Brilliant isn’t it? Isn’t it? Or is it? Are we just being told it’s brilliant so we don’t notice that at times it’s not? I don’t want to be the one to say it, but last night’s episodes was…meh!
Only nine episodes and all of them are at a standard far higher than most drama the UK has produced for years, but for me last night’s episode felt as empty as the bad guy’s vaults. There are two things that this show relies on – one is the relationship between Sherlock and John Watson and there is no denying that Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman perform the roles brilliantly together. You couldn’t hope for a better chemistry between your leads. The second aspect of Holmes was the mystery and while there were some nice twists in last night’s show there wasn’t actually any mystery to solve – no amazing piecing together of the puzzle as we’ve seen in previous episodes.
There are two issues behind the show that bother me a bit too. Moffat and Gatiss have done brilliantly to bring the stories I loved as a kid back with a great updating of the style, the workings and the mysteries themselves but they have gone all “fan boy” on it for me. The first major problem I have is with Gatiss as Mycroft is not believable but I could cope with him in the very small doses we’ve had of him in previous series. Mycroft should be a stronger character and as much as I love Mark he just can’t pull it off. If he hadn’t been co-creator then there is no chance he would have been in the role so that is the first mistake with him. The other is trying to develop the relationship between the brothers too much – the coldness, awkwardness and distance was funny and served the characterisation well. Now they seem overly familiar and the domestic scene of them at their parent’s just didn’t sit.
The Second thing that worries me is that with last night the misdirection, smoke and mirrors, sleight of hand routine is becoming predictable. When the obvious answer is left then the writers are pressing escape and chickening out of an answer. I give you the “How did he survive the fall?” routine this season. The truth is we didn’t need to know so the awkward “Clue” style multiple options was annoying rather than anything else. (Although the Derren Brown cameo was funny). Either reveal or ignore – it felt like they slithered out of a solution in case their idea had been suggested already online or in a newspaper. Then there’s the coincidences that are too convenient as well as the really awkward clichés like the bomb in the first episode of this run. Holmes mysteries are more fun like “The Speckled Band” was a very clever mystery and trying to trick the audience all the time is actually making the mysteries a bit of a sideshow. I find myself feeling the same about last night as I do Doctor Who in that Steven Moffat is a great writer but a poor plotter and at times he tries too hard to be clever and falls between two stools – no plot and writing is not as good as you’d hoped.
I know this might seem unfair because overall I enjoyed this series – the first two episodes were a great balance of humour and drama. Cumberbatch is such perfect casting and the sequences where he is working things out – as he did last week at the wedding – are great TV. He holds the viewer so well and those piercing steel-blue eyes make him the focus of every scene he’s in. The style and pace of the show is great, the modern twists are largely well done and there are the same strands of humour throughout this incarnation as Doyle put in his books. The wider cast do need more to do though as Una Stubbs, Rupert Graves and last night Lindsay Duncan are woefully underused at the expense of the Mycrofts of this world.
With the “Miss Me?” teaser at the end of the episode it could lead to a great twist – but I predict that it’ll be a huge let down again much as the “Fall” cliffhanger was this season. The danger is that at times Moffat, Gatiss and the other writers set the bar so high that they will occasionally disappoint – and I suppose that that’s a compliment of sorts. Perhaps though next series the focus should be on solving the cases rather than the domestic, the cloak and dagger and “trying to be too clever for their own bloody good”!