Sherlock (2010– )
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And that in essence is why Sherlock is so, so good. Holmes is not about the Victorian costumes and the environment in which the mysteries unfold. It's about the characters and the events that make the stories the defining mystery novels of so many generations. And Steven Moffat & Mark Gatiss' take on Conan Doyle's master detective captures the essence of Sherlock Holmes magnificently. The stories are essentially the same (the first episode-A Study in Pink is a take on A Study in Scarlet-the first Holmes novel) but given a contemporary twist. This contemporary take (which I thought was going to be cheesy initially) is what shows the duo's exemplary creativity. The modern outlook does not take away anything from the essence of Sherlock Holmes- it adds to it. The three 90 minute episodes breeze past you at a breath taking speed- challenging your intelligence and making you yearn for more. The episodes have distinctly dark and brutal settings but are also filled with moments of wry humor that make the experience completely satisfying. The concept of using images and visual pointers in the scenes were Holmes makes his superb deductions is excellent and helps the viewer see and think with the ace detective.
As for the cast, Benedict Cumberbatch is not the kind of guy who would strike you as Sherlock Holmes when you meet him in a street, but man, does he own the show! Oozing charisma, Cumberbatch plays the Holmes character to a tee-arrogant, self centered, brilliant genius. There is an air of superiority about Holmes that makes him pity the vacant minds that don't see and understand the things which seem so obvious to him and Cumberbatch brings that out beautifully. Martin Freeman as John Watson on the other hand plays a perfect foil to Cumberbatch's eccentric genius-the everyday man. Looking for meaning and purpose after returning from the War in Iraq, Watson gets swept into Holmes' mad cap world of brilliance and chaos. Freeman's earnest and subtle performance complements Cumberbatch's Holmes beautifully.
Sherlock though, is not about acting performances. It's about bringing the experience of the world of Sherlock Holmes to the world we live in. Moffat and Gattis recreate the world of the Victorian detective in a completely new setting and do it superbly. Nothing about it is elementary-it is pure genius!
The story is rarely adapted for two reasons.
The first is that the murders don't make sense without the dull, rambling back story which no one wants to dramatise. The Valley of Fear has hardly ever been dramatised for the same reason.
The second is that this is Conan Doyle's first attempt and he introduced significant character changes to both Holmes and Watson in the short stories. Holmes, in A Study in Scarlet, is rather more deranged, more like Cumberbatch's Holmes than Brett's, much more an aggressive, painful thorn in the side of the police rather than the unseen assistant of later stories.
So people who haven't read the book or have only seen Holmes on screen need to give this a bit of time. 21C technology aside, it's actually quite a faithful adaptation, even though they ditched the back story and gave the murderer another, more credible motive.
Knowledge of the original isn't at all necessary, but it does change the viewpoint. While some were congratulating themselves on beating Holmes to the punch in spotting the profession of the murderer, readers of the original were being conned into believing that his next victim was going to be the American he was driving (the victims in the original are all American). In the original, the word 'Rache' appears at the crime scene, also in an empty house in Lauriston Gardens, written in blood. The police jump to the conclusion that the victim was trying to write the word 'Rachel'. Holmes knows that 'Rache' is German for revenge. Moffat turns it neatly and humorously around. In the original it's a red herring, in the new version, it's a vital clue. These riffs on the original abound and are almost always imaginative and amusing and often more than that. Mycroft as Sherlock's Big Brother, for example.
Moffat and Gatiss treat the characters with all the loving respect that an author could wish for and serve up an adaptation which re-imagines everything that Conan Doyle put into his plots and yet delivers something very close to to their original purpose and effect. Holmes and Watson are products of their time, as they should be, but they are recognisably the descendants and inheritors of the originals. The baby is still gurgling happily in the bathwater.
There's a lot more here than initially meets the eye and I have a sneaky feeling it'll get better.
If it does, it's going to be very, very good indeed.
I needn't have worried. It was a terrific, fast-paced, edge-of-the-seat adventure. Benedict Cumberbatch (what a name!) brings a dark edginess to Holmes that gives the whole piece a delightful 'gothic' feel, while Martin Freeman - if the first episode is anything to go by - will make a perfect foil as Watson. Casting is so important and this combination feels just right.
I'll always have a soft spot for Basil Rathbone's Holmes, and, on the small screen at least, I can't see anyone displacing Jeremy Brett as the definitive 'Victorian' sleuth. But maybe, just maybe, the writers have created a Sherlock for the modern age who will stand the test of time and join a handful of other portrayals in the Pantheon of the greats.
Moffat's pedigree as a comedy writer has added a new layer to the Holmes' scenario, and though there were several in-jokes in the first episode that only Holmes' aficionados would appreciate, there was enough general humour to lighten what might otherwise have been a dark canvas.
Of course, I shouldn't have had any doubts. Steven Moffat is, after all, the man who rescued Dr Who from the self-indulgent, soap-opera obsessed, poorly scripted, moribund years of Russell T Davies and turned it back into a fun-packed joy to watch. He's done the same with 'Sherlock'.
The man is a genius. I can't wait for the next instalment.
Hope this show will continue for many full seasons.
To my surprise, and delight, this show just so happens to be the bomb-diggity. Let me explain.
Ever notice how lots of Agatha Christie fans complain when screenwriters change Poirot and Marple stories? I'm not one of them. I like new and different interpretations of those stories because otherwise, in the case of literary characters brought on screen, what's the point? What's the point if we film and re-film the same story, the same story which we've already read once, twice, maybe three times? Especially in many cases, what's the point when it's been done so perfectly before? In the case of Sherlock Holmes, The Hound of the Baskervilles has been filmed at least 24 times according to Wikipedia. So another iteration won't thrill me. However, one that takes liberties with the source material, i.e. bringing the characters into the 21st century, I'm all for it. Surprise me. That's what I say.
And there are two things I really love about this series. 1) For longtime fans there are many, many "Easter eggs" to discover in each episode. And, best of all, 2) My boyfriend loves this series. And I can't pay him to watch a Jeremy Brett episode. He did enjoy the Downey Jr. movie (as did I, I just prefer a less swashbuckling Holmes - one reason among many that I didn't love the film), but he's never excited to watch Sherlock anything. This series is different. He loves it. For any Sherlock fan that would like to get their significant others on the band wagon, this is a great gateway. (And my boyfriend's actually a very good barometer for high-quality mainstream television shows. Usually, if something's firing on all cylinders, he knows it. More risky fare - he's off-put.)
And, you may rightly ask, why should I give a crap what my boyfriend likes? Good question. I happen to be of the mind that TV and film can accomplish what my favorite art form - literature - cannot. The TV and film experience can be enjoyed by a group. Sure, book clubs discuss books, but with TV and film you and whomever you want to hang out with, experience story at the exact same time, in real time, and you can easily observe each other's initial, unguarded reactions. Plain and simple, it's fun to enjoy the mediums with others - to laugh together, to be scared, sad, thrilled, etc. It enhances the experience. I think literature's strength is the opposite. For me, the best thing about settling into a good book is that I'm alone. Just me and the test, together making up a story.
Well, if anybody has read this far, I apologize for the rant. But if you're on the fence about buying the DVD or renting it or whatever, take a chance. Take a tip from me. You'll be pleasantly surprised. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Moffat's sharp dialogue and subtle character development sit excellently alongside Gattis natural flair for the uncanny and his talent for mystery stories; so evident in his novels as well as his League of Gentlemen work.
The modernisation works artfully, showing that the challenges Holmes faced were not merely a question of his better scientific method keeping him ahead of the police. Watson benefit even more from the modern setting, the circular nature of history making his recent experiences in Afghanistan even more relevant than they can seem in the novels.
The cinematography and editing was excellent (a feature that was much improved in the recent series of Doctor Who), the display of text messages stylish and deceptively simple.
All in all this was a triumph for the BBC, and showed the benefit of their nurturing of talents such as Moffat and Gattis over the past decade.
Episode 01 – Mary has disturbed past which ultimately causes her death. Episode 02 – Sherlock risks getting himself killed (various styles) in order to fall back into John's good graces. Archvillain is only a plot device. Episode 03 – There is a Holmes sister!! A madwoman in the attic!!! (And an incendiary to boost, Jane Eyre rolls eyeballs)
And granted, tongue-in-cheek is hard to keep up when there's so much personal drama all around you. The game is not on, life's become much too bitter for that. Perhaps that's why Sherlock's stoned most of the time.
The characters are there, the camaraderie is there, but the clever deductions and the suspense are not. No mystery. The greatest enigma about Culverton, for me, was – how come a British billionaire must have these rotten teeth? From the onset, Sherlock knew he was a bad guy (who would not know, I mean, with those TEETH??) No deductive process necessary. Everything is a bit too heavy in self-referencing. To me, Mary's death was completely pointless and needless, even though she did die in Doyle's original material. But there she wasn't really a key character, was she? A mother of a toddler jumps in front of a bullet to save her husband's best friend?? Even if said mother is a highly trained agent whose superpower instincts just kicked in that second, credibility is heavily strained here.
Most of all, Moriarty is video recording telepathically controlled by a prisoner?? (That's the closes I came to understanding it.) After all that cliffhanger stuff at the end of season three, (brilliant footage and after-credits!) - Sherlock was brought back because Moriarty is back but then he isn't? Continuity gods, where are you??
Like most fans, I'd been waiting for a LONG time. I think we deserved more. There must be better sources of inspiration in the Doyle canon. Conclusion: c'mon BBC, you owe us the fifth season to make up for this weak stuff. And take a look at Star Trek, the original series: personal relationships, including Kirk & Spock bromance, was always there, but it was never an excuse for lack of plot. Not in more than one episode per season anyhow.
And please don't tell me that Mary's death was Mycroft-staged. She in hiding while her family and friends suffer relentlessly would make me stop liking her.
Season 1 and 2 were knock outs and deserve high praise. They were overall, superbly written and acted, well paced and suspenseful. Season 3 experimented and was somewhat of a hit and miss as it shifted to a character drama with broader appeal.
The writers really should have stopped at season 3. Moriarty was butchered in season 4 with a huge fall from acting grace. It's left a stain on most of the cast members. If you love the series, please, PLEASE skip season 4. It doesn't even feel like the same show anymore. It reminds me of one of those D grade TV shows that airs during the day when TV ratings are rock bottom.
Season 1: 9/10 Season 2: 9/10 Season 3: 7/10 Season 4: 0/10 Overall: 6/10
Mycroft up until now has always been Sherlock's smarter older tougher brother, last night he turned into a myopic, quivering stupid neutered man and lost all credibility.
Here is a man who could not see that 5 minutes of his crazy sister and Moriarty alone together could not have disastrous consequences. Awful part of the finale, the scriptwriters should have been sacked for this piece of blatant nonsense.
Mycroft was afraid of Euros too, which just does not fit in with the character that Conan Doyle wrote about.
The premise that Euros was locked up since childhood because she was brilliant, had a very high IQ and set their family home alight stretches credibility beyond what is acceptable, I can imagine any family lawyer having a field day with this as evidence that she should be treated as the most vile criminal and have her future taken away from her.
We are left with lot's of questions, how did Euros brainwash all of the guards in the prison so that they all came under her command?
How did 5 minutes alone with Moriarty sniffing each other through glass like dogs turn into recordings of him making inane comments?
How did Euros take over the mind of the Prison Governor, we heard some of what she said 'I can help...'? It sounded like something a teenager would say to someone to gain influence, puerile and infantile and would never work.
Then we have 3 men tied up descending outside the window of the room Sherlock et al were in, apparently the ropes were tied to heaven because we were not shown how they were affixed.
Euros pushes a button and 2 fall. How? The answer given by Sherlock was multiple choice (choice of 1 of the 3 men being the killer), so how could a single red button cut the ropes of the other 2 men?
It was at this point I decided that somehow and unbeknownst to me that some dastardly person had put LSD in my cup of tea and I was now in the middle of an acid trip.
Then Sherlock places the lid on a coffin and proceeds to smash it up, why did he place the lid on the coffin before smashing it up? And could you, the directors and scenemakers not have made the coffin break up so obviously like balsa wood?
How did Euros transport herself, Sherlock, Mycroft and John to the Holmes family home? The prison was on a deserted rock in the middle of the sea, with no transport it appears.
Are we to see Sherlock himself neutered in an upcoming series? whereby he cannot function without the input of his crazed sister?
And finally the ending, I was sure it was a joke, but no, the ending was one of the worst in television history, whereby it turns out Euros was just lonely and just having a hissy fit and that's why she killed so many people.
I cringe for what awaits in the future for Sherlock after watching the nonsense that was last nights finale.
TL;DR: Don't waste your time. There are plenty of better adaptations out there.
However, Seasons 3&4 are a descent into pseudo-intellectual tripe, without a straight story line, or who's done it plot. Somehow the writers have lost the path and continuously made fun of the Holmes character by dropping him into East Enders Hell and see how he handled that bunch of human baggage. I do hope, if there will be a season 5, the writers pull their heads out of their perspective "bottoms" and write something in honor of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, not something in honor of their own pseudo-intellectual prowess...
Very sad that the BBC has allowed it to go this far...
The magnitude of intelligence that made Sherlock so intriguing has now all but disappeared, and the witty repartee between the brothers Holmes has been replaced with these over-the-top statements that the characters seem to utter for shock value alone.
On another note, I really cannot handle the repeated "save John Watson... save him" DVD hogwash that the show's writers/producers seem to think will touch the hearts of its audience somehow. And while we're at it, Amanda Abbington playing the role of a recently- retired assassin-for-hire? That's about as believable as a Nigerian lottery win. Also, I know that British TV tends to be much more forgiving in terms of beauty standards, but I wince every time she appears on the screen.
This used to be my favorite show on television and now I can't even bear to finish the last episode.
There will certainly be a Season 4, and we can easily predict that it will be on a grand scale visually, and utterly impoverished of any good ideas or decent story telling. Moffat is no longer interested in storytelling, he wants to build a post-modern mythology much we are seeing in the Marvel Comics films.
But Conan Doyle didn't write for comic books (or myth), he assumed an audience of literate, reasoning adults; and the best of the films based on his stories have always assumed the same audience, and delivered proper variants of some of the best stories written in the English language. It's too bad Moffat has chosen a different course.
Note: There are currently four series of films attempting to revise the canon of Conan Doyle's brilliant Victorian detective for the 21st Century. One from the UK (Sherlock, for TV), one from the US (Elementary, for TV), one from Russia (Sherlock Homes, for TV), and the internationally produced films of Guy Ritchie, starring Robert Downey. Notably, each involves a radical re-envisioning of the character and his place in the world. We may have reached a point in history when filmmakers simply cannot give us the Great Detective as he was imagined by Doyle and played (with variations) throughout the 20th Century. Rating the 4 series: Sherlock Holmes (Russia): 9 of 10, with strong stories and a believably proletarian nerd Holmes. Sherlock (UK): 6 of 10; excellent first season has been betrayed by Steven Moffat's flashy showmanship until the stories are incoherent now (Season 3), the characters no longer likable, the focus almost completely lost. Elementary (US): 4 of 10; the redefined Holmes, a nervous, unsympathetic recovering drug addict, is not without interest, and any show with Lucy Liu in it gets the benefit of her quiet but charismatic presence and talent. But basically, this is just a routine American police procedural with a gimmick. I doubt that Hollywood can do anything else. Sherlock Holmes (Ritchie/Downey): 1 of 10. This series lacks any coherence in its stories or continuity. It's just a series of set-pieces with running around, fist fights, explosions, and campy jokes.
I honestly don't know what they were going for here, and how they thought it was going to work. God knows how someone's supposed to direct this nonsense. Hats off to Rachel Talalay, Nick Hurran and Benjamin Caron from trying; I know I won't be judging their abilities based on what I've seen here. Thankfully they don't seem to be bearing the blame for this disastrous season, as all the criticism I've seen so far has instead been falling on the heads of Gatiss and Moffat exclusively. And rightfully so, really, because if a film is viewed as a train, then the writing can be viewed as the rails, and the rails in Season 4 were dodgy as anything, and ultimately these episodes were a wreck. As a writer, there must come a time when you stop believing in yourself, and start actually being critical again. You should have a doubt or two; it's good for you; it makes you better. Gatiss and Moffat seem to routinely skip over this step in their journey as writers, though, and continue in blissful misinformed confidence. And it reflects so horribly in their work on this occasion. The characters are so pompously written, primarily communicating in phony wit, which they each appear to enjoy far more than the audience does. Almost every exchange pretty much amounts to a session of smarmy backslapping and meat-beating. And I could probably put up with that (just) if the show was still at its high-points, but it's not. It's the worst it's ever been; it's like listening to someone gloat over an achievement so long past it might as well have belonged to a different person.
A key aspect that may be affecting the show's execution of the basics may be its obvious desire to keep 'going big'. It's becoming clear that it's simply not enough for the show to just have a nice, self- contained episode. Nothing is allowed to just be its own story; it has to be part of a larger arc, and that larger arc has to be tied into another arc, and those arcs have fit into an even larger mother-arc, and it just goes on and on, inexorably, getting bigger and bigger. It's an arc- blob that keeps feeding on promising story threads, killing and absorbing them for sustenance. But one day one day there will be no good ideas left for the blob to devour, and 'Sherlock' the blob will be left with nowhere to go. It will be stranded and unfixable, its biology a convoluted mess. A grotesque testament to a series gone wrong; a far cry from the fine specimen it once was, before its caretakers thought they could play God, and fecked with its genetics so severely that its hunger for the 'epic' could not be satiated, and its digestive systems could not process or filter out the vast intake of stupid ideas.
Episode 2, "The Lying Detective"– in spite of its silliness and melodrama – was an episode that felt a little more like a focused, simplistic, enjoyable isolated tale of problem-solving. But whatever maturity and restraint it had was blasted out its back end with a ridiculous ending that over-involved a deceased character who was never very interesting in the first place, and introduced a new threat – the biggest one of all! – in the lamest way possible.
This season was just messy. I couldn't bring myself to enjoy it without the feeling of undermining my intelligence in some way. My opinion of the show also wasn't improved by the fact that I interspersed my viewing with episodes of Stewart Harcourt's superb detective drama, 'Maigret', starring Rowan Atkinson. I might review it in full one day, but for now, I'll just prescribe it as the perfect remedy for 'Sherlock''s latest batch of nonsense.
It has special qualities – sophistication, maturity, atmosphere, cleverness – that 'Sherlock' once had, but has since lost, causing fans of the show and the genre to all be poorer for it. The show has lost its integrity, and also become unbearably self-congratulatory in the meantime. It needs to come back down to earth, get its act together, return to the basics, and rediscover what made it great in the first place. I fully intend to support it in its recovery, but it needs to first admit that it has a problem.
These camera-clicking simpletons imagine that old Sherlock really did once stalk the foggy streets of the capital, puffing on his over-sized pipe and peering through a giant magnifying glass.
However, Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat have now seen to it that no-one will ever again mistake Holmes and Watson as real people. These writers' portrayal of Sherlock is about as realistic as Dr Who or Inspector Gadget, and the character is now firmly established as a key part of the BBC's light entertainment and comedy offering, rather than the keystone of television drama it once was.
This first in a trio of new Sherlock stories was not one for the Conan Doyle purists. Our hero's terrifying death plunge from the roof of St Bart's hospital was swiftly overshadowed by wisecracks about Dr. Watson's new moustache and a hilarious guest appearance by TV illusionist Derren Brown.
We then saw Sherlock contemplating a lingering kiss on the lips with Moriarty, before witnessing Dr. Watson loudly announcing to his landlady that he "was not Sherlock's boyfriend!" Watson later introduced his new heterosexual love interest Mary (played by Martin Freeman's real-life love interest Amanda Abbington) and Sherlock's parents popped in for a cuppa (played by Benedict Cumberbatch's real-life parents). I assume that the remainder of the cast were also related to one another in some way or other, making the role of casting director on this production a less than challenging one.
There was a plot of sorts, which involved a terrorist plot to blow up parliament. When Sherlock located the bomb he quickly defused it by throwing a big switch marked "Off", and this enabled the cast to quickly get back to more important things like motorbike chases and slapstick comedy.
In the midst of all this hilarity Dr. Watson managed to get himself trapped inside a Guy Fawkes bonfire and set on fire, and Sherlock rescued him simply by plunging into the flames like Superman and dragging his partner out by the feet. The watching crowd didn't lift a finger to help, and I found myself a little surprised when Sherlock didn't soar into the sky with Watson draped in his arms like Louis Lane.
Freeman's dry charm and Cumberbatch's piercing eyes just about hold it all together. Apparently one of the pupils in Benedict's eyes is permanently dilated, resulting in his rather unique and slightly scary stare. Many mistake this for eyes of different colours (like David Bowie), but such trivia probably has no place in a TV review and should be left to Cumberbatch's optician to fathom out.
There's no doubting Gatiss and Moffat's enthusiasm, but I can't help thinking they've now gone a little over the top. There's a rumour that in the second episode Sherlock will have a sonic screwdriver so that he can wrap things up even more quickly and have time for a quick song and dance number at the end.
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I admit, I liked the series up to the end of the third season, but I was incredibly irritated mid fourth. I did not see all the clues the above mentioned Youtuber presented, but into the fourth season, they became somewhat apparent.
Two things to know when deciding to get into this series.
1. It is usually not about solving cases, when it is about cases, it is about anticipating a decent one. The series is an endless teaser, about bigger and bigger cases caused by psychopaths which do things simply because, well... psychopath. There is no motivation for such an individual, but to serve the story as the evil, evil villain. A villain without a cause, be it wealth, power, even pure blood-lust like a Hannibal, anything really, is a villain too abstract to form a link with, to be afraid of, to be surprised by. The only thing the villains seem to have, is an obsession with our detective.
2. It is mostly about Sherlock and how to quantify his genius. At no point will you ever get to see clues sufficient to connect the dots to come to a conclusion on your own. Rather, it will be Sherlock to observe some facts, to then come to a conclusion which could be one amongst hundreds. This way, the writing makes it hard to get involved into the puzzles. Cases are there, but they are there only for Sherlock to be presented as the ultimate genius. Watson doesn't contribute anything either, even at places where he could give an input as a doctor for example, Sherlock shoves him into the shadow with his staggering, unbelievable, unprecedented brilliance *yawn*. Even Watson's wife has a bigger role than to walk by Sherlocks side and to be annoyed by him every once in a while.
Lastly something which won't matter to most, but it may still be irritating: the series makes every so often fun of the original series, as well as the books. The mysteries and riddles by Doyle take a back seat (where you are, since you are not smart enough to figure out the brilliant Sherlock), and in front we see some talkative characters with zero depth. If you read the books, maybe consider giving a pass for this series.
Character in this series and in the Conan Doyle originals was always the keystone. Explosions and special effects are a dilution and a distraction from the heart of the thing.
A disappointing wrap up to an enjoyable concept generally well conceived and effectively realized in the first three series.
Hopefully a fourth series of Sherlock can be more like seasons 1 and 2.