No Shit, Sherlock
When this modern-day retelling of the venerable Sherlock Holmes stories debuted two years ago, I was pleasantly surprised. My powers of deduction had warned me that text messaging, computer hard drives, and Internet blogs would be a poor substitute for Arthur Conan Doyle’s 19th-century cobblestone, London fog, and horse-drawn carriages. And I thought that the young actors cast to play Holmes and Dr. Watson, Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, were too green and baby-faced to convincingly battle the lords of London’s underworld.
OK, so I was wrong. If anything, Sherlock is getting better. The second season’s opening episode, “A Scandal in Belgravia,” is a delight on several levels:
1) The pace is breakneck — almost as fast as Holmes’s crime-detecting intellect and his rapid-fire dialogue. In fact, it’s not a bad idea to watch the first episode twice, because if you blink you might miss important clues.
2) If solving the mystery is too much of a chore for you, you can simply sit back and enjoy the real draw of the series: the amusing interplay amongst what can only be described as the queerest “family” ever to break bread on Baker Street — Holmes, Watson, and the irrepressible Mrs. Hudson. Unlike the 1980s-’90s Jeremy Brett take on Holmes (also superb), humor and warmth permeate Sherlock. Just when the rat-a-tat pace and complex plot begin to make your head spin, some bit of comic business between Watson and Holmes reminds us that it’s their relationship that holds everything together.
3) “Belgravia” is an especially good episode because Holmes is pitted against his greatest challenge: his own human feelings. There is a Christmas scene in which Holmes is compelled to socialize (awkwardly) with his small circle of friends. And then there is a secondary foe, the formidable Irene Adler (Lara Pulver), an upscale dominatrix who handles kingmakers with aplomb but who meets her match in the peculiar Holmes. To Sherlock, Adler is simply “the woman.” To Adler, Holmes is “the virgin.”
All of this is done tongue-in-cheek, and with energy and visual flair. The only downside to the start of a new season of Sherlock is the unfortunate fact that there are just three new episodes. Sunday’s entry promises to provide a showcase for Freeman (The Office) because, if the script adheres to Conan Doyle’s original story, The Hounds of Baskerville will feature more Watson than Holmes. Grade: A-
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Una Stubbs, Rupert Graves, Loo Brealey, Mark Gatiss, Andrew Scott, Lara Pulver Premiere: 2010 Sundays on PBS
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