I like this new Russian version of Sherlock Holmes more with each of the stories that I see. The episodes are real character pieces in a way that Sherlock Holmes adaptations rarely manage to be, and they balance this excellently with real skillful plotting.
This time is made perfectly plain a very clever conceit, whereby we are seeing the "real" events behind Sherlock Holmes, and what we thought we knew were the censored or fictionalized versions submitted by Watson to his cantankerous editor. And it works -- giving this production team the freedom to vary significantly from the Holmes canon and make the material their own.
The plot here is, I think, the best of the three episodes so far. It's only distantly inspired by "A Scandal in Bohemia" and it moves both drastically and somehow-credibly from the an errant sailor husband-to-be from international political intrigue at the brink of war (which allows our central characters to debate pointedly the value of one life versus many -- and whether even doing so is to be too much of a bookkeeper with human life). And the way Holmes extricates himself from a very difficult situation near the end is brilliance.
Watson gets excellent scenes -- confronted with the death of an old colleague turned to crime, and sticking to his principles on the subject of war -- but this is really Holmes' episode. And, distant man that he is, we often learn about his character through refraction. He seems to be indifferent to human or emotional concerns, but it is him who makes sure, perhaps against better judgement, that the sailor does not abandon his fiancée at the altar. And when push comes to shove he takes drastic risks for Irene Adler even though he can't bring himself to have an actual conversation with her. And from the fact that she can't seem to bring herself to discuss this afterwards, we get the sense that maybe they are in fact matched.
While this Holmes has no less of his traditionally miraculous gift, he is also a deeply inexperienced man who can't bring himself to bend to the way humans typically talk to each other, and is prone to getting in over his head -- both with criminal danger, and, evidently, his deeply screwed-up history with Irene Adler. And that's great to see.
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