I was very interested by Season One of the BBC’s Sherlock. The concept was simple: transpose the Sherlock Holmes tales to modern day. Sherlock Holmes now uses not only his remarkable deductive prowess, but he also fall back on the Internet, texting, GPS technology, webcams, etc. Played with admirable gusto by Benedict Cumberbatch, the character of Sherlock felt authentic— if Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had written the tales in modern day, this is the kind of character he’d come up with. He is a socially awkward genius who cannot understand why people around him see the same things but do not observe.
Martin Freeman played Dr. Watson, and in my opinion, he’s the best of them all. He blows Nigel Bruce out of the water. David Burke and Edward Hardwicke have nothing on him. He captures everything that made Watson great, and he manages never to look like an idiot. Holmes’ deductions are truly astounding, and Watson’s admiration feels very genuine without these moments feeling contrived. There is never a situation where Watson exclaims in surprise: “But Holmes, how on earth did you know that the only sinister-looking character with a collection of machetes was the one who decapitated Lord Bathtub?” Watson is an intelligent man—after all, he’s a doctor—but his intellect doesn’t come close to Holmes’. His life with Sherlock gives him stimulation in many ways and he develops a true friendship with the man.
That being said, Series One had a lot of problems with it. The first episode, A Study in Pink, was a very clever one written by Steven Moffat, with a lot of witty in-jokes for the Sherlockians. The plot was nicely retooled to make it fit into a modern-day setting. Moriarty was suitably hinted at. The episode was exciting. The only thing really wrong with it was the all-too easy ending, where Watson apparently learns (albeit briefly) how to read people’s minds.
It was all downhill from there. Episode Two, The Blind Banker, was penned by Steve Thompson, and was laughably silly. It took several pages from the Edgar Wallace playbook, most notably in the inclusion of Sinister Chinamen, as every Chinese character except one is part of an evil gang. It’s understandable, if not acceptable, to see such stereotypes in Edgar Wallace, but it felt shockingly out of place in modern day. But the episode was just barely fun enough, particularly in its finale with the unnecessarily-slow-moving-dipping-device-of-death.
Episode Three, penned by Mark Gatiss, was the worst of the lot. Entitled The Great Game, it saw Sherlock confronted with multiple puzzles, but the episode was frankly laughable. The plot never held water, and it is completely contrived from start to finish. You’re always aware of the plot’s flimsy artificiality, you’re never drawn into the story. I could go into detail about the plot's loopholes, but I will save that for a possible future review. But in the final scenes, we finally meet Moriarty, and it’s bad. Gatiss takes a very bad joke and streeeeeeeeeetches it out into what feels like infinity. The series basically wrote itself into a corner—it has the silliest, most laughable, and most unthreatening incarnation of Moriarty I’d ever seen. Its stories no longer held water. The only thing left in its favour was a fascinating premise and excellent acting from Cumberbatch and Freeman.
So I was sceptical for Series 2… Would the series continue its downwards spiral, or would it snap to attention and break the vicious cycle? Only time would tell… and that’s what I intend to do in the upcoming days by reviewing all three of the episodes from series 2. I hope you will all join me for this.