As of January 1, 7 p.m., with the fourth season of the BBC’s Sherlock to premiere in less than an hour, I couldn’t quite decide whether I really wanted to watch it or not.
Is this sacrilegious?
Let’s run down the case. The first season of Sherlock? Excellent. Excellent new take on the series, with solid casting (although I’m prejudiced; if you put Martin Freeman in something, I’m going to watch it, and let’s hear it for Rupert Graves in his criminally underappreciated role as Lestrade). Watching the first few episodes was a lot of fun; the program had a lot of energy that also seemed, for lack of a better phrase, very “British.” And the first season’s villains? Horrifying. Especially James Moriarty. Another inspired casting move, and some of the most hypnotizing TV I’ve ever seen. Don’t watch the below if you’re one of the last Anglophiles alive who hasn’t seen any episodes of this program; you’ll want to see it in context.
If you have already watched this series, though, I bet you’re going to click on that video. Because the acting job done there by Andrew Scott was eminently re-watchable. I LOVE it when the villain is not a stereotypical big, burly guy. According to IMDB.com, Andrew Scott is 5′ 8″; in this scene he is immense, and immensely terrifying.
So the first series: Excellent. The second season, including “A Scandal in Belgravia,” and featuring Lara Pulver as Irene Adler? Fantastic:
That trailer makes it look even more serious than it was. I wouldn’t go so far as to call that episode a “lighthearted romp,” but it was, in its own way, a lot of fun. Irene Adler more than held the screen opposite Cumberbatch, which is pretty impressive.
But by the end of that series, the end cliffhanger of which was Sherlock plummeting from the top of a building, the show seemed (to me) to have begun to go off the rails.
The third season, four episodes in all, was not my favorite, although the addition of Mary Morstan (as played by Martin Freeman’s actual spouse, Amanda Abbington) was a net positive. The third episode of the season, wherein Mary and John were married, was the high point; there was a mystery involved, but mostly the series was back to being a bit more fun and included some awesome banter among the threesome of Sherlock and John and Mary, but all levity started to leave the building during the final episode of the season. There was a big twist, and a great one, that could have gone in any number of directions, but mainly it led to way more darkness than I really need in any Sherlock Holmes mysteries.
So when I saw “The Abominable Bride” holiday special (from early in 2016) advertised, I thought, meh. And I went a whole year without watching it, until this Christmas season, when Mr. GreatBritishTV and I got the DVD and watched it after the little boys had gone to bed (thank you, subtitles feature on the DVD). And after watching it, I thought, meh.
Which brought us to Sunday night. I am not always available at 8 p.m., since I am often putting little boys in bed, but they actually went down a bit early and there I was, in front of the TV, at the right time. When the fates see fit to deliver me to the couch in time to actually start a program, well, I’ll admit, I’m powerless to resist them. So I did watch the first episode of the fourth season of Sherlock. Did you miss it? You can catch it at the Masterpiece site. Or, would you like to save some time? Read the episode recap here.
My take? I’m disappointed. I don’t think it’s poorly written (although the increasingly extended sequences of Sherlock in his “mental palace” are starting to get on my nerves), and of course the cast is still top-notch, but it’s just not what I want from any version of Sherlock Holmes. If I wanted dark as hell and increasingly violent, let’s face it, I’d just go watch a crime drama like Happy Valley. This first episode included a lengthy interlude of what looked like an Ultimate Fighting cage match between Sherlock and a villain, which was just ridiculous. I do not need, nor do I want to watch, Benedict Cumberbatch smack people around. More plot, please, less choreographed and increasingly graphic violence.
Incidentally, whatever the hair and makeup people are doing to John Watson’s hair, I want them to stop it. Here he is in season 1, looking absolutely adorable and un-hair-producted:
And at the other side of the screen, we have his new look, which I’m calling “John Watson as Silver Fox.” Sure, the addition of the baby is adorable. But I hate the new hairdo, which is all wrong for both John Watson AND Martin Freeman.
So: Did you watch it? Are you going to keep watching it?