Television Review: BBC’s Sherlock

Photo from Sherlockology and Hartswood Films.

With last night marking the conclusion of the second series of BBC’s Sherlock last night on PBS, I thought it only appropriate to post my review of the second series. Originally posted here in March for Sutradhar’s Market, you can now read it on my own site. Enjoy! My opinions still haven’t really changed upon more viewing.

Also, if you missed them when the aired, you can catch them online for free from the PBS website here!

PS- This post contains spoilers!

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The first of January marked an exciting day for those who follow the BBC’s Sherlock and who live in the U.K. The first episode aired at 8 p.m. GMT that night after nearly 18 months of waiting. The next two episodes in the three-episode series followed within the following weeks. However, for those of us in the States, such as myself, we have to wait until May 6 to see the show air on PBS. That is unless you have a little time (7-10 business days), money (£14.99) and creativity (a region free DVD player).

I fortunately found myself with all three in the last few weeks and managed to get a hold of a copy of Series 2 of Sherlock on DVD (as it was released on DVD in the U.K. a week after it finished airing). The series was, in a word, fantastic.

The first episode of the second series is titled, “A Scandal in Belgravia,” based on the canon story “A Scandal in Bohemia” and it introduces Sherlock Holmes to “The Woman” aka Irene Adler. Steven Moffat wrote this episode and he takes some very creative liberties in updating the woman for a modern audience. The first of which is transforming her from an American opera singer to a British dominatrix.

The story overall is an interesting power play on two levels between Sherlock and Irene as well as between Jim Moriarty and Sherlock’s older brother Mycroft. I quite loved how intricate the plot was and how if you weren’t quite paying full attention you could have missed something.

The second episode take on one of the most well known and adapted Sherlock Holmes stories, “The Hound of the Baskervilles” here known as “The Hound of Baskerville.” Written by Mark Gatiss, this episode takes the classic with its supernatural elements and combines it with a bit of modern conspiracy theory to create a story that is very much like a horror movie.

My absolute favorite part of this episode had to be the cinematography throughout this episode, particularly those shots on the moor as Sherlock, John and Henry Knight (Sherlock and John’s client in the case) attempt to look for the hound. The fog creates this wonderful effect with the lights and gives off an eerie feeling that left me both slightly unsettled and in love with the director of photography.

This brings us to the last episode, which is “The Reichenbach Fall.” Told in a frame, the audience is first engaged by a shot of John Watson meeting with his therapist on a rainy day and the words, “My best friend, Sherlock Holmes is dead.” The story then flashes back to the three months before to show the lead up.

This episode has to be my favorite of all of the episodes, but not for reasons of cinematography or editing or any of the other production aspects that I usually fall in love with. No, this time I fell in love with the acting. The true and honest emotions that Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock Holmes) and Martin Freeman (John Watson) portray in their characters is magnificent and enough to make me tear up (which doesn’t happen often). The emotional rollercoaster in the writing and acting of this episode is just spectacular.

While all of the episodes have their own individual arc, they are tied together through a number of different threads. One: Jim Moriarty who in some way, shape or form shows up in the episode to taunt Sherlock Holmes and lead him to the big conclusion at the end of episode three. Two: The camera work and attention to detail that is put into the production of the series. I have never seen a mini-series that is so beautifully shot, edited and thought out as this show. There are many sweeping camera movements as well as close-ups on Sherlock during deductions that make both images important to the story. And three: The ever-evolving relationship between John and Sherlock that truly connects the audience to the characters and the cases they are solving.

After waiting for Series 2 of Sherlock and worrying about how the production team would handle the stories that they chose to adapt, I must say that I was not at all disappointed. These stories are witty, intelligent, beautifully shot and edited and passionately acted, all qualities that a good series should have. There are a few minor problems that I have with the episodes, but they are so minor that I can’t bother to mention them. The one big problem, however, is that there are only three episodes. I wish there were more.

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2 Replies to “Television Review: BBC’s Sherlock”

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