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BBC Sherlock

September 30, 2010
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I just noticed that a movie about Secretariat has been made and will hit theatres shortly.  Now, I will go and see a movie about racehorses any day of the week, and it just so happens that this racehorse was the subject of my first resource paper in third grade.  As I recall, I could not pronounce the name, I chose the book solely because it had a picture of a horse on the front, and I could not figure out why this secretary character kept popping up in my horse book.  I may have either switched to Jane Goodall or written the most baffling biography ever written by an eight year old, I can't remember.  Any way, it reminds me that the Arc de Triumph in coming up on the eleventh, so anyone who has been having bizarre psychic experiences lately, relate them here so I can divine the winner of this race on the 11th.  No, relentless defeat has not dissuaded me from the path of psychic gambling…that flighty temptress….

Anyway, what brought me here today was not the alignment of the stars or the patterns divined from sacrificial viscera, but a worthy cause; promotion for the latest bit of excellence out the BBC, this past summer's Sherlock series, which I hope you have all already seen or will forthwith run along to view here, from any number of those links provided.  I intend to give everything away within the next few paragraphs, so go!

To their credit, the series is not extensive; only three episodes of 90 minutes a piece.  This prevents it from sinking into the mindless tangientialism (That's right.  Tangentialism.) of other series of greater duration.  For instance, the last series I watched was Battlestar Galactica, which was like Days of Our Lives with killer robots.  I'm down with killer robots, but if I'm watching a show about killer robots, I want the killer robots to be killing people, not mining for space dust, or whatever the fuck they were doing half the time.  I never finished watching it because frankly, I was relieved when the protagonist  tragically dove into a black hole in the third season.  When you're glad the protagonist is dead, it's time to stop watching, preferably before she's mysteriously resurrected.  The show had about two seasons worth of material, stretched out into I don't even know how many, stuffed to the brim with cotton batting.  Sherlock, at three episodes, luckily doesn't have that luxury, though to be honest, at times it seemed like they were trying their best.

The strongest aspect of the show is the character performances.  I've watched my fair share of Sherlocks over the years, including the recent film starring whatshisface and the other guy getting blown up and fighting giants or whatever.  It says very little for that script that I can't even remember what the mystery was supposed to be, or what Sherlock did to solve it, besides get handcuffed to the bed, which I think I only remember from the trailer.  Yeah, that movie sucked, but I watched it anyway because, hey, Sherlock Holmes.  Now this Sherlock Holmes, this new BBC one, is awesome in a way that only an asexual sociopath who solves mysteries can be, especially if he has a slick jacket and a handgun.  I don't think I've seen this sort of effort go into creating a character in a long time, probably because in order to write an intelligent character, or play one, you actually have to be somewhat intelligent yourself, which is where the recent blockbuster went wrong.  It's just fun to listen to this guy wrap up a murder mystery based on belt size and pocket lint.  He's like the McGuyver of mysteries.  However, if it weren't for John Watson to level it out with a good dose of normal, this character would probably just be annoying.  You can tell, because everyone who knows Sherlock before Watson shows up hates his guts, and with good reason.  He's a total asshole.  And John Watson is pretty boring before they team up, but unlike a lot of shows that waste time on pointless backstory and spacedust, they get right to the point and start solving mysteries.  And now that I've gotten the glowing recommendation out of the way, I too can get right to the point and start mocking the shit out of it.

I said in order to write intelligent characters, you have to be somewhat intelligent, and that's what this is: somewhat intelligent.  The first episode, though entertaining, by the end lapses into the assumption that the audience is all idiots, and in order to hit their 90 minute mark, transforms the characters into idiots also.  The premise is that the forth in a series of identical suicides is concluded to have been murder, thus marking the previous three as murders as well.  Sherlock Holmes, through a series of brilliant and highly entertaining deductions that you would expect from the world's greatest detective, concludes that the woman had a small suitcase with her, but no longer has it, meaning it was left in the vehicle that transported her to whatever desolate location they happen to be in, an abandoned building or something.  Realizing his mistake, the killer would have gotten rid of the case as quickly as possible, and Sherlock tracks it down without much ado.  But lo! for the victims cell phone is missing!  Realizing her abductor intended to kill her, she concealed her cell phone in the vehicle, hoping this clue would help Scotland Yard apprehend the killer.  It wouldn't have, because Scotland Yard is full of morons, but luckily, Sherlock Holmes is on the case.  He has John Watson send a text to the victim's phone in an attempt to confuse the killer and lure him into a trap.  Then the two of them stake out the location, and the idiocy begins.

Sherlock notices a taxi loitering outside the stated location, the passenger looking intently out of the window.  Holmes and Watson give chase as the taxi pulls away!  Up the stairs, leaping from roof to roof a la Batman, Holmes' Google-like mind determines the limited route of the taxi in London traffic and calculates the point of interception.  The vehicle is apprehended, but it was all a mistake: the passenger has clearly just recently arrived from LAX, evidenced by his luggage tags.  It is impossible for him to have commited the murders, and Holmes conveniently forgets that there are two people in the taxi, because someone was driving the damn thing.  I thought that was the whole point of chasing the cab, but if Sherlock doesn't suspect the driver, then neither do we!

Now Sherlock stolls the streets of London, musing. 

SHERLOCK:  All the victims were on their way from one place to another.  Some were last seen on these very streets.  Who, then, hunts in a crowd?

Fifteen taxis drive by.

SHERLOCK:  Who?  Who?

Mystery of mysteries!  Is it:

A) Baba Ganoush, Three Time Champion of MXC Most Extreme Elimination Challenge?

B) A taxi driver, similar to or even the taxi driver you just chased halfway across London, leaping from roof to roof a la Batman?  Or is it

C) Batman?

Sherlock takes this one home to mull it over.  When he arrives, Scotland Yard is ransacking his apartment with a warrant for suspected drug possession.  Their actual intent is to obtain the evidence Sherlock has actually withheld from the actual investigation, and this sparks a series of brilliant deductions by which Sherlock concludes he can track the victims cell phone through GPS, if he can only hack into her account, which of course, he can.  Shockingly, the phone is revealed to be right there at his address, 221 B Baker Street!  What can this all mean?  Sherlock begins to piece these facts together, which is almost impossible with his landlady, Mrs. Hudson, bothering him about some stupid taxi that has arrived for him for no reason.

MRS. HUDSON:  Sherlock, your taxi is here for you.

SHERLOCK: I ordered no taxi!  Now, silence!  For I am trying to think.

MRS. HUDSON: He's quite insistent, the taxi driver…

SHERLOCK:  I said Silence!

MRS. HUDSON: but the taxi –

SHERLOCK: HIT ME WITH THAT HAMMER ONE MORE TIME, MRS HUDSON!

MRS. HUDSON: Taxi driver…

TAXI DRIVER sends text.  SHERLOCK's phone alerts him of incoming text.  He reads:

I, the taxi driver, am texting you from the victim's phone, which was left in my taxi, which is now here, at 221 B Baker Street, where you are right now.  The victim's phone is here because I, the taxi driver, have driven it here in my taxi, which I drive, as a taxi driver.

Sherlock mulls this over.  He experiences a series of flashbacks wherein it begins to comes together.

AUDIENCE: The taxi, you fucking idiot!

SHERLOCK: Excuse me, I must have a word with the taxi driver.

The World's Greatest Detective, ladies and gentlemen!

Now, I believe the time spent figuring out how to drag out this mystery would have been better spent writing a better mystery, but Cumberbatch's Sherlock is so charismatically compelling that this is quickly forgiven, or forgotten, at any rate, because it's time to confront the killer!  The killer volunteers to turn himself in, but should Sherlock accept this offer, he will never reveal how he convinced the victims to kill themselves.  Unlike Batman, Sherlock is not interested in fighting crime.  He only likes solving mysteries.  So he gets gets into the Cab of Doom, they drive to an abandoned building, and engage in a battle of wits.  A battle of wits…TO THE DEATH!

TAXI DRIVER: Never go in against a Sicilian when DEATH is on the line!!  Ha HA HA ha ha!

The cabbie presents two identical jars, each containing identical pills, one of which is poison while the other is not.  He pushes one towards Sherlock.  Whichever pill Sherlock chooses, the cabbie will take the other, and the game is on.

Right, you know what, I already saw this movie.  I already know that the Man in Black has spent the last four years building up an immunity to Iocane powder.  For the sake of context, lets read "Iocane" as arsenic, which Taximan could have obtained as blood-thinning treatment for the cerebral aneurysm he professes to having.  For not only have I seen The Princess Bride, I've read The Count of Monte Cristo as well.  Perhaps not all viewers have done both of these things, but probably most of them have done one or the other, so it's fairly obvious that the Taxi driver only won this game four times because he's built up an immunity to – oh.  Wait.  We will never know because Watson, having tracked the phone to this address, shoots him, and he dies with the name "Moriarty" coerced from his grimacing lips, and that's a wrap.

As you can see, this is not the greatest mystery ever, and in fact, the next one is almost worse, what with Chinese gangsters and their convoluted machinations.  After that singing endorsement, you will definitely scroll up to click the link you almost definitely bypassed on your way down here, right?  But really, the point of Sherlock Holmes is not to solve mysteries, it's to solve mysteries while having life threatening adventures and delivering snappy dialogue.  That the plot's a little weak is nothing compared to whatever other crap you're watching.  Like that other Sherlock movie where he gets blown up and fights a giant.  He gets blown up and fights a giant in this series too!  But in this series he actually solves mysteries while doing it.  In the last episode he solves like, eight mysteries in a row.  Here's the link again, so go watch it.  Even though I just ruined the whole first episode, it is still worth it.

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