Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Grumpy Review: Sherlock, Series Two

I liked Sherlock, series One, but it didn't quite overwhelm me, not to the point where I remembered to watch breathlessly for its return. As a result, it took me a while to watch the second season of Sherlock, and even longer to get around to reviewing it. Basically, my review is very simple and can be boiled down to two words: I'm cross.

I still really like the overall idea, and the Watson-Sherlock interaction remains a delight. I also really like the extended cast of supporting characters as they are being developed. Most of the openings were great. I would have loved to see Sherlock solving the geeks' case. It's a pity it wasn't shown because Irene Adler, the Hound, and the Master Moriarty all left me crabby and dissatisfied, which made for an entirely unsatisfactory season, from my perspective.

My brother warned me I wasn't going to like their take on Irene, that they'd really deviated from the source material in ways that would make me grumpy. I figured he was wrong, as I didn't think I was that devoted to the original character who is, after all, only in one story, and it's not a particular favorite of mine for any reason.

Turns out my brother knows me very well. I am grumpy. The Irene of "Scandal in Bohemia" doesn't just almost beat Holmes. She defeats him. He sets out to get a picture from her, and he fails. She wins, hands down, no questions, and no outside help from male consulting geniuses. She also escapes the country on her own terms, with her goals accomplished.

The Irene of Scandal in Belgravia needs Moriarty to help her figure out what to do with her large trove of blackmail material--a trove which puts her in as much danger as it saves her from. With his help, she comes close to beating the Holmes brothers, but only close. Ultimately, she leaves in defeat and has to be rescued (if we're to believe the flashback) by Sherlock. And she's supposed to be the modern, independent, strong version of the two?

I'm also cross about her profession. If the focus of the episode is supposed to be on her mind and her (alleged) brilliance, why is the focus of the camera on her body? Yeah, I know, we're supposed to fall for the "Women can be brilliant and sexy" line, but I don't buy it, particularly not here. If Moffat really wanted to show Sherlock falling in love (or something like it) with a woman because of her mind, he'd have picked someone less conventionally beautiful and likely more conventionally clad.

And what is going on with all the mugging for the camera? Everyone (except Watson), makes dramatic gestures, poses, pouts, and flaunts themselves at an invisible eye they aren't suppose to know is there.


Then there's The Hounds of Baskerville. A great opening montage. Scenery. Some great interplay between Holmes and Watson. Scenery. A meeting with the new client. Lots of gorgeous scenery. Some funny interplay. More scenery. Yes. The scenery is lovely. Sherlock is clueless about people. And finally... hallucinogenic gas? Really? That was the best solution anyone could find?

I'm crabby.

And, last, but not least, is The Reichenbach Fall, which had its moments. There's some real tension there, and a definite threat to Sherlock and those he loves. The work to undermine him is brilliant and relies on knowing Sherlock's character very well (though not, perhaps, on anyone doing any deeper research into kids' shows and actors' backgrounds). There's some really great interplay between Watson and Sherlock. And then Moriarty pops up. Look, I liked that character when he was an insane Time Lord bent on decimating the human race. As the rational, mathematical, "Napoleon of crime," I pretty much hate him. I guess I'm more firmly wedded to the canon than I thought(1). In any case, even shoving that to one side, I don't actually believe in him as the mind behind all of Sherlock's problems. He's too "changeable," too fickle and fey to seem real as someone who spends years concocting elaborate, successful criminal schemes for others. Nor do I buy his motivations at the end there. Oh, the wanting to defeat Sherlock makes sense, but the rest....

And then, I found someone's transcripts of the BBC versions of all these episodes and learned that PBS has been cutting out lots of little character bits, so I got even grumpier. I mean, the character bits wouldn't have made me like Irene, Moriarty, or H.O.U.N.D. any better, but I still want to have seen them! I like this John Watson, enough to have watched the entire season for him(2).

(1) I like the Sherlock Holmes stories, but they've always been a mild liking, more as a sort of background to a lot of other things than a passion. At least, that's what I thought before Sherlock.
(2) Although I'm still amused by the British and their ability to call three episodes a series. Granted, it makes this sort of show possible, but I still find "a series is as long as we feel like" an odd concept.


  1. I'm...I try to give Steven Moffat the benefit of the doubt, because he runs a show that I truly truly love and has come up with characters I also truly love, BUT I think he has issues about women. He has said some things in interviews. So I am not surprised he altered Irene Adler for the worse.

    1. I've been avoiding interviews and commentaries. I want to see them later, after I've enjoyed (or not) the shows.

      It's funny, though, with Irene: I get the distinct impression that being a dominatrix and posing nude for Sherlock is supposed to make seem *stronger.* She just...doesn't..

  2. I love this series uncritically, as I love the stories. I can see that you're right about some of this, but I don't care.

    1. I know a lot of people who completely adore it.

      I wanted to, but I've never quite managed. My favorite episode, so far, has been the very first one. The cab driver was by far the creepiest and most believable character, from my point of view.