Saturday, February 15, 2014

Sherlock, What in the Hell Is Going on Here? SPOILERS!

Like a lot of mystery writers I know, it was the triple engines of Christie, Sayers, and Doyle that were my first true loves in this genre. I've read the Sherlock stories enumerable times and have embraced most of its spin offs. I was an immediate fan of the BBC Sherlock, with its cheeky camera angles and smart dialogue. The first two seasons were brilliant, although not with stumbles--I loathed A Scandal in Belgravia--but, by and large, Moffat, Gattis, and Thompson imbued Sherlock with a modernity that was coupled with a healthy nod to the original ACD stories. It didn't hurt that both Cumberbatch and Freeman are superb actors.

We come to the third season, and I can't imagine how writers who seemed to "get" Sherlock all of a sudden have "lost" him.

I had issues with the Episode 1 in Season 3 mainly because everyone, including Mary, were determined to minimize John's anger at Sherlock's deception. John's grief, despair, and rage at Sherlock's deception is treated as if John is being over-melodramatic. ALL of the other characters just embrace Sherlock's return (Lestrade literally embraces him), subtly mocking John's sense of deep betrayal. "Oh, just get over it, John. Stop being so emo" should have been the subtitle of this episode. Sherlock then purposely deceives John to force him to forgive him. This was grossly heavy-handed, but Freeman's acting was so marvelous that I was willing to give it a pass, albeit squinting a little in the process. And not a good squint.

The one salient quality that Sherlock possesses is his smarts. In an effort to establish a character arc (which the ACD books never did), they are making Sherlock more human. I didn't find Episode 2 as enraging as Episodes 1 and 3, precisely because at least Sherlock does what he does. He solves the mystery with his brains. It wasn't much of a mystery and, indeed, was at points utterly preposterous.  It doesn't take at  medical degree to know that if you are skewered with a sharp object, you will feel that skewer puncturing the wall of your stomach even while wearing a military belt! But aside from that and numerous other plot glitches, I came to the conclusion that this series has become less about plots and mysteries and is more about the humanizing of Sherlock Holmes. He is now sociopath-light, yes? The Best Man's speech in Episode 2 was the perfect marriage between the old obtuse, brilliant, and cruel Sherlock and the new Sherlock who has become, against all odds, Sherlock's friend. Not that Sherlock isn't John's friend, because we know that. But Sherlock's touching  acknowledgment that this friendship is a two-way street (bromance if you will) is brilliantly done.

Then we come to Episode 3. I'm curious if Moffat et al. are moving Sherlock's character arc toward a "kinder and gentler" Sherlock by making him stupid. No longer does Sherlock solve mysteries and nab the bad guys with his brains. How pedestrian. How retro. Nope, he just shoots his way out of the situation. Are we suppose to infer from this episode that the more human Sherlock becomes, the more compromised his brain becomes? I'm not sure where they are taking this. And being the staid Victorian that he was, ACD always had that morality play lurking in the background of all of his stories. This is what "humanized" Sherlock in the original. The act of assassinating a man has no moral implications in this new world. No, all issues are ignored.  What is clearly the most important issue we are faced with at the end of season is what to name the new baby. I type this and I realize how facetious I'm sounding, but I'm not making this up. Sherlock's assassination of Magnussen means nothing to the story. Even worse it was pointless.

Why this is so horrible is because the lack of any sort of documentation--Magnussen's mind palace--means that Magnusson is no longer a threat. If he can't provide evidence for his slanders, then what sort of force is he?  By his own admission he "castrates" himself. Initially I thought that Sherlock forcing him to acknowledge his own mind palace was yet another wonderful instance of Sherlock outsmarting the evil smart bad guy. THAT would have been brilliant, and I'm curious whether they shot it that way initially and then it wasn't violent or emotional enough, even though it made perfect sense. Ooooh, let's have Sherlock shoot him. Wow. Won't that be visually a kicker!

Clearly this is something of an assassination love fest because it's obvious that Mary can also be a trained assassin and it means nothing, literally nothing, to the overarching plot arc. Assassins are the new black.

The writers of this show have lost their way. In the beginning it had a foot in the original series with just enough PLAUSIBLE plot to carry us through an fascinating character arc. By the end of season three we have insanely improbably plots that don't make any sense, and character arcs that equally don't make sense. Plus they commit the worse possible gaffe of all. They make Sherlock stupid.