August 10, 2010

Sherlock Episode 3 Review

Well apparently I’m alone in thinking the third episode of Sherlock was down there with the second and not up there with the first, so let’s explain why.

We’ll start with plot. Sherlock solves five different cases in about fifteen minutes each. As such, none of them get to room to breathe or to make you think about them. It’s all far too rushed and it kills one of the great appeals of the show: the slowly unraveling mystery. Of course, there’s an overall mystery going on too: who is setting up all these cases for Sherlock to solve? Well it’s Moriarty. Of course it is, the show’s only been going two episodes and in both of those it’s revealed that he’s behind both the cases. Plus he’s basically the only recurring villain in Sherlock Holmes ‘mythology’ so, no suspense there then. I mean if it’d turned out to be LeStrade behind it all then I might have been surprised.

Still, we don’t know who Moriarty is, perhaps they’ll surprise us there. Oh, it’s some guy we met for five minutes earlier in the episode. That’s… disappointing. I mean, there were so many more interesting possibilities: I really thought it’d be Watson’s girlfriend at first. A female Moriarty would have been a wonderful curve-ball, and might help explain why she was still with Watson after being tied to a chair and nearly killed by a giant crossbow on their first date. I mean, I’ve known girls that were in to bondage but I find, as a rule, that bringing an evil Chinese circus in to the bedroom tends to send them running. Alas any chance of it being her was ruined when the blind woman said he had such a soft voice. And erm… can someone explain why she was shot at that point? The case was solved, Moriarty was going to let her go like the others, so she could have told them all about his voice after they’d rescued her. Unless he was going to have someone keep a sniper aimed at her all episode, which may have been awkward when they took her to the police station. Either he was always going to kill her as she’d heard his voice (in which case, Holmes figuring that out and then leaving her to die would have been ten times more interesting) or he was going to let the information about his voice out the minute he talked to her.
Moriarty
Who else could Moriarty have been? I personally loved the idea, hinted at in the first episode, that he was Holmes schizophrenic other side, that he was setting the crimes up for himself to solve. That, would have been a twist, and one that could have been dragged out a long while: you could have Holmes and Moriarty meet and later explain it was all in his head, Fight Club style. But that’s ruined now, as Watson interacted with Moriarty too so it’s out.

Oh and the Watson-is-Moriarty fake-out was a nice idea. But did they have to Watson act quite so unconvincing and have the jacket be quite so bulky. Odd complaint, I know he wouldn’t be, but it’d been more fun if we’d actually have been fooled for a few seconds. I also can’t help but think they failed in making the best use of the Watson-taken-captive concept. It was made clear that Holmes didn’t actually care about the victims, but would he have been more interested and involved in solving the case if Watson was the one covered in explosives? Well we don’t find out, as there’s no case for Holmes to solve in this instance.

Moriarty could have been LeStrade. Hell, it could have been the grumpy forensics guy who from the first episode who made more of an impression in his five minutes of screen-time than gay boyfriend did. There’s one other possibility of course. Moriarty could have been Stephen Fry. By which I mean to say, the big reveal could have been the actor that was playing him. It’s cheating, of course, it takes the reveal out of the plot and puts it in the showbiz gossip column, but still I could have forgiven a lot if, in that last scene, someone awesome would have turned up. But no, it’s that guy that was in John Adams. He’s awful. Not his fault, it’s the direction I’m sure, but it’s so over-the-top it jars you out of any sense of realism that’s been built up for this modern take on Holmes. He’s a cackling Bond villain. At least when the holographic Moriarty became sentient in Star Trek: The Next Generation he didn’t try and playfully bum Jean-Luc Picard.

So in conclusion: no suspense over who’s behind the crimes, no suspense over who Moriarty is, and no big reveal on who the actor playing Moriarty is. Still, how will Holmes catch Moriarty? There’s plot there to be sure, no? Err, no. He asks him to meet up on an internet forum. Moriarty, so cautious he’s only spoke to Holmes through other people so far, and killed someone for mentioning the tone of his voice, turns up.

Rest of the plot then?

Oh god that fight scene. On the one hand, it was utter genius. The rapid-cut, flashing-lights cacophonous fight scene that’s impossible to follow has become Hollywood’s calling card of late. See any of the new Batman films or the Bourne films. I hate it, it gives me a headache, I can’t wait till we get past it. In Sherlock, it was genius, as they added an (admittedly far-fetched) plot-based reason as to why the scene looked that way. So on that basis, it’s a brilliant parody. The problem with parody though, is if you’re doing it well enough, you take on the annoying aspects of the thing you’re parodying. This just went on too long. I went from thinking it was brilliant to wanting it to end as soon as possible. Before I got a headache.

And the ending. Not only was it a cliffhanger, but it was, I’m fairly sure, a Spooks cliffhanger. By that, I mean I’ll be shocked as hell if the next series (which hasn’t even been commissioned yet) picks up here and shows us exactly what happens. No, the next series will start in the middle of a case, Holmes or Watson will have some unexplained injury (maybe Watson is using the walking stick again) and there will be some dialogue to briefly explain what happened. If we’re very lucky, we might get a quick flashback. And Moriarty won’t turn up again until the season finale.

So what we get is a 90-minute story with no pay-off of any kind. No reveal, no twist, and they might just have got away with that had there been an ending to the episode, some closure, either plot-wise or for the characters emotionally. But instead the whole thing ends in the middle of the final scene, with no room for a coda.

Despite all that it’s still one of the better things on TV, and certainly one of the better things the BBC have done in the past ten years. But compared to that first episode it’s woefully mediocre. Can Moffat write all of them next time please?

In conclusion, this episode was like the worst sex I ever had: to rushed, no big pay-off, an awkward fight in the middle, and at the end Graham Norton turns up and ruins it.

I give it 5 out of 17.


- One comment Not publicly viewable

  1. Sue

    I haven’t been able to come up with the right configuration. Not only does this disappoint me but I’m sure all my ancestors would be disappointed if they were to find out about it.

    10 Aug 2010, 09:33


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