The first season of Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock was so good that I went back and rewatched it before diving into a review of the second season. Picking up literally where the final episode of the first left off, we find Sherlock grappling with Jim Moriarty (Andrew Scott), rescuing Watson (Martin Freeman of the upcoming Hobbit), and saving the world through quick mental gymnastics that require speedy thinking to keep up (as either a character or a viewer!). We get Holmesian logic, British repartee, and modern technology wrapped up into the wonderful reimagining. It’s safe to say that the second season is equally as brilliant, with the added bonus of a second trilogy of episodes to delve into our proponent’s character and his relationship with the esteemed Dr. Watson, as our Holmes is part-House/part-Sheldon, and all sleuth.
In “A Scandal in Belgravia” (adapted from “A Scandal in Bohemia”), we are treated to the equivalent of a romance between Holmes and his mental match, the lovely dominatrix Irene Adler (Laura Pulver), who holds dangerous photos of British royalty on her phone. We know that she’s up to no good but we’re not quite sure why or for whom. We will quickly discover that things aren’t quite as they seem, with deaths and miraculous resurrections, misdirections, and the intrusion of Moriarty, again. I had just about given up on the episode’s chances of making any sense when it all began to come together, and any fear we might’ve had for Holmes’ mental wellbeing was cleverly washed away.
The mental wellbeing of Holmes and others is called into question when our duo of mystery-solvers engages “The Hounds of Baskerville” (based on “The Hound of the Baskervilles”), this time dealing with a military base out on the middle of the moors. Being Human’s Russell Tovey serves as the “client” who has vicious visions of a terrible hound which he believes killed his father years before and now haunts him. It’s another clever reimagining, but it finds Holmes doubting himself, and enraging Watson by berating him and claiming that he really has no friends. It’s a troubling period within their friendship, but it proves to allow them to grow closer together in the refrain where they’re reconciled (fighting Watson’s claim that they’re “not a couple!”). The episode itself proves to be an exploration of madness, and what it means for us to have faith in what we can (and can’t) see.
The final episode revolves around Moriarty again, this time at “The Reisenbach Fall” (”The Final Problem”). I’m enchanted by the battle, in the same way I find The Joker to be Batman’s best enemy. Samuel L. Jackson’s villain in Unbreakable says that “every hero needs a villain,” and again, it’s proven how absolutely perfect Moriarty’s evil is in highlighting the goodness of Holmes, even if he’s House without a medical degree. (Moriarty even goes so far as to say that he’s the villain that Sherlock’s fairy tale needs.) Fans should again expect a cliffhanger, which longtime Holmes’ fans will see coming based on the story it’s based on, and be thankful that the third season is already under development. I’m frankly still reeling from the finale which was tense… and genius… and proved again both Watson and Holmes’ love for each other.
“Sherlock Uncovered” is a pretty sweet special feature. It was excellent enough to watch it in high definition on bluray, especially with all the John Woo-like slo-mo fight scenes (like the Robert Downey Jr. movies), but this gives some background and lets us see the actors. I still think that the filming, the editing especially, makes this even more dynamic. It’s paced like an older Holmes movie but it doesn’t operate that way because there’s so much going on.
Sherlock is genius television. Again, it’s a crying shame that they only do three episodes a year, but with Cumberbatch and Parker signing on for projects like Warhorse, The Hobbit, etc., there’s no doubt they’re in high demand. But Sherlock Holmes is an iconic character whose deductive skills have impacted everything from Columbo to Psych, from the dramatic to the comic. This show proves that there are some people who are up to the challenge, who are determined to battle evil until it has been destroyed, and who will override their own sense of safety if it means saving others.