Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Sherlock: There's something about Mary

It seems like I keep on having to write about three things really being just one. Sherlock's short run of three episodes just turned out to be one very long episode. Which itself turned out to be just an interlude before we resume the story we got at the end of the second season. Moriarty isn't dead after all. Neither was Sherlock. I'm beginning to wonder whether anything we saw in the second season finale will still be real by the time they get round to making a fourth season. "Well, John, the reality is that we made London up completely as part of a complicated plot. Also, there is no BBC. And gravity's just a ruse."

The BBC take on Sherlock Holmes has always been an odd duck. Of course you've got the Cumberbatch, lord of all awesome and in Sherlock the titular crown prince of all media's high functioning sociopaths. That does rather tend to white out everything else around it (As Sherlock himself said in the third episode just now "Oh, someone was talking and it wasn't me, so I probably just filtered it out."). But the odd thing about it is that it's a ratings monster produced at eye-watering cost and they only produce it in chunks of three episodes at a time, the equivalent of six US TV hours allowing for ads. Just as you've got the chance to get used to looking forward to it, it's gone again for a year or more. 

Which makes it almost idiotically daring that the writers burned up the first two episodes specifically to maximise the punch of the third. The first was dominated by a heroic refusal to answer the question of how Sherlock got off the roof at the end of the second season(three different explanations offered, and I refuse to believe that I'm supposed to buy any of them). There was a mystery to solve about a terrorist plot, but that was practically a shaggy dog story; oh look, it's a terrorist underground plotting to blow up the Houses of Parliament with a tube train; a terrorist UNDERGROUND, geddit? Yeah, yeah, yeah, but what were you saying there about Watson having a fiancĂ©e? Is he going to sulk at Sherlock indefinitely? 

The second episode was the world's looniest best man's speech, ostensibly to showcase all the elements of the murder of the week, but really about the unstoppable bromance of Sherlock and Watson and how to fit a real live woman into the middle of it. 

And having danced around and joked for the fans and generally had a hell of a time, the third episode started paying all that stuff off, showing us that all the throwaway moments of the past three hours had been parts of a jigsaw puzzle we'd didn't even know was there. And it worked. By the time we got to the punchline, I was about two feet closer to the tv than I'd been at the beginning.

Yes, it's silly and the characters are practically cartoons, but the writing's so good and the actors throw themselves into it so hard that you get carried along with a big smile on your face right up to the moment that you've got a lump in your throat. 

Only six TV hours every year or so? When I think about it, we should just be grateful they can do that much. 

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