TV Review | Sherlock | Season One
Season summary: Deals with Dr John Watson meeting Sherlock Holmes, their developing friendship, and how they begin to investigate crimes together. John evolves from being a traumatised war veteran into a bit of a hero. (Baker Street Wiki)
It does feel like a bit of a misnomer calling this a TV review when there are only three episodes and each of them is feature-length. Then again, 'TV Movie Collection Review' doesn't really roll off the tongue either, so I've just left things as they are.
And what wonderful things too - all three episodes look gorgeous, the sound design and music are near-perfect, the casting and performances uniformly wonderful. There are some sequences that feel a bit over-edited and feel distracting, but they also just about fit in with the tone of the series and its title character.
The middle episode, "The Blind Banker", is the weakest of the three, but even then it's not actually bad - it just looks that way because the other two episodes are so good that most TV shows would look bad in comparison.
"A Study in Pink" introduces us to Sherlock and the version of London he and the others inhabit, and everything is set up and firing on all cylinders in what feels like no time at all. Similar to when I re-watched the first season of Frasier, it's astonishing just how quickly the creative team behind this show got everything so right so quickly.
"The Blind Banker" feels a little off because it immediately throws out a lot of the supporting cast from the first episode, which unfortunately includes Rupert Graves as Detective Inspector Lestrade. It throws not just the audience off, but even Sherlock is unsettled by having to deal with someone else too.
It also feels a bit of a mish-mash, as if two completely separate stories were re-written and combined into one, with the story ending without any real satisfaction. Cumberbatch and Freeman are still great, as is Zoe Telford as Sarah, but it might just be that the antagonist proving to be a generic smuggling ring (regardless of 'exotic' Chinese origin) that let the episode down.
Still, it does make "The Great Game" feel even better than it is, despite the cliffhanger ending. I'm not a fan of TV shows that do this, but I did enjoy it here because the central story kind of tie itself off and the final scenes feel more like an added extra instead of taking away from the episode.
It also introduces the audience to Andrew Scott's Jim Moriarty, who practically steals the entire episode out from underneath Sherlock and Watson when he finally shows his face. There's a bit of Heath Ledger's Joker in Scott's performance, but still a unique character that I imagine was a surprise to many when they first saw him.
Then again, I think this is a show about surprising performances - or, at least, surprising interpretations of characters. Yes, the core of each character remains what you'd expect from a Sherlock Holmes story, but with a little twist on expectations that keeps you watching.
Cumberbatch's Sherlock is utterly insufferable most of the time, but displays just enough humanity to still make him feel relatable; Freeman's Watson is a ladies' man and a fighter capable surprising himself with his own violent tendencies; Lestrade is world-weary and cynical, yet still good-humoured and friendly; and Moriarty is... Moriarty.
They're all helped by some terrific cinematography making London look better than most big-screen movies can manage, as well as interesting visual methods showing the audience text messaging, internet searching, and even how Sherlock's mind works without having to slow things down.
There really is very little that I can criticise here, because it really is all done so well that any 'problems' are really just pointing out moments here and there where the show doesn't live up to its own high standards, which is pretty bloody impressive.
Even though I know what's to come, and how the cliffhanger will eventually be resolved, I still think this first season can stand on its own as three great episodes forming an incredible first season. There will be some who don't like the title character because of his know-it-all nature (especially in the current 'post-truth' era), but I like intelligent TV characters even if they might be a bit of a dick.
The show never stops to explain things for its audience, instead using quieter moments to either do some character work, tie in a plot thread from earlier in the episode or set events in motion to pay off in the future. Aside from some of the hyper-stylised editing, there's always something going on for you to pay attention to, with the episode expecting you to notice it and keep up, much like its lead character.
Sherlock's first season is still fantastic to watch even now, even if the over-editing in some sequences can prove distracting instead of enhancing what we're seeing. Cumberbatch and Freeman are amazing as Sherlock and Watson and each episode matches their efforts.