Long time, no post – even my blog suffers from the silly season. But as we close in on September and the return of our favorite shows, it’s now time to dust the blog – and that I do with a new show I discovered for myself.
The blessing and at the same time curse of coming into a new fandom is that there is an awful lot to talk and think about.
About three weeks back I started watching SHERLOCK. I wanted to buy some DVDs when I was in Ireland, but they didn’t have anything of what I wanted, so out of frustration I bought SHERLOCK. Many people had been suggesting to me to watch it, and m Twitter was full of it, so I thought, might as well give it a try, seems to be good.
It isn’t. Really, it isn’t good.
It’s goddamn incredible.
I can’t claim that I’m an avid reader of the Sherlock Holmes novels (I’ve only started reading them now, actually), or a huge all-knowing fan of Doyle’s work. Quite the contrary. Of course I know about the great detective, the legacy to British culture. I do like the games (Frogware), and I certainly enjoyed the movies with Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law. Oh, and I watch the US version,ELEMENTARY. I know some basics, had an idea who Irene Adler is, which importance Moriarty bears. In general, I think that most of all Sherlock’s deduction skills are amazing and definitely make reading/watching/whatever worthwhile.
SHERLOCK, however, is easily one of the best shows (although they are more movies than episodes) I’ve ever seen, and at that also the best adaptation of any kind. It took me only a few minutes to be hooked – and yes, it was the morgue whip scene, and not because I get off on it or anything, but because showing something like that on TV is such a brave and daring thing to do, and this surely is something I honor – and I remember that it was at about 40 minutes into A Study In Pink that I realized there’d be no turning back. Ever.
I think especially because SHERLOCK HOLMES is such a well-known material it’s easy to get it completely wrong. It’s easy to *not* make it good, and it’s also easy to have a fatally wrong approach to something that may seem like a good idea on paper.
The latter is what could have happened with SHERLOCK, in my opinion. Basically, these are the original Arthur Conan Doyle stories, tweaked and twisted just as much as they needed to be to fit into our modern time, since the series is set in the 21st century. Now Sherlock and John are young(ish) men who use mobiles with internet reception – and as a running gag reception that never fails 😉 John writes a blog instead of a diary, and Sherlock has a homepage, too; which also leads to a much higher media attention, in-universe. It’s very interesting how they take the known stories and make something of them that is still recognizable, but nevertheless works perfectly in the time frame it is set in.
I particularly love the whole scenery, how it is filmed, because it’s beautiful and deep, and even more I love the idea to forego most of what would have been necessary as insert – instead writing the words of a text message or such right onto the screen. This is genius, if you ask me, because I can’t remember to have ever seen this; it also makes it easier to read it and follow the action because there are no quick cuts to any device/mobile/whatever your eyes and mind have to follow; the picture remains “calm” and the text is simply added, like a subtitle, just way more stylish. 😀
Apart from this difference to other formats and adaptations, there is another big one that deserves mention: it is constantly played with the chemistry and subtext between Sherlock and John. Questions regarding the true nature of John’s and Sherlock’s relationship have ever since been posed, I think. Despite the fact that they were always characterized as very good friends, and it was even established that both of them are, if ever, interested in women (John has some affairs and then marries a woman, Mary, and Sherlock had Irene… well, at least he’d been smitten by her), they also have this fascinating friendship that makes one wonder how close they really are.
What I love about BBC’s SHERLOCK is that they go there. Not that anything happens between John and Sherlock, but other characters constantly tease about their closeness, about them living together, and how they are – at least to the people surrounding them – gay. It is true that when you look at them, you do wonder what exactly they share – and how such a deep bond of friendship develops over such a short time. There is an amount of trust and faith which I think is made most clear in “The Reichenbach Fall” when John, despite all evidence, never stops believing that Sherlock is still one of the good guys. That he is real (it has to be seen). His faith never once seems to waver; and this is something you rarely find with any relationship.
While no one of the production team, including the actors, seems to mind that Johnlock is shipped, there are obviously no plans to act on it. And yet one has to wonder why it is constantly brought into the stories, by other characters asking or hinting at it. They could very just leave it out – they could very well play it straight (no pun intended) with the friendship, and have everyone think just that – that they are two guys who share a flat and are friends.
Instead, there is permanent subtle innuendo – a lot even to those who WANT to see it – and it is made a focal point of the whole show. Of course, Mark Gatiss I think it was who said that they wanted to make a show primarily about the friendship between John and Sherlock, one that has, I think, ever since fascinated many people. It really doesn’t help that they chose two actors who have so much chemistry.
And really, it starts in the very beginning, the first episode, “A Study In Pink”. When Sherlock shows John the flat for the first time and hears that John thinks it needs to be cleaned out, he immediately tries to tidy things up. Emphasis on he tries, but still. It’s like he wants and needs John approval – even though with everyone else, he is just his normal annoying self. Granted, he shows this annoying side towards John as well, but never as much as he does with everyone else (save Mrs. Hudson, but really, she doesn’t count, since Benedict loves Una – and reality beats fiction anytime ;)).
So this very early instance already makes one wonder whether there is more to this. Is he so desperately in need of a flat mate that he actually remembers how to behave properly – from the very beginning? Because he could well have ignored John’s comment, knowing that John probably needs a flat – and a flat mate – just as much as he does himself, or told him to get used to it, or anything else he usually says to people because he’s Sherlock Holmes and that’s how he is. Except with John.
And this is one of the things that makes this show so amazing – the complexity of their relationship that goes into depths, albeit subtle, that are more daring than most things you see on TV, especially when it comes to classic material.
And ultimately, it’s also simply an enormously enjoyable, thrilling, funny and heartbreaking show. So basically your standard BBC program 😉