October 25, 2010 at 12:47 am (PBS, TV) (, , , , , , )

That was fun.  I figured it out in about 45 minutes, but it was fun.  (Allow me a second of gloating; I never figure out murder mysteries.)  Benedict Cumberbatch plays Sherlock Holmes – very young, lovely voice, quite nicely arrogant and offhand about it.  And Martin Freeman is Doctor Watson.  No, I’m not watching it because of The Hobbit.  But I will come back to that.  In at least the third (iirc) take on Sherlock Holmes from PBS (the straight version starring Jeremy Brett, has been picked up from the 19th century and transplanted into the 21st, and there do not so far seem to be any signs of rejection of the transplant. 

I’ve wondered how it would work; it’s not as though the old “this was written on a typewriter with the letter ‘J’ misaligned – clearly the machine from Hardwick’s office” thing is valid anymore.  Technology has changed quite a bit of what transpired in the Holmes stories, and it always seemed to me it would be quite a challenge to work it in.  Not so much, as it turns out.  The use of cell phones and laptops was quite nice – the deduction of Watson’s brother was quite a lot of fun.

“Dear God – what is it like in your funny little brains?  It must be so boring.”  That was the concentration in this version – Holmes’s overactive mind drives him constantly, and the cares and feelings of other people mean nothing.  “I’m not a psychopath, I’m a high-functioning sociopath – do the research.”  I have, and the diagnoses aren’t all that different and are pretty muddled, but let it bide.   Cumberbatch does a very nice job of embodying the sort of person you would want to murder within minutes but who is very entertaining to watch; he pulls off the impatient arrogance and overweening intelligence brilliantly.  His youth is somehow an asset in this; he overcame my resistance to it quickly. 

Why do people love Holmes so much?  So very much not a nice person, doing good mainly because he’s bored and he doesn’t have the inclination toward evil… Most people aren’t thrilled by extreme intelligence; overt displays of intelligence only annoy people – as evidenced by the other characters surrounding him.  “What do people usually say?” “Piss off.”  “Hello, freak.”  So why is he so popular? 

Freeman as Watson was also excellent.  I love the revelation by the mysterious gentleman that his therapist was wrong: he isn’t traumatized by his battle experience.  He misses it.  Which means that his new position as Holmes’s assistant is perfect.  Among ordinary folk he’s not stupid, and he finds he can enjoy Holmes’ … eccentricities.  He needs a challenge, and Holmes delivers in spades. 

“The game, Mrs. Hudson, is on!”  *cough*afoot*cough* I like their relationship, Holmes & Mrs. Hudson’s – I like her calling him Sherlock.  Everyone calls him Sherlock, actually – unless they’re calling him “freak”.  I liked the graphics that aided the viewer’s poor slow mind in following the deductions.  I liked the nicotine patches.  I liked nearly everything, really, except a few of the details of the conclusion – and the way the climax was ended; not sure about that.

I didn’t realize the Doctor Who connection – co-created by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, this first episode (“Study in Pink”) written by Moffat – that explains a lot.  I do hope, though, that they won’t keep banging (so to speak) on the sexuality question – talk about boring. 


When it had 19 minutes left to run, I wrote this:   I am officially stating my hypothesis: The Princess Bride.  Iocaine powder.  Now it is down to you, and it is down to me.  “Luck.”  “It’s genius! … I know how people think, even you…” 

But I’ll never know, blast it – they never said what the pills were.  I’m disappointed in that.  It made a great deal of sense, my solution – they were both arsenic, or something, and the cabbie – who never got a name, by the way, did he? – has spent the last four years playing with the stuff.  I was surprised that the poison wasn’t named either – obviously, the murder mystery isn’t as big a priority as the character study.  I will continue to believe in arsenic, a la Strong Poison.

I can’t get too cocky about figuring out that the killer was the cabbie (even though I missed the first few minutes and only just watched them on, and that made it more obvious yet) – I bought the whole misdirection thing about Mycroft.  They suckered me into the assumption that he was Moriarty – and I think I could have figured it out, too, darn it: the role of “mysterious government official with a lot more power than you’d think” and “Sherlock Holmes’s smarter brother” was obvious, in hindsight. 

About halfway through it occurred to me that this role is a pretty good indicator that Martin Freeman will do well as Bilbo.  The hobbit is a fairly ordinary bloke, really, not stupid in his ordinary circumstances – and suddenly his circumstances aren’t at all normal.  Suddenly he’s plunged into the middle of a situation completely out of his ken, and has to adapt – and he does.  And once it’s all over he’s never the same again.  Watson’s immersion is as sudden and complete, but not quite as extreme (no giant spiders, no Orcs – just a serial killer), and he thrives on it a bit more than Bilbo – but essentially they share a basic arc.  If I go see The Hobbit in theatre, it will be for him. 

One of my favorite lines: “Are these human eyes?  They were in the microwave!”

I look forward to the other two episodes – and I think it’s a shame that there are only three.  And now The Hobbit is happening, I wonder if there’s any possibility of more …


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