The modern-day take of the Arthur Conan Doyle classic has garnered critical acclaim around the world, as well as a dedicated following. The programme, having now finished its second season, was co-created by Steven Moffat (Doctor Who) and Mark Gatiss (Doctor Who) and stars Benedict Cumberbatch (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Wreckers, War Horse) as Sherlock Holmes and Martin Freeman (The Office, The Hobbit) as Dr John Watson. While also starring Mark Gatiss as Mycroft Holmes, Una Stubbs as Mrs Hudson and Andrew Scott as Sherlock’s rival, James Moriarty. Although the idea may have seemed an odd choice to some, especially with the release of Guy Ritchie’s first instalment of the Sherlock Holmes films starring Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law a few months previously, Moffat and Gatiss proved sceptics wrong. The series delivered an exceptional cast performance, cinematography and music score. Not only was the series different to anything else on television, it was fresh, fast-paced and exciting. Both series consisted of three episodes, an hour and a half in length. The first series introduced us to our protagonists with adaptations of A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of The Four and The Great Game. The second season’s three episodes consisted of, as described by Moffat, “The Woman, The Hound and The Fall.”
The first episode of the season, A Scandal in Belgravia, introduced viewers to a new character: Irene Adler. In this adaptation she is depicted, by Lara Pulver, as a dominatrix with a strong mind and an even stronger character. The episode consists of a battle of wills between Sherlock and Adler, Sherlock sent to gain access to incriminating photos of a royal and Adler to test Sherlock’s intellect. The script is well-paced for the banter that goes on between the two characters, and the implications of Watson and Sherlock’s lifestyle are stronger and more amusing than the first season. Una Stubbs as Mrs. Hudson provided additional laughs and applause in her role, making it clear how necessary a character she is to Sherlock. The episode provided a more than satisfactory start to the new season and left fans wanting the week to pass in order to watch the next episode. However, there were some minor glitches in the story. Although an understandable addition to the episode in order to add to the character of James Moriarty, the incident with the potential terrorist attack seemed rather far-fetched. Although this part of the episode was needed to add to the mystery of Irene Adler and her loyalties, it seems odd that Moriarty couldn’t figure out the necessary code himself, being the intellectual equal of Sherlock after all. Furthermore the result of the first season’s cliff-hanger leaves one slightly disappointed, the tension that had built up whilst waiting for the second season seeming to be pointless. Pulver’s acting is strong, much like her character, and she establishes herself as a worthy adversary to Cumberbatch’s Holmes. Freeman carries the emotion of the audience throughout the episode, supplying the laughs and the tears felt by those watching, yet again showing his intoxicating presence as an actor.
The second episode, The Hounds of Baskerville, was more intense and frightening than the previous episode, starring Russel Tovey as Henry Knight. The storyline surrounds the mystery of a creature, that has been seen by a select few, terrorising a small town by the side of a genetic experiments facility. Henry Knight chooses to come to Sherlock in order to prove the creature’s existence and rid the area of it. The episode then spirals into an investigation of the Baskerville factory and even makes Sherlock question his intellect. The explanation to the mysterious happenings is believable and almost makes one question the integrity of mankind and its aspirations for genetic testing. Despite this, the episode proves to be somewhat chaotic and can sometimes be difficult to follow as there is far too much happening at once on screen. However, this may be an obvious tactic to show viewers the influence the products of the Baskerville factory have on both Sherlock and Watson. The end of the episode reaches an interesting cliff-hanger, one that fans will query over until the final episode. Russel Tovey’s character is convincing in the episode, verifying his strength as an actor in a number of roles. Whilst Cumberbatch and Freeman’s double-act are yet again masterful in their execution and do not disappoint their predecessors.
The final episode of the season, The Reichenbach Fall, is beautifully filmed and not lacking in pace or shocking results, proving that this episode is, by far, the best episode of both seasons of Sherlock. The first few minutes are already sufficient enough to make fans shout at the screen. The episode presents the final game between Moriarty and Holmes, proving to be more dangerous than what may have been first assumed. Those familiar with the Conan Doyle short story depicting this battle will know its end, however the episode still shocks despite this foresight. Filled with constant moments of awe and desperation viewers cannot help but feel like the episode lasts less than five minutes, rather than the actual 90. The episode begins with the capture and trial of Moriarty, with Sherlock being sent in as the key expert to testify against him. Despite the evidence, Moriarty is appeased and so begins the final face-off between the two masterminds. Andrew Scott shines in his role as Moriarty in this episode, proving that his character is more than just a funny accent and a temper problem, whilst Benedict Cumberbatch pulls all the strings necessary to make fans weep. Martin Freeman fuels the fans emotions and is the strength of the episode. What is interesting is the importance of Molly, played by Louise Brealey, whose insight into Sherlock provides viewers with a deeper understanding of his character and also garners respect for hers. The final shot of the episode leave fans kicking and screaming in want of more as Moffat and Gatiss once again provide a worthy end to the season.
Reviewed by Roxy Simons.