BBC Sherlock is back but not forgiven – well, not by me anyway.

p01nw99fPlease don’t read any of this review if you don’t want to see spoilers. Or if you only want to read reviews gushing with praise. There’s both praise and damnation in this one I’m afraid.

Sherlock’s back. We get false leads into how he faked his death, there’s lots of poking fun at the fandom, things all get confusing and then everything turns a bit V for Vendetta. I know there are only so many ways terrorists can blow up London but couldn’t they have been a bit more imaginative than just lifting the plot straight out of a film? Especially a film that even starred one of the main actors (Rupert Graves) – playing a policeman no less. Someone loads an underground train with explosives and plans to blow up Westminster on the 5th of November – ring any bells?

Am I the only one feeling disappointed here? I really wanted to love the episode and fully expected to but I’ve been left feeling let down. I’ve waited two years for this, two years to find out how he faked his death and it was all so confusing that I’m none the wiser.

We were presented with several theories that turned out to be fantasy cooked up by Anderson and a bunch of strange people in a group he calls The Empty Hearse. Am I the only Sherlock Holmes fan who felt a bit insulted by this? We’re not all weirdoes in strange hats meeting furtively in dark rooms! And yes, some of the theories which have been floating around on the internet over the past two years have been a bit far-fetched but the people who bothered to come up with them, bothered to share them with others, have kept the show alive. Moffat and Gatiss owe so much to the fandom and yet all they have done here is take the mess, resort to stereotypes and leave them without the answers they craved – in my opinion.

If the final explanation of the fake suicide is to be taken as the real one (though this wasn’t clear at all) then it was hugely disappointing. Within days of The Reichenbach Fall airing, many people including myself and those who commented on my blog put out the theory that Sherlock used a squash-ball to stop his pulse and that Molly and Mycroft were in on things. Ideas about airbags, dressing the scene with blood, Moriarty using someone who looked like Sherlock to kidnap the girl in Reichenbach Fall etc have been around since day one. And yet Moffit and Gatiss said that no-one had solved it, that there was something we had all missed. So either they hadn’t bothered to properly check all the online theories or what they showed us last night wasn’t the real answer. And if it wasn’t, don’t you think two years was long enough to make us wait without giving us another 90mins?

And what about all those essential elements which made the original Conan Doyle story, The Empty House, so enjoyable? I wanted to see Holmes return to London to do battle with Moriarty’s main henchman Colonel Moran, an ex-military man who was an expert marksman and the only one of Moriarty’s group to have escaped Holmes’ clutches during the hiatus. I wanted a big reveal on who Moran was, who in this modern version is the person who has been at Moriarty’s side all this time colluding in Sherlock’s downfall? Could it have been Irene Adler or perhaps someone we would never have expected like Sergeant Donovan for example? Perhaps the answers are yet to come but haven’t we waited long enough? Wasn’t it time to reward our patience and our continued support after giving us nothing for two years?

I wanted to see them re-tell the Empty House and not just invert the title and add the name Moran to a random character that had nothing to do with Moriarty. I know they threw in lots of canon references but I wanted more than just references in this episode.

Then we get other mad random stuff like Sherlock’s parents turning up for all of five seconds then disappearing without a trace. This is massive! We needed more; we needed them to be relevant to the plot in some way. It was a fantastic clever idea to make them completely ordinary and played by BC’s real-life parents but it was just too short and unconnected. How funny though to have BC’s real parents and Martin Freeman’s real girlfriend – it’s more like a reality TV show!

Don’t get me wrong, I thought there were lots of clever, slick and inventive ideas dotted throughout the 90 minutes but it all felt so unsatisfying and underdeveloped. I wanted to know more about Anderson’s fall from grace and his Damascene conversion. This was, in my opinion, the cleverest idea in the whole show and the best bit of character development.

And I think John forgave Sherlock too quickly. There was too much comic fighting and not enough emotional show-down in my opinion. Mary also forgave far too quickly – if someone had put the person I love through years of unnecessary hurt I would have gone mental at him. Sherlock accepted Mary too readily as well. Amanda Abbington is clearly a great actress but they just didn’t give her enough to do.

When we first encounter Mary in the canon (Sign of Four) she is brave, resourceful and intelligent. She plays a pivotal role in bringing a case to Holmes and then plays an active part in its resolution. Here, at times she just felt like a bit of a spare part. A gooseberry caught in the middle of the main bromance. I do hope her character gets developed much further in the rest of the series.

On a positive note, all the acting was absolutely amazing, everyone played a blinder. The episode looked great, had lots of pace and all the stylised surrealism that I love like flashbacks and Sherlock’s thoughts appearing in word on the screen. The soundtrack was great and the opening sequence with a cameo from Derren Brown was gripping and very filmic. The reunion between Sherlock and Lestrade was particularly touching. But overall I just felt that something was missing, that Sherlock had somehow lost its way a bit. Perhaps two years is just too long? But, I remain hopeful and excited about episode two. Perhaps this will give the resolution I have waited so long for. I still believe in Sherlock Holmes. Just about.

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4 Responses to BBC Sherlock is back but not forgiven – well, not by me anyway.

  1. r_rowles@hotmail.com says:

    This episode is something of a curate’s egg – good in parts bad woeful in others. Too many loose ends and odd ideas like Anderson’s weird group inserted into the narrative obscured the fact the not very much happened at all. There were good bits, like Watson and the elderly bookseller – a homage to The Spider Woman. The scene in the restaurant where Sherlock impersonated a waiter reminded us of the RDJ movies (memo to fans: expect another improbable resurrection when the third SH movie opens). However the finale in the tube train was silly, soppy and felt like the writers simply ran out of ideas. “Oh never mind the countdown, there’s always and off-switch”. Oh dear. Purists will bemoan the lack of Colonel Moran, Sherlock’s bust et al from ‘The Empty House’.

    • Did the good parts make up for the bad? I’m not sure. The ‘off switch’ was really, really bad and lazy writing in my opinion. As was lifting a plot from V for Vendetta. And yes, I did want to see them do a really clever, surprising take on Moran and feel a bit let-down that it didn’t happen. Were we just all asking too much? Did all the hype give us overinflated expectations? I just think that after two years we deserved a little better but as most people on Facebook and in the media don’t seem to share my views then perhaps I’m just missing something…

  2. gaurav says:

    One little quibble. V for Vendetta was an iconic comic book before it was a movie. So they lifted the plot from a comic book. But your point stands.

    I also thought of V. Agree with everything else too. Really poor episode. Very badly written. Even the bomb switch thing was so lame. As was the bonfire attempt at killing Watson. The supposed emotional moments at the end were blah.

    The episode was so bad that I’m gonna heap the ultimate insult upon it. It was worse than the worst Elementary episode.

    • That’s a pretty big insult! But, even I found myself missing the simple Holmes-and-Watson-do-crime-solving format of Elementary whilst watching this episode of Sherlock. And ok, yes V did start out as a book so you are quite right! I think that ripping it off like that was pretty unforgivable and I’m so shocked that more people haven’t felt the same. It feels like Moffat, Gattis et al are untouchable right now.

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