‘Dead Boy Detectives’ Has a Goth Lesbian Butcher, Gay Ghosts, and a Cheryl Dunye-Directed Episode

I went into Dead Boy Detectives knowing there would be boy gays (Dead Boy gays, specifically), so imagine my surprise and delight when lady gays showed up as well! This cute fantasy show ticked a lot of boxes for me, but before we get into it, a little history.

The titular Dead Boy Detectives first appeared in the Neil Gaiman DC comic Sandman and later had some stories of their own. As such, this show is set in the same universe as the TV adaptation of that comic, The Sandman, with some crossover characters like Death (played by Kirby) and Despair (Donna Preston) making an appearance. But, since it was a DC Comic, these characters, played by different actors, also showed up in the show Doom Patrol, which I believe is where the idea of one boy having unrequited love for the other originated, as I can’t find any evidence that was the case in the graphic novels. What’s funny is, when Edwin, Charles, and their human psychic counterpart Crystal Palace showed up in Doom Patrol, I thought to myself, “I’d watch a whole show of this.” And luckily, I didn’t have to wait all that long! While the main trio were recast for the show, there is a nod to the Doom Patrol version in the Night Nurse, played by Ruth Connell in both versions. In other gay-adjacent cast news, Sherri Saum of The Fosters is in a couple of episodes. But in bigger gay news: An episode was directed by Cheryl Dunye, lesbian writer and director of The Watermelon Woman.

In all iterations, the general premise remains the same: Edwin, a ghost who died in 1916, and Charles, who died in 1989, join forces with human psychic Crystal Palace to solve mysteries. In the Doom Patrol version, they were already an established trio, but in Netflix’s Dead Boy Detectives, we get a bit of an origin story. In fact, Edwin (George Rexstrew) is resistant to allow Crystal (Kassius Nelson) to join, claiming adding a human to their mix will just complicate things, when the truth is he’s a bit jealous of the attention Charles (Jayden Revri) is giving the pretty stranger.

A case takes the newly formed trio to Port Townsend to solve the mystery of a missing girl, and despite their previous ability to travel through mirrors, because of a bit of mystical mayhem, they get trapped in the town, forced to contend with local nuisances like an ancient witch determined to obtain immortality and ageless beauty, a Cat King who has the hots Edwin, and more ghostly mysteries than one detective agency can handle.

Dead Boy Detectives: Crystal, Niko, Edwin and Charles

I’d take my mysterious mysteries to this group!! Photo courtesy of Netflix © 2023

Since they’re going to be in town a while, Crystal rents a room for cheap above a butcher shop, run by a goth lesbian named Jenny, played by Briana Cuoco, who voices Batgirl in Harley Quinn and who starred alongside her sister Kaley in a few episodes of The Flight Attendant. (Briana is, ironically, a vegetarian, which I learned in the comments of this BTS IG post she made.) Jenny’s whole vibe visually reminds me a bit of Charlotte Sullivan’s character Nicole in the Canadian gem Mary Kills People, and I, for one, am here for it.

Dead Boy Detectives: Jenny the lesbian goth butcher standing in profile against the neon glow of a meat sign

I’m a vegetarian (hence the woeful lack of meat puns in this article) but I am INTO the goth lesbian butcher vibe. Photo courtesy of Netflix © 2023

Jenny is reluctantly renting out the two rooms she has available to teenagers (Crystal, and her new neighbor Niko), who definitely should be in school but somehow are not, and despite her best efforts to give them the cold shoulder, it’s clear she cares about their safety and wellbeing as she gets pulled deeper and deeper into their antics as the season goes on.

We learn Jenny is a lesbian when she starts receiving love letters from a secret admirer. Niko decides she wants to figure out who these love letters are from, but Jenny is sure she doesn’t want to know. She says she knows every eligible bachelorette in town already: the perils of being gay in a small town. Besides, she’s enjoying these letters, and what if taking it further ruins the magic?

Dead Boy Detectives: Jenny looks smitten by the lesbian love letter she's reading

Hard on the outside, soft on the inside, is my entire type. I was doomed from the start. Photo courtesy of Netflix © 2023

But Niko meddles anyway, and they discover the secret admirer is Maxine, the eager librarian, and Niko convinces Jenny to go on one (1) date with her before writing her off entirely. The date starts off really cute, Jenny surprisingly shy, and it even touches on one of my favorite romance tropes when Maxine asks, “Can I kiss you?”

Dead Boy Detectives: Jenny and Maxine go in for the kiss

“Can I kiss you” gets me every time, I blame Now & Then.

It does unfortunately take a turn I won’t spoil for you here, but Jenny becomes more entangled in the Dead Boy Detective Agency antics, and for that I’m grateful. She is easily and consistently one of the funniest parts of the show, often pointing out how ridiculous Crystal and Niko sound when they’re talking to the boys (because Jenny can’t see them and assumes the girls are losing their minds.)  “Adult reluctantly takes responsibility for teens in over their heads” is one of my favorite themes in shows like these.

Despite previously doing her best to stay out of whatever the kids were up to, when Jenny finds out Crystal intends to stomp off to confront her abusive ex alone, Jenny decides to tag along. And when the girls have to rush off to save the boys, she hands them each a meat cleaver…just in case.

Dead Boy Detectives: Jenny holds up a meat cleaver

She can cleave my heart in two any day. Photo courtesy of Netflix © 2023

Jenny didn’t ask for this responsibility and often didn’t feel up for the challenge, but in the end she cares about these teens, and it shows.

Jenny could have very easily been a caricature — an overly grumpy goth, the Angry Lesbian trope — but Briana Cuoco plays her brilliantly and never crosses that line. Even Jenny’s early attempts at seeming exasperated are tinged in thinly veiled worry. Who knew “goth lesbian butcher” could have so many beautiful layers.

Dead Boy Detectives: Jenny looks serious in her blood-spattered shirt

Beautiful, blood-soaked layers.

Overall, the show is really fun. It has supernatural case-of-the-week style mysteries, plus overarching enemies to contend with. It has themes of loss and identity and trauma, all while being funny and irreverent in between its serious moments. And even though we’re here to talk about the sapphic of it all, Edwin’s queerness should also be celebrated. His story was very different from Jenny’s, as he spends most of the season coming out to himself before he can even consider going on dates, good or bad, but it’s all very sweet and tender and heartbreaking and joyful.

I really hope this show gets more seasons. I think the concept lends itself to a multi-season run, and there are still a lot of adventures to be had. I know the #CancelYourGays epidemic has only been getting worse in recent months, but I’m hoping that with the success of its parent show, Sandman, and Neil Gaiman’s general run of popularity lately, that this isn’t ill-placed hope.

I may be a vegetarian, but I want more of this goth lesbian butcher!

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Valerie Anne

Just a TV-loving, Twitter-addicted nerd who loves reading, watching, and writing about stories. One part Kara Danvers, two parts Waverly Earp, a dash of Cosima and an extra helping of my own brand of weirdo.

Valerie has written 558 articles for us.

4 Comments

  1. Personally, I am tired of seeing queer women die in movies and series.
    The producers themselves are not tired of repeating this repetitive stereotype.
    I feel like the number of dead queer women characters has surpassed the number of dead straight characters :D
    As far as I know, Netflix and Mike Flanagan are the record holders in this field :D
    Unfortunately, Netflix kills queer women characters in its works and cancels queer women series easily, in other words, it kills queer women in two different ways.
    That’s why I don’t like Netflix. Netflix has become very anti-lesbian since 2020.

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