Sunday, 1 January 2012

Sherlock: A Scandal in Belgravia: review

Sherlock returned to the screens this evening for a very welcome second series with A Scandal in Belgravia. The title is, of course, a play on the title of the first Holmes short story, 'A Scandal in Bohemia', but I wonder if the scriptwriter, Steven Moffat, is aware that it is also the title of a very good book by Robert Barnard? In fact, it might just be my favourite of Bob Barnard's many entertaining novels.

Back to Sherlock. Benedict Cumberbatch is splendidly cast as the great detective brought up to date for the 21st century, while Martin Freeman is a likeable Watson. If you buy into the basic concept - and I do - then there's much to enjoy in these shows, given that the scriptwriters have a real feel for detective fiction and an evident respect for Conan Doyle's achievements. Moffat has also done great work on Doctor Who, but there's a danger, as one or two episodes of Doctor Who have shown in the last couple of years, that the demands of filling an extended time slot can lead to some narrative padding. Happily, that wasn't a problem in this episode, even though it lasted for 90 minutes. It was very well crafted.

There were plenty of witty lines (I enjoyed "The Geek Interpreter", for instance), but the story was also strong, with seemingly random jokes at the start of the story turning out to form a part of quite an intricate plot which avoided tedious over-elaboration. It involved Irene Adler as a dominatrix, in possession of compromising material kept on her mobile phone. Sherlock got hold of the phone - but what was the password to unlock it? The solution to this particular puzzle was very neat.

The supporting cast was strong. Mrs Hudson is given a distinctive personality by Una Stubbs, while Mycroft Holmes is played in suitably aloof fashion by Mark Gatiss, co-creator of this series, and a succesful detective novelist himself (I haven't read his books yet, but this is a gap in my reading I must fill). And Lara Pulver was suitably glamorous as Irene Adler. You could see why Sherlock thought she was the woman.

18 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Martin - Good to hear this series has returned and has maintained its quality. I look forward to the second round being available here in the States.

seana said...

I am really looking forward to this second season making it's way over to the states.

Happy New Year, Martin, and to your blog readers as well.

lyn said...

I'm looking forward to this new series very much. I thought Sherlock was one of the most intelligent, witty shows I'd seen in ages.

Mystery Reader said...

I agree that Benedict Cumberbatch is absolutely mesmerizing as Holmes. But unlike some Holmes purists, I also really like the Downey Jr. and Jude Law vehicle just out in the US. Martin, have you read House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz? It"s authorized by the Conan Doyle estate and. very good. Your books - both the Liverpool and Lake District series- are among my new discoveries for 2011 and I liked them very well. Thanks!

Sarah said...

I enjoyed this a lot last night and was chuckling along to some of the references. Both Holmes and Watson were excellent as usual. I particularly liked the reference to the "Speckled Blonde".

Spangle said...

I had never seen 'Sherlock' until last night's episode, but I loved it!The little touches like showing you the clues that Sherlock is thinking about, makes the concept really inventive and fresh.

I understood the majority of the episode, but I have to admit that the part with the plane baffled me! Nevertheless I really enjoyed the first episode and can't wait to watch more.

Minnie said...

Absolutely, Martin - gripping stuff, pacey and well-acted: hurrah!
Best wishes to you and yours for 2012.

Paul D Brazill said...

I'll try to grab it this week. I loved the previous series.

Clarissa Draper said...

I'm going to watch the episode right now.

slouchingtowardsthatcham.com said...

A terrific performance by Lara Pulver. Her scenes with Cumberbatch crackle with energy and really make the episode.

Lots of in-references too, which are always fun. Of course we had the deerstalker, and the Greek Interpreter/Speckled Band nods, but did anyone also notice Holmes' warning cry of "Vatican cameos"? A very left-field reference there ...

http://slouchingtowardsthatcham.com/2012/01/02/sherlock-a-scandal-in-belgravia-review/

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks for these comments, very welcome as ever.
Margot, you will love it, I'm sure.
Seana, happy new year to you as well.
Lyn, I agree.

Martin Edwards said...

Mystery Reader, hi - I will put your nice blog on my blogroll today.
I agree about the first Sherlock film - yet to see the new one.
I haven't read the Horowitz yet, but I will.
And many thanks for your kind words about my books, always a motivator when one is starting a new one!

Martin Edwards said...

Another good line, Sarah. And I'll put Crimepieces on my blogroll.

Martin Edwards said...

Spangle, I won't pretend I got every line of the script, but even so, like you, I really enjoyed it.

Martin Edwards said...

All best to you too, Minnie, and I hope life in the UK pleases you in 2012.

Martin Edwards said...

Paul, Clarissa, hope you enjoy it.

Martin Edwards said...

Hi Tim, and welcome. I didn't spot that one, to be honest. Lara Pulver - I agree. A Guardian columnist has argued that the portrayal in the script was sexist, but although she argues quite thoughtfully, I think her verdict is a little unfair.
Took a look at your blog - I watched your team play very well at Eastlands a fortnight back. Good match.

buddy2blogger said...

Nice review of the episode.

For a different look at this episode, check out my review .

Cheers!