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Monday, January 4, 2016

Still Sherlocked…and loving it

by Barbara Early

As a mystery writer, or even as an avid fan of the genre, I’m supposed to love Sherlock Holmes. This isn’t always an easy feat, especially since the character was never that lovable, nor was he intended to be. He was, and is, brilliant, but deeply flawed and emotionally distant, arrogant and drug-addicted. In Sherlock, he self-identifies as a high-functioning sociopath: this is not a likable dude.

Yet, like millions of others, I adore Sherlock. And I thought it might be worth a moment of my time to try to figure out why that is. After all, just because you call a character Sherlock Holmes, doesn’t mean the resulting product will be good. (Consider CBS’s mediocre Elementary.)

Here’s what caught my attention:

They don’t cater to a dumb audience. Each episode has been movie-length, and moves along at a good clip. Unlike many shows today, this is not television you can have on in the background and still be able to follow.  There are plots, subplots, subtext, subtle clues, inside jokes, and plot twists that demand the viewer’s attention. It challenges you to think. To imagine. Finally! Television for smart people.

Compelling questions. Rather than just a series of images on the screen, Sherlock requires active audience involvement by making the viewer ask questions, and then making them wait for—or work for—the answers. The first thing I wanted to know was, how did they get back in the 1800s? I didn’t figure it out until they revealed the answer, but it made perfect sense. And the questions keep coming. Who is the woman in black? How does the abominable bride continue to kill people after she’s dead?

Witty dialogue. I was entranced early on when Mrs. Hudson complained about her roles in the stories. This is a genius team of writers who don’t take themselves too seriously, and the satiric brilliance just flows from scene to scene.

Intriguing personalities, larger than life. This is not a detective story. It’s a super-detective story. The villains are criminal masterminds, worthy of their own comic book series. (In fact, the abominable bride’s makeup was a bit reminiscent of the Joker.) The stakes are always the highest they can be. There are no ordinary people or minor cases in Sherlock’s world.

A whole lot of fun. The only time I stopped smiling was when I laughed out loud. Even while the drama ensues, the one-liners are relentless. A few highlights…Holmes says “This is clearly man’s work,” and then calls for Hooper, who even Watson knows is a woman pretending to be a man. And yes, bad translation gags are older than the hills, but when Watson messes up his sign language at the silent Diogenes Club? I was in stitches.


The complete package. From the sepia-toned opening credits and the typewritten observations, to the mutton-chop sideburns, every detail was in place. We waited long for this episode, and they made it worth the wait. 

Um…when’s season four?


Barbara Early grew up buried in the snowy suburbs of Buffalo, NY, where she developed a love for all things sedentary: reading, writing, classic movies, and Scrabble. Barbara cooks up cozy mysteries with a healthy dose of comedy and sometimes a splash of romance. Barbara writes the Bridal Bouquet Shop Mysteries as Beverly Allen, including Bloom and Doom, For Whom the Bluebell Tolls, and Floral Depravity from Berkley Prime Crime. You can learn more about her writing at www.barbaraearly.com.   **And look for the new Vintage Toy Shop Mysteries coming in 2016! **

15 comments:

  1. I could chat about the special for a long time, but (not right now). Thanks for sharing the fun!

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    1. I know. So much there. I'm keeping it on my DVR until the DVD drops.

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  2. I loved the quick, witty dialogue! When Mary asks, "what am I supposed to do, just sit around here waiting?" and Watson replies, "No, we'll be hungry later." !!! The look on her face was priceless.

    Fortunately, it'll repeat again the 11th (I think?). No season four until 2017!!! Those busy actors!

    I've actually read some hard criticism of the last episode. I can't share here without spoiling, but I admit I agreed with one or two of the critic's points. But I still loved the episode. Have been waiting for it for a long time!

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    1. I did read some criticism. That's going to happen whenever you take chances, and they clearly did that. I saw the point to some of the complaints, but for me they were minor things mixed in a whole lot of good TV.

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  3. I loved this episode... though it was good to hold me over till they make season 4, now I truly can't wait to see more.

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    1. I know. I think it might help to think of them as movies. Some years we don't get any, and others we get three. I rewatched all of them getting ready for the special, and I'd forgotten just how much I love Sherlock!

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  4. I haven't seen the show, but I did watch this episode. I thought it was interesting. I'm on the fence over going back and watching the series. Probably, I will.

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    1. I suspect context might help a little. There was a lot that probably would make more sense.

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  5. I thought in many ways it was brilliant. Some of it was baffling. Love the writing for the most part, though I thought the big reason for the "bride" murders was fairly unconvincing, but then again, being in the situation it was (can't say more without spoilers) that may have had more to do with Sherlock's assessment of general conditions than anything that might have actually been real. All in all, it was great theater. Suzie, you should definitely start at the beginning with "Study in Pink." I've seen only the first season because I've just been busy, but I do mean to catch up when I can. Love the two leads. :D

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    1. I rewatched the earlier seasons just before this aired, and I think it helped. Some of the things reviewers gigged them on make a lot more sense in the context of the previous episode. The modern portions some critics found so jarring explain the reason for the whole "flashback" case, the solution of which answers a question posed at the end of season three and should illumine season 4. Without giving away the ending, how the bride kills herself and then comes back will likely be how Moriarty returns in season 4. Just guessing.

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  6. I got hooked on Sherlock on Netflix. I do not have television, so need to wait until the season is over and available on Netflix before I can see another episode. Sounds like it will be worth the wait though!

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    1. I think it is streaming on PBS.

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  7. I got hooked on Sherlock on Netflix. I do not have television, so need to wait until the season is over and available on Netflix before I can see another episode. Sounds like it will be worth the wait though!

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  8. I LOVE the new Sherlock. But then I've loved many of the older ones too, especially the Jeremy Brett series. But the intelligence, the razor-sharp wit are what draw me in.

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