Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Sherlock - A Scandal in Belgravia

The new episode of Sherlock -- 'A Scandal in Belgravia' -- was quite good fun. Yes, Sherlock will no doubt get up the noses of purists but when it comes to Holmes I'm a strange mixture of connoisseur and philistine. On the one hand I love the original Conan Doyle stories, think the Jeremy Brett TV series is the gold standard by which all other screen versions should be judged and will quite cheerfully unleash a swamp adder upon any writer foolish enough to have Holmes tangle with Dracula, Mr Hyde or any other supernatural foe. On the other hand I have a soft spot for Without a Clue and Young Sherlock Holmes and the Pyramid of Fear so obviously my judgement should be taken with a grain of salt. Sherlock tends to come down on both sides of the divide for me, depending on how well each individual episode is handled and whether I happen to feel connoisseurish or philistiney when I watch it. Consequently I shall be sticking the boot into Sherlock even as I praise it.

The opening scene, resolving the cliffhanger from series one, has divided viewers. Some found it hilariously inventive, others stupidly anti-climactic. Personally, I'm just glad they got rid of the rubbish actor playing Moriarty so quickly. Presumably he had to rush off to play the villain in the local panto. I actually found myself hoping that he was a flunky pretending to be Moriarty in order to leave the criminal mastermind out of harm's way in case his plan backfired. Unfortunately it looks like we're stuck with an actor who is less scary than the Jim Moriarty off The Goon Show. (To be fair I've not seen the actor in anything else so he may have given brilliant performances in every other role he's played. There's even a chance that his Moriarty will improve as he gets used to the part. Fingers crossed.)

Anyway, on to the main story. I'm not entirely convinced that turning Irene Adler into a morally ambiguous femme fatale was a good idea -- if memory serves she was a lot more sympathetic in the original short story -- but as this allowed Lara Pulver to strut around naked I'm not complaining. Although it did bug me that Sherlock found it impossible to make any deductions about Adler just because she was naked. Surely he could still have made deductions about her hairstyle, make up and the building she was living in. Not to mention the most obvious clue of all -- "Only one beauty salon in the whole of Europe uses that distinctive style of Brazilian!" After all, canonical stories such as 'The Blue Carbuncle' show that Holmes is able to make deductions based upon fashion and grooming. Perhaps one of the cases for which Watson feels the world is not ready is 'The Adventure of the Primped Pussy.'

Still, I was chuffed that Moffatt managed to keep so much of the original 'A Scandal in Bohemia' plot in his adaptation although he did jettison at least one key scene in order to explore the possibility of romance between Holmes and Adler -- an idea which I thought I would hate but which Moffatt managed to handle without compromising Holmes' analytical personality. (I'm not really up on Holmes pastiches but I guess that most writers ignore this scene from 'Bohemia' when they have Adler turn up in their stories as it reminds people that not only did Adler not fancy Holmes but she actually married someone else which rather gets in the way of developing romantic storylines for the two of them.)

Meanwhile, the Holmes geek in me enjoyed the references to other Holmes stories: 'The Greek Interpreter', 'The Speckled Band' and 'The Illustrious Client' (and possibly a whole bunch of others that I missed). Unfortunately the plot got a little bit carried away with its twists and turns and the ending was pretty ludicrous. Also, although Adler got a lot more to do than in the original story she actually came across as less capable -- in 'Bohemia' she scored a decisive victory against Holmes whilst acting completely by herself but in 'Belgravia' she had outside assistance yet still had trouble landing an intellectual KO. And it seemed a bit of a shame for her to end up as a damsel in distress in need of rescue.

Another thing -- and there's a good chance that I've misunderstood all the twists and turns of the plot here -- but Adler seemed willing to sacrifice national security in order to save her own skin. This basically means that she doesn't care if innocent people die so long as she survives. As I say, I may be wrong, she may have been unaware of what she was getting into and was an innocent dupe but such a lack of intelligence just makes her seem less worthy of the title the woman.

Still, overall the episode was enjoyable, appealing more to my inner philistine than my connoisseur.


buddy2blogger said...

"And it seemed a bit of a shame for her to end up as a damsel in distress in need of rescue. "

I have not seen the second season yet. But it is a shame to make "The Woman" a run-of-the-mill damsel in distress...

Stuart Young said...

Sorry, only just spotted this comment as well. Yeah, the ending did seem to undermine the whole point of the original story. But despite that if you liked the first series you'll like this second one.