Arts

Why I ❤️ Sherlock

With a new episode due on New Year’s Day, Kiri Pritchard-McLean tells us what she loves about this 21st-century Holmes.

Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes. All photos: BBC.

Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes. All photos: BBC.

It would be really easy when talking about Sherlock to just write the words “Cumberbatch and Freeman” over and over again. I haven’t seen a relationship so nuanced, tender and honest since I last Googled episodes of Sesame Street to spend some time in the company of Bert and Ernie. That was last week, for context.

Cumberbatch’s Sherlock is mentally lithe yet vulnerable, a social hand grenade in one instance and charm personified in the next. To my mind, this makes him all the more believable. Sherlock is by nature eccentric but Benedict (can I call him Benedict? He said “coloured”; I can say what I want) is my favourite, most human, oddity to date.

“Jim Moriarty has the Bee Gees as his ringtone, a clear sign that there’s no depravity he won’t pursue for a laugh.”

But he is, like the best Sherlocks, nothing without his Watson. Watson is dependable and solid, a human, and he’s there to remind Sherlock that people need treating as such. Who better to personify humanity and dependability than Tim from The Office/Bilbo Baggins/the naked one in Love Actually?

It works because Martin Freeman’s character brims with love. Love for Sherlock, Mary, Mrs Hudson, the thrill of the chase; he loves it all. Like all good lovers, he will hunt down and kill all those that cross you. That bit where he talks to Sherlock’s gravestone: oh boy, I’ve cried less at immediate family’s funerals than at those six minutes of TV.

Sherlock and Watson (Martin Freeman) head back to Victorian times for one-off special The Abominable Bride.

Sherlock and Watson (Martin Freeman) head back to Victorian times for one-off special The Abominable Bride.

But Sherlock is only as good as his nemesis. Fuck me, does Andrew Scott give good nemesis. I want to punch his evil smart face and then I want to shake his hand for being so brilliant. As Jim Moriarty he has the air of a man who can, and will, flip out at any second and the best you can do is hope you’re out the way when that happens. He’s unhinged and all the better for it: what’s scarier than a baddie who just wants to fuck shit up for his own amusement? The man has the Bee Gees as his ringtone, a clear sign that there’s no depravity he won’t pursue for a laugh.

Sherlock is respectfully written and it’s clear Moffat and Gatiss love Sherlock Holmes. It would have been so easy to faithfully replicate the Victorian world laid out in the books and leap from opium den to horse-drawn carriage. Impressively, the pair has made it look just as easy to bring the greatest man who never lived bang up to date in a surprisingly non-clunky way. Watson used to keep a diary: well, now he keeps a blog. Homeless network: good news lads, Fabianism didn’t really catch on. Watson injured in Afghanistan? Relax chaps; we just can’t leave that place alone!

The sprawling behemoth that is London is presented as just another room in Sherlock’s impressive mind palace as he swishes his Belstaff coat across the screen from gleaming glass in the City to St Bart’s. Just the way it should be too; I’m not sure that endless scenes of them waiting for an Uber or having their personal space compromised would have added much to the narrative anyway.

Mrs Hudson (Una Stubbs) outside the famous Baker St address.

Mrs Hudson (Una Stubbs) outside the famous Baker St address.

My one complaint? I love it so much I find it a real trial to wait between series. Feature-length episodes mean that it’s one of the few things on TV I will make myself available for. Sherlock isn’t just a TV show, it’s an event. I thought I’d figured out the pattern, too – until the last series. Three episodes: the middle one is the weak link, but still good. A shit sandwich if you will. In season three there was a whole episode dedicated to Watson and Mary’s wedding (yawn…). “Sherlock‘s lost its way!” the forums shrieked, “And they didn’t explain well enough how he survived the jump off that building. I hope Mark Gatiss dies” or something along those lines.

But then there it came, that third episode with Mary. A glorious kick in the nads that wouldn’t have had half the impact if we hadn’t spent the previous episode falling deeply in love with the couple’s love.

That’s the real joy of Sherlock: just when we think we have it sussed – “It was the homeless man on a bicycle and a trapeze made from monkeys” – it grabs the rug and yanks it from under our feet. They’re going back in time, for God’s sake. I’m just like Watson in that respect, it’s the thrill of the chase that does it for me and I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to catch up with Sherlock, and I love that.

And Martin Freeman, I love him also.

@kiripritchardmc

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Written by Kiri Pritchard-McLean

Kiri is a Welsh stand up comedian and one fourth of sketch group Gein’s Family Giftshop. She is also a Farmer’s daughter. The subtext to all this? Great at swearing. @kiripritchardmc