After sitting forever in my Netflix queue, I finally got around to watching the first two seasons of the always highly recommended by others, Sherlock. That may seem like a lot of TV watching over a couple of days, but as it is a British series, each “season” is only three episodes long (each episode is about an hour and a half, however).
Pouring through the first couple of years, I wondered why I had been so hesitant to begin watching this show.
Like other British crime shows, Sherlock offers more than the North American fare. Shows like CSI, or The Mentalist, have always lacked something, a certain depth that is too rarely explored on American network TV. Here, we all know that the good crime shows with the real depth are on the cable networks, like AMC’s The Killing. But there has been a boon of very strong British crime drama of late, and along with The Fall and Luther, Sherlock deserves its place among the elite.
The premise of the show is easy, and we all know about Sherlock Holmes. Here we are given the introduction between Sherlock and his dear friend Watson at the beginning of the series, and from there we are taken off on their crime-solving adventures. The show is set in modern times, but there are always good nods to the classic tales of Sherlock Holmes, like the occasional incorporation of the famed hat.
Our modern version of Sherlock isn’t a pipe smoking sleuth, he is a “high functioning sociopath” that is trying to quit smoking cigarettes, has no time for social niceties, and is an absolute genius. Our new version of Sherlock is able to process massive amounts of information, making him a formidable opponent for any criminal activity.
As the series progresses, we see Sherlock go from an unknown entity who simply helps out the police now and then, to being known as an incredible crime solver, thanks to the blog of his friend Watson. The blog brings him fame, and unwanted attention, as he must deal with becoming a bit of a celebrity while just trying to find cases that satisfy his massive intellect, and ego, and will keep him entertained.
This fame raises the show to its climactic events at the end of season two, which culminates the battle between Sherlock and his greatest criminal opponent, Moriarty.
With each episode spanning nearly an hour and a half, each one is like a movie. There is an opportunity to develop a complex plot, as well as move the characters, and their lives, forward. This is where we get the depth in the show, as we get to know them all better, and begin to understand them more. Throw that in with some classic British wit, and there is a winning combination.
Something else that is found in a large number of British dramas is the quality of the acting. They always seem to have top-notch people fill out the roles, from the top to the most minor of characters. The same can not often be said about US counterparts.
The lead roles are played by Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman (as Sherlock and Watson, respectively). And they are played especially well. Major credit goes to Cumberbatch, who truly owns the titular role, and makes the show as good as it is. Sherlock is a genius, and an egomaniac, straining all of the relationships he has with people. When he goes on one of his rants used to explain what is happening, it is great acting. Cumberbatch’s rapid fire speeches that remain eloquent in their own way engross the viewer, managing to explain so much, in such a small amount of time. He carries the show, as he should, and everybody else is a spectator in his life. Due to his mastery in the role, Cumberbatch has become a serious celebrity, and a fan girl’s dream. And, justifiably so. He truly is great here.
The mysteries themselves are always very solid in the show, some of them are completely engrossing. Certain episodes are simply great. The events of “The Hounds of Baskerville” are suspenseful and intense, the battles with Moriarty are great, and the inclusion of “The Woman” add a whole new twist to the show. Each episode is well thought out, interesting, and intense. It is a delight for viewers of mystery and suspense.
The show succeeds where I believe both Sherlock Holmes films failed. Despite the genius of Robert Downey Jr., those films were simply not great, in my opinion. There were simply put, dull. Sherlock avoids those trappings, and remains entertaining in each episode.
Everything about Sherlock is strong, from top to bottom. I have nothing to complain about with the series, and would definitely recommend giving it a watch, if you haven’t already.
It is great fun, seeing what will unfold from 221B Baker Street.