Quote of the Day

"We're only here briefly, and while I'm here I want to allow myself joy. So fuck it."
- Amy, Her.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

RE:View: Sherlock: A Scandal in Belgravia

Sherlock's back, and better than ever.

!Major Spoilers in This Review!

After finally returning to the beeb after its tour of reruns in response to the terrific BAFTA run it had, and the delays of re-scheduling for the show's stars to appear in next year's The Hobbit, Sherlock's second season had a LOT to live up to. But all that apprehension diminishes within moments of the first of another three outings, A Scandal in Belgravia.

    With the show's trademark modern spin placed on Doyle's classic A Scandal in Bohemia, which introduced Holmes' one and only love interest, Irene Adler, we see Sherlock from some all new (entirely mesmerising) angles. And I'm not just talking about the stylistic camera angles deployed by director Paul McGuigan, although they were very much a spectacle in their own rights. Varying things up with the dizzying "Coaster" shots and spins, faded with the suave swipes of character to character as Sherlock passes along on each potential case in the comic, yet ultimately vital, re-introduction of our two heroes.

     Writer and creator, Steven Moffat (Doctor Who), starts things off slowly and doesn't rush us into the character of Adler, instead opting for a little exposition (despite the anti-climatic teaser). Sherlock is back to his stubborn ways, not even bothering to leave the house for a case and refusing to get dressed; even if it was for the Queen. Mycroft Holmes is given a meatier part to play than in the first season, setting up the meeting of Sherlock and Irene, and eventually giving us the bigger picture towards the end of the episode.

Ooh, Kinky!
   And it is with the introduction of Irene Adler, (played by Lara Pulver, who recently starred in Spooks) that Moffat's writing really takes off. When Irene walks in naked, it is clear she is not to be trifled with, as Sherlock finds out in a brilliantly scripted battle of wits between the two, literally running through the entire episode. His bafflement and frustration is something new that we haven't yet seen from Sherlock himself, and it's really intriguing to see what happens when things aren't going his way. But, like all good geniuses, Sherlock becomes almost infatuated with "The Woman" who almost got the better of him.

 Here we begin to learn more about Sherlock's character and his reaction to a female's advances. Like a stroppy teenager he becomes secretive about her, his childish tendencies coming forward to disrupt the cool, collected detective usually at hand. The accusations of "Virgin" flung at him by various characters seem to bounce off, ignored and uninterested by the man. Is he embarrassed? Or does he simply not care? It's just one of those ever present questions that looms over his rich, complex character.

It is clear that Sherlock does have strong feelings about women in general, making no hesitation in throwing a man out of a window countless times for disrespecting dear old Mrs Hudson.  That a self kept character such as he still has the same morals as any good hero stands to prove the mileage Sherlock still has in him. In fact, I believe we're just scratching the surface of his potential depth, because we even see him going all vigilante in this episode, taking out goons much in the style of our favourite Bat-flavoured superhero.

   Which reinforces Moffat's intelligent scripting, as this kind of pure character development shines through, while still leaving time for tons of action, humour and intricate plot weaving that leaves the viewer flabbergasted with such entertainment. Despite this being her first appearance, Irene Adler is still given a wealth of characterisation herself, and we begin to understand her personality and motives, regardless of the 90 minutes we spend with her.

Spot-on editing: not a slip. Classy stuff.
 From her racy profession of the independent dominatrix, it doesn't take long to realise Irene Adler is not your ordinary female adversary. Powerful, unpredictable and mysterious, Addler doesn't beat around the bush with matters -- in fact she gets, quite literally, straight to the bush.  Yes, our first impression of this highly intellectual woman is that of a naked variety. Wonderfully edited, this scene acts as the staring point to show where this character comes from and what lengths she's prepared to go to (as we find out by the end). While complaints flood into the BBC about "the atrocities of showing such a scandalous scene before the watershed", this still stands as one of the most poignant of Sherlock's scenes to date, strengthening the uniqueness and vitality of the show without ever staling in themes, image or even controversy, despite being reworks of well known and celebrated material. We're talking boundary-pushing stuff here.

   Irene works in the background from then onward, and the tension between her and Sherlock inevitably rises, even more so when she's not even present on screen. This brings us up perfectly to the reveal of the true conspiracy at work, including that sweet allusion to the Coventry cover-up of WWII. The subtleties at which it drops in is both a shock and yet completely "Of course"-like in nature. Again, Moffat's writing lends itself ingeniously to that kind of mystery; the kind where the ending is there all along, almost subliminal, yet still viewed as a twist while the pieces still click together in the back of the viewer's mind. The eerie "Flight of the Dead" operation is suitably grim while Adler reveals her true intentions and Sherlock stands the fool, played and failed, whilst the hushed tones of Moriarty's devious dealings can be heard faintly in the background. That is until the ambitious turn around, with Sherlock figuring the code to Irene's little phone of secrets and coming off not so scathed. In other's hands this may seem cheap, but Moffat and Cumberbatch nail the execution, still showing us that Sherlock knows he hasn't entirely won.

   This is all complimented hugely by the the rest of the episode, which on the outside seems like mere filler, but all cleverly works itself into the grand scheme of things. The comments about the morgue, the clients at the beginning, Moriarty's phone call in the teaser: it all adds up. Not to mention the wondrous winks, nods and tongue-in-cheek puns that litter the snappy dialogue and contexts. Watson's write ups on the blogs contain a few of the littler known adventures of Holmes and Watson from Doyle's extensive bibliography (The Geek Interpreter = The Greek Interpreter), while the inclusion of the Deerstalker and Pipe had me literally squeaking in delight. And who can forget that Watson line of "Mycroft's bloody stupid power complex" which was immediately cut to the Battersea Power Station. Wit at its finest, ladies and gentlemen.
Still close, still awesome.

     While the focus may remain on Sherlock and Irene's relationship more predominantly, the Holmes and Watson mutual love doesn't suffer for it, as the two still share some adorably compassionate moments, fuelled by the actors extraordinary acting abilities. I tell you, it was damn joke that Cumberbatch didn't get the Best Lead Male BAFTA last year, because this is British performance at its peak.

 The cute "twist of the twist" at the very, very end raps things up nicely in the humour aspect of the show, whilst also giving us the chance of a possible Adler-Holmes team-up in the not so distant future. Once the rounded package finishes up after the hour and a half run time, it almost seemed cruel to make us wait another week for the next episode. Blatantly a 10/10 show, now release the hounds for next Sunday's, The Hounds of Baskerville!


1 comment:

  1. Nice review of the episode.

    For a different look at this episode, check out my review .