On Sunday BBC’s ‘Sherlock’ returned to our TV screens, and while it may have been over a year since the season 1 finale, it was certainly worth the wait.
The season 2 premiere ‘A Scandal in Belgravia’ hit the ground running by quickly resolving the previous season’s cliff hanger featuring Holmes, Watson, Moriarty and a bomb, before setting our favourite consulting detective up with some new mysteries to solve. These new cases are documented by Watson’s blog and given titles that are clever nods to some of Conan Doyle’s classic tales such as ’The Speckled Blonde’, ‘The Geek Interpreter’ and ‘The Naval Treatment’. There was also a fantastic moment with Holmes donning a deerstalker cap. These little touches really enrich the show and show a great deal of respect for the source material.
The scenario with Irene Adler was very faithful to ‘A Scandal in Bohemia’ the short story from which the episode was inspired. In the original Doyle tale Holmes was sent to retrieve incriminating photograph from Adler that would surely spell ruin for a member of a monarchy. Rather than spread this story across the 90 minute running length of the episode and fill it out with unnecessary padding, the writers cleverly decided to pay their respects to the story by incorporating it into the first 20 minutes before spinning off from it with different plot threads and more twists and turns.
The inclusion of Adler in the show brought up some interesting points about Holmes and his love life. It was reminiscent of Billy Wilder’s ‘The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes’ a movie which asked the same question as this episode – can Sherlock love? It was a question the character seemed to asking himself throughout the episode.
Benedict Cumberbach did a wonderful job playing the obnoxious Holmes with just a tiny hint of sentiment, giving him more depth. It was nice that we got to see that Sherlock cares for his friends, from his public apology to Molly after humiliating her at a Christmas party to consoling Mrs Hudson after her harrowing attack and even throwing her assailant out of a window countless times. Speaking of which, this episode is one of the few times in the Holmes canon that I can recall Mrs Hudson playing such a key part to the detectives character development. It’s nice to see that the show runners have great reverence to every character of the mythology, no matter how small their part may be. They even got a brief reference to Lestrade’s personal life in there with the mention of him and his wife getting back together, it may have seemed like a throwaway line but it was a very nice touch for the character.
In keeping with the writers care for the characters it is clear to see that they had a blast bringing Irene Adler onto the show. Her scenes with Holmes were a wonderful combination of clever writing and a fantastic chemistry between the actress Lara Pulver and Benedict Cumberbatch. She was a brilliant foil for Holmes and straddled the line between being friend and foe. She is arguably more dangerous than Moriarty in that her motives were never as clear and she could use her sexuality as a weapon. Pulver did such great work with the character that she really makes you wish she became a permanent fixture to the show, although the way they ended her story was absolutely perfect.
Martin Freeman continues to impress as Watson. Throughout Holmes illustrious career on film the two most iconic performances in the role are those of Basil Rathbone and Jeremy Brett. However their Watson were not so memorable. Rathbone was let down by Nigel Bruce’s bumbling Watson and Brett had two different actors take on the role as the doctor throughout his series, neither of which left as much of mark on the role of Watson as Brett did on Holmes. I bring this up because with ‘Sherlock’ it seems that Freeman’s Watson is on par with Cumberbatch’s highly impressive take on Holmes. Watson is a pretty thankless part, playing second fiddle to Holmes but Martin Freeman really excels in the part and really makes the character his own. This show is the first time where Holmes and Watson are on equal footing and so it is the first time on film that they are shown as truly effective and memorable team, just like the books.
Overall this episode flawless. A confident return that took no wrong turns throughout its many plot twists. It is comforting to know that the writers are clearly inspired by Doyle’s stories, and with that in mind I cannot wait to see what they do in the next episode which deals with the most famous Sherlock Holmes story of all time. Bring on the Hounds!