Jake Yorath reviews the latest episode of BBC’s hit drama Sherlock.
It is very difficult to find superlatives that are yet to be thrown at Stephen Moffat’s Sherlock. The cast is exquisite, the writing sublime and the production miles and miles ahead of Moffat’s other baby, Doctor Who. Though it is a different prospect, admittedly, with a larger budget per episode, a longer format and a far older audience, it is probably fair to say that Sherlock has been a huge success.
This week’s fare is another cracking ninety minutes of television. Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Dr John Watson (Martin Freeman) are once again thrown into a complex mystery, which features at its heart a hound (of Baskerville, of course) and a twenty year old death.
Fresh from solving a case involving a harpoon gun, which sadly features only briefly, Holmes is at a wit’s end in search of a new case to satisfy his cravings. His exacting standards (a rabbit that glows in the dark is deemed ‘boring’) leave him frustrated until the arrival of Henry (Russell Tovey), whose father was killed on Dartmoor, so he says, by a huge hound. Though the death was twenty years ago, Sherlock seems (as usual) confident, to the point of arrogance, in his ability to solve the case.
Working from a tip off from a TV documentary about the killing, the duo head out of London and straight to the scene of the crime, and the nearby Baskerville army laboratory. The ominous looking scientific centre is rumoured to be the site of a series of sinister tests involving animals, the most famous of which being the beast that attacked Henry’s father.
In the centre of the village, having fought their way through the tourists (on a macabre journey of discovery kicked off by the documentary), Watson and Holmes are introduced to a tour guide who swears he’s encountered the creature. While a grainy smartphone image of a creature leaves the great detective scoffing, a cast of a large footprint has him intrigued (and costs him fifty pounds).
For a while, it feels a little like the plot has finally gone a little too far. The Royal (read ‘Her Majesty’) client in the previous episode worked because her involvement was clearly a vehicle for Sherlock’s curious character traits and a series of stunning one liners. The suspension of disbelief withstood the slightly over the top twist, largely thanks to the disbelief of the characters themselves. In this instalment, however, we are led to believe it is perfectly easy to con your way onto a top secret army facility. Mind you, we’re certainly not starved of the one liners and subtle humour that have become the trade mark of this most recent adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories.
With all the menacing military goings on, the tone of the episode is noticeably darker than previous offerings, with rapid montages straight from the horror genre and night time forestry scenes to match. It’s a welcome (though not necessary, by any means) tweak on the format that once again underlines the show’s older demographic and adds the occasional heart stopping shock. It’s certainly not a proposition for the faint of heart, and more than once I found myself startled having briefly turned my attention to my coffee.
If you watch nothing else this week (month, year), watch Sherlock. Watch the first series if you haven’t, then catch up on this second series. It really is a truly staggering achievement and a reminder that sometimes the licence fee really is worth every penny. Quite aside from the brilliant plot lines (this week’s finale, in particular, was one I simply did not see coming), the interplay between Cumberbatch and Freeman is wonderful, nothing short of what would be expected of two actors with Hollywood experience and big credentials. In two words, bloody impressive.