Have you ever wondered what happens after the bodies have been cleared away from a crime scene and the witnesses have all been spoken to, the evidence all gathered up and bagged? Wonder no longer, because Dirty Work has you covered.
This fast-paced web series focuses on a trio of maladjusted coworkers who just so happen to clean up crime scenes (and sorority houses, on occasion), and yes, it’s played as darkly comedic as you think it would be. The production value is fantastic, the goriest it gets is the opening sequence (mostly), and there’s an interesting gimmick that caters to our three-second attention spans. It’s got something for everyone, really.
But first, our characters: The main crew is made up of Pete (Hank Harris), a slacker with an off-beat almost-charm to him and ambitions in the direction of his fledgling music career; Roxy (Mary-Lynn Rajskub), a thirty-something with misanthropy to spare and a touch of desperation to balance out her unpleasantness; and Michelle, who’s all sugar-and-spice-and-sanity in an otherwise childish, petty cast of characters. They’re joined on occasion by Hummy (Matt L. Jones), Pete’s eccentric and mildly creepy roommate, usually whenever they need to move a bloody mattress, or when Pete is shown at home.
Pete and Roxy are terrible people, petty and flawed and realistic. For all his self-absorption, Pete actually regrets hitting on and thinking about promoting his band to Bambi, a woman who watched her friends get murdered in the first episode; and for all her unpleasantness, Roxy is the only one to stick up for Bambi when Matthew the terrifying gangster is sent to collect Bambi, and make sure that she isn’t going to be murdered or raped or tortured or maimed. Michelle is the only person shown with a functioning and happy love life with a man with thumbs; she’s easily the most well-adjusted of the main cast.
They all clash together wonderfully, and by the end of the first episode, you’ll have at least one favourite. The fact that they seem to be on their way to becoming a dysfunctional family is only the icing on the gore-splattered cake.
Let’s move onto the highlights and gimmick, shall we?
The humour in the series so far is very dark and very dry. Most of the laughs in the first three episodes come from facial expression, the use of a well-timed beat of silence, and the sheer incredulity of the situations going on. You — as well as the characters — are left muttering “Did that just happen?” and yes, yes it did. As well, the plot is fast-paced and fresh; I’ve never seen anything focus on what happens after the cops have cleared the crime scene and the witnesses have all been gathered — this is nothing but, and it’s interesting.
The interactive sections of the show are interesting. Basically, as you watch, the show texts and calls you to get you that much more steeped in the mythos of the show to varied effect. However, as interesting a touch as it is, the show wouldn’t have suffered if that hadn’t been an option. More than once I had to pause the show to grab for my phone, but that’s neither here nor there. As well, sometimes the same texts are sent more than once, which is distracting.
Also an interesting touch, there are little pop-ups on screen, “Fun Facts” about relevant things going on in-scene. In the first episode, it is said that Pete suffered from cataplexy and a moment after it’s mentioned, there’s a little pop-up detailing what that means. In the first scene of the second episode, someone is being murdered with a harpoon gun (yeah, I don’t know either just roll with it) and there’s a Fun Fact mentioning the Sharpe family murders that occurred in 2004 (trust us, don’t Google it). And through both, there are sarcastic quips, too, because sarcasm is awesome.
As well, each episode is broken into thee chapters, each around ten minutes long in order to make the final product roughly half an hour long. I just found it interesting that the show-runners made it even easier to pause and get distracted by things between chapters, rather than in the middle of a plot point.
Something that bugged me about the show, you might ask?
In a word, ableism. Roxy is totally okay with exploiting Pete’s cataplexy to knock him out and get what she wants and it’s played for laughs, and even Pete seems more concerned with the fact that Roxy used his time out to steal his job than he is with the fact that she knocked him out in the first place. But then again, Roxy’s kind of a terrible person. And in the show’s favour, there is a line clearly set between banter between friends and transphobic words spoken in anger, and the reaction to the latter is heartening to see. It’s not blown off or laughed at, Michelle isn’t told she’s overreacting, and Pete spends the rest of the episode trying to apologize for his idiocy.
So if you’re looking for a fast-paced web series with a comedic darkness to it (as well as the well-loved staples of lampshade hangings, call-backs, and a ridiculously catchy musical PSA about leprosy), catchy gimmicks, and some realistic, interesting characters, check out Dirty Work.