Must See Mystery, Sherlock [BBC]

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Sherlock can be seen on PBS at 9 PM EST.

Sherlock is an awesome series.  Straight from across the pond the great folks at BBC have decided to produce three 90 minute TV movies based on famous Sherlock Holmes mysteries updated to modern times.  What’s not to love?  Unfortunately, due to the fact that it is a BBC show, this means there are only 6 episodes a year and since one episode counts as 45 minutes that means we only get 3 actual Sherlock episodes in any particular season.  Luckily for those who have not watched it (and have Netflix), however, is that Series 2 premiered last week – which means there are already three crisp Sherlock episodes waiting for you.

Before I get into the actual episode breakdown I feel I should generally discuss the casting.  This isn’t your run of the mill casting job.  Starring as Sherlock Holmes is the up and coming Benedict Cumberbatch (Star Trek 2 should vault his star).  Cumberbatch basically takes what Hugh Laurie did as Dr. Gregory House, subtracts the crippling pain pill addiction and adds 10% more social ineptitude.  This Holmes has the same flair for the dramatic, the same flirtation with death, and the same observational genius without the real ability to connect to any other human being.  Cumberbatch is spot on as the selfish, mystery hungry Holmes and his ability to think on the spot while also picking out minute clues is well acted (and well produced as the shot selection, editing, and any additional information is added to the screen to help the viewer see what Holmes sees).

Martin Freeman (the next Bilbo Baggins in the upcoming Hobbit films, and the original Jim from The Office [BBC]) plays Dr. John Watson.  Watson is very much the straight man to Holmes and Freeman plays it perfectly.  He has just enough befuddlement and annoyance to the cases and what Holmes does while also being able to somehow connect with Holmes.  Sometimes Watson will throw in a quip or two but for the most part he is our the in show stand-in for the audience, the one that usually needs everything explained to him.  Still his character is deep and it doesn’t his role doesn’t feel too blatant.

This brings me to Andrew Scott as Dr. Moriarty.  As far as I’ve seen this might be one of the most miscast roles in recent memory.  While we haven’t seen much of Moriarty (he doesn’t even show his face until the third episode of Series 1 “The Great Game”) but what we have seen leaves me grossly unimpressed.  Scott plays more of an annoying pissant (his voice especially) than a genuine foe for Sherlock.  We haven’t really seen any of his brilliance while he has been on screen, he doesn’t seem to be an intellectual or even physical match for Holmes.  Instead of being a menacing presence Scott feels more like a piece of gum on the bottom of your shoe.  We are told that Moriarty has devised many of these diabolical schemes but without actually seeing him on screen scheming or, at least, going head-to-head with Sherlock I will not be able to suspend my disbelief in regards to Scott being Holmes’s main foe.

I should also say that I am no great fan of Sherlock Holmes.  In fact I have not read any of the stories or seen any other TV/film iterations of the character besides the very action-heroey recent films where Robert Downey Jr. stars as Sherlock Holmes.  For fans of those movies the only thing similar between them and the show is the style of music, everything else is completely different.  They are also airing the episodes in the order in which they are written.

“A Study in Pink”:  This is a very solid first episode.  It is more an introduction to Holmes and Watson than anything else.  Here we see a somewhat PTSD-ed Dr. Watson return from the war (in Afghanistan I believe).  He has a bad limp and is strongly considering suicide.  Eventually he becomes Sherlock’s roommate and the rest is history.  The episode focuses more on Sherlock’s character traits than dramatic crimes.  We get to see Sherlock and Dr. Watson grow as friends by the end of the episode.  The modern times update translates well (I assume, as I have not read the story).  There’s a little let down in the solving of the mystery, but all-in-all a very nice start to the series.

“The Blind Banker”:  Here we have an episode that seems silly in today’s world due to the update.  It focuses around a Chinese gang of thieves and assassins.  All of it is fairly good until the end, which I won’t spoil for you.  The case takes more of center stage in this one, especially when they are trying to solve the key to answering the riddles in the cypher.  It also features a smoking hot Chinese actress in Gemma Chan, which is never a bad thing.  It is a solid episode but not spectacular.

“The Great Game”:  “Hello, Sherlock.  Fancy meeting you here.”  This is, far and away, the best episode of the series thus far.  The case(s) take a turn for the dramatic as each must be solved within a certain amount of time and Sherlock is more than up to the task.  We get to see Sherlock at the top of his game, not only in diligence but also in speed.  On the side we also get a case that Watson is meant to solve by himself at the behest of Sherlock’s brother, Mycroft Holmes (the sibling rivalry is ridiculously awesome between these two).  Of course Sherlock has figured it out well before Watson, but Watson gets to show his worth to Sherlock throughout the episode as Sherlock realizes Watson is an asset as well as a friend.  We also get our introduction to Dr. Moriarty.  It is a riveting episode and definitely shows the potential Sherlock has.

“A Scandal In Belgravia”:  The first episode of Series 2 introduces another famous character, Irene Adler (Lara Pulver).  At first glance Pulver doesn’t seem to be the best casting job for a dominatrix, but that doesn’t really come into play.  Pulver does a great job trying to be Sherlock’s equal while also being a sexual/romantic distraction.  She toes the line between a woman who is in charge and a flirtatious seductress incredibly well.  Ultimately it is revealed that she is never in charge in the first place and it is interested to see her continue to play that role.  Sherlock’s interest is more obsession than crush, but Cumberbatch plays it well.  Their game of cat and mouse is a very fun thing to behold.  Meanwhile we get more Mycroft and Sherlock rivalry and it seems to be amped up even further, with Mycroft almost delighting in telling Watson some news towards the end of the episode.

“The Hounds of Baskerville”:  Premiers May 13th, 2012.

“The Reichenback Fall”:  Premiers May 20th, 2012.

We will update this post as each new Sherlock adventure is aired, so come by and check us out.

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