One year on- A Scandal in Belgravia
This is a bit lazy but today I am feeling somewhat delicate. You won’t know it here on the blog because it hasn’t been broadcast since I started but Sherlock is my favourite television show ever. There is no disputing it, I love it to bits and nothing will shake that. One year ago today the first episode of the second series A Scandal in Belgravia was broadcast so I thought I would publish the review I wrote for my university paper, my first ever print publication which was very exciting! This is it exactly as I wrote it a year ago, enjoy!
As the 1st January drew to a close the nation, somewhat cured of their New Year’s Day hangovers, settled down to watch the eagerly anticipated return of the BBC’s smash hit Sherlock. In the summer of 2010 we left our central trio in what seemed to be an impossible situation involving a Semtex covered jacket and now one question plagued everyone, just how on earth were they going to get out of that swimming pool? I do find it difficult to believe that anybody could have possibly guessed just what happened next. The resolution, whilst witty and entertaining (the world’s only consulting criminal likes the Bee Gees, who knew?) after 18 months of speculation and waiting it did seem somewhat anti –climactic and rushed, a trivial solution to what could have been an explosive and dramatic face off. It did however allow for a safe and swift exit for our heroes to return to what they do best, solving crimes and, in Sherlock’s case, being incredibly rude to people.
Once again Steven Moffat teased us with subtle references to the canon literature, for example the ingenious titles of John’s blog ‘The Geek Interpreter’ and ‘The Speckled Blonde” and the marvellous incredulity that this invokes in Sherlock. In one marvellous scene an incredibly unsubtle nod to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s canon is given as John and Sherlock emerge from a crime scene surrounded by paparazzi, the latter sporting a familiar piece of headgear. This gorgeous salute to a beloved canon is a prime example of what makes Sherlock such a joy to watch. The inclusion of the deerstalker is dealt with wonderfully, remaining completely realistic and never overdone or overplayed.
So to the main attraction of the episode, The Woman herself. We first encounter her sashaying into the bedroom of a female member of the royal family the identity of whom we are left in the dark about, although it is not difficult to guess which sweetheart of the nation it is implied to be. Played superbly by Lara Pulver, she is somewhat of a far cry from the opera-singing adventuress of the original story. Updated to a powerful dominatrix, she seems to have our very own Sherlock wrapped around her little finger. Pulver oozes confidence and sex appeal and in her hands Irene Adler becomes a very worthy opponent for the world’s cleverest man. In one scene she informs her assistant that they will be having a visitor in the form of Sherlock Holmes and then proceeds to gleefully parade through her wardrobe, eventually settling on her battle dress. It transpires that her battle dress is nothing but some blood red lipstick and a pair of black Christian Louboutins, successfully reducing the world’s cleverest man into a gibbering wreck. Later in the scene, having overpowered Sherlock with the use of some drugs and a riding crop she purrs ‘This is how I want you to remember me. The woman who beat you’. This, unfortunately, ceases to be true by the end of the episode. Having seemingly duped both the Holmes boys by foiling the plans of the government who wanted to deter a terrorist bomb plot, she appears to have the power to bring Britain to its knees. However, this is quickly altered when Irene’s all important pass code is revealed to be the frankly naff and uncharacteristic ‘Sherlocked’. This is not the fault of Pulver, who delivers a beautiful performance of a heartbroken and defeated woman who is trying her best not to let her mask slip. It is, however, the fault of Steven Moffat who, having initially created a wonderfully strong female character has her literally begging for mercy as she faces her death, only to be rescued by Sherlock.
Minor feminist issues aside there is still much more to be enjoyed. Paul McGuigan’s sumptuous direction is truly something to behold. Shot in a way that really should belong on the big screen, its breath-taking beauty is particularly evident in the stunning transitions from a countryside crime scene to the interior of 221B. Another element new for this second series is the magnificent revelation that Sherlock Holmes is actually human. From the more comical elements, insulting his brother in Buckingham Palace whilst wearing nothing but a white bed sheet (a favourite moment amongst many a female Benedict Cumberbatch fan) to the tender moment after Sherlock once again inadvertently insults Molly Hooper, played with heart-breaking honesty by Louise Brealey, resplendent in her sparkly earrings and slinky dress. His reaction to the discovery that American CIA agents have harmed Mrs Hudson (Una Stubbs giving a superb performance, vacillating from terrified old lady to a strong but motherly protector) is harrowing. Benedict Cumberbatch illustrates his remarkable talent by allowing the audience to see just a flash of how cold and violent Sherlock can be but at the same time proving once and for all that you do not mess with Sherlock’s nearest and dearest. Martin Freeman, although he sadly has a slightly reduced screen time, is once again marvellous as Dr John Watson. Not only does he provide comic relief, we are made aware of just how much Sherlock means to him. Freeman demonstrates this in the final scene in which John decides to lie to Sherlock about Irene’s death, probably fully aware that the detective will find him out but still deciding to continue in order to protect his best friend’s broken heart.
Sherlock is an absolute treat and quite probably will be one of the best pieces of television broadcast this year. A Scandal in Belgravia has set an incredibly high standard, let us hope that the rest of the series remains this strong. I have no doubt that it will.