Friday, January 6, 2012
Review: Sherlock "A Scandal in Belgravia"
After almost a year and a half, series two of Sherlock has finally arrived. The first episode quickly ties up last years cliff-hanger in a comical, yet chilling scene. It's a little abrupt, but the episode has bigger things to get to, specifically: Irene Adler.
Steve Moffat's version of the only woman to ever outsmart Holmes has stirred up a lot of controversy. Without giving too much away for those of you who haven't seen it yet, I can say that yes, she is different than Doyle's original, but I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. Much of the backlash comes from fans claiming that this Adler is too sexualized. The character is a dominatrix in this retelling, one who gathers sensitive secrets on her camera phone from her illustrious clients. When she first meets Sherlock, she walks into the room wearing high heels and blood red lipstick.
Clearly this was a bold choice. This episode and the handling of Adler weren't perfect, but I will make a small defense of this adaptation. The original character was an opera singer who travelled the world living by her wits and was most likely the full-fledged mistress of the King of Bohemia. She was a very racy character in her day. Stage performers were seen as loose women. Having her be an opera singer who was the arm candy of some politico wouldn't have as much impact in a modern setting. Her nudity isn't used to make her an object of desire, or to make her helpless. She reverse to her nudity as being her "battle" attire. It's something that makes her powerful by making Sherlock and John uncomfortable.
As far as her being reduced to a sex object, what makes her an opponent to Holmes, what makes her someone he is (perhaps) interested, is her brain. He can't read her, she surprises him and manages to figure out the solution to one of his cases. Their relationship is very interesting to see develop. Cumberbatch does a great job of making Holmes just vulnerable enough, without ever revealing too much emotion. He and Adler circle each other, both admiring the other, but at cross purposes. It is certainly not a love story, but it introduces the feasibility of a different kind of relationship for Sherlock Holmes without taking him in a romantic direction that would be out of character.
Mycroft was much more developed in this episode as well. His role in the government and his relationship with his younger brother. There are several very telling moments between the Holmes brothers within the episode. Of course Martin Freeman's John is incandescent as usual. It was a fairly John-light episode, but he and Cumberbatch had many moments to show the way that Sherlock and John's relationship has continued to develop. Una Stubbs, as Mrs. Hudson, appeared more in this episode, showing her maternal relationship with the boys-- especially Sherlock.
Overall, it was a solid episode. Plenty of great canon references, especially at the beginning of the episode with a montage of cases for Sherlock and John. A few very funny scenes, but some dark moments as well. Not to mention, several twists that may surprise some viewers and keeps you interested.
To end with a John quote: "We solve crimes, I blog about it, he forgets his pants. I wouldn't hold on to too much hope."