By: Glynis Neely
Crazyhead, Netflix’s new original series from Howard Overman, the creator of Misfits, stars Cara Theobold and Susan Wokoma as Amy and Raquel, two girls who meet by chance when they discover they both are “seers”; they have the ability to see demons in their true form. The show starts off legitimately terrifying – if you know me well, you know why – and continues to have its brief moments of horror or pathos but immediately undercuts it with comedy; think Misfits meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The show pulls influences from a lot of different sources – mainly horror, comedy, and soap – and does a solid job of blending the genres. The show knows where it comes from and arrives fully formed with its tongue firmly planted in its cheek, and it has easily become one of my favorite new shows of 2017.
Where Buffy focused on teenage life by navigating it and growing up in a world full of monsters, Crazyhead explores lonely people in their twenties who find a connection through their shared ability. Raquel is an outcast with no friends who seems thrilled at the prospect of this connection. Amy has been plagued by hallucinations and feels some solace in the fact that there is someone out there who doesn’t think she’s crazy. They don’t really have a group of friends to support them; they just have each other. They get off to a rough start when Amy’s best friend Suzanne is possessed and they have to perform an exorcism together – Raquel’s nipple pinching in the pilot is additionally painfully awkward – but even though it goes horribly wrong, their friendship is solidified by the experience.
Suzanne: “You killed me you silly bitch.”
The show understands what hell life can be when you know things others don’t, but it never forgets its joke release valve. The cheeky dialogue is most reminiscent of Buffy, but with Misfits’ affinity for profane language and crudely inappropriate jokes. Most of the colorful references come courtesy of Amy’s co-worker and friend Jake, played by the uncanny Anton Yelchin lookalike Lewis Reeves. For the first couple of episodes he is infuriating, but once he finds out their secret and decides to help, he really starts to grow on you.
Even the villains, or Big Bad to co-opt a term from Buffy, led by Callum and played by go-to bad guy Tony Curran, and Mercy, Lu Corfield, are dryly funny characters in their own right with their fair amount of zingers, but they also have a bite to go with their bark. It reminds me of the types of villains who are serious threats, but also know how to have a laugh. This particular group of demons has a solid plan and do manage to outsmart our heroines on more than one occasion. The show spends as much time with them as they do with Amy, Raquel, and Jake, and it’s to the shows credit; they are truly a lot of good, evil fun.
Callum: “You know I haven’t totally hated having you and your little fatherless bastard staying here.”
Mercy: “Wow. That’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me.”
Callum: “I should go. Busy day. Lots to do.”
A lot of the humor derives from the girls’ attempts to keep what they are doing under wraps from the people they love. They try to keep Raquel’s brother Tyler from finding anything out, and they often go to ridiculous lengths to explain themselves. One of my favorites of these moments is when Amy, visibly panicking at Tyler trying to interrupt Raquel and a demon in the kitchen, grabs his crotch and says, “Gotcha!” He seems so confused that he responds in kind by grabbing her breast. I could not stop laughing.
Tyler: “I’m Tyler, Raquel’s brother.”
Jake: “Are you?” [quieter] “Not really a reason for existing innit?”
For all the jokes, and there are a lot, they are grounded in character and often framed through a horror lens. The stakes get higher and higher, and the laughs just roll with the character. Callum and Mercy are both demons possessing real people, so they follow out their evil plans and then do routine human things, like go to work or make homemade huevos rancheros. Callum has been working towards his goal for 800 years, but he lives in an expensive loft and is always freshly dressed. Mercy is committed to their plan, but she has possessed a single mother and seems constantly concerned with her “son.” When they have to work later than expected she tells the other demons lackeys to hurry up, and she has a good reason: “I have a sitter waiting.”
Since the show understands that comedy should come from character, it pays off all its jokes properly in the end. One of the running jokes is that Amy and Raquel are lesbians. In Raquel’s first attempt characterize what they looked like covered in dirt coming out of the woods she called them “lesbians who like a pine fresh scent.” On more than one occasion, people comment on it, but the girls more than not brush off the comments. Yet by the end of the series, the moment that calls back on this joke actually repairs their friendship as it is crucial to everyone’s survival.
In six episodes, Raquel and Amy’s burgeoning friendship is impressively fleshed out in a consistently realistic way as an empowering, but complicated, relationship. Amy is reticent at first to be a part of Raquel’s world, but once she makes up her mind to help she is steadfast in her loyalty and committed to the task at hand. Raquel is overwhelmingly awkward with normal interactions, but she is outspoken and headstrong when it comes to her life’s mission. She may seem insecure, but when it comes to demons she knows what she’s doing. One of my favorite moments is when Raquel says to her date Harry, after he tells her to stay in the car, “You think having a dick makes you immune to danger? Man, be serious.”
They become closer as the season progresses, but when Amy becomes convinced from a vision of hers that the guy Raquel is seeing is going to hurt her, she goes overboard trying to find out what he is hiding and it puts a wedge between her and Raquel. I couldn’t help but feel a kinship with Amy in that moment when she reacts harshly to Raquel. I lost a friend a couple of years ago because of a similar disagreement.
In her concern for Raquel’s well being, she keeps pushing but Raquel does not want to believe he is dangerous. They don’t ever get in a physical fight, but it comes very close. Despite everything, Amy shows up to help Raquel when she needs her the most. The incident strengthens their relationship and by the end they are finally able to work together as a true team and save the world. When I think about my true brOTPs, these ladies now top my list.
Crazyhead checks all the boxes when it comes to my particular brand of TV shows; it’s feminist, well-written, knows its small cast of characters very well, has plenty of horror elements and best of all, makes me laugh constantly. I’ve now watched the show through twice and I’m still finding new things I didn’t notice the first time. It’s also a super short binge-watch, if you’re into that kind of thing. I highly recommend checking out this series if you are a fan of genre TV with ass kicking women who like to quip. So set up Netflix and start episode one; you won’t regret it – and be sure to let me know what you think in the comments below!
- I love that they all use their cell phones to read the exorcism ritual; I guess even demons rely too heavily on technology like the rest of us.
- Raquel has a weapons chest (just like Buffy)!!
- This show also loves the tried and true Buffy trope: the ironic cutaway. It’s not as prolific as it is on Buffy, but they do use it a fair amount.
- The soundtrack relies heavily on a cocktail of British music, starting with Gin Wigmore’s opening title and following through the episodes with a consistent indie rock soundtrack sung by mainly female artists, including the expected “Exes and Ohs.” And did I mention a serious abundance of Gin Wigmore?
- The finale is an absolute perfect set up for season 2, so that better happen!!