Jan 26, 2012

[TV] Sherlock: Series 2 (BBC)

I've always wondered by a lot of British television shows run such short seasons versus their US counterparts. This could probably be best illustrated by how the UK version of Being Human only lasted about 6 episodes (depending on how you count the pilot) while the US adaptation of the show lasted for a full 13.

That oddly gets me thinking about the differences between writing poetry, short stories and novels. Each are beautiful in their own right although each requires different skills and techniques to achieve the "maximum effect" in terms of each version of prose or what have you. With the shorter poems, brevity and word use become key to being able to express the message or meaning that you want to without losing too much due to lack of details or more deliberate description.

And maybe that's part of the appeal for a lot of these British shows. Their writers tend to work with seasons (series) between 3-8 episodes long, thus requiring more concise writing and somewhat better action.

And this show remains to be one of the more brilliant ones that I've encountered in a while and I can't think of a US counterpart that has achieved so much with such limited airtime.

Sherlock is a British drama television series based on the popular detective of the same name created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The show was created by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss and this second series, like the first, only lasted 3 90-minute broadcast episodes, which I admit is rather lengthy for a TV show.

This second series seemed to put a lot more focus on telling stories that felt somewhat closer to the original detective stories written so many years ago. We already saw them moving in that direction with the series 1 cliffhanger involving one Jim Moriarty (Andrew Scott). But this next series really took the cake by adapting some of his most famous cases into full episodes.

And yes, Watson's blog is still alive and kicking, too.

A Scandal in Belgravia was clearly inspired by A Scandal in Bohemia given the introduction of the most infamous Irene Adler (Lara Pulver).  "The Woman", as many Holmes fans should know her, has always been one of the more fascinating characters created for the series given how she proves herself to be a mental match for Sherlock in certain ways. In the show, Irene Adler is a dominatrix who uses her skills to squirrel out information and blackmail clients accordingly. And now our Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch) has to figure out how to get past her and discover the truth.

The Hounds of Baskerville was a clever tale based around The Hound of the Baskervilles. Here Sherlock and Dr. John Watson (Martin Freeman) are approached by Henry Knight (Russell Tovey, ironically the werewolf from Being Human) who is plagued by traumatic memories of a giant hound killing his father. The location happens to be near a Ministry of Defense testing site and thus the obvious point of investigation is to see if the facility has something to do with the reports of strange animals. But of course Sherlock won't buy into some superstitious nonsense about a beast roaming the moors.

And lastly there's The Reichenbach Fall, as based on The Final Problem. This brilliant episode truly positions Sherlock at the height of his prowess and fame only to have Jim Moriarity find a way to bring him down. Those familiar with the original Holmes mystery story may think that they already know how this episode is going to end, but they're sadly mistaken in that regard. Then way this complex narrative was woven and finally executed was absolutely brilliant and really helped capped the whole series with a bang.

Chinatown, London. Benedict Cumberbatch during...
Image via Wikipedia
I can't quite get over how brilliantly  Benedict Cumberbatch so perfectly captures the character of Sherlock Holmes. He is clearly able to convey that sense of keen intellect and razor sharp intelligence balanced with that social awkwardness that comes with seeing the world in such a different way. Plus he really has a vocal quality that just registers as "scary smart" or something that really drives things along.

But really, I felt this season did an interesting job of stressing just how dysfunctional Sherlock can be at times. It goes beyond just being rude but it borders on the sort of stuff that makes you question how this guy still roams the streets. And while at first it may just seem like a potential source of humor, but in the long run it still connects to the overall plot and how the series ultimately resolves.

Freeman's performance as Watson remains as endearing as ever, although it seems the writers decided to bring the gay innuendo down a few notches in favor of more story. Still, he does manage a fairly stellar job, especially given the challenge it must be to keep up with someone as crazy as Sherlock's character seems to be. And I definitely enjoyed Pulver as Irene Adler. She brought an interesting mix of feral wit balanced with rather sly humor. And the whole text message bit? Perfect right there.

And we need to dedicate another paragraph to Andrew Scott as Moriarty. Sure, you have to give a lot of credit to the writers for creating such a brilliant translation of his original character into this seemingly larger-than-life villain. But it boils down to the actor to find a way to truly bring him to life, and Scott did this remarkably well. Immediate comparisons to how Heath Ledger gave the Joker a new edge may come up, and I would be inclined to think along those lines as well. The range demanded of him in fulfilling this role is highly impressive and Scott just nailed it from start to finish.

Over all, I loved how the classic tales were brought to life in such a fascinating matter. This was a wonderful blending of both the classic tales with a more contemporary setting including creative uses of technology. It's a shame that the question of whether or not a third series is going to happen seems up in the air. Moffat is saying that it was agreed upon as soon as series 2 was commissioned however other reports indicate nothing has been finalized at this time.

I'm definitely hoping that Sherlock gets extended - it's definitely one of the most creative and intelligent TV shows I've seen in a while. And thus I still have to rate this a full 5 interesting message alert cues from Irene Adler out of a possible 5.

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  1. May ganyang TV series pala? Kaso di ko bet yung bida :)

  2. It's not just about the looks - you'll have to watch it to understand why.