It seems like reboots, remakes and re-imaginings are taking precedent over original ideas. While most of these facsimiles can be underwhelming, every so often one really gets things right, and Steven Moffat’s updating of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s most iconic character definitely gets is right. Sherlock returned to the PBS Masterpiece Mystery! series with “A Scandal in Belgravia”, and it was an excellent example of why this contemporary adaptation cannot be beat.
After a brief showdown with Moriarty that was interrupted by a well-timed phone call from Irene Adler, Sherlock struggled with finding a new case that would challenge him along with his newfound fame as being an Internet detective thanks to Dr. Watson’s blog. After rejecting some possible clients, and working on a few cases involving dead bodies in car trunks and fields, Mycroft Holmes brought his brother an assignment that involved a member of the royal family and some compromising pictures. You see, this version of Irene Adler is a dominatrix with some very high profile clients, and she kept these photos in her phone as an insurance policy. Since the royals couldn’t risk them getting out, Sherlock was brought in to get them back.
During their first encounter, which Irene attended in the nude but eventually covered up after Sherlock offered her his coat, he realized that he could not read her like he could everyone else, and it started to dawn on him that she very well could be his equal. Their banter was cut short by a group of Americans who were also after Adler’s phone, but they were unsuccessful thanks to a booby-trap that was set in a wall safe. Once things settled down, Sherlock was able to get his hands on the phone, but he was duped and drugged by Irene which allowed her to get away. When he woke up, he heard a female moan, and it turned out that Irene had returned his coat which contained his phone, and she had added the sound as her personal ringtone. She texted Sherlock over the next couple of months, but he never replied until she sent him her phone for safekeeping which he interpreted as a sign of her upcoming death. Sure enough, Holmes had to identify her body at the morgue.
Like all great mysteries, there was more going on behind the scenes. Watson was taken by unnamed woman to a meeting where he learned that Irene was not dead. She had faked her death to throw off those who were tracking her down due to all of the secrets that she kept on her phone. One of those secrets was a code that she got from an email that belonged to an official of the Ministry of Defence. After a few seconds, Sherlock deduced that it was a seat on a plane from London to Baltimore. That particular flight ended up being a decoy set up by the British and American governments that was supposed to explode as a way to fool a terrorist cell. Unfortunately for Holmes, Irene sent that information to Moriarty who in turn let Mycroft know that he was aware of the plan thus ruining everything.
Now that Irene proved how much power she could wield, she sat down with Mycroft and negotiated how much money and protection it would take to keep her from toppling Britain. While she gloated, Sherlock figured out the pass code to her phone since her body betrayed her when she previously tried to seduce him. Holmes was able to take her pulse while she was attempting to be intimate with him, and he realized that she cared about him which gave him the key to her secrets. He entered the letters “S-H-E-R” into her phone’s lock screen which read, “I Am Sher-locked.” With all of her leverage gone, and without any protection, it was reported that she was beheaded by a terrorist cell as punishment, but she did have someone looking over her in the end: Sherlock himself.
As you can see a lot happened during Sherlock‘s first episode back, but the most important development was the introduction of Irene Adler. In my opinion, her debut into this updated universe was flawless, and I got a lot enjoyment out of watching her rival, outwit and frustrate our hero even though he ended up winning in the end. Also, having her be a dominatrix was a fun little twist in spite of some of the criticisms that the move could be interpreted as sexist which I don’t really get. From what I could tell, this new Irene Adler still used her smarts to stay one step ahead of Holmes up until the very end, but she also skillfully used her sexuality for some added umph. While I can see how some would view this take on the character as a slight, I for one thought that it was inspired and didn’t diminish her at all. Then again, my familiarity with Irene Adler’s limited to Rachel McAdams’ interpretation, so I admit that my attachments aren’t very strong. At least Lara Pulver’s performance eclipsed her predecessor’s. Since the original only appeared in one of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories, I’m interested to see if Pulver will show up again, and I truly hope that she does because she was able to hold her own and added a lot to this world.
While it was fun watching Sherlock and Irene dance around for the entire episode, the real draw of the show continued to be the bond between Holmes and Watson. Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freemen have a flawless rapport, and it was once again on display during “Belgravia”. The two shared so many great scenes together that I lost count, and it’s easy to see that they’re on track towards becoming one of the best duos on modern-day television. Seriously, anyone who gets a kick out of watching House and Wilson bicker should do themselves a favor and check out Sherlock because Holmes and Watson put them to shame. Not only do these two have great chemistry, but they’re also responsible for the lion’s share of laughs that are necessary for a show like this. Excellent stuff all around.
Now, I pretty much cherished everything about this episode, but it had its share of mishaps. One complaint that I’ve had about Sherlock since the beginning has been the length of each installment. Since I’m an American, I’d prefer it if these episodes were cut into six one-hour slivers instead of three two-hour chunks, but I get that the British do things differently. While I do my best to pay attention, I usually find myself losing interest while powering through each chapter because there’s so much story to wade through and most of it ends up not being all that important. For example, we really didn’t need to have the bit about the backfiring car and the dead sportsman. Sure, that case added some shading to Sherlock and Watson, but it ultimately was just a stepping stone to Adler and the secret plane bombing. Usually, I wouldn’t mind such a stall tactic, but it felt like it took up too much time, and I got bored until Holmes popped up in Buckingham Palace in nothing but a sheet. Getting back to the main plot, while it was gripping with all of the twists and turns, it too took a while to pick up steam which was only hurt by the extended run time. Had Moffat trimmed it down to a standard 45-minute time frame, it would have had a smoother pace, but I once again realize that he’s playing by a different set of rules.
Other Odds and Ends:
- Moriarty’s an odd duck, isn’t he?
- Nice nod with the deerstalker cap.
- The dueling scenes of Sherlock and Irene preparing for their first entanglement was brilliant.
- I wonder how long Watson had been waiting to lay into Sherlock like that.
- Now that’s how you make an entrance.
- Of course the combination to her safe was her measurements.
- The boys scolding Mycroft for telling Mrs. Hudson to shut-up was great.
- Aw, poor Molly.
- “This is your case, so it’s entirely up to you. This is only advice, but give Sherlock five minutes with your crime scene and listen to everything he has to say. And as far as possible, try not to punch him.”
- Watson: “Are you wearing any pants?”
- “John, you might want to put that cup back in its saucer now.”
- “I always hear ‘punch me in the face’ when you’re speaking, but it’s usually subtext.”
- “Look at those cheekbones. I could cut myself slapping that face. Would you like me to try?”
- “I missed something, haven’t I?”
- “Somebody loves you. If I had to punch that face, I’d avoid your nose and teeth too.”
- “Brainy’s the new sexy.”
- “Why bother? You can follow her on Twitter. I believe her user name is the Whip Hand.”
- Watson: “Tell him you’re alive.”
Irene: “He’d come after me.”
Watson: “I’ll come after you if you don’t”
- “Mrs. Hudson leave Baker Street? England would fall.”
- “You think she’s my girlfriend because I’m x-raying her possessions?”
- “I make my way in the world. I misbehave.”
- Sherlock: “Please don’t feel obliged to tell me that was remarkable or amazing. John’s expressed that thought in every possible variant available to the English language.”
Irene: “I would have you right here on this desk until you begged for mercy twice.”
Sherlock: “I’ve never begged for mercy in my life.”
- “Hamish. John Hamish Watson. Just in case you if you’re looking for baby names.”
- “He’s good isn’t he? I should have him on a leash. In fact, I might.”
- “Sentiment is a chemical defect found in the losing side.”
It’s good to have Sherlock back. Its take on the standard police procedural is refreshing and breaks up the monotony that’s been established by the lesser shows that air on CBS. It’s just a shame that the Eye wants to rip-off an already superior remake with Elementary. Let’s just hope viewers refuse to accept any substitutions.
Photo Courtesy of PBS