Thursday, 19 January 2012

Sherlock 2x01 - A Scandal in Belgravia

Warning! Danger, Will Robinson!
Here be SPOILERS for Sherlock series 2 episode 1!

It’s about time I weighed in on this. Apparently, opinion has been divided re: the latest three instalments of the good consultant detective Mr Sherlock Holmes and to be honest, I’m a little annoyed by the wailing and gnashing of teeth that’s going on due to the last act. But more on that later. First we have:

A Scandal in Belgravia.

Cunning title. Seeing as Bohemia is mostly the Czech Republic these days, and Belgravia is one of the richest picking-grounds in Westminster, I think it’s fine. There was a lot of excitement surrounding this episode, as it would bring Ms Irene Adler into the update. I was worried it would be handled badly. I was wrong - this isn’t Russell T. Davies, this is Stephen Moffat. A little fanservice was on the cards, naturally - and it came in the form of rum bum shot from Mr Holmes himself. In Buck House. Nice. At the risk of making you (single reader) groan, I’ll say it was a cheeky bit of fun that, one, used sibling rivalry to point out the burgeoning understanding Sherlock and John seemed to have, and, two, set us up for the mind games that were to follow. Having a (tastefully) near-naked Sherlock at the beginning just made me think that perhaps it wasn’t just his clothes that were about to be stripped from him.

Then we find Ms Adler has photographs in her possession that she neither wants to sell nor use for blackmail - just for security. So far, so like the original short story. However, I believe the original had her using the photograph of herself and the King of Bohemia as security until she could marry her city friend. Once they were married (with Sherlock in costume as their witness), she threw the photograph overboard whilst sailing off to a new life. Cautious woman - with good reason. So how does this gel with the new Ms Adler?

Pretty well, I think. People seem to remember Ms Adler from the original as some kind of adventuring dare-devil, who took Holmes on and won by sheer cognitive ability. Funny - upon re-reading, I find the only reason she actually got away was that Holmes was so convinced she didn’t know it was him whom she’d met in disguise that he waited until the next morning to call on her house and retrieve the photograph (in the place she had inadvertently revealed when a smoke-bomb was thrown by Watson through the window). One, all she did was piece together that it was Holmes, so that, two, she could stroll by his front door that evening and bid him a goodnight, to make sure it was him. Once she’d Gordon Jackson’d* him in this manner, she simply went home, packed up her stuff, and left on the first train with her new husband. Not exactly out-smarting Holmes in some Moriarty-level chess game of death, is it?

I enjoyed the new Ms Adler much more. She was shown to be smarter, in it for herself and what she could get, and not averse to gleaning what she could from Sherlock before using him to her advantage. She lived by her wits and her PDA, which contained all the security she needed, should she get into hot water. (Just by-the-by - did you all guess the source of her safe combination, and then the password on her phone? I did. But then, when the fandom is full of phrases like ‘being Cumberbatched’ and ‘I’m Watsoning down the street like a boss’, it wasn’t hard. It just goes to show how much fun Stephen Moffat has trolling fans, after he’s read their various posts on different message boards.) When the idea of ‘smart being the new sexy’ was hammered home not once, but twice, I smelt a thread that could only mean one thing. Finding she was technically gay (apart from when men paid her enough for her services) and, after a few false starts, only lusted after barbed conversation and devastatingly genius repartee with Sherlock nearly made me faint with relief; the Beeb weren’t about to try to turn her or Sherlock into some love-addled puppy. Something Russell T. Davies might have thought about, but something the rest of the world, and I’m cupping my hands to shout this: DOES NOT WANT.

Anyway, she did a good job - and the way she used both Sherlock and John to get what she wanted was clever in the extreme. The mere fact that she revealed she’d been given suggestions by none other than Jim the fish Moriarty as to how she could use the contents of her PDA to her better advantage was, for me, interesting. Now I believe it was she who called Moriarty at the beginning; he gave up shooting Sherlock by the pool in favour of having him duke it out with Ms Adler and her photographs instead. How else could he get the plane code from her phone? At any rate, it wouldn’t have been “boring” entertainment for him.

The episode as a whole worked for me. I enjoyed it, I watched it again a few days later, and liked it more. Acting - a word about acting. Right from the start we get Sherlock and John (not Holmes and Watson - they’re the Brett set in my house) being as close mates as they could be with someone like Sherlock in the mix. You just know this is setting you up for something later - much later - but it’s fine right now. The supporting cast was excellent, as always, and Mrs Hudson was just brilliantly played. And Sherlock’s idea that if ever Mrs Hudson left Baker Street then ‘England would fall’? Priceless. In fact, a lot of the dialogue was good by itself - but these actors bring out the best in it. Sherlock saying ‘I’m not the Commonwealth’ and John quipping ‘And that’s as modest as he gets’ was well played and indicative of someone with a good handle on both characters. Settings, cinematography, editing and the smooth BBC drah-ma finish made it an excellent example of proper good telly. As a flagship series, this is probably better than Doctor bloody Who - but don’t get your knickers in a twist; I still watch that, too.

One gripe I had was - and this is a weeny one, mind - the dead man in the boot of the car had his UK passport ‘stamped in Germany’. Uhm… no, he didn’t. They haven’t stamped a ‘UK’ passport inside Europe since they went from black to the burgundy European ones. Sorry, Stephen Moffat - I thought you would have spotted that. The major gripe I had was Sherlock rushing off to the Far East to save Ms Adler from being beheaded. I didn’t need to see that - all I needed was Sherlock looking out of the window after John had apparently told him the news, and then a sneaky text message being delivered with its personalised text tone. But anyway, it all worked out fine in the end.

So that’s the first episode. I think I require a break before forging ahead with the next one.

Peach and lube, people.

* to get Gordon Jackson’d:
the act of passing yourself off successfully as something you’re not, only to have someone catch you out with an otherwise innocuous remark that reveals your true identity. See: The Great Escape, 1963, character of MacDonald as he gets on the train with his forged German papers.

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