifices her life as a result.  Crystal establishes her psychic connection with Esther’s mind and calls upon Lillith to basically complain about the witch’s malevolent practices. Charles slays the snake using a magical sword, and Esther gets dragged away by Lillith at the end. The group reunites at Niko’s apartment as they mourn her death, and once again, the Night Nurse returns to finally take Edwin and Charles back to the afterlife, and this time she has come with her superior. However, taking notice of all the good work the duo has done in terms of providing justice to the departed, the superior encourages them to operate on the mortal plane as detectives, even appointing Night Nurse as their assistant as well. Finally free from the clutches of the afterlife, Charles and Edwin rejoice, and as they plan to return to their home in London, Edwin pays one last visit to the Cat King, despite his binding spell getting removed earlier, for a bittersweet farewell. Crystal decides to reflect on her present life by forgetting the troublesome past and asks Jenny to join the trio on their trip back to London as well. Edwin finally accepts Crystal as a member of their detective agency, and their adventures continue. 

In the final moments of Dead Boy Detectives season 1, viewers are taken to an igloo in the polar region, where the Dandelion sprites—Kingham and Litty—are seen with another person, who is heavily implied to be Niko—and Mick’s totem in the person’s hand implies the same as well. 


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Siddhartha Das
Siddhartha Das
An avid fan and voracious reader of comic book literature, Siddhartha thinks the ideals accentuated in the superhero genre should be taken as lessons in real life also. A sucker for everything horror and different art styles, Siddhartha likes to spend his time reading subjects. He's always eager to learn more about world fauna, history, geography, crime fiction, sports, and cultures. He also wishes to abolish human egocentrism, which can make the world a better place.

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