Daily Rant, Honest Critique, Television

Day 220: An Honest Critique of BBC’s Sherlock

Who doesn’t love a mystery?

In terms of literature, film and television, the mystery genre has long stood the test of time. Watching a brilliant detective (or a not so brilliant one if it’s a comedy) pick up the pieces to the puzzle and find a crafty serial killer (or a rapist if you’re Broadchurch) is a simple thrill that never gets old. And in no character is that more apparent than Sherlock Holmes.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic character has had more adaptations and reboots than Spider-Man in the last ten years. He’s had new books written by other authors (in case it weren’t obvious, considering Sir Arthur’s been dead for a long time), multiple TV shows, and whole movies.

Among them, one show rose up to become the new definitive version of Sherlock Holmes, simply titled… Sherlock.

Helpful.

Starring Benedict Cumberpatch as the titular detective, Sherlock took the world by storm with it’s feature length episodes, fantastic scripting, wonderful acting and truly great cinematography. Sure, each season was only three episodes long, but you can’t exactly complain when those episodes are as long as your average movie. And when you consider that they are of similar quality to these films, it only gets more impressive.

That is, until, Seasons three and four.

The first two seasons of Sherlock are some of my favorite pieces of television ever made. They were engaging, dark (and still somehow fun at the same time) and suitably mysterious. If you’re looking for a great mystery or two, these seasons are the way to go.

So of course the next two would split away from that almost entirely, right?

Much like Doctor Who, Sherlock’s final two seasons were handled by a different show runner after the previous stood down. In fact, it was almost identically so. In that Russel T. Davies handed the torch to Steven Moffat.

Oh my god history completely repeated itself, didn’t it?

Now, to be fair, Steven Moffat can do quality work, and he had done so more than once in the past. Unfortunately, those days seem to be done, and he produces far more bad content than good.

I’m looking at you, Doctor Who season nine.

Getting back on subject, seasons three and four of Sherlock put a much weaker focus on the mysteries and a much stronger focus on the characters. More specifically, the romantic drama of these characters. Even more specifically than that, John Watson’s marriage issues.

This is where the issues are found. Aside from Sherlock’s sister, which… we’ll get to her in a bit.

See, both of these seasons do still have some quality moments. Season three had the fantastic scene where Sherlock talks himself through getting shot in his Mind Palace, and before that it had the belt-murder mystery which, while kind of stupid, was pretty entertaining to watch. Unfortunately, these scenes and the mysteries they’re contributing too take a back seat to John and his marriage problems.

See, season three is all about John Watson getting engaged to this one blonde chick (I can’t remember her name, and I can’t be bothered to look it up because I really don’t like this character). For the first two episodes, she’s just a clever but regular woman who gets sucked into what I like to call the ‘Sherlock Trouble Field’. I actually like her in these two episodes.

Than it’s revealed that she’s a master spy and that her entire life has been a lie. And to that, I ask:

WHY?!

Why the hell can’t she just be a smart but regular lady?! Why the fuck did she have to be a super spy with a mysterious past?! Did the story really need this?! This twist is forced, out of nowhere, and hurts the story way more than it helps it.

This forced subplot comes up again in season four, by the way. And it sucks just as much there as it did here.

Speaking of season four, let’s discuss the single worst character in the history of Sherlock Holmes. A character who could’ve been incredibly intimidating and interesting had Moffat kept his shower ideas to the shower and not the writers room.

Sherlock’s sister.

Season four introduced her as a brand new villain around the final episode. She’s far smarter than Sherlock, and far more cold blooded. She is so persuasive in fact that she can convince anyone to do what she wants. The entire episode is spent building her up to be unstoppable, unfeeling and the closest to pure evil we’ve seen since Moriarty.

And then the finale happened.

See, at the end of the episode it’s revealed that Sherlock’s only childhood friend (who he confused for a dog due to psychological trauma, I guess) was murdered in a well by his sister when they were kids, which is why she’s been in prison her entire life. Why did she do this, you ask? Why has she tortured Sherlock so?

Because she was lonely.

Yep. Her whole motivation was that she wanted to play with Sherlock and his friend, but when they ran off without her (because they’re eight year old boys) she decided to fucking drown one of them and force Sherlock to go and find him. Okay. That sort of makes sense. She’s a crazy killer genius.

Until Sherlock gives her a hug and she stops being that.

I’m not even fucking kidding, Sherlock discovers why she’s been doing all these terrible things (including but not limited to: convincing people to kill themselves, convincing people to kill each other, psychological torture, treason against her country, and so on) and finds her curled up into a ball crying (why?) and gives her a hug. And then… she stops doing bad things. And what’s her punishment for doing all these terrible things, you ask?

They put her right back in the same damn cell and promise to let her family visit. Instead of, y’know, executing her for her crimes against queen and country. Crimes she knowingly committed in a right state of mind.

Because that’s how the world works.

That’s how the show ended, by the way. That was the grand finale of the forth season, which is currently looking to be the final season of the show. Our final, ultimate villain fell flat on her face right at the finish line.

Can we just get Moriarty back? He was really good and I loved him.

I could go on and on regarding seasons three and four (especially four) but I’ll draw the line here. Mainly because if I had to talk about them in greater detail, I’d have to go into the visuals which are… pretty bad. So I’m going to stop here.

It’s such a shame. If Sherlock had maintained the same level of quality across all of it’s seasons, it could’ve been the best adaptation of the character to date. But now, it’s only half of the best version of the character.

Oh well. I guess fifty percent ain’t bad. Aside from the fact that it’s a failing grade.

But let’s not sweat the little details.

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