Sunday, January 19, 2014

S3E3: Moriarty is Dead. Srsly.

Hero.

His Last Vow will require multiple postings to explore the characters, story, and brilliant performances of Cumberbatch and Freeman. 

That said, the first topic is, of course, generated by the last scene: the return of Moriarty.  The James Moriarty we knew, the James of the pool, who dated Molly, who met Sherlock on the roof, is dead.  Before exploring the possibilities for Series 4, it's important to a make a distinction between:

Moriarty's image.
Andrew Scott's image?
The image at left is a graphic displayed in the show. The picture at  right is a screencap from something shown after the show was completely over, and the very last credit had rolled.

 The image at left is supposed to be James Moriarty. It was not represented as a live shot. But the image at right, a cap from a short message from a living person, who is that? Moriarty or Andrew Scott? Have we missed Andrew Scott? Oh, hells yes!  But will we ever see James Moriarty alive on the show again?  No. Barring flashbacks.


RETURN TO THE SOURCE


Sherlocks and Moriartys
"The Sherlocked Blog"  explored Moriarty before (Professor Moriarty: Out of the Shadows).  But what we want to do right now is go back to Canon, to Conan Doyle, because Mofftiss always do.

Here is the first mention of the name "Moriarty" in Canon, in "The Final Problem," in which Doyle kills off Holmes by having him plunge to his death into the Reichenbach Falls, taking Professor Moriarty with him.  But it is not Professor Moriarty's name Doyle mentions first:
 "It was my intention to have stopped there, and to have said nothing of that event which has created a void in my life which the lapse of two years has done little to fill. My hand has been forced, however, by the recent letters in which Colonel James Moriarty defends the memory of his brother, and I have no choice but to lay the facts before the public exactly as they occurred."
I was surprised in the show, when Moriarty was named "James," and not called "Professor" or even presented as having the credentials a Professor would.  This could be explained simply by an error Conan Doyle made when he brought Sherlock Holmes back.  He forgot what he named the brother and also named Professor Moriarty "James."  Sherlockians over the decades have explained this discrepancy away in ways both serious and humorous.  In fact, there may have been three James Moriarty's in Canon, by the time Doyle was finished.*

MORIARTY WILL APPEAR IN SERIES 4 - BUT AS WHAT?

It's interesting in this episode that Sherlock is given a full name: William Sherlock Scott Holmes.  One wonders if Mycroft might also have a name, like "William Mycroft Russell Holmes."  There are obvious parallels drawn between Sherlock and James in earlier episodes.  Why not two Moriartys named "James?"  We can have Moriarty as twin of a dead brother.  We can have Moriarty as something else, a sister even, as has been suggested in The Next Moriarty, and still have Andrew Scott back in flashbacks and faked footage.

And, as seen on this blog, if James was being handled by a Moriarty who stayed in the shadows, we can draw a direct parallel between Mycroft and the Moriarty Doyle referred to as Professor.  From the post linked above:
The pure and quite sane psychopath would be Professor Moriarty; and if there is a candidate for high-functioning sociopath on the angels' side, it is the Iceman:  Mycroft Holmes. Each man is the hidden mastermind of  his respective domain.

Professor Moriarty was, in Canon, a professor of  mathematics.  So was Mummy Holmes, as we found out in this episode.  Did she mentor a psychopath?  Did he use her work on the Dynamics of Combustion to wreak havoc?  Is that the real reason she retired to the wife and mummy life?
The original Drama Queen?

What happens when Mummy turns "absolutely monstrous?"  Why do Daddy Holmes and Mary Morstan, the assassin, recognize one another as "the sane ones?"  And where is that briefly-referenced "other" brother Mycroft referred to?

This blog has a lot of ground to cover in a year.



*This excerpt from Wikipedia illustrates the confusion over how many "James" Moriarty's there were:
The stories give contradictory indications about Moriarty's family. In his first appearance in "The Final Problem", Moriarty is referred to as "Professor Moriarty" — no forename is mentioned. Watson does, however, refer to the name of another family member when he writes of "the recent letters in which Colonel James Moriarty defends the memory of his brother". In "The Adventure of the Empty House" Holmes refers to Moriarty on one occasion as "Professor James Moriarty". This is the only time Moriarty is given a first name, and oddly, it is the same as that of his purported brother; to wit The Valley of Fear (written after the preceding two stories, but set earlier), Holmes says of Professor Moriarty: "He is unmarried. His younger brother is a station master in the west of England."

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

S3E2: The Sign of Three - Service and Set Up

John, Sherlock and the Elephant
According to iPlayer, this episode is one hour, twenty-six minutes long, the first thirty-two full of engaging often humorous moments between the characters.  It's Sherlock at his borderline personality disorder best.  

"The Sign of Three" serves a variety of functions.  It assures the fans that Sherlock and John are closer than ever.  It reveals more background of the characters and plants seeds and set-ups for Episode 3 (His Last Vow).  And it services the fans in a Sherlockian  "flirtation" with the head bridesmaid and the Johnlockian antics of the boys during a 20+ minute long version of John's bachelor party, consisting of Sherlock and John sharing a drink in every street where they have discovered a body. 

Debauchery by the numbers.
They repair back to Baker Street where John ends up on the floor between Sherlock's open knees, his hand on Sherlock's thigh.  Screencappers and photomanipulators everywhere salivated in delight.

But before this could lead to what so many insist is the inevitable conclusion to a night of lowered inhibitions between them,  a client appears.  The drunken investigation leads to Sherlock passed out with his butt high in the air for John to admire.

BUT FIRST, A CASE IN WHICH DULLNESS IS ONLY EXCEEDED BY UNBELIEVABILITY

There is a great deal of character development and backstory in this episode and the audience would have been quite a bit happier with a case that suited this tone.  Something akin, perhaps, to Sherlock solving the disappearance of Bluebell, the glow-in-the-dark rabbit.  And, what with taking up probably two-thirds of the show with non-case activity, one would think the case, itself, would be interesting and tightly written.
sigh  Without retelling what should have been left in the bin, let's simply acknowledge that stabbing someone in the back does not produce an abdominal wound, and no matter how well-trained to ignore distraction or how tightly one wears their belt, they surely notice when they are fatally skewered.  And for a show that includes the line "What do we say about coincidence?"  "The Universe is rarely so lazy," the coincidence of the woman who once dated the murderer showing up in Sherlock's flat - are writers often so lazy, then? 
BUT BENEDICT IS BRILLIANT


Sharing interests.

Surely, they will put Benedict up for the BAFTA for "His Last Vow."  But it will be a huge mistake.  This is the episode, the Benedict Timothy Carlton Cumberbatch Master Class in Acting as Artform.  Benedict Cumberbatch has created the most complex and truly three-dimensional character ever seen in any form of theater.   Only he could take this peripatetic version of a human by multiple authors and weave a stunningly seamless and perfectly believable character from the disparate threads he's been given.

"Why are you all doing that?  John?"
Martin Freeeman is a wonderful actor, a "Spencer Tracy for the new millenium" kind of an actor, and as fine as there is in any normal world.  But normal worlds are sometimes made extraordinary by the presence of the mysterious: that which we can hardly believe exists.  Benedict Cumberbatch, while always present to other actors, hovers just above them all, inhabiting some plane of existence in performance others only occasionally glimpse, and most don't know exists at all.

Sherlock is powerfully confident intimidating Mary's old flame and perfectly at ease treating a child as his equal.  He is confused by laughter and frightened by tears, calling out to John when his audience responds so inexplicably during his wedding speech.  Sherlock is jealous and desperate to please, he is cold, dangerous, brilliant, focused and absolutely clueless.

The BAFTA-winning moments.
He is perfectly Alpha and totally vulnerable.  Yet, he is all of a piece and not one of those things rings false for even a split second.   This role in the hands of any lesser actor would simply be a mess of contradictions.  But this actor, through intelligence and enormous talent, discipline, and inspiration, determination and courage, makes Sherlock a living breathing human being.  In reality, the Sherlocks of the world are unlovable, friendless, and never anyone's best man.  But this one, created in the genius of this actor, makes believable the mystery and miracle of love from and for Sherlock Holmes.



Alone.



Rage and sarcasm and smugness don't need an actor of this caliber.   Serviettes do. In this moment and all like it, art resides.

Benedict Cumberbatch is breath-taking.   

S3E1: Fan Bashing and Fan Service - the Solution Substitutes

Guardian interview, January 2012
Here's a quote from the interview:

"There is a clue everybody's missed," he says tantalizingly. "So many people theorising about Sherlock's death online – and they missed it! We've worked out how Sherlock survives, and actually shot part of what really happened. It all makes sense."

Of course, Moffat's problem was: we didn't miss it.  Some Reichenbach theorists figured out his solution.  Then, other Reichenbach theorists showed why that solution was flawed.  Did they know it was Moffat's solution?  No, it was just one of many possibilities.  But Moffat knew his  "all makes sense" solution was a bust.  In point of fact, in light of what is seen on screen, no solution can make sense.  Moffat's problem became: if he answers the question: How Did Sherlock Survive the Fall?  he looks like a fool no matter what he answers.

THE MOFFAT SOLUTION?  PORTRAY THE FANS AS MISFITS, MORONS AND MADMEN


The Reichenbach Theorists.

And here we have them, the Reichenback theorists, à la Steven Moffat: almost all young (except for the creepy obsessed older guy, Anderson) including the cos-playing fan and the semi-goth fat chick (back turned to us here).

In the opening scene, when we cut to Lestrade and Anderson, what does Lestrade say?  "Two years and the theories keep gettin' more stupid." 

Moffat's answer to having no answer was to give no answer at all and portray fans who came up with solutions as a bunch of losers.  In the end, we are told to be like John Watson.  We are simply to accept without complaint that we will never be told because we are so grateful to have Sherlock back at all.  And whatever we do, do not point out that the emperor has no
He's not telling John.
clothes.

Because that would mean we don't love Sherlock.  John said, "I don't care how you did it..."  And neither, according to Moffat, should we.  Only the morons, misfits and madmen care.

THE BETTER SOLUTION

A little humility would have gone a long way here.  A bit of honesty.  Less passive/aggressive fan-directed rage.

He could have simply told the press some people did figure it out.  He could have referred back the the missing scaffolding he thought he could count on.  He could have said, "I'm not saying which solution came closest."  He could have chosen some other path.  But he chose fan-bashing and waving his scepter.  And to placate everyone - he gave us fan service.


Sherlock kisses Molly. ... Sherlock almost kisses Moriarty. ... Sherlock has a tender moment with Molly and kisses her again. ... Cumberbatch's parents show up. 

Yup.  All the feels.

And the word went out from on high: "IN SERIES THREE THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO DO AT ALL TIMES IS: MAKE SURE BENEDICT LOOKS FABULOUS."

The beautiful Benedict Cumberbatch.
Let there be Cumberbatch.  And there was Cumberbatch.  And it was good.

More beautiful than we have ever seen him.  Having far too much fun.  Winking at the ladies.  Kissing everyone in sight.  Dancing a pas de deux with his coat.

The story was thin, the solution was lame and Moffat is an ass.  But he is right about one thing:

As long as we have Sherlock and John and Molly and Lestrade and dear Mrs. Hudson, he can pretty much get away with his arrogant bullshit.  But be careful, darlin.'  There may come a moment when you piss on us one time too many. 


 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

S3:E1 - The Empty Hearse

Wait ... what?
I have said many times that whatever explanation Mofftiss came up with would not fit what we saw on screen and would be, in the end, unsatisfying. 

I'm not that happy to be proven right. 

That said, there was rather a lot of "fan service," but all with an undertone of contempt for fans.  They did seem to work very hard to make every shot of Benedict Cumberbatch reblog worthy or gif-ready.  Lots of close-ups, lots of perfect hair, lots of perfectly lighted angles of the star's incredibly photogenic face.   

The Rebloggable Sherlock.
All included: cheekbones, collar, hair, the great mouth and sea green eyes.

The great moments between people, the ones we expect from Gatiss, included a lovely scene between Sherlock and Molly, Lestrade's reaction to his return and a fine scene of game-playing  between Sherlock and Mycroft. 

I loved Mary Moran, but we know what happens in the books.  They don't always go with Doyle, though, so perhaps we can hope for her continuing presence.  I think Ms. Abbington adds a much-needed element to the show and all her scenes are a delight to watch.  Oddly, her on-screen chemistry with Benedict Cumberbatch is even better than with her real-life partner, Martin Freeman.

I will save specific comments until the show airs in the U.S., but I can say this: I'm glad he's back.  Sherlock doesn't like being Sherlock half as much as we like him being Sherlock.