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26 September 2010 @ 04:36 pm
BBC series SHERLOCK: An Overview  
I was surprised to find out that season one of BBC's Sherlock has only three episodes. But each of them are 90 minutes long anyway so it was generally satisfactory for me. I finished watching all three episodes last Friday night and it as utter magnificence so far. I have to gulp large amounts of air to keep breathing while watching the series. This modern adaptation of Doyle's masterpiece is not without its flaws but I perceived them only as small details that don't get in the way of enjoying the show as a whole. As promised, I finally found the energy and time to review the it. First off, let's start with comparison and contrast among my favorite veteran Holmes actor Jeremy Brett (1984), the latest movie version Robert Downey Jr. (2009) and Benedict Cumberbatch himself as TV's Holmes (2010).

shtrinity.png picture by harleycoopz

Jeremy Brett still remains as the proper Holmes for me. There are a few episodes in the Granada TV series that are shitty but because of his brilliant acting, such episodes become bearable. Brett has also embodied the duality of the many characteristics of Sherlock Holmes in a way that is both subtle and intense. He delivered a Sherlock Holmes who is tormented by dark forces of the human mind and its capacity for evil; but still very inclined to an immeasurable amount of kindness and compassion because of his search for solving mysteries and giving justice where its due. Brett has also managed to put in his own struggle for manic depression into his interpretation of Holmes which only made his character elusive and gripping to the very end of the series. There are brief flashes of madness in his Holmes that are just hypnotizing.

A lot of Sherlockians never quite liked Robert Downey Jr.'s portrayal of the great detective on the big screen. For one thing he doesn't have the established same physical attributes (thin and wiry with hawk-like features) and although he does engage in intellectual ramble they pass off as deduction, he still gives off the vibe that he's a macho jerk hungry for the chase. He has emphasized that facet of Holmes with sprinkles of Hugh Laurie's Gregory House here and there. I liked RDJ Holmes because he was witty and engaging enough to sustain the appeal of his character interpretation. The 2009 movie had its ups and downs but I was willing to look over the latter because it was generally a pleasant movie.

I did not have any specific expectations for Benedict Cumberbatch and his Holmes. The challenge of his role must have taken a lot of prepartion and effort which paid off in the end. Cumberbatch's Holmes must blend perfectly into the modern setting in which he was placed in and I must admit that this 21st Century version worked. its magic seamlessly. I was instantly addicted. Not only because I've been an avid fan of the great detective for 8 years since I was twelve; but also because the series itself is refreshing and has made the Sherlockian tradition shine once more. It's so nice to see that even after a century and a half,  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes can still capture hearts.

Now onto the series:

rf.jpg picture by harleycoopz

The Sherlock series could have easily failed as an artistic venture. For one, transforming the 19th-century Victorian London into the modern streets filled with cars and neon lights has to be elaborative and convincing. In the hands of lesser writers and network producers, Sherlock would've flopped in a matter of twenty minutes during its first episode. It's only fortunate that this series is extravagant and intellgent enough to keep the viewers on their toes as they follow the storyline. Instead of hansom cabs, Holmes now hails a taxi. He also does surveillance over the net and maintains a website called "The Science of Deduction". Gone were the days of telegram exchange between Holmes and Watson in times of dire need; its now been replaced by text messaging. And the best part that still tickles my very inside is that Watson now chronicles Holmes' cases through a blog (which is available online, by the way. Search for it, go on!).

The series had survived initial scrutiny for its setting and came out strong. I mean, I personally had envisioned a Sherlock Holmes of the modern times during my daydreams as a kid but I never thought that it could work this well. BBC definitely turned a fantasy of many Sherlockians myself into an astounding reality. There is nothing like watching a young Holmes avidly testing his theories by using machines of our time--and, despite the technology, his superb intelligence remains the main attraction. The big difference now is that he is more equipped with the necessary tools to keep up with our changing times.

Makes him more of a badass, in short.

"A Study in Pink" is da bomb! Not even the Granada series featured an episode as to how Holmes and Watson meet for the first time. I'd probably review each episode individually some time but for now, I will focus on the plot and sequencing of season one as a whole.

Honestly speaking, I wasn't a fuzzy critic while watching the series; unlike when I watched the 2009 movie. My suspension of belief was intact all throughout episode one. I was into the moment of experiencing this modern Sherlock to his fullest potentials. And it's not like I found Cumberbatch particularly good-looking. I was more impressed with how he handled portraying Holmes. The dark overtones to his character may not be as immersed as Brett's but they were there and they're not ashamed to come to the light. The series' plot was intricately-woven. There are aspects about it I find hard to get into (most especially in The Great Game, the final episode) but I'm still left with the excitement of watching the next installment. I'm very much brimming with hope that it will make more sense and that there would be a great number of episodes to look forward to. So far the plot hasn't hooked me completely. I find myself asking relevant questions as to how this piece of a puzzle fits the board and what will the puzzle look like once it's complete. But I guess that's the glorious advantage of BBC's Sherlock. They have a lot to work with and with great writing and cinematic execution, season 2 might turn into a critical success that will exceed initial expectations.

We move onto the sequence. The first episode had that strong point but by The Great Game, it was beginning to slip. There are too many mysteries involved and not a single ball of string to wove them together as a whole. I still watched it till the very end, only because I was left with no option. And then to find out that it would be a cliffhanger scene was awful for me as a viewer. It would have been better off if Moriarty didn't pop in again just to take back his game. I was uncertain, like many Sherlockians, about the actor they chose to play the part. He wasn't menancing enough. His ridiculous high-pitched voice mockery is cute but it made him look less of a villain. But I want to be surprised so I will ignore first impressions for now. I think the characters of everyone in the show have so much potential to be dynamic so it's not wise to prejudice over them in just a span of three episodes. Overall, BBC's Sherlock is superb. Doyle would be proud.

sh.png picture by harleycoopz

Since this is the 2000's, we are now free to call the great detective in a first-name basis: Sherlock. The delicious R and L rolls in the tongue just right, doesn't it? Sherlock. The bloke is electrifying. Cumberbatch Holmes is depicted as a narcissitic sociopath with a playful sense of humor and pseudo-psychic deductive abilities. Visually-speaking, he looks a lot like Doyle's Holmes with the emphasis on his jet-black hair that sticks up in all direction, his watery (ever watchful and dismissive) eyes, and that pasty, almost sickly complexion. HOT. Eye candy. Cumberbatch Holmes is a pretty boy. But this never distracts the viewers from his intellectual super powers and 'charming asshole' of a personality. The other Scotland Yard officers even refer to him explicitly as "freak." There was this coroner guy named Anderson who loathes him and the same sentiment is returned by our Sherlock. The insults just fly off from Sherlock's mouth  when he's irritated by idiocy or is just being himself; but he never sounds crass or macho. His energy is compelling. His perception of crime and the 'crushing tedium' of ordinary life is chilling. Unlike most heroes of a detective drama series, he doesn't care about the victims. He understands human emotions only to a certain extent or if such notions are relevant to his deductions. In fact, he even celebrates the peculiarity and brutality of a case at hand (not even afraid to dance about a crime scene, even). Serials killings makeshim feel like it's Christmas. Commonplace is so exhausting to him that he is forced to relieve boredom even if it means risking suicide just to prove a point. I had so many favorite references during the first episode that are just so funny and speak volumes of the well-known (and well-loved) Sherlock Holmes eccentricities.

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Oh merciful god, this guy! Johnny boy is just delightful! Ever since Jude Law, the Watson stereotype was finally smothered to a death it clearly deserves. Martin Freeman's Watson is an Afgan war doctor who misses the debauchery and the excitement of being a soldier. He finds the same kind of thrill when he becomes flatmates with Holmes. John doesn't trust anyone anymore and yet he was able to stick by Sherlock because, for some reason, despite the grandoise ego and mood swings, he sees Sherlock as a great companion and to whom he secretly aspires a friendship with. Freeman Watson is able to stand alone on himself. He isn't some extension for Cumberbatch Holmes and serves as an empty container for a viewer to insert him/herself into. No, na-uh. John doesn't just quietly watch in the backseat like a dog; he takes action and shares Sherlock's inexplicable lust for mystery. Their camaraderie was instant because they're both miscreants looking for a piece. John understands Sherlock's temperament because he knows what it's like to chase something worth risking your convictions and values for. Also, when Sherlock is socially retarded in his times of boredom, John is happy enough to function as the guardian not because he worships Sherlock like a god (like it used to be in the old times of other adaptations) but because they're just two bachelors who share a flat and try to make ends meet. Someone's gotta buy the milk, right?

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The dialogues in general are crisp and humorous. Sherlock's wry sarcasm and John's sardonic comebacks are priceless. It makes for entertaining and good TV. The writers are very clever; they took some of the most memorable quotes from the books and revised them into anecdotal jokes. Like the above quote, for example. Holmes' original line was "I'd be lost without my Boswell." Boswell means 'biographer'. But in this case, since John has a blog where he keeps his chronicles of Sherlock's cases, he is now a 'blogger.' It was cute the first time I heard it. There was also a scene when we discover Sherlock is quitting his smoking habit so he has nicotine patches on his arm. When John asks about it, he claims it's a "three-patched problem" (taken from the original line "three-piped problem"). The most popular "The game is afoot" is now changed to the more appropriate "The game is on" which is equally cooler.

There was this winning line when he was rambling about and everyone in the room just stares dumbfoundedly at him because they couldn't keep up with his train of thought. He was like "Oh, look how vacant your faces are. How does it feel not being me? It must be so relaxing". And don't get me started on the gay jokes between Sherlock and John. When Mrs. Hudson first appeared to show them their flat, she was like "There'a second bedroom in case you need another bed." And John was like, "Of course, we'll be needing another bed". And while dining, the waiter refered to them as a "date" and John quickly retorts "I'm not his date!". And then we get the most hilarious conversation ever (which made several fangirls hyperventilate. I  think the writers purposedly included this dialogue to establish just how possible it is for two bachelors living together in our modern times be mistaken for a couple unless otherwise disclaimed):

Watson: You don’t have a girlfriend, then?Sherlock: Girlfriend? No, not really my area.Watson: Mm. Oh, right. Do you have a…boyfriend? Which is fine, by the way.Sherlock: I know it’s fine.Watson: So you’ve got a boyfriend then. No. Right. OK. You’re unattached. Like me. Fine. Good.Sherlock: John, erm…I think you should know that I consider myself married to my work, and while I’m flattered, I’m really not looking for any…Watson: No, I’m…not asking. No. I’m just saying, it’s all fine.Sherlock: Good. Thank you.<br /><br /><br /><br />WHOA. They&#8217;re really putting out the homoeroticism issue so early in episode 1. Fantastic. I was never a shipper of SH/JW but&#8230;wow. These two actors have the best on-screen chemistry. I&#8217;m not just saying that because they&#8217;re both hot shit. My general opinion is that Cumberbatch and Freeman fit the bill of their roles. Utter brilliance! 

Watson: You don’t have a girlfriend, then?
Sherlock: Girlfriend? No, not really my area.
Watson: Mm. Oh, right. Do you have a…boyfriend? Which is fine, by the way.
Sherlock: I know it’s fine.
Watson: So you’ve got a boyfriend then. No. Right. OK. You’re unattached. Like me. Fine. Good.
Sherlock: John, erm…I think you should know that I consider myself married to my work, and while I’m flattered, I’m really not looking for any…
Watson: No, I’m…not asking. No. I’m just saying, it’s all fine.
Sherlock: Good. Thank you.

There also instances that lulz have to commence:

Watson: You asked me to come at once just to text a message?
Holmes: Yes.


Holmes: What are you looking out the window for?
Watson: Just watching your friend.
Holmes: *flabbergasted* Friend?
Watson: Your enemy.
Holmes: Oh, which one?

And the funniest of of it all:

Holmes: It's difficult to maintain a smoking habit in London.
Watson: And it makes it difficult to breathe too.
Holmes: Ugh, breathing. Breathing's boring.

Any thoughts? Questions? Arguments you wish to raise? Please let me know. And some images here are not mine, so please tell me which ones to credit. Thanks :)
Oh great I am: geekygeeky
Stuck in my head: "Love the way you life" by Eminem feat. Rihanna
meridianiplanummeridianiplanum on September 26th, 2010 04:42 pm (UTC)
Totally agree with your review of Sherlock, it brings the flavour of Conan Doyle into the 21st century so perfectly! The only gripe I have with the series, though is that it's paying far too much attention to the Moriarty arc... I guess it might be necessary for a modern TV series to have an overall arc, but what made Conan Doyle so appealing for me was the fascination each short story brought without it having to link to any other. The whole "Moriarty is the most dangerous man in London" thing only came about because Conan Doyle was sick of writing Holmes and was trying to kill him off with a supervillain, only to have the public outcry bring both Holmes and the unintended supervillain back.
Francesca Garchitorena: here is the dangerous fiendwriter_craft on September 28th, 2010 08:41 am (UTC)
Agreed on that account too. There's going to be a version of Holmes-Moriarty in the upcoming Guy Ritchie movie already. I don't know what's the deal, really. I mean, I think they want to cater to the good-vs-evil kindda thing because, let's face it, that concept sells. But I hope that BBC would approach the whole Sherlock-Jim thing differently if they do plan to pursue that.