By Andrew Williams
March 14, 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… Returning army doctor John Watson (Martin Freeman) meets and joins forces with legendary – and legendarily abrasive – private detective Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) in this modern-day reimagining of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic characters.
Happy days? Do you remember when you first fell in love? That chance first meeting that would come to seem like fate at its most generous? The way your eyes slowly widened as you discovered the various little perfections you never thought could exist within one entity? The way you couldn’t think about anything else for days on end?
That’s how I feel about Sherlock.
Created by British television maestro Steven Moffat, this irrepressibly ingenious show had me enraptured from the get-go. Faithful to the source material while simultaneously managing to feel like something entirely original, it’s the kind of clever, compelling entertainment we can only dream of when we sit through the latest by-the-numbers procedural murder-mystery. Bless the television series that invites the viewers to keep up rather than constantly doubling back to make sure they’re still there.
It’s not slow to get out of the blocks, either. This first season contains all of the elements that would make the show great: clever plotting, a tremendously witty sense of humour and an inventive visual milieu among them. But even all that would make the show merely very good; it’s the central characters and performances that make it great. Freeman and Cumberbatch have both graduated to movie stardom since the show’s debut and it’s not hard to see why: their chemistry is immediate, their performances impeccable.
The final frontier: One of the very best shows of the 2010s, Sherlock’s first season is an absolute blinder that will take your breath away.
Best episode: 3) The Great Game. The final scene is in my top ten television scenes of all time, and it caps a thrilling episode that moves at breakneck speed. The teases of a classic Sherlock Holmes villain that cropped up regularly through the majority of the series pay off in an audacious, heart-stopping cliffhanger like nothing you’ve ever seen before.
Worst episode: 2) The Blind Banker. The second episode lacks the thrill of meeting the central characters or the excitement of the finale, but it’s still a cunning mystery with a strong sense of atmosphere that suffers slightly from being a tad too convoluted.
Season MVP: I cannot split the performances of Cumberbatch and Freeman: they are simply a classic partnership. Cumberbatch’s imperious sense of superiority is the source of some devastatingly funny scenes and his fiercely apparent intelligence means we are never in any doubt of Sherlock’s abilities. Freeman does befuddled better than any actor alive, and he’s alternately hilarious and sympathetic as Dr. Watson takes slow, tentative steps back into a regular life that will prove to be anything but. They’re star-making performances for a reason.
Sherlock is available on Quickflix.