Sherlock S01E01 — A Study In Pink, Review

Sherlock Holmes is one of the most  over exposed char­ac­ters in all of fiction.  He has been invented, killed, revived, rein­vented, mocked and copied in maga­zi­nes, books, theater, radio, movies and tv.  So how on earth do you do anything new with him?

Well one option is to twist his char­ac­ter to fit more of an action hero role. The result was an enter­tain­ing but shal­low movie. Or you could take Sher­lock Holmes and his support­ing cast and move him to the present day. And that is what Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss chose to do.

Despite the move to modern times, this is a very faith­ful adap­ta­tion of the novels. Bene­dict Cumberbatch’s master­ful portrayal of Holmes captured many of his nuances and the modern setting allowed Moffat to present Holmes as more than an excep­tion­ally astute indi­vid­ual, but to narrow in on his “high level sociopath” tenden­cies. This is a remark­ably good fit for the char­ac­ter of Holmes and an inter­est­ing angle  that I hope they pursue.

But while Cumber­batch really grabs your atten­tion while he’s on screen, it’s Martin Freeman’s subdued perfor­mance as Doctor Watson that really makes the show work. Doctor Watson is a char­ac­ter which has been much maligned in adap­ta­tions. The worst offender’s prob­a­bly being the Basil Rath­bone movies. Free­man gives us a Watson who is both compe­tent and brave and Moffat wisely uses him as the primary view­point char­ac­ter for the show.

And that’s impor­tant, because as fun as Holmes is, he’s not a char­ac­ter most of us could empathize with. Watson is though. He’s an ex-soldier. He has normal prob­lems and as played by Free­man he is likable even when he is being aloof. Plus his calm manner­isms make Cumberbatch’s frenetic Holmes even more magnetic.

I should mention the distinc­tive direc­tion of Paul McGuigan who gives us a fast paced episode with some very unusual visual ticks. The idea of having people’s texting appear on screen was clever, but occa­sion­ally distract­ing. I will be curi­ous to see how Euros Lynn handles the second episode and if he follows the same style.

So far I haven’t really said anything about the plot and that’s because it’s really the weakest thing in the whole episode. It’s not bad, but the mystery really isn’t that complex and it really only seems to exist to intro­duce the char­ac­ters and set up the rela­tion­ship between Holmes and Watson. As such it serves its purpose effec­tively, but it doesn’t stand up so well as a plot in its own right.

But that’s a quib­ble. Sher­lock is an outright success and I’m left wonder­ing if Steven Moffat is even capa­ble of writ­ing some­thing bad. Now the ques­tion is if Stephen Thom­son and Mark Gatiss will be able to live up to the open­ing episode with their contri­bu­tions.

About Eoghann Irving

Overly opinionated owner and author of You can get updated on his posts directly on the blog here or through the usual social networking suspects. What? You expected me to say something interesting here? That's what the blog posts are for. Eoghann has often wondered if people read these little bio things we have to fill out everywhere on the internet and, assuming they do, why?