Sherlock

My husband likes watching TV dramas where people investigate crimes.  I don’t. I find them overly violent and more or less all the same.

But I make a big exception for one series: the BBC Sherlock.

Have you seen this show?  If so, then you know that it’s faaaaaabulous.  I waxed poetic about Series One a while back, and now that the second series has just aired, I’m back singing its praises to anyone who will listen.  For the uninitiated, it’s a modern-day retelling of the famous Arthur Conan Doyle stories.  If you’re a purist who just can’t imagine Sherlock without gaslights and carriages, take it from me that a Sherlock with cellphones and subways works, and works brilliantly.   Sherlock is now a consulting detective who helps the police when they are out of their depth (in other words, “always,” as he puts it), Watson is a war doctor who served in Afghanistan, and the two become roommates, professional partners, and unlikely friends.

It’s the Holmes/Watson relationship that really makes this series.  Both actors (Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes, Martin Freeman as Watson) are brilliant, and the chemistry between the two is a thing of beauty.  In a lot of the earlier adaptations I’ve seen, Watson seems to exist mostly as a foil to show what a genius Holmes is. In this series, he has more depth, and he serves as Holmes’ social conscience, if you will.  The “Sherlock” writers do a fabulous job of showing how Holmes has a frighteningly well-developed brain but a rather stunted ability to empathize.  (“Sherlock Holmes is a great man,” Inspector Lestrade says in Series One, “and maybe someday he’ll be a good one.”)  Watson calls Holmes out for his insensitivity throughout the episodes, and it’s fascinating that in Series Two, there are a few moments that suggest that Holmes is, perhaps, growing in this area.  He still worships reason above all, but there are hints that he’s becoming a little more able to recognize others’ emotions (and his own).  And  yet in spite of his arrogance and hubris, Holmes is a fascinating and even likable character, which is due both to the brilliant dialogue and to Cumberbatch’s superb acting.   (The wit of the series is another huge plus; I love a dramatic series that also makes me laugh out loud.)

The bad news: there are only three episodes per season, which is not nearly enough to satisfy.  On the plus side, though, the producers and writers are clearly more interested in quality than quantity, and hey, I respect that.   And shows just don’t get more quality than this one, in every area,  from the set design to the editing to the soundtrack.

And the final episode of Season Two (where Sherlock faces off against his nemesis Moriarty) was absolutely riveting.  The last twenty minutes had me on the edge of my seat, quite literally; a tree could have fallen into the living room and I wouldn’t have noticed (and if I had noticed, I wouldn’t have cared).   Scott and I talked about the episode for about a half-hour after it ended (when is the last time a TV drama made us do that?).   And there is a Season Three coming up, but we’ll have to wait a whole year to see it  because they haven’t filmed it yet, and it is almost physically painful to write that because I am dying to see how Sherlock did what he did (I will not write more for fear of spoilers).  If you’ve seen the series, you know exactly what I’m talking about, and if you haven’t, try making up for lost time tonight.  Seriously.

It’s TV drama at its best, and I can’t help but think that Conan Doyle himself would be pleased.

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