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As the third episode has just aired.
apiphile wrote in criticalfandom
This is a post for discussing elements of craft (pacing, dialogue, characterisation-through-action, editing, etc.) in the recent BBC miniseries Sherlock, written by Steven Moffat, Stephen Thompson, and Mark Gatiss, and directed by Paul McGuigan and Euros Lyn.

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I really enjoyed this series, but I felt like the second episode was just filler. While the first and third weren't perfect (I think the way they incorporated the orginal ACD story into the latter was a bit clumsy), I felt that they were pretty cohesive on the whole, particularly in terms of characterisation.

I was very amused by the way they incorporated Holmes' lack of knowledge of the solar system from canon -- it was a nice touch, emphasising the dissonance between Holmes' priorities and the priorities of the rest of the world. In terms of characterisation, I also like that Holmes doesn't WANT to be like the rest of the world, but that we can see that it still hurts him when people are jerks. One thing I love about the original stories is that although Holmes often seems cold and uncaring, he actually isn't -- he's driven by a strong desire to rid the world of injustice, and he can be very kind at times; when he appears cruel, it's actually because he's just different and most people don't get that. I think that the writing and acting in this series is consistent with that, and that makes me happy.

I agree with that assessment - and the second episode I think lacked in imagination somewhat, since choosing a circus and a Chinese smuggling ring ... wasn't exactly updating the story much, just playing Find and Replace with period-specific terms, more or less. I was much more impressed with the third.

I think one of the things I was most impressed by was the way the audience were invited to refrain from sympathising with him if they wanted to - that he was the protagonist, and the problem-solver, but not necessarily a hero so much as an anti-hero in places. The concerns of others were all reasonable, toward him.

but not necessarily a hero so much as an anti-hero in places

Yes. I particularly loved Holmes' speech about how he's NOT a hero in the most recent episode. On a personal level though, those little ways in which the audience is invited to identify against Holmes only makes me identify with him more. (I think I am a rather odd Holmes fan, in that I do identify with Holmes more than Watson -- not that I claim to be as brilliant as Holmes, but I my approach to the world is more like his than like Watson's.)

Actually, speaking of Holmes' brilliance, I think one really clever thing that Moffat did in the first episode was the play on the significance of "Rache". In the original ACD story, of course, "Rache" did mean "revenge", and the "Rachel" theory belonged to Lestrade, and Holmes quickly dismissed it. In "A Study in Pink", of course, the opposite happens. For people who are aware of the original canon, then, this becomes a really subtle metafictive acknowledgement that Holmes' brilliance is actually something constructed by the text -- Holmes is right because the text NEEDS him to be right, rather than because his methods are truly infallible when applied in real life.

Which is the case with all detective fiction, but in a case like this where we're dealing with a detective who has so much cultural baggage with him (and can therefore never Just Be Holmes) it's all the more intriguing. [Having just rewatched the third episode I am a little amused by the way in which Moriarty's flambouyance and register-spanning was contrasted against Holmes's rather more staid emotional approach].

One thing that I really love about Holmes, which comes from ACD, is that we do get to see his deductive processes. While they may not hold up in real life, at least they are there -- at least the audience is supposed to follow along with them.

I know that "A Study in Pink" was criticised because it was very easy for the audience to work out that it was the cabbie -- and indeed, most of us did so before Holmes did. I have to wonder though if that isn't a tribute to ACD himself. I know that reading the Holmes stories, I often found it very easy to pinpoint the guilty party before Holmes, but the reason I was able to do that is because the detective genre is so well established now that we're all familiar with certain schemata for identifying the bad guy, and it's not difficult to apply those. But because ACD was creating the genre as he wrote, his contemporary audiences would not have had those schemata to draw on.

One thing that bothers me about a lot of detective fiction written after Holmes is the way that the detective's brilliance is NOT tied to any sort of logical process. For instance, although I am rather fond of the Nero Wolfe stories, it shits me that Wolfe's identification of the killer often depends on his instincts, rather than deductive ability. With Holmes, at least, we are supposed to understand his process, even if we can't replicate it within ourselves. But this does, of course, become problematic when Holmes is supposed to be smarter than the writer of the text.

Also, another thought -- it took me a while to put my finger on it, but Moriarty's flamboyance reminded me somewhat of John Simm's portrayal of the Master, which I found interesting, given that Moffat has explicitly compared Holmes to the Doctor a number of times, and both Moriarty and the Master have the whole "dark double" thing going on.

Possibly an authorial predeliction for catty villains? Although such speculation isn't really the point of the comm.

Gah, hit wrong button and lost comment.

I find it interesting quite how sociopathic they made this Holmes. Other Holmeses have been impatient with everyday courtesies and so have frequently been abrupt, but they have also offered some comfort to people in tears and have given weight to insistence that so-and-so is innocent from people close to the accused.

I don't get the impression that this Holmes would. Which leaves those things to fall even further to Watson.

I do like that they're showing Watson has his own competencies, too. It's rather easy to turn him into just a sidekick who is forever being explained to.

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