“Ambitious” is the best word to describe Sherlock’s second series. With the writing, acting, and direction all refined in series one, this show could easily have phoned in a B+ each week and called it a day. But the creators clearly weren’t willing to settle for “very good” and aimed for greatness, consistently challenging our understanding of what this show could be. They often fell short of their goals, sometimes due the sheer scope of what they were attempting and sometimes due to their own baffling choices, but they invariably exceeded expectations. “Awesome” is the second best word to describe this series. Continue reading
What delusions of grandeur?
Much like the first one, Sherlock’s second season finale is a fantastic hour of television that delivers excitement and drama while defying expectations. Also like the first season finale, “The Reichenbach Fall” makes a frustrating stumble in its final moments. As usual, I can’t really call this episode a failure, even as it can’t properly execute the most important part of the story; what precedes the climax is just too entertaining. What’s more, this failure is of the best sort, being a results of reaching too high rather than too low. Once again, this series painted Sherlock into a seemingly impossible corner and, once again, it did such a good job that there really wasn’t a satisfying way for him to get out of it. Continue reading
Yes, the show can pull off shots like this
Sherlock continues to impress in its consistent refusal to rest on its laurels. It’s weird to talk about pushing the envelope when that’s what this series seems to do everytime, but “The Hounds of the Baskervilles” is particularly unexpected. Where previous episodes have stretched the limits of what we can expect from a procedural, this one departs from the genre entirely, making a more than successful foray into the realm of sci-fi horror. Fun as the the genre bending is, its more than mere window dressing as the surreal nature of the case is used to test the limits of Holmes’ self confidence and his relationship with Watson. Continue reading
It’s all about the hat
This episode has a lousy beginning. It also has a lousy ending. In fact, these two things are so bad here that they’d make me write off any episode of television. But this wasn’t just any episode of television. For the rest of its running time “A Scandal in Belgravia” is nothing short of astonishing, so much so that that I’ll continue to call it great even as it utterly fails at the two most important most important pieces of any story. This episode really does have everything; humour, tension, twists, and genuine emotion. It’s also the most refreshing use of the procedural formula that I’ve ever seen. Continue reading
It feels a bit odd to be summing things up after only three episodes but that’s how the Brits roll. Like a lot of British television, Sherlock plays more like a series of mini-movies that a serialized drama. That’s not a bad thing, as the show delivered three good to great stories, but it does prevent the series from building on itself in any significant way. The cliffhanger finale seems somewhat out of place in this context, as there’s been no emotional build up to accompany it. Continue reading
Wait, I haven’t finished explaining my master plan
“The Great Game” almost brings Sherlock’s first series to a conclusion as brilliant as it’s beginning. This episode’s pretty much perfect for 95% of its running time. Sadly, the other 5% comes at the climax and while it’s not bad, it’s not great either. We’ve seen plenty of mad men put heroes through the gauntlet but this story still manages to feel fresh, not in the least part due to the continued Holmes/Watson chemistry and the increasingly negative light it sheds on our hero. Moriarty brings out both the best and the worst in Sherlock and it’s unfortunate that their escalating cat and mouse game comes to such a disappointing conclusion. A climax really needs to surpass everything that’s come before it and it seems as though the bar was just set too high for this one. Continue reading
While not as strong as the premiere, “The Blind Banker” is still a very good episode. The journey from some office graffiti to a Chinese crime syndicate is certainly a twisting one, but the strong writing and characterization keeps it from feeling convoluted. Well, not too convoluted. The episode’s brisk pace kept me immersed but, during the rare lull, it occurred to me that things were looking a little trackless. They come together in the end, aided by the syndicate general mis-connecting the dots to conclude that Watson is Holmes. On the one hand, it’s a very deft piece of exposition but, on the other, it’s unfortunate that it was necessary. Continue reading
How many times can we walk towards camera in one episode?
At the risk of gushing, I’ll call Sherlock’s premiere brilliant. The component pieces were all working from almost the outset of “A Study in Pink.” Serial suicides make for an intriguing procedural hook and the writing and characters are more than enough to reel us in. Benedict Cumberbatch brings the necessary measure of realism to Holmes’ brilliance and acerbic wit while Martin Freeman carries the dramatic weight as the damaged Dr. Watson. Very few series work anywhere near this well right out of the gate and so it’s a surprising risk when they choose to make Holmes an actual sociopath instead of simply an entertaining one. Continue reading