This series takes several of the characters from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes series and reimagines them in contemporary London.
Dr. John Watson (Martin Freeman) was wounded while serving in Afghanistan and is not adjusting as well as he could to life as a civilian. Not knowing anyone with whom he's willing to stay, he ends up renting a place with a man he just met, a brilliant, hyper-observant consulting detective named Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch).
Season 1 is composed of 3 episodes, each of which is approximately an hour and a half long (so, more like 3 made-for-TV movies). In the first episode, "A Study in Pink," Holmes and Watson meet. Watson begins getting used to Holmes' quirks, following him around and helping him out as he works on a case involving people who appear to have committed suicide but were actually murdered. In the second episode, "The Blind Banker," Watson starts dating someone and Holmes investigates a strange symbol spray painted inside a bank. The third episode, "The Great Game," brings Holmes head to head against Moriarity, as Moriarity challenges Holmes to solve various cases within a certain amount of time. If Holmes doesn't solve the cases in time, the bomb Moriarty's current hostage has been forced to wear goes off.
It has actually been a while since I first finished this series. I've just been reluctant to write about it. A short version of my review could be something along the lines of “OMG! I ♥ Sherlock and John!” You know, useless fangirl squeeing.
I've now watched this first season two times, not counting the times I watches episodes 1 and 3 with the commentary turned on. The show was just as much fun the second time around as it was the first. Plus, the second time around, I knew the cliffhanger was coming and my outrage had had some time to lessen. For those who don't know, Season 1 ends with a nice big cliffhanger. Happily, you can now order Season 2 and continue on your way. At least until you hit the cliffhanger that I've heard Season 2 ends with.
Despite my hatred of cliffhanger endings (seriously, what if the show were to get canceled??), I'm glad I watched this. I first heard about it on Forever Young Adult – this post is why I also now own the first season of Downton Abbey, although I have yet to watch that. My primary reason for loving Sherlock is the relationship between Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. Sherlock is used to people loathing him, or at least being very annoyed by him, so it's a pleasant surprise when John listens to his deductions and the first word out of his mouth is “Brilliant!”
Sherlock isn't always the best flatmate/friend. In the first episode, he abandons a transportation-less, limping John at a crime scene so that he can go hunting for a particular piece of evidence. In another episode, John opens their fridge, only to discover a human head Sherlock is using in one of his experiments. John is probably the most easygoing guy in existence and, for the most part, doesn't seem to mind Sherlock's quirks. He's not a complete doormat – he tells Sherlock off from time to time – but his appreciation of Sherlock outweighs any issues he might have with him. Plus, he gets to see some interesting and exciting things via his relationship with Sherlock.
Now, about the “relationship” thing. Nearly everyone in the show assumes that Sherlock and John are a couple, since they get along so well and Sherlock isn't known for having friends. I have to admit, the m/m romance and BL manga/anime lover in me loved this and did a bit of fangirl squeeing every time someone mistook them for a couple. And during that scene where Sherlock thought John was maybe leading into asking him out and actually tried to let him down gently. This, from the guy who casually stomped all over that-lady-at-the-morgue's feelings for him. Anyhoo, John usually tried to correct people's assumptions, and people usually paid him no attention. It was such a common thing that it was actually a bit of a shock when John got himself a girlfriend in the second episode (and completely not a shock when Sherlock managed to tag along on John's date).
I don't know if it was my own love of the John/Sherlock relationship getting in the way or not, but the relationship between John and Sarah wasn't quite believable to me. Sarah and John first met when she interviewed him for a job. Their next meeting was after John's first day on the job – he spent most of the time sleeping, having spent a long period of time investigating with Sherlock, and Sarah was forced to see John's patients for him (just wondering, but why didn't she wake him up?). John apologized after he woke up...and then somehow they agreed to go on a date. I mean, huh? If I had just had to do a bunch of work because the guy who was supposed to be doing that work had literally fallen asleep on the job, I sure as heck wouldn't have had rosy enough thoughts about him to want to go on a date with him. And then, after the horrible way their date ends, somehow they're still on good enough terms for John to sleep on her couch in episode 3. Again, huh?
As far as the mysteries go, the first one didn't impress me that much, even the first time I saw it. At one point, Sherlock and John ran after a person they thought was the killer. When they caught up to him, I realized that the person I thought they were running after was not who they were actually running after – it turns out that I figured out who the killer was before Sherlock did, which didn't bode well for my perception of Sherlock's intelligence. Luckily, the other episodes stumped me more thoroughly (which is embarrassing to admit, considering how many blatant clues at least one of the mysteries in episode 3 was plastered with).
Overall, I really enjoyed this season and most certainly plan on buying Season 2. Sherlock and John were fun to watch, I enjoyed catching the occasional reference to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's stories (I was not very good at this, since I haven't read many of them yet), and Sherlock's London is a visual treat. I think huge Sherlock Holmes fans will probably enjoy spotting references to the original stories, but I also think that those unfamiliar with the original stories will find lots to enjoy as well. I look forward to seeing more of this show.
The first time I saw Sherlock, Season 1, my personal grade for it was an A-. Now that I've seen it a second time, I might downgrade it to a B+, but I still think it's a excellent show.
When I watched the original pilot episode, which was maybe a half hour shorter than the final version of episode 1, I realized the reason why I figured out who the murderer was before Sherlock: the original pilot had Sherlock finding the killer at around the same time I realized who he was in episode 1. Although the pilot was rewritten quite a bit, I think they padded the mystery a little too much and ended up inadvertently making Sherlock look a bit dense. The mystery element was better in the original pilot episode, but the relationship between Sherlock and John was better in the final version of episode 1, so I think it balanced out. But then, like I said, my primary reason for loving this series is the relationship between Sherlock and John.
The “making of” featurette was fun to watch, and I enjoyed listening to the commentaries. I particularly recommend the commentaries if you'd like a bit more information on how references to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories were worked into the episodes.
Oh, and I should mention that the DVDs I watched included English subtitles - I didn't find the accents all that difficult to understand, but I know my mom likes watching British shows with English subtitles turned on, and I figure she can't be the only one.
Watch-alikes and Read-alikes:
- House, M.D. (live action TV series) - If you can believe it, I think House probably cares more about his patients than Holmes cares about the various hostages and murder victims. Those who'd like something else starring a brilliant person severely lacking in people skills might want to try this. As an added bonus, it's a bit like a mystery show, in that House and his team has to figure out what's wrong with the patients in time to save them. Some Sherlock fans may also enjoy House's "bromantic" relationship with his friend Wilson.
- Darkly Dreaming Dexter (book) by Jeff Lindsay - Holmes calls himself a sociopath, and it does seem like there are very few people he'd ever actually worry about. Those who'd like something starring a similar character might want to try this series. Dexter is a blood spatter pattern analyst for the police by day, and a serial killer by night. There is also a TV series, Dexter, based on this series, but be aware that only the first season is closely based on any of the books. I find TV series Dexter to be more human-seeming than book series Dexter. I have written about the second season of the TV series. I have also written about Dexter by Design, the fourth book in Jeff Lindsay's series.
- Bones (live action TV series) - Another show starring a socially/emotionally stunted main character and a partner who's able to balance that character out.
- Gosick (anime TV series) - If you're willing to try an animated TV series and would like something else featuring a brilliant, socially-stunted main character, you might want to try this. This series takes place in an alternate Europe, in 1924. Kujo, a transfer student at an elite school, meets Victorique, a brilliant young girl who helps the local police solve mysteries in order to stave off her own boredom. I have written about this series, and you can currently watch Gosick on Crunchyroll.