Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Sherlock: The Great Game

Moriarty: “Twelve hours to solve my puzzle, Sherlock. Or I'm going to be so naughty.”

If last week's episode had a weakness, it was the puzzling absence of some of the show's major characters. Lestrade was inexplicably AWOL, Moriarty was reduced to a faceless cameo, and even Mycroft was conspicuous by his absence. So it was only fitting that tonight's episode attempt to redress the balance by bringing them all together in one story. Well, in reality it was five stories—but tonight saw Holmes' unique talents stretched to the limit. And, finally, we got to see Moriarty step out of the shadows and face his arch-nemesis.

In many respects, Moriarty and Holmes are the same. They're both brilliant, ambitious, and possess the intellect and skills necessary to achieve just about anything they set their minds to. Likewise, neither likes to be bored. It makes them restless. For classic Holmes, boredom usually meant the cocaine bottle—for modern day Holmes, it means shooting up his flat, followed by bouts of petulance. Where they differ is in their preferred methods of stimulation. Holmes uses his powers for good, whereas Moriarty's perhaps less charitable with his talents.

Tonight saw Holmes at the absolute top of his game. He was like a human computer, gulping down data and spewing out answers—but it's a process which requires sacrifice. In the working environment, Holmes is a machine. He even describes his brain in hardware terms—a hard drive, from which extraneous data is deleted to achieve maximum running efficiency. Holmes hasn't time for emotions, which sometimes makes him appear cold and manipulative. That's not to say he's soulless—even Moriarty recognised that Holmes had an emotional core, and he clearly cares for Watson—it's just that emotions are surplus to requirement when it comes to matters of deduction.

Yet tonight, much to his chagrin, Holmes was forced to concede that his knowledge isn't perfect. His ignorance of modern culture and, specifically, the solar system, was almost his undoing. It was sheer luck which enabled him to prove the painting a fake—a random tidbit of information, picked up from Professor Cairns' presentation whilst fighting The Golem. He also had no idea who Connie Prince was. Watson had to tell him. I loved those shots of Holmes arguing with the television at the end. Who'd have thought we'd ever see Holmes honing his chops watching crappy daytime TV?

Mycroft wasn't in tonight's episode as much as I'd have liked but, as ever, he was a joy to watch. I love the dynamic between Holmes and Mycroft. Holmes can hardly bear to look at his older brother, and Mycroft, despite traditionally being the smarter of the two brothers, seems to view Holmes' trade as beneath him. Or maybe he just objects to 'leg-work'. Not that this stops him enlisting Sherlock's help from time to time. He still recognises his talents for what they are—peerless! Or maybe it's just the family discount.

Holmes is also starting to use Watson more. Tonight he let him loose on a pair of dead man's trainers. True, Watson missed virtually everything of importance, but Holmes did seem genuinely interested in Watson's thoughts. And, to his credit, Watson didn't miss everything. He was able to deduce that the wearer was a youth—he's was just incapable of the kind of in-depth analysis that is Holmes' stock-in-trade. Holmes also used Watson as his representative in the Bruce Partington Case, so it's clear that Holmes is starting to trust, even to value, Watson's assistance. Even when he gets things wrong. Watson was certain that he knew how Connie Prince had been poisoned, yet he missed the one thing which, as a doctor, he really should have noticed—the bottox scars over Prince's eyebrows.

Still, it's a start. and it was undeniably fun to watch Holmes toying with Watson. It's also becoming evident just what kind of man Watson is. That's three weeks in a row he's risked his life to save Holmes. Despite being cloaked in explosives, he still threw himself at the preening Moriarty in a wild attempt to buy Holmes some time. If Holmes had made a run for it, he'd probably have made it, too. But Holmes isn't the sort to leave a friend behind.

To be honest, I was a little disappointed by Moriarty. It made sense that he'd be young. What didn't make sense was his high-pitched squealing and juvenile temperament. Some have already remarked on the similarities between Andrew Scott's Moriarty and comedian, Graham Norton. Fair comment, I suppose—but not the most flattering comparison for the 'Napoleon of Crime.' He just wasn't intimidating. I'm not sure whether Gatiss wrote him badly, or whether Scott failed to connect with his character—maybe it was just bad casting—but Moriarty was far too silly to be taken seriously. In fact, the fan community is already comparing Moriarty to John Simms' the Master (Doctor Who). There are undoubtedly similarities—particularly in terms of tone and mental make-up—but Simms' Master was an unmitigated disaster. He's not a character we need to see revisited. Not even in Doctor Who!

The cliff-hanger also felt like something of an anomaly. It didn't seem to fit. Why did Moriarty come back? Just so there could be a suspenseful ending? Would we have had the same ending had Sherlock flopped in the ratings? I'm guessing not.

All in all a triumphant first season—but why only three episodes? No sooner had we got used to the characters and they were gone. Will we get a second season? According to Sue Vertue (show producer, and wife of Steven Moffat) the answer is a resounding yes. It just appears to be a matter of when, and how many episodes?

Other Thoughts:

—I loved Holmes' fastidiousness in the show's opening minutes. Him constantly correcting that prisoner's English, and his impatience at his repeated infractions, was hilarious.

—Surely 'saliva analysis' would be redundant in this day and age? Hasn't it all been done before?

—The five telephone pips was a modern twist on the 'The Five Orange Pips'. In the original story the pips were a warning from the Ku Klux Klan.

—Lestrade felt much improved this week. He actually felt like a proper detective. He was still hopelessly out of his depth, but at least he did more than stand around, waiting to be told what to do.

—Holmes finally played his violin! – albeit rather violently.

—'The Adventure of the Bruce Partington Plans' was a short story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. In the original, rather than the plans relating to a missile defence system, they were secret submarine plans.

—Sally is still as one dimensional as ever. All she seems to do is call Holmes a freak, warn Watson to keep away from him, and pout when Lestrade asks her to do anything.

—Freakiest moment of the week: That crazy old woman with spittle bubbling through her teeth. And what an eerie voice. She's going to give me nightmares... I can feel it.

—Why include a supernova in the painting? It's hard to think of a more obvious way of making it look fake. Isn't that like painting an aeroplane in the background of the Mona Lisa?


Inmate: “Without you, I'll get hung for this.”
Holmes: “No, no, no, not at all. Hanged? Yes.”

Watson: “There's a head in the fridge! A bloody head!”

Mycroft: “You've got to find those plans, Sherlock. Don't make me order you.”
Holmes: “I'd like to see you try.”

Holmes: “The curtain rises!”

Molly: “That's how we met.Office romance.”
Holmes: “Gay.”
Molly: “What?”

Holmes: "Why are you doing this?"
Moriarty: "I like to watch you dance."

Mrs Hudson: "I should never wear cerise, apparently. It drains me."

Holmes: "Don't make people into heroes, John. Heroes don't exist, and if they did I wouldn't be one of them."

Watson: “Fantastic!”
Holmes: “Meretricious.”
Lestrade: “And a Happy New Year!”

Holmes: "No, he's not the boys' father. Look at the turn ups on his jeans."

Holmes: "Dear Jim. Please will you fix it for me to get rid of my sisters' nasty lover? Dear Jim. Please will you fix it for me to disappear to South America?"

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