By Andrew Williams
April 11, 2014
Television Revision is a weekly feature in which our tuned in TV critic trawls through the best the box has to offer, giving you a primer on some of history’s finest shows (and the rest).
Now, this is a story all about how… Genius detective Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Dr. John Watson (Martin Freeman) continue to solve the most difficult cases in the world, all while their nemesis Moriarty continues to scheme against them.
Happy days? After the classic finish to the first season of Sherlock, writers Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss might have felt the strain of dealing with the television equivalent of a difficult second album. Eighteen months had passed between the end of Season One and the beginning of Season Two, and the fans’ hungry anticipation for new episodes of Sherlock had grown ravenous. Fortunately, the second outing is just as clever, atmospheric and hilarious as the first.
Ever since it became a hit, the conversation around Sherlock has tended to focus on the plot mechanics. Do the mysteries make perfect sense? Are the cliffhangers resolved satisfactorily? That’s fine (and fun to speculate about), but the greater pleasures of Sherlock remain elsewhere. I would rather an episode of the show be totally nonsensical, for example, than have it not be funny. The fact this murder-mystery drama is funnier than most television comedies is no mean feat, and this second season is even more successful on that score than the first.
Everything else there is to love about the show remains intact: the atmosphere, the thrilling battles of wits, the sparkling dialogue and the inventive visual style (to name a few) are all present and correct. Everything is elevated by the definitive performances of Cumberbatch and Freeman; a better Holmes and Watson you will not find. That only leaves the mysteries themselves to live up to expectations, and while they can sometimes get bogged down in their own complexity, they always serve to shed light on the two leads. That’s the main thing.
The final frontier: Sherlock’s second season is like Sherlock himself: pure genius.
Best episode: 3) The Reichenbach Fall. This episode had fans and casual viewers alike speculating for two years on how it might resolve its devastating, paradigm-shaking cliffhanger. That’s an effective episode of television, no matter which way you slice it.
Worst episode: 2) The Hound of the Baskervilles. An adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s most well-known story (by title, at least – I don’t know anyone that’s actually read the damn thing) always had its work cut out for it, and this episode follows the first season’s template of having a middle installment where the resolution is uncharacteristically unsatisfying.
Season MVP: I didn’t want to mention his name in the review of the first season lest I spoil it, but Andrew Scott is playing classic Holmes nemesis James Moriarty like we’ve never seen him before, and it’s one of the most memorable television villains in recent memory. They needed someone brilliant to go toe to toe with Cumberbatch, and they found them.
Check out Andrew Williams’ previous instalments:
Sherlock is available on Quickflix.