There’s not much to say about Sherlock that hasn’t already been said by people who know what they’re talking about but having now seen the finale of the second series I cannot stand idly by in silence nodding at the critical consensus. Sherlock manages to be about the most frustrating thing on the television whilst simultaneously being one of the finest works ever made by the BBC. It’s not that the BBC, or anyone, hasn’t made anything this good in a long time, it’s that they haven’t made anything like this before.
Some of the frustrations. The actual stories this series have been weak, paling even next to the sometimes slight Conan-Doyle episodes from which they have drawn inspiration. To take A Scandal in Bohemia and somehow make Irene Adler even more dependent on men is a bit disappointing, to throw in a side show of corpses loaded onto a plane to fool some terrorists and we’re into ridiculousness and yet it was still ninety minutes of bravura televison. Similarly the conclusion to The Hounds of Baskerville was bizarre and throughout there has been a move away from observation and logic that anyone should be able to deduce if only they could see to a reliance on Sherlock’s instinct. Too much Mycroft as well is what the purist in me thinks but the television viewer could watch and listen to Mark Gatiss all day. Like I say, frustrating.
And so to last night’s Reichenbach Fall. I lost count of the number of times Jim Moriarty (Andrew Scott in a performance that at last made perfect sense of the character) said it was the final problem although I missed the part where they raced across Europe and then tumbled in a man embrace off a big waterfall. This final problem involved journalists (Katherine Parkinson, swoon), rigged juries, some toss about keycodes and Martin Freeman proving that when called upon he can actually act. And Sherlock struggling to keep up. That it was all done with a flair and intelligence you just don’t seem to see anywhere else now goes without saying. I particularly liked the trope of sending Watson off on a fool’s errand so Holmes could get on with moving the plot along (so often used in the stories) and Sherlock struggling to even understand the purpose of a deer stalker hat. Holmes, of course, had some corking lines and, seemingly, a mighty great fall.
There is to be a third ‘series’. All of the issues the majority had beforehand – dicking about the stories, updating, that bloke from The Office – have fallen away. There is still the occasional charge of ‘Who-isation’ of Holmes but I think such folk miss the point. This is a labour of love. It’s a love of the intelligent mystery of Conan-Doyle’s works, a love of storytelling and staying half a step ahead of the audience, a love of television and how to really use it and, finally, a love of showing the bromantic bond between a sharp sociopath and a wrecked soldier. We will all, of course, be back and then we will find out that solution to how a man who fell to his death from a building could be seen watching his own funeral is all so absurdly simple.