The game is on: how did Sherlock stack up?

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Sherlock. Image: BBC.
Sherlock. Image: BBC.
Sherlock. Image: BBC.

With an average rating of almost 12 million viewers, a growing international fan base, increasingly A-list stars and seemingly universal acclaim, Sherlock does already seems to have proclaimed itself as the television event of 2014. And so early in the year too. It all begs the question: is there any point in continuing with the next eleven months now or should we all just move onto 2015? Well, let’s not get over excited. Don’t forget the surprise success of Broadchurch slipping into the schedules from nowhere last year; and, as undeniably impressive as Sherlock continues to be, it wasn’t exactly a stellar series.

It’s true that the cast – led by Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, this time around with Amanda Abbington (Freeman’s real-life partner) – continue to grow and entertain, and that the direction and style leave the average drama well and truly in the shade. However, the series’ overall pace felt less constant this time, faltering significantly with episode two (The Sign of Three), whilst lingering resolutions and character development occasionally got in the way of engaging plots and dramatic power, more so here than before.

For two years we’d been left hanging from the conclusion of the last series (two years!) with the question that even the most casual of viewers must surely have been asking: how did Sherlock survive that fall? In the Conan Doyle story it is revealed that Holmes never actually did fall, simply throwing his nemesis from the cliff and hiding higher up the ledge. That was simple. This? Not so. If you’ve not seen it yet (and why not?), don’t worry about it being spoiled here, if only because I’m not convinced that we’re even given the solution. Three possible scenarios are put forward and they’re all a little bit mad and even self-referential, with the fulfilling of many a, admittedly niche, fan’s fantasy surely being satisfied by a certain intimate encounter that occurs between Holmes and Moriarty in attempt two. “Bollocks!” cries Lestrade, cutting short the first theory. Well, quite.

Episode two revolved around Watson’s wedding to Mary, with small cases slotted in here and there to keep the plot moving along. The whole thing was very funny; from Sherlock’s precision-led stag-do to the idea that Mrs Hudson was involved with a drug cartel… Doyle completely missed a trick there. The reason then that this was perhaps the weakest of the three (and this is ‘weakest’ by Sherlock standards, remember) was down to the fact that Sherlock isn’t a sitcom, so it didn’t all work. It lacked the ingenious plotting that 12 million viewers tune in for, and when you’ve only got three episodes to play with, you can’t afford to drop the ball.

They did, however, save the best till last. The best writer, the best plot, the best villain, the best episode. Everything here just seemed to click. The pace was spot on and the intensity striking. On top of this, Lars Mikkelsen (of The Killing fame) brought out a magnificent performance in the form of powerful media mogul: Magnussen. He was both utterly repellent and totally absorbing, mastering every scene and character with dapper ease to leave Holmes defenceless and outwitted. Until he was shot and that was that. Bang. Even if it was the only way out of the impossible web, it did have a feeling of repetition (Moriarty was defeated in similar circumstances) and callous mistreatment of a terrific villain. Ah well, there wasn’t really enough time to complain because this conclusion was rapidly followed by cliffhanger number three. But what? But when? But how? Here’s hoping we find out sooner this time anyway!

Really, it was a corker of a series overall; it is only natural that you nitpick when a drama is as good as this and, believe me, this is good drama. Next time I’d just like to see less episode twos and more episode threes, but whatever we get please, please, let it come a little bit quicker!

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