(I seriously urge you to read your lease first, though. And lots and lots of thanks to my friend over at Hypomnemata for putting it together for me.)
So now I’ve finished fangirling, what else can be said about the show?
Well, one of the nice things about Moffat’s Sherlock is that it is, at one and the same time, so essentially different from what I think of as the “classic Holmes” while drawing from the original story/character/theme pool, that there’s no clash of inevitable fandom clash. This isn’t Brett’s Holmes — the same stories are there (sometimes), but that’s about it.
|Sherlock and John at their new favorite place.
All hail to Minerva for the picture!
What is the same — or at least much the same — is the relationship between Holmes and Watson which forms the core of the story. Without that and without that done well, a lot of the attraction of the stories is gone. At least, it would be for me. I was willing to go along with the lunacy of the Ritchie Holmes largely because Downey, Jr. and Law seemed to be having so much fun with what they were doing — and there was something about their portrayal of the friendship that worked. Perhaps because it wasn’t so much a “friendship” as an unspoken and obviously unconsummated romance, but that’s a whole different post.
Honestly, I’m not all that interested in the endless debate currently going on about which team Sherlock may — or may not — play for. I know what Benedict Cumberbatch has had to say; I suspect what Moffat would say; I’m pretty sure what Conan Doyle would say; and….well, to be honest, that’s all just fine and dandy but it’s like arguing with an ouroborous. You could be there all day and probably will! Characters — especially popular ones as Sherlock seems to be becoming — are blank slates; fans can and will inscribe anything they damn well please onto them. I’m sure there’s someone out there who is heartbroken that Torchwood will not be moving to Fox because he or she is convinced that inside Captain Jack somewhere is a straight boy yearning to come out.
What I think is interesting in the new Sherlock is how detached Sherlock has become. The Brett Holmes was distanced, uninvolved — but never unemotional. He had a sense of humor (albeit occasionally a peculiar one), a great deal of pride in his skill and accomplishments, a keen sense of class distinction, an ear for music, and rather snobby tastes in food and wine if I remember rightly. My point here in assembling this rather mongrel list is that Holmes never came across in the original Doyle stories as suffering from any kind of psychiatric condition: yeah, he was a bit weird, but it’s mostly the kind of weird you can write off as being genuine Victorian gentleman weirdness. (This is the same kind of weirdness that comes across with the father of the family in Doctor Who‘s “Tooth and Claw” episode, written off by the Doctor with, “I just thought you were happy!”)
This Sherlock is a little bit beyond that — this is sort of like what would happen if you took Conan Doyle’s Sherlock, crossed him with Cracker, and then added some of the late Prime Suspect Jane Tennison. He is not only distant, he is actually removed. We don’t know why — I would imagine speculation runs rife in fandom — but there are, presumably, reasons.
Which then makes it interesting to watch when he is startled into not being removed: e.g., the closing scenes of “The Great Game.” Watson goes out for the evening when everything should have been solved and resolved, leaving Sherlock to shiver quietly in 221b. Sherlock goes out, too, taking the jump drive which contains the solution to the nouveau “Bruce Partington Plans” with him. The two meet up at a deserted swimming pool — and for a startlingly real-feeling minute, it seems like Watson might be the bad guy.
|Watson not being the bad guy. Go and thank
Minerva for the lovely still!
I bow to Moffat and Gatiss and the work they must have done and to Martin Freeman for making the possibility of Watson’s betrayal feel so real. And the look on Sherlock’s face — bow to Cumberbatch, too — shows how much this hurts. And how unexpected the hurt is. Half of his problem seems to be with what to do with the sudden feeling that someone might have hurt him — and how the hell does that work?! (Watch Cumberbatch’s eyes, by the way, if this isn’t working for you — as a friend of mine said on Saturday evening, “It’s all going on there!”)
The bad guy is, of course, Moriarty and he and Watson are not one and the same — not even close really. As someone who was deeply terrified of the Brett series Moriarty as a child — I was traumatized by the Reichenbach Falls episode — I like this Moriarty. He’s unstable on a level that makes quicksand seem dependable. His voice, his attitude, his physicality change as quickly as he speaks and it’s really unsettling to watch.
There’s a great, great moment here when Watson tries to help himself: Sherlock has a gun on Moriarty and we know there’s a sniper with a bead on John, so he grabs Moriarty — not such a great idea as it turns out, since there’s more than one sniper, but the complex of emotions going across Sherlock’s face makes it totally worth it. An equally valid story choice, of course, would have been for Moffat and Gatiss to choose to unbalance their hero — and he is the hero, don’t mistake that, just a very…rough-edged one — bit by bit and allow him to discover slowly how much the new relationship with John has grown to mean to him — but this is a lot more fun. Forcing him out of his adopted stance of emotional detachment — which we’ve even seen in relation to his brother who tries to bribe John to spy on Sherlock for him out of “concern” — and watching him not snap under the strain is fascinating. He doesn’t know what to do with the new information — but it is information and he can cope with it.
I don’t want to absolutely ruin the end of the episode for those of you who have braved spoilers to follow me thus far — suffice it to say, Moffat wanted to be sequel-hunting and classy at the same time and pulled it off moderately well.
And I really really hope that the new series — which I hear will begin filming in the spring? — will show up over here in non-pirate quality soon. I’ve figured out two possible ways for our heroes to survive the end of the Game, but what I’m really eager to see is if Moffat figured out a third.
|Did I mention he’s also Irish? Go forth and give thanks to the
mighty Minerva for making this post much more scenic
than it would otherwise have been!