There’s no reason this show should be good. Really, there’s not one single reason. It’s about metal detectors. Well, detectorists, as we are constantly reminded over the course of the six episodes. But against all odds, Detectorists triumphs in a way I would never have thought possible.
I started watching Detectorists because of the sheer ridiculousness of the concept: two friends like to do metal detecting with each other. It’s British, so that gave me another reason to watch it, and it’s also considered a comedy. I really don’t think it’s supposed to be, and I don’t think that those of you who aren’t fans of the typical dry British humor will think it is, but I couldn’t stop laughing. Each episode is funnier than the last, even as the two main characters sink deeper into confusion and depression.
The characters are really what makes this series shine. Andy, played by Mackenzie Crook (the “‘ello poppet” guy from Pirates of the Caribbean”), is really just plain sad, but loveable. His life is going great at the beginning, and each decision he makes just flushes it further down the toilet. Whether it’s furthering his relationship with Sophie, played by Aimee-Ffion Edwards, ignoring his girlfriend, or stopping just short of a hoard of Saxon treasure, he really can’t do anything right.
And, regardless of his shitty decisions, you really kind of root for him and his friend Lance, played by Toby Jones. They may be pathetic, they may be losers, but you come to love them over the course of the series.
Getting back to a point I made two paragraphs ago, I think that’s another great aspect of this show: there’s always something two feet away from where these guys are digging. Their raison d’etre is to find gold, to find that long lost Saxon hoard that’s buried right below their feet. But (spoiler alert) they don’t. They never do. Sure, Andy finds a measly gold coin, but stops short of unearthing the massive trove that’s right underneath it.
(I know this is a season one review, but I’m going to reference season 2 real quick) The second season opens up with a flashback: a priest in Essex is trying to hide his prized bible from oncoming marauders and buries it next to a rock. A great effect is applied where we follow the bible underground, 1,500 years pass by in 12 seconds, and all that’s left is the priest’s golden ornament depicting Jesus and a lamb.
The camera then comes up out of the ground to show the two protagonists detecting in that very field, not 10 feet away from the stone where the bible was buried. They don’t keep going. They both stop in their tracks and decided to call it a day.
I think that’s what this show is really all about: just two guys hanging out and shooting the shit. They’re not supposed to find anything. If they did, they’d be happy, sure, but that’s just the icing on the cake for them. They really just enjoy being out with each other away form the complexities of their daily lives. It’s beautiful, really.
Another great thing about this show is the cinematography in general. Every shot is meticulously planned, showing off the natural beauty of the English countryside. I think it’s the final episode of the first season, but there’s a shot that just involves a snail on a leaf. For a solid 15 seconds, we get to watch this snail on the leaf. Is it just filler? Is it supposed to symbolize the protagonists slow hunt for something big? Is it supposed to tell us to stop and enjoy the little things? I’m not sure, but it’s beautiful nonetheless.
The music is also superb. Johnny Flynn, brother of actor Jerome Flynn of Game of Thrones fame, composes the score for Detectorists. His acoustic guitar (sometimes a dobro) and violin studded score adds an amazing air to the series as a whole. It doesn’t compete with the film, the actors, or the plot at all. In fact, it compliments it perfectly, which is exactly what a good score is supposed to do.
I really couldn’t recommend this show enough. It’s such a welcome change to the programs I’ve been watching lately, and I can’t wait to finish season two. This show is a masterpiece, plain and simple, and you’ll be a better person for watching it.
Reed’s Review Corner:
Detectorists: Season 1
9.3 ring pulls out of 10.
Fantastic acting, story, and score.
British humor overload.
All plot points wrapped up.
“Simon and Garfunkel”
(Very) short bits of dragging story.