who the heck knows anything, anyway

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sherlock, Revisited

Disclaimer: I did not watch the second episode of this three-part season. However, I watched the first and even went so far as to take a few notes on the third. Hopefully that makes up for my lack of available time!

Episode 1 - A Study In Scarlet:
Summary: Disappointed
Explication: When we get right down to it, I just don't like this particular modernized version of Sherlock Holmes. It's been done before, and it's been done better (Ex: House and Bones--the latter being my own comparison, whereas the prior is self-admittedly based upon Doyle's work). But, I thought to myself, perhaps it just suffers from Pilot-Episode-itis? Or maybe it's actually a good show on it's own? If I were to imagine I had never read Sherlock Holmes--if Doyle had never invented him to begin with--would this show be intriguing?


Before I dig in too hard, I will repeat that I love Martin Freeman. He's lovely in this show, most definitely my favorite. He's quite Watsony, actually. More so in the third episode, too, which gives me hope (character development/growth/evolution is good!). But, back to it:

The plot was unbelievable and boring. Serial killers are boring. Apparently, they're the only thing that's interesting to modern viewers, though, because every show involving crime has to have serial killers. Aside from that point, which I find frustrating enough, his motivation was dumb. Maybe some people just become killers in their old age because they're angry and on the verge of death, etc, but do you really just kill people willy nilly? I don't know. Seems implausible to me. Also, Stephen Moffat really likes a particular kind of villain. 

But let's get into Holmes' character! The best part of any rendition of Sherlock Holmes is seeing how The World's Greatest Detective is going to be portrayed. I've had a variety of experiences with castings (Sherlocks I Love: Vasiliy Livanov, Rupert Everett; Like Quite a Bit: Jeremy Brett; Super Don't Like: Basil Rathbone*), and I find Benedict Cumberbatch** to be firmly in the category of Angry, With a Side of Matt Smith. Not my favorite approach. I'll leave it at that.

Now that I'm thoroughly bored of Episode 1, let's skip to 3! (which I remember better, having just watched it!)

Episode 3 - The Great Game
Summary: Bored
First, these are the notes I took (transcribed verbatim) while watching, so I wouldn't forget everything the way I did with the first episode:
-how is a smiley face comparable to VR? come on.
-stop with the gay jokes, seriously
-calling it: Moriarty
-set designer has great taste in wallpaper
-cute ode to "Baskervilles" w/ tennis shoes
-crimes aren't actually interesting
-violated one of my rules of TV! - SHOT AN OLD LADY. BOO.
-I love Watson's sweater. 
-I should buy Daniel more Watson sweaters.
-wtf is up with this fight scene? I'm having a seizure 
-called it: Moriarty
-aside: did they want me to think Watson was Moriarty? because that failed really hard.

As you can see, my favorite things had pretty much zero to do with the episode. Oops! And thanks for the bad pacing*** and predictable plot. And the cliffhanger ending. We know he's not going to die here, unless this is randomly an Homage To The Waterfall, Because There Happens to Be a Pool, And Both Are Made of Water. And he doesn't actually die there, anyways, because that made Victoria rather upset to think about (hooray VR!). So there's no suspense happening at all. Maybe unless you've never heard of Sherlock Holmes. Maybe. Maaaaaaybe.

This is the problem here. I think the trick with Sherlock Holmes is to either go canon or go crazy. I mean, Guy Ritchie made the right choice: Keep it old school, make it sexy, and allude to old cases, but give us something new. It wasn't my favorite Holmes ever, and the case was a bit weak, but it was exciting and funny and sexy--i.e. a bit different. Making it present day is risky, because if you don't present the old cases in a new way, you're just using the name recognition as a cheap way to assume you don't have to establish the characters. 

Enter, House MD--brilliant execution of the old characters (under slightly adapted names) solving new cases. Granted, I haven't watched House in a few seasons now, but it was fantastic when it started. It was a stand-alone series that only got better when you caught the allusions--but if you never caught them, it didn't matter, because the show was still great. Plus, Vicodin addiction? So good! Nicotine patches? Really boring. Yes, they alluded to harder drugs when the police showed up in the first episode, but House's Vicodin problem is visible and legit without freaking everyone out over heroin. Skillful storytelling, not PC bologna.

Sherlock is trying to be sort-of canon. Good effort, I suppose, but unimpressive execution. I think Daniel and I won this one when we decided Moffat's best bet would have been to make Watson into the Doctor's companion for a season and basically make Sherlock Holmes In the Future****.

For a much better review (I am not as gifted with the TV vocabulary as I am with the literary variety, but this person essentially says all the things I was trying to) click here

Good grief. I can't wait to start reading books again!

*Maybe he's a good, quintessential Sherlock, but he's a dick to Watson (who, by the way, they scripted to be a total idiot. Please see Kate Beaton's comics for further elaboration on why this makes no sense), and I can't make myself sit through it
**He does get points for having an awesome name. Like, woah.
***This may be because Moffat didn't write this episode. Did they hire the guy who wrote that awful Dalek episode from last season of Doctor Who?? Because that would definitely explain it.
****Liiiiike, with jetpacks