Rebel, the show—just like the character—comes with plenty of baggage.
It’s the 1800s, and something dark has come to London.
Babies are being stolen in the night. Children go to bed with a mouth full of teeth and wake up with nothing but bloody gums. Someone is stealing the skins off other human beings and wearing them.
And that’s only the beginning…
Scotland Yard can’t stop it. They’ve asked the renowned Sherlock Holmes for help, but he’s fallen so deep into opium addiction that he’s not fit to help anyone—not even himself.
But Dr. Watson has an idea. Living in the slums are four teenagers with nothing to lose and everything to gain. They can sneak around London’s underworld without being noticed. They can blend in with the throngs of people rushing about their business.
They become his informants, the Irregulars.
Beatrice, Jessica, Billy and Spike are all orphans. Bea and Jessie lost their mum when she went mad and drowned herself. Billy’s dad died in the war. And Spike found them all after they escaped from their abusive workhouse.
Living on the streets hasn’t been easy. Bea and Jessie have considered selling their bodies to get by. Billy puts his life at risk in street fights, placing bets on himself to win. And Spike makes a habit of collecting favors by helping people find things like lost dogs. (Never mind that he may have stolen said dogs to begin with.)
But what’s worse is that Jessie hasn’t been well. She’s been having nightmares and sleepwalking. Bea worries her sister is going mad just like their mum. And she won’t lose another family member.
Watson’s money is certainly helpful, but there’s more to it. He knows something about Jessie. And it’s not just madness or nightmares. It’s supernatural. And it’s the reason Watson sought them out to begin with.
Because if something demonic is haunting the streets of London, then they’ll need something special to stop it.
The Irregulars comes from the name given to the street urchins that Sherlock Holmes employs in the novels by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. But these new irregulars are quite different from the book.
For starters, there’s the language. One thing you can usually count on in a Holmes story is the lack of it. But that isn’t the case here. Bea and her friends swear like sailors (and Jessie makes it a point to say every foul word she can think of when someone calls her out on it). And that’s not the only issue with what they’re saying.
The teens are very preoccupied with sex. They talk about it. They encourage each other to engage in it. And when Bea falls for Leopold (a prince who’s been sneaking out of the palace to see her), the two have sex (offscreen but with a lot of discussion about it afterwards). We also see some same-sex pairings in the background of some scenes and a few people confess their love for others of the same gender.
Then there’s the supernatural element. People are gaining powers through spirit boards, occult ceremonies and even prayer. But it’s not God who’s responding.
We see some of these demonic figures, but as it turns out, it’s the ordinary people who are the real monsters. Whether it be revenge for a wrongful death or payback for giving a girl syphilis, human beings are the ones committing horrendous atrocities.
And the show doesn’t pull any punches in showing us just how horrendous. A girl gets her eyes plucked out by birds, men get their faces skinned off and several people are bloodily murdered before being arranged to look like tarot cards.
We also see the ugly side to drug addiction. Jessie’s dad (and Bea’s adopted one) became addicted to opium after her mom died, abandoning both her and Bea to the workhouse (where they were subsequently abused). And what’s worse is that despite his claims of wanting to help them get off the streets, he never stayed clean long enough to do so.
So if you thought that The Irregulars would be a fun and light take on some of Conan Doyle’s lesser known characters, then your deductions would be incorrect. It’s a dark tale filled with just about every abhorrent thing you can imagine.
After several babies go missing, Watson employs Bea and her friends to find out what really happened.
A man obtains powers through a spirit board while trying to communicate with his dead wife (the spirit board moves on its own). He then uses the powers to control birds and make them kidnap babies and attack people. In a dream sequence, Jessie sees ghostly apparitions and moving skeletons, and a plague doctor chokes her out. In another sequence, she is transported to the mind of a man in Louisiana who says they both have powers. Jessie uses her powers to enter the mind of the man who controls birds and view his memories. Bea talks to a nun in a cemetery full of cross headstones. The nun jokingly says that Bea will go to hell if she steals flowers from one of the graves.
We see the naked backsides of several men at a public bath. A boy fantasizes about a girl kissing his neck and removing his shirt (he then covers his lower half with a blanket when someone interrupts his daydream). A prostitute with cleavage propositions a boy. A couple kisses. A boy leers as a girl pulls up her stocking. A girl tells a boy to put his shirt on. Spike lies about having sex with a girl to anger the girl’s boyfriend. Jessie tells Bea she should get a boyfriend and have sex. Someone says two people are “definitely banging.” Jessie calls a boy “tasty.” It appears that a man propositions a woman under a bridge.
A girl’s eyes are plucked out by birds during an attack and she dies. Others are also attacked by the birds, receiving multiple cuts on their faces and arms. Several men get bloodied and bruised during an organized fight (while people bet on them in the background). We see whipping scars on a boy’s back. We see the body of a woman who bled out during childbirth. A boy is thrown out of a pub and spat on. A man threatens to flog a girl. Bea knocks Jessie out of the way of a carriage and then shoves the driver for speeding. Someone pulls a knife out in self-defense. Spike describes a nightmare involving an eel and his genitals.
People drink in a pub. Someone smokes a cigarette. We hear that a boy stole a dog (and later returned it but lied about rescuing it). We hear that police gave up on the missing baby cases because they came from poor families. A girl admits she left the window open on the night her baby sister was kidnapped because she snuck out to see her boyfriend.
We hear uses of the s-word, “a–,” “p-ss,” “p–ck,” “h—,” “b–tard” and “b—-cks.” We also hear misuses of God’s and Christ’s names (with the former paired with “d–n”).
Emily studied film and writing when she was in college. And when she isn’t being way too competitive while playing board games, she enjoys food, sleep, and indulging in her “nerdom,” which is the collective fan cultures of everything she loves, such as Star Wars and Lord of the Rings.
Rebel, the show—just like the character—comes with plenty of baggage.
Some violence and Eastern spirituality blend with this story of a female warrior trying to do good.
It offers a respite from TV’s turns toward the tawdry and traumatic, and that in itself is manifestly good.
Nickelodeon’s puppet-propelled sword-and-sorcery series aims young, but is still a bit edgy at times.