I had not considered myself fortunate to be cable-less while there is a new season of Mad Men on until this weekend when Season 2 of the BBC’s Sherlock debuted on PBS and I didn’t have to decide which to watch first.
For those terribly unaware, there was a mini-series of three 90-minute episodes chronicling the adventures of a 21st century Sherlock Holmes that aired in 2010. It was a brilliant adaptation and a surprisingly clever and engaging update on an ages-old character. The last episode ended on something of a cliffhanger as Sherlock and Watson finally confront Moriarty for the first time only to be caught in something of a Mexican Standoff.
I doubt I’m spoiling much to say that our heroes survive hale and whole at the start of Season 2’s “A Scandal in Belgravia.” I’ll even go on to say that the conclusion to that bit is pretty anti-climactic, but considering the episode that follows it, I am not going to quibble.
After working a couple random cases rather quickly, Sherlock and Watson are summoned to Buckingham Palace and are told that a dominatrix – Irene Adler (played by the beautiful Lara Pulver) – has compromising photos of a royal princess. After Sherlock is sufficiently motivated, he shows up at Irene’s home only to be confronted by “The Woman” herself clothed in Battle Dress…which is to say: nothing at all. This begins a cat-and-mouse game that extends over a couple months of show time and verges on something close to romance.
Irene is not – as the blurbs might say – quite as smart as our Sherlock, but she is far, far better at getting what she wants. The episode is an update of the original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle story “A Scandal in Bohemia” which also features Ms. Adler outwitting the famous detective. Sparks fly even between the professed lesbian dominatrix and the sexually-ambiguous, socially-inept sleuth. And the true genius of the episode is that they are chasing each other despite spending most of the episode in the same room.
In fact, the episode is a huge departure from the structure of Season 1’s tales in that this doesn’t seem like a case at all until the end when it is revealed to be perhaps the biggest Sherlock has found himself entangled in. We also see the man under “the funny hat” in a new light as he develops feelings for Irene and also displays some genuine affection and protectiveness over his landlady (She’s not their maid!) Ms. Hudson. Watson, of course, is still the butt of most of Sherlock’s disdain for the social graces. That hasn’t changed.
So let notice be served, Sherlock is back and still in prime form. If you haven’t seen the show before, run don’t walk to your nearest video store or streaming service and get caught up. And then, once you watch “A Scandal in Belgravia,” give The Decemberists’ “The Bagman’s Gambit” a listen-to. You’ll see what I mean.