That’s Elementary, my dear Watson. No. Wait. It’s Sherlock!

Let’s Talk Opinion in conversation with thedailygrime

“I’m not an uber Sherlock fan, so I didn’t bother watching the first episode of the new season until a few days after it had been aired. So I ended up reading the reviews before seeing the program for myself. The reviews were what is euphemistically called “mixed”, which is another way of saying that the first episode was universally panned.

The thing is though, even before watching the first episode, I didn’t understand what the reviewers were talking about.” The Game Is Afoot

Sherlock-dressed-as-French-waiter

The full title of thedailygrime‘s review is The Game Is Afoot – How The Critics Want To Sink Sherlock And Why I Think They Never Will, and if you’ve been keeping up with all things CumberVic on this blog, you will understand why I couldn’t help myself. Just had to read the review, and once read a reply begged to be written.

You see… my last Benedict Cumberbatch post inadvertently added me to the nameless hoard of critics who have met the Empty Hearse, first episode of Sherlock the Third, with a good old battering by the proverbial pan. I am ready to admit however, that an even greater disappointment than an underwhelming return of the show would be its cancellation. I certainly do not want for this series to end up being Sherlock’s Titanic, so I am glad to find that there are many out there who are enjoying Mark Gattis and Steven Moffat’s latest offering.

I enjoyed thedailygrime‘s style in taking on the reviewers and decided to examine the evidence in consulting detective fashion and add my own deductions to the mix.

Let the games begin!

I’m afraid there will be a few SPOILERS in what follows, so if you haven’t watched The Empty Hearse and want to hold on to that element of surprise, read at your own peril. I’ll do my best to keep them to a minimum, but can promise no more than that.

tdg: “They talked about far-fetched explanations for Sherlock’s faked death. I thought “surely everyone was expecting that?””

I’m with tdg on this one. Far-fetched explanations were not the problem. Dramatizing fandom’s theories as to what went down on that roof in The Reichenbach Fall finale was fun to watch, yes. However, it did feel like the writers were pandering to the fans instead of getting on with telling the story at hand.

I also rather enjoyed watching Scotland Yard’s former forensic expert Anderson’s guilt-ridden antics in this respect, with one exception. If you’ve seen the episode you will know which one was over-acted. Yep. That’s right. That oh-so-dramatic moment when Anderson latches onto the walls, ripping off those crazy notes he’d been wall-papering over the last two years. It was too much of a good (?) thing. And this brings us to the next point:

tdg: “They also said it was confusing. Well, it’s a fast paced detective program. It’s meant to be confusing, surely?”

An astute viewer, I dare say, will not be confused by any narrative, no matter how many twists it may have and however fast-paced it may be. They will be stumped however when the pieces of the puzzle do not fit together, even when they finally reach the end and have the big picture.

That last reference to Anderson was a clear example of that. It lacked finesse and it was somewhat confounding. Here we are with Holmes and Watson, in the deepest darkest bowels of the underground, attempting to disarm a bomb that is about to make mincemeat of all of Her Majesty’s Members of Parliament and the Houses themselves (admittedly, judging by the usual number of MP absentees, there might’ve been fewer victims than the wanna-be terror-plotters may have hoped for) and suddenly we a wrenched back into Anderson’s layer for an impromptu Sherlock confession on how he had faked his own death two years earlier.

Was this supposed to be Sherlock telling John about how he faked his death and why, via Anderson? Or… is this Sherlock’s memory of a former meeting with Anderson kicking in for some incomprehensible reason at a cliff-hanger moment? Or… did the director realise during the edit that he’s run out of places to plonk this into, and decided that it was as good a time as any for the big reveal? I’ll guess… the latter.

It did make for confusing viewing and, instead of increasing suspense, it only increased my levels of frustration. Several of the transitions from one scene to the next suffered from the same inexplicable disjointedness. They should’ve been handled better.

tdg: “And there was the question as to why Sherlock faked his own death anyway. Well, you could try asking Sir Arthur Conan Doyle that. He invented that particular twist. You can’t blame Mark Gattis and Steven Moffat for that.”

It’s good to see that tdg and I are on the same page again. I did not require The Empty Hearse to understand why Sherlock had faked his death. Moriarty had destroyed his reputation and, to completely demolish his nemesis, he had all (well… almost all) of Sherlock’s associates at gunpoint. To save them, Sherlock had to die. Mystery solved.

It was the “how” that required additional attention and I felt that the episode gave sufficient scene time to the question. I only wish that final reveal had been better placed.

tdg: Why would Sherlock fake his death? Well, he’s a narcissistic psychopath.”

I beg to differ. Sherlock is not a narcissistic psychopath. He is a highly functioning sociopath 😉 Will not squabble re his narcissism. He does rather fancy himself, moustache or no moustache.

The final mystery: Why does thedailygrime think that critics are attempting to sink Sherlock and why won’t they manage it?

Well… I recommend that you read The Game Is Afoot to find out. I can’t speak for any of the other critics, but I beg to be absolved of the crime of which I stand accused.

Come to think of it, I wish I had delayed watching The Empty Hearse and read the onslaught of “mixed” reviews first. It may have tempered my expectations, and perhaps… I might’ve been put on the defensive and watched it afterwards determined to like it against all odds. Alas. I fear that since even my lingering obsession with the lead was unable to rob me of my critical prowess, I may have lamentably reached the same conclusion: Deduct again. Deduct better.

*

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19 thoughts on “That’s Elementary, my dear Watson. No. Wait. It’s Sherlock!

  1. We have our own series about Sherlock Holmes called Elementary. Johnny Lee Miller is Holmes and Lucy Liu is Watson. Not Doyle but entertaining mostly because of Miller but they are taking away some of his sociopathy. Look up TV Elementary and see what they have done to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s story.

    • Thank you, sothisislife. The “Elementary” in the article’s title was a wink to that show. I do watch it – for Miller’s performance mainly. I’m rather fond of his warming awkwardness. Can’t see much of Conan Doyle in it, other than the names and a few verbal references here and there, so I watch it as I might any other modern detective show.
      I suppose when expectations are low… you’re less likely to be disappointed. I’ll keep that in mind for the future.
      It’s just… I know Moffat and Gattis can deliver excellence. They have done it time and time again. Can’t help but be a little more demanding when it comes to their work.

      • Miller makes the show, he is wonderful. I wondered about the Elementary reference. I started reading Doyle as a child and I haven’t ever seen any show that I could match to his writing but you are right expectations of Moffat and Gattis are high because of prior work.

      • I have the same issue when it comes to dramatizations: they never quite live up to the books. However, when I watched Atonement I thought it wonderful and it made me want to go and read the book, which of course I did and loved it too. This was one instance when the screen version did not disappoint. I wonder whether that would’ve been the case if I had read the book first… I suppose I’ll never know.

  2. I like your blog! Thanks for checking out mine. We are fellow writers. I write a variety of genres, one of them being a British mystery series based on Sherlock Holmes. It’s called, “The Misadventures of Mrs. Hutson” and is on Amazon. I value your opinion and would love to know what you think if you could read it and give me your feedback. Thanks!

  3. Pingback: January’s Jousters | vic briggs

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