Reviews: Sherlock

Season 4: Pointless Dithering

[This review was originally of the first episode of season 4, but since seeing the rest of the episodes, this review can be expanded to the entire season.]

Sherlock has always been a frustrating thing to watch. Sherlock is brilliantly well made and tremendously polished but, like a misaligned NASA telescope, it is stuck focusing on entirely the wrong thing.

I enjoy Sherlock Holmes stories because it is about an eccentric detective who is solves mysteries, but the BBC television series would have you believe it is all about an interpersonal drama with the world's biggest asshole. That Holmes has a people problem is hardly a new thing; the books always took some time taken to show Holmes' lack of decorum, warmth, sexuality, and basic general knowledge. But those were just little details used to flesh out a functional murder mystery. Sherlock as a series is so besotted with those little fleshy bits that it often disregards the mystery aspect altogether.

Season 4 is even worse for this than before. In the first episode, the mysteries are now just montages, which Holmes solves without us even getting to see. What’s presented as the episode's big mystery is resolved in a matter of minutes, swapped out for an ongoing personal drama surrounding John Watson's mysterious wife. It isn't satisfying to watch, because Holmes is no longer doing any onscreen detective work, he is playing the overbearing comic relief in an unrelated, secret-agent thriller. It’s boring, it’s outlandish, and it feels its length.

One other thing that has consistently been a problem in this series is how lazy it is in resolving plots. The very first episode of the first season (which annoyingly remains the best episode in the entire series) has Holmes playing a deadly game of “guess the suicide pill”. It is a tense moment, because we don’t know how he is going to win it. We don't know if there even is a way to win it. And then, sadly, the episode surprises you when Watson comes along and shoots Holmes' opponent dead. Since then at least half a dozen other villains have met the same end. Holmes is only as smart a detective as his writers, and It's like they keep running out of smart things for him to do. Rather than show us a problem with a smart solution, it shoots them in their stupid face instead.

Season 4 ends with one character passionately describing Holmes as an detective, but having spent that episode trapped in a Saw like dungeon (and most of the previous episode having psychedelic, film-wanky drug trips) this feels like an informed attribute rather than a description of what he does. The least you can expect in a mystery story is for there to be a mystery and that someone attempts to resolve it. Sherlock does its best to impress, but these days it can't show you either.

Don't knock it until you try it

Having quite recently binged on the entirety of the Holmes canon and been quickly directed towards this series, I have to admit that I was skeptical enough not to touch it for the better part of a year. From everything that I had heard about it, it sounded like a terrible idea. A modern-day Holmes is... basically House. And from the fandom, all I could get was that the characters are snarky and bromance is funny. However, I am going to have to admit that I was quickly brought around when I finally watched the first one. Holmes' (or, sorry, Sherlock's) character, as well as Watson's, is spot-on. The additions made to the cast compliment them. The writing is fairly tight (though, admittedly does falter somewhat when the writers are playing the "I'm not gay" gag. I know that a lot of people like it, and Holmes/Watson is one of literature's biggest and brightest bromances, but the way it was written seemed a little shoe-horned, thrown in there for the fangirls.) I was a little afraid that they'd build the substance off of nothing but snide quips and snarking, but there's actually more to (some) conversations. And, like in that recent movie with Law and Downey Jr, I always feel happy when the writers show their research with canon shout-outs or quotes. (The level to which they payed attention shows in the end of "A Study in Pink" where John reveals that he had actually been shot in the shoulder, while leading the audience to believe it was the leg. Conan Doyle never really could decide in the canon where he had been shot, could he?) As to the downsides, most are rather superficial. For instance, I don't agree with a lot of the camera shots, but that's just nit-picking. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised at the result— a genuinely fresh version of the Holmes stories without completely ignoring canon or derailing the characters. Actually, I think that this caught the essence of Holmes' and Watson's characters incredibly well.

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 or Wilson ). 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.

My intro to the world of T.V tropes and internet. a rare 5 out of 5

When this first came out I was all over it like the Doctor to some daleks. In fact I remember paying only $15 for the first and second season on DVD. My family and I used to joke that one day we would end up paying over $100 dollars for the DV Ds one day. When we waited for the 3rd season I went online and found the second season selling for $50!!! I can truly say that for once my family and I were ahead of the cuvre. This series was the reason I got into T.V Tropes in the first place and werw I found the evil overlord list. That being said, it should go without saying that this is a biased review. I love the series and the wait for season 3 was almost unbearable. This is me we're talking about, for all intents and purposes I was living with only Mythbusters and then ocasional youtube broadcast(or is it update?). That is how griping the series is. I can only name 3 tv big actors Morgan Freeman, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Martin Freeman. The last two stared off on sherlock, and their acting is phenomenal. The plots are interesting and you can never tell how it ends, the humor is funy and relatable and you get to watch as Both characters grow. It porovides good action but the focus is on smart almost genius level writing, and they took me by suprise by giving Waston as big a role as Sherlock himself. It all depends on whether you see stuff for action or smart writing that is, and, I mean extremely faithful to the original.One more thing this series, while suspensful, and dramatic, doesn't find itself in action packed scenes, much resembling the actual Conan Doyle Books. It doesn't need it though and that is perfect enough for me. Final count a rare 5 out of 5

Bitter medicine

This is less a Sherlock review than a Moffat review. I say this because he is the most 'visible' writer/producer I've ever seen. He pulls the rug out from expectations, he trolls the audience, he uses transparent self-inserts, constantly pointing out and giggling at narrative logic we take for granted. Consequently, he can be confrontational with the bovine temperament of the average viewer. (I include myself in that category.) Plainly, he identifies with the cleverer characters in the room, even Mycroft. ("I live in a world of goldfish" anyone?)

Anyway. Being as Sherlock is as much about television as it is about a done-to-death character like Holmes, there's a good deal of audience surrogate characters, like the sad fan haters of The Empty Hearse, or Mrs. "I Ship Swatson" Hudson. Phil Sandifer also pointed out that Sherlock/John/Mary are a kind of poly couple, this being one of the last barriers TV has left to cross. Finally, the mysteries themselves are an afterthought to Moffat's trademark flirty banter. Most everyone is brilliant and witty and wants to fuck.

I'd love to live in Sherlock's world but watching it isn't always the most interesting thing. I think Moffat has a real impatience with pretending that his Triple-A, billion dollar commercial superheroes could possibly lose. He'll have none of it. Consequently, watching Doctor Who and (particularly) Sherlock is more like attending a seminar on fiction writing. The thought-provoking twists come from the reversals in writing, not some criminal plot.

One of the Most Surprising Shows I've Ever Seen.

Before watching this show, I was merely a casual fan of Sherlock Holmes, although my favorite mystery novel was The Hound of The Baskervilles. But other than that, I hadn't read much from Doyle's original works. So when I heard about this I naturally thought "Ah, it can't be as good as the original stuff." Not even the knowledge that Steven Moffat wrote it could persuade me. And then a friend finally insisted we put it on, and I've been hooked ever since. Right from the start it distinguishes itself by showing Watson as a shell-shocked veteran, depressed and alone. I knew from that moment that this show would be different from any Holmes adaptation I had seen before. And the detective himself? I've rarely seen such a dynamic and interesting character. True, he may not be that likeable, but he was so different I had to keep watching. And the mystery? I was hooked from beginning to end, even if I did guess the culprit. But everything about this show was so different and exciting, I had to keep watching. So far I've enjoyed every episode, even if 'The Blind Banker' was sub-par. But every minute I was hooked. One of the greatest things about this show is that while the mysteries are incredibly well-plotted (most of the time), they're not the main attraction. Moffat, Gattis, and Thompson know that what we really love is the characters, and that's really where the show shines. Lestrade is a very understandable person, who you couldn't help expecting to meet on an actual police force, and Mycroft is always a good presence (props to Gattis for proving he can act as well as write). While some might find their choice for Moriarty off-putting, I was genuinely frightened by just how off his rocker he was, and was glad to see them try something new. Before, Moriarty was always a mustache-twirling mastermind, and it just got bland and uninteresting. But those words can never be used to describe this show. Another great thing about is how faithful it is to Doyle's works. References, plot elements, and jokes about the stories show up all the time. It's a true sign that what Moffat and Gattis wanted was not Sherlock Holmes in a modern crime drama, but Sherlock Holmes in the modern day. It works brilliantly, and is a must-see for any fan of the books.

The Best Adaptation....So Far

The great Steven Moffat is involved with this project, and I'm a fan of his, so this only meant increased expectations, and boy were they met. It is a well written, well acted, stylishly edited and directed modern day adaptation of the Conan Doyle classic.

This series is just what it says on the tin, a modern day Sherlock Holmes adaptation, complete with Google Search and text messages (the writers brilliantly incorporate these to keep the episode flowing seamlessly) and a nicotine patch addicted Sherlock Holmes. The show has some witty one liners and call backs to the original ("Its a three patch problem") or ("I feel lost without my blogger") and in its own stylish way stays truthful to the original stories whilst being stylish. Benedict Cumberbatch is brilliant as the high functioning sociopath Sherlock, while Martin Freeman is absolutely brilliant as the adorable yet snarky Dr.Watson, and the show also has an array of supporting characters which lend it color.

The second series premier was also dead on target, being funny, stylish and thrilling, all at the same time. It also was one of the best depictions of the relationship between Irene Adler and Sherlock Holmes, which thankfully the writers keep mental and not physical. However it was really funny to see Martin Freeman butt in everytime the two stare at each other, passionately. The only flaw in this particular dynamic was the apparently sexist treatment of Adler, in the books she was a woman who outsmarted Holmes, but in this adaptation she comes across as a woman who is dependent on other people for her survival. The increased screen time for Mycroft and Mrs. Hudson also helped character development, and also made it believable.

But what makes this series so great however is the ever present chemistry between Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch, their on screen relationship is probably one of the best depictions of Bromance anyone has ever seen. The writers are successful in exploiting this dynamic with tons of witty references to said relationship.Add Mark Gatiss (brilliant as Mycroft, especially with an increased role in the second series premiere) and Andrew Scott (the ever so change-able James Moriarty) and we have a winner.

This is the Sherlock You've Been Looking For

As much as I love the other current reinterpretation of Sherlock Holmes, without a doubt this is the real one (and * definitely the one you should watch out of all of the film/tv adaptations). Along with Doctor Who and QI it's another reminder why British TV and the BBC rock so much. We may have left the imperialistic superiority complex behind with the Empire but we're still commissioning programs to try and make people think 'well if they're pushing out such innovative and intelligent TV, what must the people be like?'*

It's Sherlock adapted to modern times. He's a young man blessed with the fastest thinking processes known to man and hyper-attentiveness to the point where he is unable to function properly in the world but can break it into pieces and examine every part of it at will. Despite the modern reboot (and the one criticism of this show is that they shove it down your throat about how this is modern. Smart phones, googling and texting are dropped into every other line. 'Send me the information' NO! You can't say that it doesn't imply that you're using your _mobile phone_!!) this is very much Sherlock straight from the books. Watson, Lestrade, Mycroft are all their in their correct roles and being used as intended. Watson is a smart caring individual but comply amazed and out of his depth in the presence of Sherlock, who whilst outwardly cold delights in taking every opportunity to bewilder his dear companion.

And he cold reads again! From one glance he can tell everything about a person and insists in telling them exactly so at high speeds. The plot are clever and there are genuine mysteries to be solved. Every episode is a standalone short story, often reflecting a lot from the stories they were inspired by and it can't be stressed enough that this is an intelligent show, designed to supply the exact same need Doyle filled. Despite it all, this is not a reinterpretation or a reflection of pop culture but a mystery with an exciting superhuman investigator and a clever twist at the end.

The style is sometimes a little plain and some of the word-play makes it obviously that the excellent Steven Moffat is writing this stuff, but if Holmes every attracted you, Sherlock certainly will.