Monday, October 25, 2010

the game's afoot ... and on

Sherlock debuted on Masterpiece Mystery last night and it was up to all the hype (it debuted in Britain earlier this summer). The updating of the famous sleuth worked quite seamlessly. The gadgetry that is an essential part of our modern lives seemed like old hat for Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock, who just needs to close his eyes and he can visualize a Google-map of London streets in order to chase down a perpetrator. Cumberbatch is pale and kinetic—a wax sculpture come to life—in a good way. Martin Freeman's Dr. Watson, a vet from the Afghanistan War was doubtful, for just a moment, before being swept into the adventure and Sherlock's strange world.

Like Watson, I am already signed on for the ride. I also liked Rupert Graves's Inspector Lestrade, who was less of a pain in the ass here, than in the Conan Doyle tradition (they left that role to his underlings), and more of a resigned collaborator. The first episode, A Study in Pink, was a nice combination of the Brit-procedural we have come to recognize and love, a la Prime Suspect—a tad grittier and more depressing than American detective shows, which only seem able to try, ad nauseum,  to get the camera inside a wound—and the long line of Sherlock Holmes mysteries, from the wonderful Basil Rathbone to the inimitable Jeremy Brett, and especially, Robert Downey Jr.'s recent portrayal.

In fact, the camera-work and pace seemed to echo a tad the Downey Jr. film, as we and the cameras raced to keep up with Sherlock's brilliant deductions. The film was a little more playful with Sherlock, introducing Irene Adler and giving her a kick-ass attitude as she flirts and subverts the hero at every turn. This television Sherlock is "married to his work" in the tradition of the books, but the pilot couldn't help but flirt itself a bit with the Holmes/Watson relationship. A scene in a diner played with the characters—two grown men that have chosen to be flatmates—a situation that might mean something quite different to a modern 2010 audience than one at the turn of the century—and then moved on. It was a skillful sidelining of something that could have been distractingly commented on in an updated version. Their partnership is sealed not with a kiss, but a gunshot, and to paraphrase from Casablanca, "Watson, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."
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