As I write, the twenty-six second Sherlock season 3 teaser has been viewed over 3 million times; in comparison the full trailer for The World’s Ends (that rather well publicised comedy blockbuster) has only 2.6 million views. So, with that in mind, I thought it was time to dive into the past and review Sherlock’s first two seasons. Beware, spoilers ahead…
Moffat cleverly stays clear of the better known stories during season one, instead giving himself time to introduce the characters, and to get the feel of the show right. If we ignored The Blind Banker, an unfortunate misstep – entertaining, yet lacking the wit and intrigue of the other episodes, season one strikes gold.
Sherlock’s showdown with the cabbie in A Study in Pink demonstrates just how exceptional this show is. A twenty minute showdown over a life and death decision, which pill is deadly? With Sherlock then exclaiming to the dying cabbie: “Was I right? Was I RIGHT?” For that was all that mattered to him. He was having fun. The cabbie tested him, challenged him…and for Sherlock, that’s what he needs to breath.
The Great Game finally introduces the villain behind it all and holds by the scruff of the neck from start to finish. Moriarty leads Sherlock and John on a chase through five different cases, in a game where the prize is saving innocent lives. And then there was that cliffhanger, John strapped to a bomb, Sherlock with the gun, red sights trained on them. How little did I expect the Bee Gees to save them.
Whilst season one strayed from the most famous stories season two took three of them head on. The first feature none other than Irene Adler, aka the Whip Hand. I found her to be the season’s best supporting character. One step ahead of Sherlock as she held the country to ransom, right up until the final moment. She intrigues and horrifies Sherlock and makes fantastic TV. Who’d expect the dominatrix to be the one woman who Sherlock thinks his equal? And let’s not forget the one-liners strewn throughout – “Mrs Hudson, leave Baker Street? England would fall!” or “Mrs. Hudson’s been attacked by an American. I’m restoring balance to the universe.” This is by far my favourite episode.
The Hounds of Baskervilles reinvents Doyle’s most famous story into a tale of drugs, hounds and scientists on the Moors. The episode slows a bit in the middle, the drug angle was a little obvious, and doesn’t live up to the source material but, thankfully, it regains itself for the final showdown in the mist.
The last episode turns the tables on our heroes, making them the ones on the run. Moriarty had laid a trap which involved his own incarceration, just so he could belittle and destroy his nemesis. We, for the first time, doubted Sherlock, did he commit crimes simply because he was bored? Because he wanted something to accommodate his mind? Was I the only one to believe his lie? The episode diverges wildly from Doyle’s original story, going its own way with assassins, kidnapped children and Moriarty’s scheming. But then it returns, in style. Sherlock v Moriarty on the rooftops. A game of life and death. And that one fatal fall.
Moffat still states that we’ve all missed a clue as to how he survives…but I’ve got no idea anyway, I just hope we find out soon.
Both Cumberbatch and Freeman excel and their interplay is fantastic. Benedict creates a Sherlock both intriguing and repulsive, frightening yet likeable and totally, incomparably irresistible and far more nuanced than Jonny Lee-Miller and Robert Downey Jr. combined; it’s no wonder his film career has taken off. Freeman, however, provides the opposite palette. John is kind, he’s loyal (to Sherlock, Mrs. Hudson and Mycroft among others) and is the heart of the show. We may occasionally want him to escape being Sherlock’s mentor but, at the same time, we know he’d miss their adventures unimaginably.
Despite their powerful performances the supporting barely misses a beat. Mark Gatiss’ Mycroft has Sherlock’s coldness imbibed with his own superiority complex. Lara Pulver’s sexy and seductive temptress Irene Adler steals every scene. And Andrew Scott’s Moriarty is a true nemesis for Sherlock, a pantomime villain, deadly yet comical, and both The Great Game and The Reichenbach Fall prove he is a match for Sherlock, purely evil and looking far too sexy in a crown.
The only thing holding Sherlock back is the frankly criminal number of episodes however Moffat has successfully reinvented the detective for the modern era, whilst somehow staying faithful to Conan Doyle, and in doing so gives us the Sherlock we’ve always wanted – gripping, intense and remarkably funny. And if the rumours are true we’ll have him for at least two more seasons.
Sherlock really is television at its finest.