Culture being the regurgitating omnivorous shitbird it is, certain motifs recur with alarming frequency. Vampire lust (again and again); rogue cop and then there’s The Sherlock, that guy who just knows. It might be Gregory House, Patrick Jane, Cracker or it could be the original Sherlock Holmes of Baker St, That London. Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss have alchemized a very modern Holmes here but one who doesn’t really seem attached to any time or place. Benedict Cumberbatch plays our hero, looking like a twitchy caffeine starved Ron Mael. Holmes has an ill-defined role as consultant to the police, much like The Mentalist and just like every tragic Sherlock since Conan Doyle first penned A Study in Scarlet he’s doomed to walk the earth bereft of women like an Aerial Telly reader or Guardian blog commentscum. Not that there isn’t a love of his life. There’s always his Watson (Martin Freeman).
“Darling Watson! Yin to his yang, Tina to his Ike, Constance to his Mellors. Did two men ever love each other more? These guys need to get a room. 221b Baker Street to be exact.”
Darling Watson! Yin to his yang, Tina to his Ike, Constance to his Mellors. Did two men ever love each other more? These guys need to get a room. 221b Baker Street to be exact. Few platonic male friendships have been subject to as much speculative homoerotic fan fiction as Holmes and Watson and Sherlock makes no great effort to distance itself from that. Introduced by a mutual friend as potential flatmates, they spend much of the first episode being mistaken as a gay couple then mistakenly thinking the other is hitting on them. It’s a fairly cheap way to get your giggles but no less funny. Do the laughs maths, Shaft.
“Does SMS seem like some canonical heresy Holmes lover? Well, you’re shit out of luck if so because this Holmes texts more than a tweener with a Justin Bieber jones.”
And this is a funny Holmes, wisecracking and sussed, as bold and contemporary as the technology he surrounds himself with. Does text messaging seem like some canonical heresy, Holmes lover? Well, you’re shit out of luck if so because this Holmes texts more than a tweener with a Justin Bieber jones. One-word round robins to crime hacks, teasing comehithers to Watson and shameless flirting with this week’s murderer – the one causing all those suicides.
Yeah, because those identical suicides the (naturally useless) police can’t make head nor tail of are being facilitated by one Fred Houseblow, psycho cabbie to conflicted salt of the earths across the capital. Holmes gets to the bottom of this after a series of patented Sherlock Scans (he intuits a victim was unhappily married and took a string of lovers from a cursory once over) and is soon throwing himself in danger’s path because, man alive, it’s dull when you’re this brilliant in a world this boring.
“Holmes gets to the bottom of this after a series of patented Sherlock Scans and is soon throwing himself in danger’s path because, man alive, it’s dull when you’re this brilliant in a world this boring. “
Thankfully, being brilliant comes easily to the show and Sherlock is everything it should be. Witty, compelling and literate; respectful of the source material without slavishly replicating it, all the while adding its own cinnamon twists. Moffat doesn’t get much wrong and, slightly clinky pantomimesque turn from Gattis as Mycroft Holmes aside, he knocks this out of the park. Beenadick Cumdumpsnatch is charismatic and eerily focused, getting that moving through the earth without being part of it air just right.
Also just right is the chemistry between Freeman and Cumdumpsnatch. Freeman is often impressed, frequently baffled but never overawed. He loves him too much for tawdry fanboy antics. And John really does <3 Sherlock. When Holmes wins, he wins. His triumph splashed over him, like love forty-nine times magnified.1
The verdict on Sherlock: I can’t really do the lemon entry one again, can I?
Marks out of 10: 8
1 Apologies to Ted Hughes (and Sylvia Plath)