Monday, October 3, 2011

Sherlock (Season 1)


An outstanding and creative update of the classic detective stories.  Unlike every other version of Sherlock Holmes ever, this iteration features a Watson who is every bit as interesting as Holmes--if not more so.  Martin Freeman is an inspired choice, and plays Watson's incredulous everyman with humor and wit.  Benedict Cumberbatch (!) is no slouch, either--his Holmes is rude, oblivious, arrogant, and clever.  Moriarity, introduced in the final installment, is unnervingly psychotic, and much more menacing--and interesting--than the supervillain of the books.

The writers, too, deserve praise for their masterful update of the original material.  Holmes no longer relies on hats and canes and ashes to tell him stories; now he relies on smartphones and jewelry and credit card receipts.  Watson, who was injured in Afghanistan (plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose, indeed), has been promoted to official blogger, and Holmes himself maintains a website on the art of deduction.  Indeed, Holmes seems to have embraced technological advances with enthusiasm, as he is prone to communicating via abrupt or cryptic texts (an extremely believable habit) and relies on the internet as a valuable source of information.  The allusions to the source material are clever, tasteful, and frequent--it would appear that this series was created by someone with a genuine love and respect for Doyle's work.  Two of the more notable references:
  • Upon discovering the word "Rache" clawed into the floor by a poisoned woman, a forensic investigator suggests that it is the German word for "revenge"--as suggestion that Holmes immediately derides, as the victim was clearly trying to write "Rachel". (The reverse conversation--with the police suggesting the name "Rachel" and Holmes cleverly deducing the German meaning--took place in A Study in Scarlet).
  • Moriarity's big "game"--requiring Holmes to solve 5 different cases in a matter of days--was heralded by five Greenwich "pips", an allusion to The Five Orange Pips
All in all, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised.  As much as I love Robert Downey, Jr. (and Guy Ritchie) I think this latest adaption is loads better than the 2009 movie, and a vast improvement over Rupert Everett's overly sexualized 2004 television movie.  I don't know that Cumberbatch is quite up to the standard set by Jeremy Brett's Holmes in the 1980s, and a modernized take is unlikely to live up to the original, but Freeman's Watson is enough to push this into a close second.  Too bad I have to wait until 2012 for the next series of episodes.

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