Genius of the evil kind
This show is pure evil. Broken down it’s not much to cheer for. It’s yet another Sherlock Holmes version and most if its tricks have been stolen from other, better shows (take a look at the characters and see if you can spot the Doctor, the Master
). If you ask fans what sets this Sherlock Holmes from all the other ones, they’ll probably point to the writing and stars Steven Moffat
and Mark Gatiss
. However, look closer at their writing and you’ll find clichés, sometimes to the point where it removes originality from the original story, such as reducing Irene Adler to a Femme Fatal
minion of Moriarty’s who does a High Heel Face Turn
. Overall it seems that characters who aren’t white straight middle-or-higher class men are reduced to stereotypes; the fangirl, the maid, the bitch, the flaming gay guy, the lesbian who falls for the hero and Chinese and Arabic characters who look like they’ve just stepped out of a Tintin comic. There is also a cold streak in the show. The eye rolls at people who entertain the idea that two guys acting like a couple could be a couple, Sherlock constantly humiliating people through his scans, and the overall disdain for affection all contribute to a fundamentally unsympathetic core. The writers do try to distract from it with a supposedly warming relationship between John and Sherlock – but ultimately fail because of the constant assurances that they’re not ‘’too’’ close, you know, emotions but controlled manly emotions, vulnerable but not enough to break the façade. And all this is not even mentioning that the episodes are far too long and padded.
Yet still, if you watch the show it will suck you in like a black hole. Remember the part about borrowing tricks? The writers have not only borrowed the tricks, they’ve perfected them too. Sherlock himself is fascinating to watch, and with much of the story being told through his eyes, the nerdy enthusiasm that he has for the case drags you in while the passion that everyone else has for him keeps you in place. This is a series that pushes every button available, whether it’s the humor, the bromance, the Estrogen Brigade Bait
, the mysteries or the over the top scenarios and acting. This isn’t good writing, it’s cold, calculated entertainment that does exactly what it is supposed to do. Pure evil.
17th Mar 12
22nd Jul 12
I tend to agree with most of your points. But the biggest problem I had with Sherlock was how Moriarty was being reduced from a cold, calculating, hands-off villain who wants to control London to a screaming mad dog just this side of a Looney Tunes character whose only motivation is to sow chaos. As soon as he showed up, I couldn't take the show seriously anymore. It's like Lex Luthor getting recast as the Joker, it doesn't work for me.
31st Aug 12
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11th Oct 12
Even then, I'm not convinced the show pretends he's a psychopath at any great level. It's left there as a potential question, but I would say the most frequent times it makes out Sherlock as a psychopath is in the mouth of someone whose got no clue about the matter. Like when the crimescene call Sherlock a psychopath, they're being established as jealous and ignorant which means that the show itself must be favouring the opposite as true, that Sherlock is motivated by nobler causes
11th Oct 12
12th Oct 12
12th Oct 12
The thing is though, it is stated in the original stories (The Speckled Band, I believe) that Sherlock doesn't do it for the money, he solves crimes because he enjoys it there too. The difference is that this Sherlock enjoys it in a different way. Also, while reading about a more altruistic Holmes is good and fun, in a TV show, it doesn't work as well, especially in the modern world. And Moriarty's goals? Really, they're the same as Sherlock: prove to the rest of the world he's a genius. He just does it in a different, more unhinged way. As for messing with Sherlock, that's something he does for kicks. Which, given his portrayal, makes sense. If you think he was to over-the-top, well, that's your opinion and I can't argue with that. But his portrayal does have some sense to it, and really, since we never actually meet Moriarty in the books, we have no idea what he was like, he could've been anything. So yeah, there is foundation for this, it all just depends on personal opinion from that point.
29th Dec 12
I can't help put point out here that Sherlock isn't actually a sociopath or a psychopath, he just wants to think he is. What he really has is Aspergers coupled with a genius intellect, but he can't admit that because that would be admitting that he's the one who's broken. If he's a sociopath, he can convince himself that it's the world that's in the thrall of their petty emotions.
You can see how he has a mild form of Aspergers in the way he is virtually incapable of intuitive nonverbal communication (though, this being Sherlock, he has replaced that intuitive ability with conscious logical analysis; however, he often forgets to pay attention to it when distracted, resulting in delayed reactions), extremely narrowly-focused interests (knows over two hundred classifications of tobacco ash but doesn't care who's Prime Minister), the difficulty he has reading other people's emotional and social cues, and the rigidity of many of his habits (has a sock index, is happy when Lestrade shows up because that means more of the usual faces at a crime are there, always wears the same outfit with no variation unless necessary). Even his speech patterns are classic Aspergers in many cases, with his tendency towards verbosity and somewhat limited range of inflection.
Psychopathy/sociopathy, by comparison, doesn't fit him very well. He shows remorse on many occasions when he has accidentally offended someone (e.g. Molly during Christmas), he reacts to the CIA men roughing up Mrs. Hudson with cold outrage, and he goes to extreme lengths to defend those he regards as his "family" in The Reichenbach Fall. His usual mannerisms are abrasive and brutally truthful, where a real psychopath would affect at least a superficial degree of charm. Not to mention, he is neither irresponsible nor impulsive; Sherlock thinks through everything he does, and he is actually quite reliable once he has said that he will do something. I could go on, but you get the idea. If you really want a side-by-side comparison, Moriarty is textbook psychopath, with his fickleness, childishness, and the way in which he has isolated himself from the rest of humanity.
A note, incidentally, on the distinction between psychopath and sociopath: sociopath can mean psychopath or mean Antisocial Personality Disorder. I am using it synonymously with psychopath because, quite honestly, Sherlock's symptoms hardly match up with APD at all.
In truth, I find this iteration of Sherlock Holmes much more human than many previous iterations. For one thing, he has a recognizable personality disorder, but he is, like his brother, in denial about it. You don't get much more human than that. Second, his morality is extremely interesting. There is a good bit in The Great Game where he asks John, "Would caring about [the victims] help save them?" I find that quote telling, because it says everything you need to know about his view of right and wrong. To Watson, it is immoral and wrong not to care about people, but to Sherlock, caring would do those victims a great disservice, because "sentiment" impedes his ability to rescue them while actually enjoying the puzzles helps him solve them faster and think more effectively. But Sherlock is, at the same time, conflicted about this because he knows that most people judge a man's moral character by how much he cares about people. In light of this, it is easier for him to simply characterize himself as a bad man who helps the good guys than for him to attempt to reconcile these two paradigms. It's a marvelous bit of cognitive dissonance, and one that gives his character a tremendous amount of subtle texture and complexity.
9th Jan 13
Thanks that pretty much improves the show for me =). I particularly like the bit about caring for people not being as important as helping them. I hope this is all exactly whats in the writers minds
10th Jan 13
25th Jan 13
23rd Feb 13
While I can’t actually refute most of what has been said in this review, I do think the reviewer is rather missing the point of the show. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories were obsessively plot-centric, and not at all about the people involved: after all, not even the main characters’ lives outside of their mystery-solving exploits were ever explored! As the show’s creators have stated, they intend to remain as true to the original canon as possible – something that cannot be done if they were to take on a more typical character-centric approach. As for the misogyny and racism/classism – as much as I object to it (and I do, since I’m an Asian woman) - I also understand that in the end, Sherlock
, despite being set in modern times, is a story that showcases Victorian social mores. And it’s common knowledge that misogyny, racism and classism were the essence of Victorian England. Ditto for the homophobia, which is actually still in effect all over the world; and since homosexuality is made a topic of ridicule in more works of fiction than anyone would care to count, I don’t see why this particular show should take more flak about it for its roundabout ribbing than any other.
I do, however, agree that the Irene Adler affair was concluded less-than-satisfactorily. In fact, I give original ACD canon credit for handling her characterisation best of all out of any Sherlock Holmes story ever, Victorian-era male chauvinism and all.
Of course, one could dispose of all the flaws that this review showcases by going the route that Elementary
has decided to tread: portray Holmes as undeniably heterosexual (thus averting any debates about his sexuality, any perceived homophobia, etc.), make Watson a woman (accusations of misogyny permanently averted), make Holmes’ love affair with Irene canon and give it a tragic end (Moriarty becomes more ‘real’ and ‘hateful’ a villain than in the BBC rendition, character development/backstory is taken care of, everyone sympathises with Irene and there's little criticism about the way she’s characterised, etc.), but I honestly feel that in doing so, everything at the root of what makes Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock Holmes
, is lost, and the show becomes just another crime drama like so many hundreds of others.
And another thing: you do realise, don't you, that character dynamics like those in House
from the original Sherlock Holmes stories and the Holmes/Watson bromance as portrayed therein? So that accusation is utterly absurd.
23rd Feb 13
Wow. This is... one of the better reviews I've seen of this show. Well done, Mimimurlough.
28th May 13
Regarding the recasting of Irene Adler as Dominatrix, I think it's a weird case of late-19th century to early-21st century cultural translation. Remember, in the original story, Irene is a divorcee with an active romantic life. By 19th century standards, this is highly scandalous, and marks Irene as a woman outwith the norm in society. This doesn't really work in the 21st century setting of this show, where divorced women with active love lives are completely unremarkable. Making her a dominatrix keeps that element of scandal/being "the other" that makes the character interesting.
29th May 13
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