Friday, October 29, 2010

My Opinions -- Apparently Flexible

Yeah, OK, so I heard about that whole Sherlock thing on PBS.  I was what you might call skeptical.

Look, I take my Sherlock Holmes seriously.  I've seen and read enough bad versions to last a lifetime.  So when I heard that someone was updating Holmes to present day, I thought about all the ways that this could possibly go very, very wrong.  I'd heard some positive buzz on the show, but didn't believe it could be genuinely good.  I resisted, and my friends pretty much had to tie me down in front of the television.

It took about a minute for me to do a complete 180 on this.  

Because the show opens with a young man having military nightmare/flashbacks.  Modern military flashbacks.  Desert camouflage; rapid gunfire; realistic hand-held camerawork.  

My immediate first reaction was to chuckle.  Because I remembered that the first thing Sherlock Holmes says to Doctor Watson is "You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive."  And I thought, "Ha.  They've put him the current Afghan war, so they could use the same line.  Clever."

And right around the time I thought that, my jaw sorta kinda dropped, and I realized what they were doing.  Watson has always been a military doctor -- that's the way Doyle wrote him, and pretty much every incarnation since has at least paid lip service to the idea.  But Sherlock was grounding Watson in it, defining him by it.

And it was the sheer brilliance of this that instantly enamored me of this show.  Because, really, the thing that most people tend to screw up with their versions of Sherlock Holmes is Watson.  They make him some bumbling doofus who is always dumbfounded by Holmes's brilliant deductions -- and that's just wrong.  But this Watson is not an inept idiot -- he's seen combat; hell, he's probably performed emergency medical procedures under fire.  He's formidable.  And if anyone has the cajones to start off by establishing their Watson as that strong of a character (although with his own set of weaknesses), they must have a hell of a Holmes to play him off of.

And they do.  I loved their Holmes before he first appeared on screen.  Good old Detective Inspector Lestrade is giving a press conference, pontificating on about the police's investigation in a series of odd deaths, and, all of a sudden, every single journalist's cell phone goes off, with the word "Wrong!" appearing in a text message.  It feels so right -- so very Holmesian in its irritating assuredness.

And, a few minutes in, when our Watson finally meets our Holmes, I eagerly await the, "You have been in Afghanistan" line.  And, instead, I get, "Afghanistan or Iraq?"  Because although Sherlock pays a surprising amount of respect to its original (in lines, behavior, and other references), it is always aware that it isn't the original -- so it's playful about it -- always tweaking things to fit its contemporary setting.  Nothing is quite what you expect it to be.  And it's that quality that makes it absolutely delightful.  To the point where, even when it has moments that aren't particularly good, it's still fucking brilliant.

1 comment:

Lori said...

This was a great review! And very, very helpful. I will have to watch it now. I was worried before.