BBC decided to bring the most famous character in the British literature, the Victorian London’s own Sherlock Holmes, to the modern-day. There’s no need to introduce this detective created by Arthur Conan Doyle, as we all know him from the dozens of adventure the author wrote about him, as well as the thousands of TV, film and even radio adaptations the sleuth has had over the years. However, have the British producers achieved to create a good adaptation? Let’s find out!
Sherlock Holmes is one of my favourite characters of all time. One of my favourite novels is The Hound of the Baskerville, I really enjoy reading short stories about the detective, and I enjoy watching other adaptations too, from Guy Ritchie’s films (which are not excellent at all, but I find surprisingly entertaining anyway) to less direct adaptations such as House, the medical TV Show. I really wanted to love Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss’ new version of Doyle’s character, and, to an extent, I did. Why not start with the main features that can be found in every episode and then discuss each the four seasons one by one.
The protagonist duo is amazing in this show. Benedict Cumberbatch does a great job at creating a weird, sociopathic Holmes that is as arrogant as intelligent. He is a lot of fun, and even if the personality isn’t a perfect match with that described in the books, it is a cool reimagining. Doctor Watson is played by the excellent Martin Freeman, and his portrayal of the character is very interesting, especially during the first season in which he deals with his memories from war and a psychosomatic limp he suffers from. More importantly, both actors are amazing together, the chemistry among them is spectacular and watching how their relationship evolves is amazing.
Another feature that has been kept throughout the entire series is the “Sherlock Vision” (I may or may not have come up with that name right now). Briefly explained, it’s the way the editing lets us take a glimpse at what is going on inside Holmes’ head. His observations appear written on-screen, together with his deductions, next to what he is observing. He looks at a ring, “clean” appears written next to it. “Must be cleaned usually” is shown next, so he deduces there is an emotional attachment to whoever gifted it to the person wearing it. That is written too, so we, the audience, can follow his observation process step by step. It is great.
As a fan of the source material, it is also great that each episode is vaguely inspired in a story Doyle wrote. Maybe it’s a new twist on the story that takes the plot in a different direction, maybe it’s just a couple of references for the most avid viewers, but there’s always something. With all this said, let’s start with season number one.
Originally aired in 2010, this first season features three episodes, each of them having its own story arc, a crime that the detective will struggle to solve. In that regard, the three episodes are pretty good, as the puzzles Holmes and Watson face are quite interesting. The very first is probably the best of them all, as it is the one that feels most like a genuine Sherlock story.
There is a quite big drawback in these, however. The pilot included as an extra in the BluRay is the original version that Moffat and Gatiss created as the first episode, and it’s interesting to know it lasts an hour. The episodes that aired on TV have a runtime of an hour and a half each, and the solution that the writers came up with is quite poor, as they decided to incorporate more characters that weren’t essential to the plot and add arcs that would last several episodes. The result is an episode that feels irregular and weirdly paced. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a good episode, but I wish it (and the rest of the episodes) could be more focused on the mysteries, and less on secondary characters and crazy plots. Overall, throughout the entire show, the writing of the stories that begin and end within a single episode is decent. It’s with the multi-episode arcs that the writers have a hard time with.
During this season is where the main characters’ bond is developed. In fact, they meet for the first time during the first episode, and by the time it ends, they’re already buddies. This relationship evolves and by the time the big finale reaches, both of them are inseparable. It’s nice to see how Watson slowly gets used to his flatmate’s crazy ideas.
In addition, the finale features the first appearance of James Moriarty, our protagonist’s greatest nemesis. This character has nothing to do with the elegant and serious man from the source material, as he is eccentric, crazy, and way over the top. Andrew Scott does a jaw-dropping job at playing this character, and the result is fantastic. He may be nothing like the original Moriarty, but this new character isn’t a fan-favourite for no reason.
One last thing about season one. It ends with a cliff-hanger, as every other season concludes too. However, the creators are damn terrible at solving them. They always come up with the dumbest ideas, and taking into account the wait between seasons have been of about two years, it’s pretty disappointing. For instance, this season ends with an extremely tense moment, which is very dangerous for the protagonists. And the way they solve it is ridiculous. The villain gets a phone-call and leaves. He. Just. Leaves. Got me waiting two years for that! This is another example of how poorly the writers set up arcs that last more than one episode.
Overall, it’s a quite good season. The second episode is quite weak, but the mysteries are astonishing. Snappy, hilarious, and incredibly entertaining, but with a few missteps that only get accentuated with the passing of time. For now, they’re quite forgivable, to be honest… 8/10