Our Rating: 2 out of 5
Reviewer: Charity Bishop
It’s no secret that I love these modern interpretations of the classic character created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in the 1880’s. This is the same Sherlock Holmes that stalked those foggy London streets, albeit a bit ruder, but now he has a cell phone!
Leave it to a madman to give up far too easily. When last we saw Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch), he was a bit tied up with Moriarty waiting for a bomb to go off in his face, but one phone call and his arch-nemesis calls the whole thing off, since he has better things to do. Sherlock returns to his flat with his best friend John Watson (Martin Freeman) and proceeds to be bored… with a lot of things. With his newfound popularity, with the fact that John’s blog is a big hit, with the photographers following him around, and the lackluster cases brought to him concerning missing ashes and dead grandfathers and so forth. He wants something better, something to capture his interest… and he’s about to get it.
One morning bright and early, Sherlock is plucked from the flat and taken to Buckingham Palace for a little chat with his elder brother Mycroft (Mark Gatiss). It seems that a professional dominatrix named Irene Adler has some photographs of a member of the royal family that they would really rather not got out to the press. One would assume it was for purpose of blackmail, but other than informing them of the incriminating images, Irene has not asked for anything else. This peaks his interest and alleviates his boredom and somewhat reluctantly he agrees to investigate and manipulate her out of the contents of her phone, little realizing that Irene intends to be one step ahead of him the entire way.
Where through subsequent viewings of this episode, I managed to untangle my initial horrified reaction from my ability to be impartial, I must say that my first time through the season premiere was a bit… uncomfortable. Not only has series creator and head writer Steven Moffat taken one of the more remarkable women in Doyle’s stories and regressed her feminism and intelligence back a couple of centuries, he has also made that first hour and a half a bit rough going if you plan on having your family in the room. Irene is a bisexual dominatrix who is not ashamed of her body. Our literal first shot of her is in a negligee from behind as she enters into a room where another woman is tied to the bed. Later, she browses through her closet in a dressing gown that doesn’t leave much to the imagination. For her grand introduction to Sherlock, she wears… nothing at all. Clever perhaps since he gathers most of his data from clothing, but the audience is treated to near-nudity for several awkward moments before she finally covers up (partial side views, part of her breast from behind, and a few shots of her sitting carefully positioned in a chair to avoid us seeing private parts). We find out that she is involved with a female member of the royal family; her “assistant” is also a lesbian and makes some suggestive remarks. But in spite of her ambiguous sexuality, Irene is attracted to Sherlock, to the point of teasing him about his sexual inexperience (Mycroft also makes a reference to it) and informing him that she would like to “have him” then and there, until he “cried for mercy, twice.”
Everyone continues to assume the worst about John and Sherlock as well, and are surprised to find out they are not gay; we meet multiple gay couples. In the second episode, John is embarrassed to discover that a flashing light is in fact a car rocking back and forth with delighted voices coming from inside of it. I'm also sorry to say that using Jesus' name in vain is common this season, with eight or so occurrences, among other scattered profanities and insults. There is some violence but none of it is particularly explicit. My feelings about this season are varied. It has some truly wonderful moments, such as when Sherlock phones for an ambulance, describes injuries, and then sends a bound and gagged villain flying out the nearest window (he kind of deserved it), or when he quite calmly emerges from the Irene fiasco with his dignity at least somewhat intact, but I’m a bit torn by the Irene Adler fiasco. Moffat, who is usually known for his tight plots, goes out on a limb with a complicated and confusing episode that is not quite up to par with the second episode, in which Mark Gatiss modernizes the most famous of all Holmes mysteries, The Hound of the Baskervilles. Now that is a brilliant hour and a half of television, with enough references to the original to please fans but an independent conclusion all its own, so do not anticipate things turning out the same way after all.
The third episode is also the most
emotional and if you have not read the
original stories, you may want to
prepare for a horrific twist toward the
end. I'm not quite certain where as a
fan I stand on their interpretation of
Moriarty as a pure madman but I must say
that among other things (such as not
having Watson be a dolt, as many
adaptations fumble in that area) their
interpretation of Mycroft Holmes is
inspired. He has the right amount of
sheer humanity and genius, a touch of
arrogance and insult that makes him
identifiable as a Holmes but a bit more
distance than his brother. Each of the
three episodes has its allure in clever
writing and memorable moments, throwing
in humorous antics as well as more
serious and life-threatening situations.
I'm a bit sorry that the premiere had so
many issues in it because near-nudity
aside, it's actually an intriguing
installment. Many viewers may find the
constant references to homosexuality
tiring as I do, but overall Sherlock
is still one of the finest things on
television and at the end of its short
season, leaves us wanting more.