Thursday, 17 October 2013

Sherlock (Series Two)

After falling crazily in love with Sherlock series one I became incredibly excited about seeing series two! I do try to go into films and television shows with low expectations but there are certain things that I just can't help but get excited about! So did the second series of Sherlock meet my high expectations? No, it exceeded them! Series two is if anything even more brilliant, funny and thrilling than series one! I'm still in awe of the fact that the writers have been able to update Arthur Conan Doyle's stories for the 21st century so successfully! One of the biggest reasons why I love series two of Sherlock so much is due to its wonderful character development. All of the major characters from the previous series are given more depth and development here, and their relationships with each become more complex. Sherlock's growing awareness of his own humanity and his affection for others is beautifully portrayed in this series, and I especially loved the relationship between him and John in this series. Their friendship evolves in such a realistic and touching way. Even though neither of them ever explicitly says to the other "I love you" it's obvious that they do. Their mutual love and affection for each other is so strong that they simply don't need to say these words! This is very accurate to the friendship between Holmes and Watson in the Conan Doyle stories of course. From this point onwards I'm going to discuss the episodes of series two in more depth and also talk a little bit about series three - so there will be some spoilers in this review. Don't say I didn't warn you!

In series two of Sherlock every single episode is directly based on a Arthur Conan Doyle story, and the stories that are adapted here are arguably his most famous. The three episodes that make up series two of Sherlock are A Scandal in Belgravia, The Hounds of Baskerville and The Reichenbach FallA Scandal in Belgravia is written by Steven Moffat and is based on A Scandal in BohemiaThe Hounds of Baskerville is written by Mark Gatiss and is based on The Hound of the BaskervillesThe Reichenbach Fall is written by Steve Thompson and is based on The Final Problem.

The episode that I enjoyed the least from series two was A Scandal in Belgravia. That isn't to say that I disliked this episode of course! I still found it extremely funny and entertaining for the most part, it's just that I didn't enjoy it as much as the other two. This is due to Moffat's portrayal of Irene Adler's character and her relationship with Sherlock. I thought I was going to really enjoy Sherlock's Irene Adler at first because I loved Lara Pulver's acting in the role. Also, the fact that this version's Irene thinks to take her clothes off in her first meeting with Sherlock so that he won't be able to deduce her from what she's wearing was a great move on Moffat's part. It brilliantly showcases Irene's cunning. However it does bother me that Irene - who acts completely independently in A Scandal in Bohemia - ends up having to ask Moriarty for advice on how to beat Sherlock. And it's suggested that Irene and Sherlock have romantic feelings for each other in this episode which also bothers me. To be fair, Moffat doesn't do this in a way that's blatant or OTT. Unlike the Guy Ritchie films, he does leave it open-ended. But even though the Guy Ritchie films' depiction of Irene and her relationship with Sherlock is much, much worse; I'm still not thrilled about the romantic suggestions in the episode. I know that Sherlock and Irene shipping is quite common within Sherlock Holmes fanfiction but in the canon there is absolutely nothing to suggest that Holmes had anything more than a deep respect and fascination with Irene. Also, I'm firmly convinced that Sherlock Holmes is an asexual (along with many other fans). However, it seems that Moffat would rather have Sherlock Holmes be a heterosexual. He did initially claim that his Sherlock Holmes is an asexual but he's since backtracked on this, and has said that the show wouldn't be as interesting if the character was asexual because then he's not abstaining from anything. And according to an American girl that I once spoke to, all of the references to Sherlock Holmes being a virgin in A Scandal in Belgravia were removed from its American broadcast (although she wasn't sure who was actually responsible for these cuts). This saddens me because Sherlock Holmes is a bit of an icon to the asexual community. BUT leaving these things aside I still greatly enjoyed A Scandal in Belgravia. It's often hilariously, laugh-out-loud funny and the cliffhanger ending to The Great Game is brilliantly and quickly resolved. This following scene is also one of my absolute favourite Sherlock moments so far! I love Sherlock's simmering rage when he finds out that Mrs Hudson has been attacked and what follows is absolutely hilarious : D

The episodes that follow are even better! Gatiss's The Hounds of Baskerville is now my second favourite Sherlock episode. It's an absolute delight and it doesn't get enough love! The Hound of the Baskervilles was the first Arthur Conan Doyle story that I read and it's still my favourite out of the Sherlock Holmes novels. I loved Gatiss's take on the story! It's creepy, scary, atmospheric and tense and the Gothic horror element of the original story is still firmly intact. Gatiss includes lots of subtle references to the original story but there's a different culprit and some very inventive new elements, so even though I'm already familiar with The Hound of the Baskervilles I still didn't know everything that was going to happen. There are stunning shots of Dartmoor in this episode and its rural setting makes for a very refreshing alternative to all of the London-based episodes that Sherlock has done so far. Also there's still a lot of humour in this story, Russell Tovey is excellent, and I very much appreciate all of those shots of Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock looking sexily brooding and intense on the moors! :D

And then there's The Reichenbach Fall. Well, what can I say? Steve Thompson's episode is stunning, absolutely stunning, and my favourite Sherlock episode so far. This episode alone is worth the price of the TV license fee! This episode is so intensely suspenseful and thrilling that whenever I re-watch it I still find myself sitting on the edge of my seat with my hands pressed over my mouth! But this episode is also incredibly moving, emotional and powerful. Sherlock and John's final conversation, and the final scene with John at the cemetery, both leave me in tears - and I'm not usually a crier! But this is what the episode does to me...

This episode is truly incredible and I'm hugely excited by the fact that its director Toby Haynes will be directing the BBC's upcoming adaptation of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell! Katharine Parkinson - who I only knew from the sitcom The IT Crowd - also does a superb job at playing a bitchy Sun reporter and ever since I saw this episode I've had an overwhelming desire for Sergeants Donovan and Anderson to be horribly and brutally killed-off in series three. Actually, no. Anderson can still stick around for series three so that Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock can carry on insulting him. Donovan on the other hand... *sharpens sword against grindstone*

Another huge factor in the brilliance of series two in general is Andrew Scott's Moriarty. I have to say that I was a bit nervous when his Moriarty was first revealed at the end of The Great Game. I feared that his Moriarty was going to be just like John Simm's The Master from Doctor Who i.e. campy, far too OTT, and as annoying as hell. Oh, but how I was wrong! Andrew Scott completely won me over in the first scene of A Scandal in Belgravia alone and when he finally gets his chance to shine in The Reichenbach Fall he really, well, shines! Scott's scenes with Benedict Cumberbatch are amazing to watch in this episode. Their characters are both supremely respectful of each other and yet incredibly disdainful of one another at the same time. And I just love Andrew Scott's portrayal of Moriarty. Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss have both talked about how they didn't want to do a stereotypical "boring and posh" Moriarty. They wanted a villain who was genuinely frightening and an absolute psycho. Andrew Scott's Moriarty definitely achieved this! He's psychotic, menacing, brilliant, manic, stone-cold, manipulative and intense - and although he can be quite charming and funny at times he's very, very evil. Even when he smiles his eyes are completely cold! Andrew Scott completely deserved his BAFTA win for the role and I also think it's pretty cool that they actually got an Irishman to play the character. Moriarty is an Irish name after all.

Sherlock has deservedly become a massive hit - both in terms of its viewer size and its critical reviews. It completely deserves it! As you can probably imagine I'm now extremely excited about series three, especially since it seems that they're going to be adapting my favourite Sherlock Holmes short story! It looks like series three is going to feature adaptations of The Adventure of the Empty House, The Sign of Four and The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton. The latter is my favourite of the Sherlock Holmes short stories that I've read so far and it should be super interesting to see in the age of tabloid newspapers and celebrity gossip websites.


Sarah said...

Another very nice review! So if The Hounds of Baskerville is your second-favorite, which is your favorite? I think Hounds must be my favorite, but it's hard to decide when they're all so amazing! I'm not very familiar with the original stories, so the changes you mention in A Scandal in Belgravia didn't bother me, but it didn't seem to me that Sherlock was necessarily in love with Irene... Anyway, I was wowed when he figures out the password in that one -- perfect. And the end of The Reichenbach Fall is also heartbreaking!

Hannah said...

Thanks again :) Sorry, my favourite Sherlock episode is The Reichenbach Fall. I've amended the post so it's clearer.

With 'A Scandal in Belgravia' it's not absolutely certain that Sherlock and Irene have romantic feelings for each other but I do think it's implied e.g. Sherlock becomes taciturn and uncommunicative when he thinks Irene is dead and both John and Mrs Hudson are baffled by it since he barely knew her, and they then start to wonder about Sherlock's sexuality. It's something that you can argue both ways.

Yes the password guessing was awesome :D

Hamlette said...

I skipped reading your comments on the individual eps, as I haven't seen this season yet! I'm saving it as a carrot for when I finish writing my novel. So I read the first bit, up to the spoiler warning, and will hope I remember to come read these after I do see them :-)

Hannah said...

Now that's what I call suffering for your art! It's really awesome that you're writing a novel though. What's it about?

Hamlette said...

It's about twin brothers in 1880s Montana who go looking for their father when he disappears, even though they both think they'd be better off without him. It's my 6th novel, though my 4th is unfinished. I have two chapters left to write, so it won't be long now! (I hope.)