OMG! OMG! OMG! Yes, that is my personal palette of adjective-like sounds I employ when I run out of superlatives. I don’t think that I have, so far, reviewed a show which, having released just 12 episodes, and a couple of specials, has become a global phenomenon for which people wait years for a new season which adds all of three installments to the series. Also, having created this wonderful cycle of fleeting gratification and an over-abundance of wait, barely a dozen episodes on, there is already talk of this force of nature coming to, some would say, a rather premature end. Jesus, never have I ever reviewed a show where one villain physically appears in just about a fourth of the episodes yet his very real shadow looms over the entire series (sips drink). I’m telling you, if they make another season of Sherlock, Benedict Cumberbatch getting Lestrade’s first name wrong (Gilette, isn’t it?) will be the one thing keeping Britain relevant in a post-Brexit society. Now, standard statutory warning, cigarette smoking is bad for….Oh wait, no, not that one. Never that one. No, what I meant was that if you’ve ever read one of my reviews (if you haven’t, never speak to me again), you know I have a bad habit of promising not to drop spoilers and yet, unabashedly doing so. So, dear readers, read on at your own risk!
“Do your research. I’m not a psychopath; I’m a high-functioning sociopath.”
The iconic Victorian detective has been brought to life countless times after Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was forced to bring him back to life and then he eventually died. And it has been done so by a whole plethora of absolutely fantastic actors—Robert Downey Jr., Sir Ian McKellen, Jeremy Brett, the list just goes on and on. Even Jonny Lee Miller does a pretty good job as Holmes in a modern day, Manhattan setting. I enjoyed the films, and up until the finale of season 4 felt that Jeremy Brett was the best actor to have taken up this gloried mantle, despite Cumberbatch’s brilliant early performances. However, when you watch the finale of season 4, and you think back to all the episodes where Sherlock has been deconstructed and taken apart, none as intensely as the finale, though, you realize what a fine job Cumberbatch has done and how he may well be the finest actor to have played the Victorian sleuth. He dons Sherlock’s coat, his deerstalker, picks up his violin and takes his place in 221B Baker Street, with its tilted knocker and all, with almost absolute perfection. Maintaining the intensity, with the occasionally calming demeanour, while retaining the capacity to speed it up and take you for a ride, he brings together Downey Jr.’s panache, Brett’s class and his own version of nonchalance that amalgamate to form this wonderful show. And really, I don’t think any of the royal family could have pulled off being as scantily dressed as Cumberbatch in the Buckingham Palace as well as he did.
Through the ages, there has been a fine line between madness and genius in the case of Sherlock Holmes, and when you play the character, you must balance the two within the fine margins, not play jump-rope with them like Robert Downey Jr. did. Sherlock manages that with an astounding level of consistency. Credit here is due in part to the actors as well as the creators, Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat, who have not only moved beyond the broad premises of the books but also into a territory which is uncharted and where the possibilities are endless. Using the books as a very subtle landing port, the show constantly takes off on varied tangents with just spellbinding plot twists and musical sound tracks. I mean, whoever decided that Moriarty would play Stayin’ Alive on the roof top or I Want To Break Free in his absolutely memorable entrance is just a frikkin’ genius. As much swagger as Freddie Mercury had in the performance of the latter, no one could make a better entry to that song than Andrew Scott the way he does when he gets off that helicopter. Regardless of what happens on the 20th, if the pose he struck on getting off that helicopter does not become as iconic as *that Titanic pose*, rest assured we are all doomed. Having watched the finale, I spent 30 minutes just listening to that song again and again and copying that pose, and it was easily the best half an hour of my life, I swear.
“Brilliant! Four serial suicides and now a note. It’s Christmas.”
Unencumbered by premonitions of fight scenes as in the movies, as though he was a fortune teller from Harrow, the rapidity with which Cumberbatch dispatches what he believes are seemingly measly and “elementary” deductions are enough to put Sheldon Cooper to shame. Think back to his first encounter with a limping, be-caned Dr. John Watson, played by The Hobbit with a crew cut—his knowledge of the doctor’s past leaves everyone witnessing the show not only astounded but with a smile on their face that they can neither explain, nor would want to. That smile resurfaces every time Lestrade (no, it was Graham) walks in with a case and Sherlock already knows all about it. It is the unbridled pleasure at watching the smartest man (I said man. East winds obviously do not count) virtually verbally discombobulate someone with his searing intellect. Even in his interactions with Mark Gatiss’ superb Mycroft Holmes, seemingly the smarter one, he brings an amazing level of wit to the table that leaves Mycroft’s advance intelligence suspended in mid air, dissolving into nothingness. To be frank, though, even Mrs. Hudson can make him get his own cup of tea.
“Anderson, don’t talk out loud. You lower the IQ of the entire street.”
But it is these relationships that Sherlock espouses, with Molly, Mrs. Hudson, Mary, even Mycroft and Moriarty (why do they all begin with M, I wonder?) that really carry the series. He is, undoubtedly, the epitome of detective consultants but what John does is equally important to the show, as Sherlock notes in The Sign of Three. He brings a touch of humanity to the crime solving machine, the combination of which makes him stronger than both Mycroft and Eurus as a person, eventually allowing him to win over her in the end. Yes, Sherlock may not be one of the angels, but that certainly doesn’t make him a demon, or worse, a good-looking Nigel Farage. It simply means that through the series, the audience is not only entertained by his crime solving exploits but also by the drama that accompanies the infusion of emotion into a host who isn’t used to feelings. With a dressing style as iconic as Sheldon Cooper and Miley Cyrus, that fantastic pairing of the white shirt and the black suit have seen a freak of nature learn what it is to be human at a post-pubescent time in his life.
“I may be on the side of the angels. But don’t for a second think I’m one of them.”
I remember watching the first episode of season 4 and thinking to myself as Mary was dying (spoiler alert!) that we would have to wait a whole year for the next season, or maybe this might just be the last season. But that’s just it—we won’t mind waiting for the next one, provided there is another season, because the show is worth it. Sherlock has made waiting an entire year just to listen to British accents actually feel worth it. Sherlock Holmes as a character was deeply engrained in the minds of any spy novel enthusiast but Sherlock has simply taken over the world in such an un-British manner, and has gone straight to our hearts. It has made us laugh, courtesy of Mary’s occasional quip or Irene Adler’s phone’s well timed moans or Sherlock putting someone down wittily or just Mrs. Hudson being herself, it has made us cry, Mary’s death and that scene where Sherlock gets Molly to tell him she loves him, and it has kept us entertained all through. Usually, shows tend to have their ups and downs and then eventually either recover and exit majestically, to be enshrined among the great shows of our time, or meekly peter out as once-greats. Sherlock has always maintained as astonishing level of consistency in the kind of episodes it has delivered. Yes, I’ve heard people say that this wasn’t great and that wasn’t as good, but then they, I think, tend to miss the point—you are being told a story here, the story of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. He can’t be shooting up media moguls who pee in his house (not on his face) or be on the run from psychopaths who just “Want to be free” in every episode. There will be drama, pain, laughter and catharsis to accompany every event that “Wows” us in the show, and no one sums it up better than Mary does, right at (what I hope isn’t) the very end—“The best wisest men I have ever known.” It isn’t about the flashiest detective; the show is a journey of these individuals who change in betwixt solving crimes, making fun of the police (Gerard, no?), romping around naked in palaces and getting out of tight situations.
“The game is afoot.”