‘Dead Boy Detectives’ Review: Netflix’s ‘Sandman’ Spinoff Is a Fast, Fun Binge (2024)

In theory, Netflix’s Dead Boy Detectives should be a feast for the misery wraiths, faceless creatures who feed on pain and suffering. The ghostly protagonists, Edwin (George Rexstrew) and Charles (Jayden Revri), are both teenagers bullied to death at the same British boarding school seven decades apart. They spend their time finding closure for other lost souls, like a pair of high schoolers cut down in their prime or a family slaughtered by an abusive patriarch. And they’re constantly on the run from the agents of Death, who would condemn Edwin to Hell on a technicality.

Yet the duo only ever encounter one such monster over the eight-episode first season, and perhaps that’s because despite its gloomy-sounding premise, Dead Boy Detectives is the furthest thing from dour. Dark, sure; bittersweet, sometimes. But it’s never less than entertaining, thanks to an appealingly quirky lead cast and a cheeky sense of humor.

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Dead Boy Detectives

The Bottom LineAn appealingly kooky supernatural adventure.

Airdate: Thursday, April 25 (Netflix)
Cast: George Rexstrew, Jayden Revri, Kassius Nelson, Yuyu Kitamura, Briana Cuoco, Jenn Lyon, Ruth Connell, Lukas Gage, David Iacono
Developed by: Steve Yockey

In tried-and-true TV fashion Dead Boy Detectives splits each of its eight episodes between monster-of-the-week procedural storylines (or whatever we’re calling them in the Netflix era) and serialized teen drama. The first case of theirs we follow is both: After the lads take on an assignment to rescue Crystal (Kassius Nelson) from her demonic ex (David Iacono), she becomes the third member of the crime-solving team. Ostensibly, her psychic powers make her an ideal liaison between the boys and the living, who cannot see or hear them.

But it doesn’t hurt that Charles, a punkish charmer from the 1980s, has the hots for her — to the irritation of Edwin, a World War I-era bookworm whose affection for his best mate has grown more than friendly. And so, in a room rented from a surly goth butcher (Briana Cuoco’s Jenny), the now-trio take on all manner of spooky supernatural adventures while sorting out their feelings about each other and themselves.

Originally conceived of as a spinoff to Doom Patrol, then rejiggered as a Sandman spinoff when Max turned it down, Dead Boy Detectives has inherited from both of its spiritual parents a sensibility that’s a little bit melancholic, a little bit spooky and a lot bit irreverent. Its world seems perpetually cast in green and purple shadows, but the details are less creepy than kooky. Creator Steve Yockey conjures a version of small-town Washington where a shopkeeper (Michael Beach) might secretly be a walrus and cats might speak in salty Jersey accents. Its afterlife runs on a strict bureaucracy, enforced by functionaries like the harried Night Nurse (Ruth Connell, reprising her Doom Patrol cameo). The supporting cast tend to go big, and their swings pay off in memorable figures like Esther (Jenn Lyons), a vengeful witch with the breathy voice, bitchy quips and wine-drunk sway of a reality show villainess, and the Cat King (Lukas Gage), a purring shapeshifter whose new favorite toy is Edwin.

Meanwhile, the guys (and the gals — Yuyu Kitamura rounds out the core clique as Niko, a sweetly daffy neighbor) wrestle with more relatable journeys of self-discovery. By far the most successful of these is Edwin’s, as he tentatively opens himself up to the possibility of romance. Rexstrew’s bashful curiosity reminds us that although Edwin’s been kicking around for over a century, he is still, in some ways, just an adolescent figuring himself out.

But the others are more hit or miss, struggling to maintain either their momentum (a storyline about Charles’ anger issues dissipates almost as suddenly as it arose) or their weight (Crystal’s revelations about the source of her powers come too out of left field to land with the intended emotional impact). The Dead Boy Detective Agency’s driving motivation is a poignant one — “Our deaths didn’t matter, and no one ever solved them,” Edwin explains, and every case they crack is in an effort to ensure other souls aren’t forgotten the way they were. But in general, the series seems reluctant to delve too heavily into the angst, lest it drag down the mood.

Instead, it leans on zany plotting and warm chemistry to deliver good times. “This isn’t the Peach Pit,” Jenny snarks, but a huge part of Dead Boy Detectives‘ appeal is simply getting to hang out with these kids. (And they are kids: “What’s the Peach Pit?” asks Crystal, Zoomerishly.) They might be brought together by a desire to do the right thing “even if it’s scary and the odds are bad and we might die horrifically,” as Niko puts it. But if we weren’t invested in their efforts to, say, sedate a sea monster so it stops snacking on townies, it’d still be worth tuning in just to sigh with Crystal and Charles as they feel out their mutual attraction, or to giggle with Niko as she helps Jenny track down a secret admirer, or to kick back with Edwin and Niko as they wind down with Scooby-Doo after a long hard day of paranormal crime-solving.

But the true heart of the series lies in the bond between Charles and Edwin, which over the decades has crystallized into a loyalty even deeper than friendship. At some point in the past, Charles made the decision to forgo a blissful afterlife in favor of eternity on Earth with Edwin; after spending a bit of time amid their true-blue bond, it’s easy to understand why.

As for Dead Boy Detectives itself, the series might not inspire quite that level of devotion, at least in its solid-but-not-sensational first season. But it’s the sort of consistently likable amusem*nt that in Charles’s 1980s heyday might have become long-running appointment viewing — and that we in the 2020s get to enjoy as a zippy, satisfying binge.

‘Dead Boy Detectives’ Review: Netflix’s ‘Sandman’ Spinoff Is a Fast, Fun Binge (2024)


‘Dead Boy Detectives’ Review: Netflix’s ‘Sandman’ Spinoff Is a Fast, Fun Binge? ›

Like “The Sandman

The Sandman
The Sandman is an American fantasy drama television series based on the 1989–1996 comic book written by Neil Gaiman and published by DC Comics. The series was developed by Gaiman, David S. Goyer, and Allan Heinberg for the streaming service Netflix and is produced by DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Television.
https://en.wikipedia.org › wiki › The_Sandman_(TV_series)
,” “Dead Boy Detectives” takes place inside a whirling blender of mythological tropes, and it's both refreshing and disorienting how quickly the show speeds through its setups, with little in the way of exposition or worldbuilding.

Are Dead Boy Detectives and Sandman connected? ›

Originally created by Neil Gaiman as a part of The Sandman, the Dead Boy Detectives are two child ghosts named Edwin Paine and Charles Rowland who can only be seen by other children. As the title implies, the Dead Boy Detectives use their supernatural abilities to solve mysteries.

How old are Dead Boy Detectives? ›

The riotous ride of the two teenage ghost detectives is stuffed to the gills with fantastic creatures including a vengeful immortal witch, a melancholy walrus and a giant, sharp-toothed fish. Edwin Paine (George Rexstrew) and Charles Rowland (Jayden Revri) are 16 years old and run a detective agency.

Who plays Edwin in Dead Boy Detectives? ›

For the better part of the last 30 years, the Dead Boy Detectives — Edwin Payne (George Rexstrew) and Charles Rowland (Jayden Revri) — have specialized in helping ghosts whose cases would otherwise go unsolved.

Who is Death in Dead Boy Detectives? ›

Gaiman later confirmed the series would be set in the same continuity as The Sandman, with Kirby Howell-Baptiste set to reprise her role as Death in the series. Dead Boy Detectives premiered on Netflix on April 25, 2024.

What sibling is missing in The Sandman series? ›

One such Endless sibling who sparks intrigue is the being known as The Prodigal. While there are other siblings that have been mentioned and not featured in the series, The Prodigal's absence raises more eyebrows than rest.

Who is the DC equivalent of Sandman? ›

Wesley Dodds is the first DC Comics fictional character to bear the name of the Sandman.

Who is the cat king in Dead Boy Detectives? ›

10 Thomas The Cat King's Name

The recurring Dead Boy Detectives character Thomas the Cat King, called the Cat King throught the series, is an original character, not having a parallel in the comic books.

When did the dead boys break up? ›

With their record company pressuring the group to change their sound and their look completely, the Dead Boys split up in 1979.

How long has detective Comics been running? ›

DC is an initialism for "Detective Comics", an American comic book series first published in 1937. DC Comics, Inc. DC Comics is one of the largest and oldest American comic book companies, with their first comic under the DC banner being published in 1937.

Is Edwin in love with Charles in Dead Boy Detectives? ›

“It's been unlocked by the Cat King (Lukas Gage), and then Monty (Joshua Colley) is more of a teenage crush kind of connection. But it's all leading up to this.” While Charles can't fully reciprocate Edwin's feelings now, he completely embraces and accepts him. He's Edwin's first true love, and he doesn't push it away.

Is Niko alive in Dead Boy Detectives? ›

Niko, unlike most of the sprites' hosts, survived with a new hair color and avoided becoming a flora-covered skeleton.

Will there be a season 2 of Dead Boy Detectives? ›

Wednesday (2022-)

With Season 2 on the way, including new additions in Steve Buscemi (Fargo) and Thandie Newton (Westworld), fans couldn't be more excited about returning to Nevermore Academy in 2025.

How are Dead Boy Detectives related to Sandman? ›

A spinoff of "Sandman," the show follows two ghost detectives as they investigate supernatural mysteries. From the mystical world of “The Sandman” comes a new Netflix series, “Dead Boy Detectives.”

Do Edwin and Charles get together in the comics? ›

Charles doesn't reciprocate Edwin's feelings, but his love is not completely rejected. He wouldn't share this ghostly journey with anyone besides Edwin. Dead Boy Detectives' ending has Crystal and Charles putting their relationship on ice, so Edwin and Charles could be a distinct possibility down the line.

How old are the Dead Boy Detectives? ›

But in Gaiman's original work, these Dead Boy Detectives are (or were) actually boys—about 12 years old. In the Netflix series, these “kids” would appear to be in their late teens (and played by two actors, George Rexstrew and Jayden Revri, in their mid-to-late 20s). That's not the only difference.

What comics are connected to Sandman? ›

The end of Sandman lead to a trio of spinoffs – a second Death mini series (The Time of Your Life), a mini-series for Destiny (A Chronicle of Deaths Foretold), and the ongoing comic The Dreaming depicting the ongoing life of the dreamworld after Morpheus's depature.

Is Sandman Mystery Theatre connected to Sandman? ›

Sandman Mystery Theatre is a comic book series published by Vertigo that ran from 1993 until 1999. The Sandman of the (Wesley Dodds) is not to be confused with Neil Gaiman's Sandman, although the crossover story Sandman Midnight Theatre does involve both characters.

Is The Sandman connected to the DCU? ›

Yes, Morpheus and his world largely exist independently of the greater DCU, but certainly not removed from it. Sandman is a work all its own, and yet Sandman is a work of DC. And as DC's multiverse continues to expand, it's only natural that occasionally, its denizens will bump into the realm of the Endless.

Is there a sequel to The Sandman? ›

The Sandman season 2 doesn't have a release date yet. But, after a lengthy wait, season 2 of The Sandman was no longer a dream for Netflix fans after it was announced in November 2022.


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