Channel: BBC One
Recurring Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman
It seems silly now, but when the idea of a Sherlock series set in the 21st century was first proposed, I had very slim hopes for it. Sherlock Holmes is such a staple of the Classic Detective fiction and Victorian literature, that it didn’t seem plausible to strip away that old England tone and try to make it flashy and cool. Several ideas (the Opium addiction, the corrupt English manors), would not work in the modern day and it seemed like a foolish gimmick to try and spice up our evening viewing. Of course, now we are three seasons in and any doubt we once had for the show seems laughable in comparison.
Sherlock simply works remarkably well. The clever thing about the show is that it actually takes the original stories and reworks them in a way that is admirably clever. It takes the main themes of the books and the foundations of the case, but plays around with every other detail of the story, so even viewers well versed in Holmes’ adventures will find some suspense and surprise in this new show. Sherlock also embraces modern day. It would have been easy to depict the detective as this loner, locked up in Bakers Street, only emerging to solve an interesting case. But no, Sherlock uses the modern day to his advantage. He is constantly using the internet on his phone to make sense of clues. He has basic knowledge of almost everything around him. Steven Moffat and Mark Gattis have gone for the more clever approach to Sherlock’s character. He is more than a Detective; he is a living, breathing embodiment of London itself, as important to the city as the buildings themselves. Despite being a more modern incarnation of the famed hero, Sherlock appears timeless. Exactly how it should be.
The direction is superb. It is fast and tricky to keep up with, but this is symbolic of Sherlock’s keen mind. It uses every trick in the book and while I might be ready to call it a little over-directed, as sometimes you lose track of the actual story, seeing as the directors seem to be having far too much fun showing off, I must admit that it keeps a second and third viewing engaging. There is always something fresh and innovative to look at. When I first saw the use of captions, depicting stray thoughts and texts, I rolled my eyes. I hate this exposition in movies, as it always seems gimmicky and pointless. However, this is the first place I have seen this trick used that actually seems to benefit the series. I will take this style of exposition sharing over Sherlock rattling out his inner monologue any day. This is the closest we have come to figuring out how the great detective’s mind works, yet at the same time, his methods are still shrouded in mystery, so the majestic magician figure is never not unpredictable. He is always fascinating to watch.
Benedict Cumberbatch fills the shoes of Sherlock amazingly well. I had never heard of the actor before and when he first wandered onto the screen, I wasn’t too impressed. It didn’t help that this is Steven Moffat’s brainchild. It seemed like Doctor Who copied and pasted into another show, once again bringing up this idea of the BBC recycling their best ideas. However, Cumberbatch grows on you (made clear by the fact he is one of the most successful British actors in Hollywood right now). He knows exactly the style Moffat is going for and creates this vision of Sherlock Holmes that works in the present day. He is eccentric, impolite and direct. He always seems like he is on the verge of exploding from too much energy. The first episode fantastically introduces Sherlock and one of my favourite moments of all three seasons combined is Sherlock trying to force a dying serial killer to reveal the answer to the riddle. He needs to know. He is addicted to riddles and knowing everything.
But the surprise factor of the season is how terrific Martin Freeman is in the role of Dr. John Watson. I have never thought much of either Freeman or Watson. John Watson, in the books, feels like an expositional trick. He delivers the case in his diaries, recording the adventures of Holmes, almost like a Doctor Who companion. I have nothing against the character, but when Sherlock Holmes is so fascinating to watch, who cares about the sidekick? Martin Freeman is an actor I have always associated with comedy. He is the only hero in a movie to ever feature in nothing but his pyjamas (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), and for that I shall always respect him, but I would never dream of seeing him in something as dramatic or fast-paced as Sherlock. However, this season could be the first time an actor playing Dr. Watson has ever come dangerously close to stealing the spotlight from Sherlock himself. Martin Freeman performs with everything he has got and Dr. Watson is him at his very best (Bilbo Baggins would later become a close second). He has this refined English aura about him, but we can see the inner struggle behind his tired eyes all the time. He is an interesting character and we can see why Sherlock finds himself drawn to the character. Both performances only improve as the seasons grow.
Final Verdict: I started the show doubtful, but three episodes… no, one episode later, I was hooked. Sherlock is TV at its very best.