Sherlock goes off the rails

SPOILERS

After a series opener in which Sherlock traded its mystery status for soap, the second episode of series four, “The Lying Detective”, doubles down on the new soap operatic direction of the show and delivers even more antics and heavy-handed emotional beats. It’s not the worst decision to explore other facets of a character, such as Sherlock’s drug addiction, which actually matters in this episode, but for Sherlock, the show, the tonal shift has been so sudden and so hard it’s jarring. And it doesn’t quite sit right on a show about a man whose emotions are famously repressed and take a back seat to his analytical skills. That leads the show to feel excessive and even sloppy, as everything careens around an essentially unstable axis.

series-four

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Sherlock 3.3: “His Last Vow”

SPOILERS

After two decent episodes that featured momentary delights, if not all-engrossing plots like seasons before, Sherlock ends on one of its strongest episodes ever. Objectively, “His Last Vow” ranks behind only “The Reichenbach Fall”, but personally I’d put it ahead of “Fall” simply because “Fall” kind of hurts to watch and “Vow” doesn’t, which makes it a little more re-watchable, but that’s just me and my angst-avoidance policy. Still, “Vow” is a tremendous episode that features the best acting yet from Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch, as well as a satisfying arc for Amanda Abbington as Mary Watson, and Danish actor Lars Mikkelsen (brother of Mads) turns in a brilliantly creepy performance as the villain, Charles Magnussen. Overall, it’s a stellar episode to close out Sherlock’s third season.

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Sherlock 3.2: “The Sign of Three”

Through the first two seasons of Sherlock, the one episode people consistently cited as the “worst”—and I use that term very loosely, as there’s no such thing as a bad episode of Sherlock—was season two’s “The Hound of Baskerville”. That was the one episode that in no way tied back to Moriarty, and so it ended up having a kind of inconsequential feel. It feels a bit like a placeholder, like a kind of thematic intermission. Well, with Moriarty gone, so far season three has a similar time-killing feel to it. It’s not that the episodes aren’t good—they are very good. It’s just that they don’t feel important and without the looming threat of a Big Bad, they lack the gravitas of the previous seasons of Sherlock.

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Sherlock 3.1: “The Empty Hearse”

SPOILERS, OBVIOUSLY

It’s been nearly two years since we watched Sherlock Holmes jump off a hospital roof in London, and in that time we have hashed and rehashed what just happened and how Sherlock could have survived. In the end, it was the simplest possible explanation, a matter of perfect timing, flawless execution and depending on Moriarty to clean up his own loose ends. “It’s a bit disappointing,” Anderson says to Sherlock. “Everybody’s a critic,” Sherlock returns. You get the sense this exchange is show co-creators and writers Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss tipping their hats to the audience who has built this event up for two years, a way of acknowledging that their version of events has likely been outstripped by the imaginations of their fans. I, for one, was not disappointed. I would have hated it if they’d come with the kind of Mission: Impossible scenario Anderson dreams up. What they went with stretches credulity, but it does work.

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Sherlock 2.3: The most ambitious 30 minutes on television

The Cliffhanger from Hell discussion goes here. And also, SPOILERS.

Sherlock’s second season wraps up with “The Final Problem”, rewritten as “The Reichenbach Fall” by Steve Thompson (who also wrote “The Blind Banker”) and as directed by Toby Haynes (veteran of Doctor Who and Wallander). It’s a clever title—fans of Arthur Conan Doyle will recognize the name as the location where Sherlock Holmes met his fate with his arch-nemesis James Moriarty, but if you hadn’t read the stories it wouldn’t give anything away. For me, as a reader of the ACD books, I knew immediately what this episode would bring, and yet I was still totally floored by the final half-hour of the episode. Continue reading “Sherlock 2.3: The most ambitious 30 minutes on television”

Sherlock 2.2: The Hounds of Baskerville

In season one of Sherlock, the second of the three episodes, “The Blind Banker”, was generally considered the weakest of the three. I think the same goes for season two. “The Hounds of Baskerville”, an update of Arthur Conan Doyle’s most famous Holmes story, as written by series co-creator and the man behind Mycroft, Mark Gatiss, is the weakest link. To be fair to both “Banker” and “Hounds”, though, saying one is the weakest episode of Sherlock is like saying that Henry VIII is Shakespeare’s worst play—it’s still better than 98% of all the things in the world. And really, what drags down “Hounds” is not any substantial misfire in Gatiss’ script and it is certainly not anything to do with the actors or even Paul McGuigan’s direction, it’s more a matter of tone and one stupefyingly bad decision. Continue reading “Sherlock 2.2: The Hounds of Baskerville”

Sherlock 2.1: A Scandal in Belgravia

First and foremost let me express my deep disappointment with whoever made the call to edit Sherlock for American television. Not only is it supremely annoying to not receive the same program as was originally aired, but in this day and age, when everything is online, you simply can’t do that kind of thing without getting caught out and made to look stupid. There’s no good reason for that kind of tampering. It bothers me because one of the cuts removed a key character moment. The scenes between John and Sherlock with the ashtray, while funny, really don’t have anything to do with the plot, but the scene between Mycroft and Sherlock when Sherlock says, “Sex doesn’t alarm me,” and Mycroft responds, “How would you know?” not only illuminates something about Sherlock, but about his relationship with Mycroft. It’s a key moment and I cannot believe it was cut.  Whatever, that happened and it’s shitty, and now let’s talk about Sherlock season two, episode one. Continue reading “Sherlock 2.1: A Scandal in Belgravia”