Friday, February 3, 2012

Sherlock Holmes 102

Now, on to Benedict Cumberbatch!

This rising star has portrayed Sherlock Holmes for a mere 6 episodes on BBC's 'Sherlock', yet he has already gained a fan base as rampant as Downey Jr's.

The show itself is a stroke of brilliance. It's set in modern-day London and addresses the question: What would Sherlock Holmes be like if the infamous sleuth had all the technology of the 21st century at his fingertips?

Google saves lives on this show, folks.

Cumberbatch himself is a fresh, edgy and younger interpretation of Holmes that is refreshingly original from the multitudes that have preceded him.

And while he remains true to the character, he often strays regarding Holmes' social skills which can be likened unto Hugh Laurie's Dr. House. Who, by the way, is loosely based off of Sherlock Holmes.

House and Wilson.
Homes and Watson.
See the connection?

Anywho, Cumberbatch's Holmes is often rude and abrupt with people, to put it simply. The traditional Holmes isn't exactly a charmer either but he certainly isn't rude. But in Cumberbatch's defense, his Holmes isn't repressed by the socially rigid Victorian England society that the traditional Holmes was native to, making him the most sociopathic Holmes I've yet to see. (Which makes his moments of humanity all the more priceless. Take, for instance, the time he threw a spy out a 2nd story window just for manhandling Mrs. Hudson.)

And because the inhabitants of this show aren't bound by strict propriety they react to Sherlock in a very negative light compared to other adaptations, often calling him 'the freak' or 'psychopath'. It's for this reason, in addition to his youthful/vulnerable age, that Sherlock is much more insecure about himself and tends to slip into foul moods more readily. He isn't, however, afraid to defend himself:

"I'm not a psychopath, I'm a high-functioning sociopath. Do your research!"

And, of course, there to defend him is Martin Freeman's Watson. He's one of my favorite interpretations of the loyal doctor. He and Holmes refer to one another by their first names, rather than their last names. At first I didn't like this, but I quickly realized that it couldn't be more appropriate. I mean, who calls each other by their last names anymore?

Freeman's Watson is far less adoring of Holmes in this version. He still admires him but there's no, "Well done, Holmes!" Or, "Brilliant, Holmes!" It's more like, "How the hell did you see that?" Or just, "Wow."

It meshes perfectly with Cumerbatch's Holmes, who can be such a know-it-all smart-ass that sometimes only Watson can get him to dismount his high horse.

Even in the original material, Watson is so courageous it's almost stupid. But how else could you explain him willingly following Sherlock into the abyss time and again? Freeman captures Watson's bravery perfectly.

Traditionally, Holmes and Watson are about as close as two men can get without being gay. So it's no surprise that in this modernized adaptation the characters tend to look upon their relationship as a little queer.

Holmes could care less what people think but it often incites Watson to stammer, "Oh! N-no, we're um, we're not, you know, we're just flatmates, you see, uh..."

Another aspect of this show I adore is Mrs. Hudson. In this version she takes on a maternal role to both Sherlock and John, though the bickering landlord-tenant aspect of their relationship is still present. This is due to Holmes and Watson being a bit younger in addition to the fact that actress Una Stubbs was a second mother to Benedict Cumberbatch growing up, so the mother-son chemistry was already there.

Yet despite all of the aforementioned, Andrew Scott's Moriarty alone makes this show worth watching. He honestly scared me. His mannerisms and compulsive behavior keeps you on edge and convinces you he's nothing less than totally bonkers. And dangerous. Hands down, he's the most intimidating Moriarty yet.

Season 1 is on Netflix, but be willing to buckle down and pay close attention because these episodes may be long but they're incredibly fast-paced and complex. Each episode is loosely based on one or more of the classic adventures, so even if you've read them this show keeps you guessing the entire time, and they're immensely clever and full of humor. I often find myself laughing so hard I have to clap a hand over my mouth for the sake of my roommates.


  1. You know, I was considering analyzing my favorite different portrayals of Holmes, but you've done it so well, I don't have to! Thanks for saving me some time ;)

    1. Your comments always make me smile! I hope you like the analysis of Robert Downey Jr I'm working on :)