An Apology for Not Discovering SHERLOCK Until Right Now

19 Dec

I like to believe I’m good at catching on to shows that are really good earlier than most people in general do.  I was a staunch supporter of shows like Battlestar Galactica, Sons of Anarchy, and Breaking Bad, for example, long before they entered the pop culture conversation.  But even saying that, I have to confess because of time and other constraints, I’m often late to the party in many shows.  I didn’t get into Supernatural until someone after its fifth season, Mad Men only sporadically interested me, and let’s not talk about my lack of interest in watching Smallville (even though I love Superman).

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Which brings me to last weekend, when I decided to go on a first-time marathon watch of the BBC’s SHERLOCK via Netflix streaming.  Like I said, late to the party.

The series reinvents the mythos of Sherlock Holmes and transports it into the modern day.  Now, the most obvious and oblivious response to that for many people who hear about it is, “But, aren’t the new Sherlock Holmes movies a modern retelling of the whole thing, and what about that new show on CBS?”  First off, the movies are modern in their storytelling, not necessarily in terms of when they’re set.  Second, the CBS show is following on the curtails of this show.  And finally, this eclipses both of those new retellings.

The series plants these characters into modern day England, with pressing traumas and technology of now.  Look at Dr. Watson (Martin Freeman), who we meet in recovery from psychosomatic injuries he received while serving as a military medic in Afghanistan.  He needs to get a roommate and a job, and finds both when he’s recommended to eccentric detective Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch), who sweeps him up almost immediately into his jobs investigating unusual crimes.  The police aren’t big fans of him, excluding the somewhat supportive Inspector Lestrade, and he spends more of his time either having to explain his conclusions or telling them to shut up so he can figure it out.  Sherlock is clearly a far more analytical mind to the point of flatly ignoring someone’s feelings (and possibly their continued well-being) in favor of finding the truth to a puzzling case.

What makes the series stand out is the format, which spends an hour and a half per episode on a mystery (and occasionally the hints to an overbranching story arc), letting us live with the duo as they handle living with each other as well as solving the case.  And there’s the modern ways that Sherlock Holmes uses the technology of the day (along with the wonderful visual subtitles that show what Sherlock is noting in a crime scene), and the way he uses his encyclopedic knowledge to poke holes in theories from investigators who he feels are beneath him.  And there’s the way the classic stories are mutated into the present day by co-creators Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat, like Watson’s transcribing of Holmes’ adventures is now an online blog.  There’s even a humorous runner of the apparently classic Holmes deer cap used to some wonderful comedic effect.

And what makes it all work is the chemistry between the two leads, who portray two men who are fractured in their own ways, but find some simpatico when working together.  Watson is meant to be our eyes into the Sherlock world, and meets some of the more unusual turns (like his encounters with Sherlock’s equally off brother, Mycroft, and the modern day revisions of characters like Irene Adler and Holmes’ nemesis, Moriarty) with humor born out of frustration that he’s in the dark most of the time.  On one level, he’s the butt of a few cases in Sherlock’s need to examine a case by testing things on someone.  And on another level, Sherlock is definitely affected by his interactions with his partner/flatmate that shows he’s not some unfeeling human computer.

I prefer to think of SHERLOCK as a series of six really good TV movies as opposed to an extremely short 6 episode (so far) TV series.  But the downside of watching this series in such a fast way is the horror of realizing that we won’t see another season of SHERLOCK until early 2014 (mostly because the creative team and actors have a really busy schedule).  And after watching the chilling “WTF” climax of season two, I just want to get into it again.  Hell, I turned my mother onto this show and she’s climbing up the walls like me after seeing it to know what comes next.

So my advice, if you haven’t got into it: do it now.  it’s worth the ride.  And once again, I’m sorry for not discovering you earlier, SHERLOCK.

Sigh.  Gotta wait until 2014 for more SHERLOCK.  Might be worth the stretch

Sigh. Gotta wait until 2014 for more SHERLOCK. Might be worth the stretch.

Sherlock is available on DVD/Blu-ray and available for streaming through Amazon and Netflix.

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