Television

02/01/2014

Sherlock reveals how he cheated death

sherlock

(From Daily Mail) Sherlock was back, as slick and sharp, as dazzling and dizzying as ever.

But it was also uncharacteristically high-octane, throwing everything in but the kitchen sink from 221b Baker Street so that at times the pace bordered on a very clever form of chaos.

It featured the great detective being hunted down and tortured in deepest, darkest Serbia; foiling a plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament; and riding a motorbike at high speed across London to stop Watson being burnt alive in a bonfire on Guy Fawkes’ night. Phew.

Written by Mark Gatiss, The Empty Hearse also had a sinister new master criminal to replace Moriarty who blew his brains out at the end of the last episode and so is, presumably, dead – although, given what we saw happen to Sherlock himself, you never know.

On a more mundane level, it included a surprise appearance by Sherlock’s parents who turned out to be shockingly ordinary. ‘It’s a cross I have to bear,’ sighed Holmes.

Dr. Watson meanwhile got engaged and grew a moustache.

But despite all this, it was the way the last series ended that we were all interested in. Even the characters themselves. Watson, the forensics expert Anderson, and the members of a group (called The Empty Hearse) endlessly discussing theories on Holmes’ mysterious ‘demise’, were all obsessed.

Two years ago, ten millions viewers was stunned and bewildered by the sight of Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock jumping off a building roof and then being discovered by Watson on the pavement below, a bloody corpse.

Watson’s speech at Sherlock’s grave (‘I was so alone. And I owe you so much. Don’t. Be. Dead’) wasn’t made any less moving by the mystifying revelation he was being witnessed by Holmes himself.

The Empty Hearse saw the series creator Steven Moffat and scriptwriter Gatiss certainly having a good time teasing the audience about the actual explanation.

It opened with a re-enactment showing Sherlock jump from the roof using a bungee rope to bounce back up, crash through a window, pausing only to kiss Molly Hooper on the lips like some kind of intellectual Milk Tray Man, all while Watson was being hypnotised by none other than Derren Brown.

It seemed pretty ludicrous and indeed it was.

‘B*****s !” scoffed Inspector Lestrade, revealing it was simply Anderson’s latest theory.

Holmes explained he had calculated there were ’13 possibilities’ that might happen once he had invited Moriarty on to the roof. Luckily Watson stopped us from having to hear them all.

The clues were certainly there all along – mostly in the words Holmes told Watson on the phone just before he jumped.

‘Stay exactly where you are !’ he instructed, needing Watson’s view of the spot where he ‘landed’ to be obscured.

‘Keep your eyes fixed on me !’ – which ensured Watson was knocked over by a cyclist and subsequently didn’t actually see him fall.

Eventually, Sherlock gave Anderson (and us) his own account, saying he used a giant airbag, the corpse of a lookalike, and a network of 25 assistants to close the street off ‘like a scene from a play.’

‘The final touch’ – to convince Watson that he was dead – ‘was a squash ball under the armpit. Apply enough pressure to stop the pulse.’

‘I’m not saying it’s not clever,’ admitted Anderson, grudgingly. ‘I’m just a bit… disappointed.’

‘Everyone’s a critic,’ Sherlock sighed.

Anderson was right though. Crash-mats, fake blood, masks, a team of helpers…It was far too pedestrian. Just another film stunt.

Luckily, Gatiss and Holmes provided one final response to Watson’s question about how Holmes had done it, namely that he, and we, would never really know.

True, it was case of having your cake and eating, even a cop-out, but much more in keeping with Sherlock’s character.

The mystery of what happened in the episode two years ago proved to be a necessary diversion for what was, in truth, a shallow, noisy mess this time round. The all-action Sherlock – undercover in Serbia and enjoying motorbike chases – seemed more suited to the Guy Ritchie film version than the BBC’s, intent on making Holmes into a Jack Bauer/James Bond figure aimed more at America.

‘Welcome back Mr Holmes,’ purred one of Mycroft Holmes’ colleagues from MI6, as if he were 008.

Tourist shots of the London Eye, St Paul’s, and Big Ben all obligingly popped up. All that was missing was the Queen.

At times, it was almost too slick. Slow motion or high-speed time-lapse shots of the London traffic are not ‘futuristic’ anymore but as dated as an Ultravox video and don’t really add anything although the use of text floating around the screen, to illustrate Sherlock’s thought process, is characteristically nifty.

As for the plot of a ‘secret underground network’ that was in fact a secret ‘under-ground’ network (using a disused London tube station to a try and blow up Parliament on Guy Fawkes night), it was half-hearted at best. The main protagonist (a peer of the realm working for North Korea) wasn’t given a single line of dialogue.

The climax, in which Sherlock dismantled the bomb, not by using his ‘mind palace’ as Watson beseeched him, but simply by using the off-switch, was not as hilarious as Holmes or Gatiss intended and was really a bit of a cop-out too.

The Empty Hearse actually worked far better when it was slower, quieter and more thoughtful, and about the relationship between the characters – especially between Holmes and Watson of course, and Holmes and his brother.

Some of the dialogue was so showy, it positively sizzled.

‘Friends?’ Mycroft asked. ‘Of course you go in for that sort of thing now… But if YOU seem slow to me SHerlock, imagine what REAL people are like!’

When Mycroft insisted: ‘I’m not lonely Sherlock,’ his brother simply asked: ‘how would you know?’

Benedict Cumberbatch is a terrific Holmes of course, virtually irresistible. But, like the equally excellent Jeremy Brett before him, at times he veered towards camp.

When Mycroft told him that learning Serbian had taken him ‘a couple of hours’, for example, Holmes quipped: ‘you’re slipping.’

But then Gatiss was so smart and audacious, he simply acknowledged Holmes was capable of being irritating by having Watson’s voice appearing in Holmes’ head reprimanding him for being a ‘smarta**e’ and mocking him by carping ‘you forgot to put your collar up.’

Sherlock is supposed to be Cumberbatch’s show – literally and figuratively – but he was regularly, royally upstaged by Martin Freeman whose performance as Watson is quieter and more human.

The way in which he had been so grief-stricken by Holmes’ ‘death’, he had grown a moustache was treated with great humour (mostly by Sherlock) but was actually heart-breaking, aging him horribly.

The way that the fact Watson had found love and become engaged was secondary in his life to Sherlock’s ‘death’ was also pretty poignant.

This was all brilliantly illustrated by my favourite scene in which Watson hesitantly announced to Holmes’ landlady Mrs Hudson (the excellent Una Stubbs): ‘I’ve got some news. I’m moving on.’

‘So soon after Sherlock !’ she cried. ‘What’s his name?!’

When he patiently told her it was with a woman, she shrieked: ‘you really have moved on ! Well ‘live and let live’, that’s my motto.’

‘Listen to me,’ he stressed. ‘I am not gay !’

His moustache could have been, but sadly it didn’t last long.

The way that it all ended with the mystery baddie watching footage of Holmes and Watson’s fiancée Mary rescuing him from a bonfire, it’s surely only a matter of time before Mary goes the same way.

(read the full story)






 
 

 
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