“Sherlock” – TV Review

‘Sherlock’ is really, really popular. It is insanely popular and manages to keep the dark, shadowy appeal of a cult show whilst also being mainstream.

I didn’t really like it.

Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in ‘Sherlock’ , image copyright BBC 2012

The original Sherlock Holmes stories are brilliant, delicate twisted things, and the show hit them too bluntly to leave any impact. While the characters are well written and acted, they aren’t enough to make the show work. Most unforgivably, this should have been great. A reinvigorating, dark reimagining of well-known classics with Stephen Moffat and Mark Gatis writing and Gatis guest starring, Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes; it had so much potential to be brilliant.

The first episode of the second series is unbelievably better; based on the story ‘A Scandal in Bohemia’, Sherlock and Watson have to face off against an intelligent dominatrix, Irene Adler, who is hiding state secrets.

The pacing is fast without being confusing, the writing is funny without becoming farcical – yet still dark – without losing sight of the plot. All of that would have been fine but what made it so good was that the characters, still the best thing here, were finally given prominence. For the first time we get to see all of them together, not only interacting well but bringing everything into a cohesive universe. Particular moments stand out (a Christmas party with almost the whole cast attending) because they allowed the writers to do what they do best and write people, not plots.

The plotting wasn’t perfect, with some of the same problems as the first series still around. Points weren’t followed through on, a few twists were predictable or silly, and it came off as lacklustre when it deviated from the original story but for the first time the rest was good enough that it didn’t matter. If you liked it before, you’ll love it now.

‘Sherlock’ airs at 8.10 on Sundays, and is available via the BBC iplayer at http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p00m5wm9/Sherlock_Series_2_A_Scandal_in_Belgravia/