Caught the second series of Sherlock, the BBC version reimagined for the present day. There’s a writing rule — not really a rule, more like a guideline — that allows for one coincidence to occur in a work. Sort of a “get out of a complicated plot situation” free card, and it was played in the first few minutes of “A Scandal in Belgravia,” when Sherlock and Watson are held at bay by the pool by Moriaty’s thugs, the laser sights dancing over their faces.
In retrospect, the wavering lights should have been the tip-off. Assassins don’t do that, not even if they’re bored, waiting for the word, do they act like five-year-olds. That should have told me that the producers of the show are going to do pretty things at the expense of plot logic.
But I let all that pass. I love Sherlock enough to have reviewed a couple of anthologies (the middling “A Study in Sherlock”, and the much better “Resurrected Holmes” and ”The Confidential Casebook”. And the show’s built up a tremendous amount of goodwill with its clever camera work, it reimagining, its obvious affection for the original source material. And “Belgravia” threw in plenty of good stuff, even if it was handled as clumsily as a fanficcer writing his first “Doctor Who” slashfic.
(For those of you who don’t know that “A Scandal in Belgravia” is based on the short story “A Scandal in Bohemia,” in which Sherlock engages in subterfuge to get back a packet of scandalous letters from Irene Adler, and that he gets outwitted in the end, leaving him a close to love as Sherlock would ever get, well, now you know.)
(Oh, and for those who are waiting for the special 2112 version that jacks into the back of your neck for the 3-D Hologram version, you are about to enter the land of SPOILERS).
Anyway, Irene is a dominatrix, and the letters are photos captured on her cellphone coded with a four-box code word shown as “I AM (box)(box)(box)(box) LOCKED.” The cellphone is booby-trapped with acid, of course, and will go off after three missed tries.
So, since Irene’s profession is to punish men for their sexual lusts, it only makes sense for her to appear naked in front of Sherlock and Watson. This was good and amusing, until she sits down and the invisible hand of television standards takes over.
Remember, Irene is flaunting herself in a display of power and dominance, but her body language says “gotta show the punters at home something, but not too much.”
The rest of the movie is a back-and-forth over the cellphone. Irene keeps it with her always as insurance, and so when it appears on the mantelpiece at 221B, we know it’s because she’s dead. And we know she’d dead because Sherlock identifies her body at the morgue, her face conveniently bashed into an unrecognizable mush.
Except . . . she’s alive! Went into hiding for some reason (handwavehandwavehandwave) and we’re supposed to conveniently forget that Sherlock Holmes, the WORLD’S MOST OBSERVANT MAN, failed to recognize that it wasn’t her on the table. After he had twice tried to deduce something about her and failed. After he knew her body intimately enough to calculate her measurements to open her safe.
After that, it veers between that fine line between clever and stupid, some of it of mine own doing that could have been helped. Miss Molly, the coroner with a crush on Sherlock, shows up at his Christmas party. I had totally forgotten about her, so while he’s deducing that she’s in love, I’m trying to remember where I saw her before (she shows up only in the first episode, I think, and that I saw more than a year ago). There’s an older man also at the party and I can’t place him at all, yet.
Then there’s some folderal about Mycroft, with whom Sherlock loves like a brother — like Cain loved Abel — and about how Sherlock’s hunt for Irene exposed a British counterplot against terrorists using a plane full of dead bodies. We get to see the passenger plane full of dead bodies, a deliciously creepy scene, and some flashbacks that show us how we could have put it together (except that Sherlock didn’t).
At one point, it’s brought up that Watson’s hit counter is stuck on some number — 1885 I think — and that was considered a Clue. Then it wasn’t and it’s never mentioned again.
Which told me two things. One, that Watson’s site doesn’t get many hits (although when Sherlock hit the papers it was supposed to). I won’t go into the details, but the number of hits does not equal the number of visitors. In fact, depending on how your site’s set up, the number of visitors can be much less, but never more than the number of hits. Second, the fact that the number didn’t change. Can’t happen. The most obscure site in the world will still get hits, even if it’s only the nanobots from Google scraping ownership information to resell.
But to mention the site counter and then ignore it is like taking Chekov’s Gun, unloading it, dropping it on the floor and running it over repeatedly.
And all of this reminded me of the super hero comics, how Superman had to be crippled in some way, because he’s so perfect, so unbeatable, that they had to throw kryptonite at him to introduce tension into the story. Else, why wouldn’t he roll back the earth every time he got it wrong until he got it right?
Same thing here. If you can’t legitimately fool Sherlock Holmes, the producers opted to cripple him and hope nobody notices. Except we do.
The rest of the series got mixed reviews, but I’ll watch them anyway. Even the third episode, which features a cliffhanger for the following season that the producer claims is solvable (this linked article from Maclean’s discusses the theories, so you have been warned). There’s a lot of good moments; I just wish there weren’t as many meh moments.
(Oh, and as a writer, I wrote about how I appreciated even the quieter moments.)