This Sunday, BBC One aired the third season finale of their excellent series Sherlock. I was lucky to catch the episode live. And I’m very glad I did. I am not going to spoil the third season for anyone and will instead talk about why I think everyone should watch the show.
Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson are characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and first appeared in publication in 1887. Mr. Doyle’s novels are wonderful detective stories. I read them first as a young boy, fascinated by the deductive powers of the titular character. What didn’t stand out to me however was the anti-social nature of Mr. Holmes. His cases were gripping, the banter was amusing and the atmosphere of victorian London fascinating.
In 2010, creators Steve Moffat and Mark Gatiss, known for their work on the classic series Doctor Who (which I don’t watch, by the way), re-imagined the two detectives in modern London. They released their show, Sherlock, in an unusual way, featuring three film-length (1h 30min) episodes. It proved to be a smashing success with the third season wrapping up its 12-day run on Sunday. Luckily, for all fans of the show, series 4 has been confirmed, while a fifth one is extremely likely. On the flip side however, the last hiatus of Sherlock lasted two whole years.
Messrs Moffat and Gatiss, with their collaborator Steve Thompson, have successfully transported the characters to the modern age. They keep parts of the canon, like the famed apartment at 221b Baker Street. The show is full of little nods to previous Holmes adaptations and the original cases itself. It also make use of the technological improvements of the last 100 years. Their Sherlock loves texting and uses modern lab equipment, while Dr. Watson gains notoriety by blogging about their cases.
The production is innovative as well. Deductions are highlighted beautifully and artistically. Shots are extremely well thought out and true to fashion, every little detail counts. And of course, the cast is absolutely brilliant.
It is no surprise that Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays Mr. Holmes, and Martin Freeman, who plays Dr. Watson, are the two of the hottest movie stars on the planet. Their performances on Sherlock are highlights and their massive success in the aftermath of the show are well-deserved. Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson share excellent chemistry and both actors do great work in portraying their friendship while highlighting their differences at the same time. At the same time, they are aided by the show-runners, who let the characters steadily develop throughout the three series (British word for seasons).
Mr. Freeman plays Dr. Watson with a certain weariness and insecurity at the beginning, who quickly relishes being back in a fast-paced and gripping occupation after being discharged from the Army, where he served in Afghanistan. Of course, despite being a very intelligent and capable man, he often doesn’t understand how the brain of his friend works.
Mr. Cumberbatch is excellent as Sherlock Holmes, playing him with the necessary social ineptitude and deductive brilliance, while never becoming a caricature of the character. In later seasons, he excellently manages to convey the development of the detective. This is especially remarkable in scenes of the third season, where Sherlock actually has a group of committed and loyal friends.
Among these friends are the excellent supporting cast. Una Stubbs as Mrs. Hudson, their landlady, is brilliant and exceptionally funny. Louise Brealey stars as Molly Hooper, a specialist registrar at the morgue of St. Barts with a crush on Sherlock. Her character is one of the most appreciated on the show and she plays her with fantastic vulnerability and resolve. Mark Gatiss as Mycroft Holmes, the even smarter brother of Sherlock, and Rupert Graves as Inspector Greg Lestrade, do their best to aide the detectives on their duty without getting in the way too much. Lara Pulver shines as the mysterious Irene Adler, whose role is expanded greatly from the novels. Each of them are capable of delivering show-stealing moments and only add to the quality of the show.
Of course, every shining hero needs a great villain. In line with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Jim Moriarty (Andrew Scott) takes center stage as the arch-nemesis of Sherlock Holmes. Mr. Scott rightfully won a BAFTA in 2012 for his portrayal of the criminal mastermind. His performance is probably my favorite on the show and I don’t want to speak too much about him in case I say too much.
The episodes of Sherlock mostly resolve around one case and often show scenes not only related to the case, but to the “normal” life of Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson. Not every episode is as strong as others, but all of the nine episodes so far are well-made and at the very least good television. Of course, some of the solutions and actions may seem a bit far-fetched and sometimes seems even too smart for itself. But (almost) everything comes with a (somewhat) logical explanation.
Sherlock has great writers, fantastic actors, brilliant stories and wonderful scenes. It is sometimes laugh-out-loud hilarious, often aesthetically pleasing, mostly jaw-droppingly exciting and always incredibly smart. It has some of the most passionate fans around and you just need to check out tumblr to be a part of it all.
Put simply, Sherlock is the best show on TV and you should watch it.
Sherlock Series 1 and 2 are out on DVD now. Series 3 is set to release on January 20, 2014.