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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Investigate Sherlock Season Two on Blu-ray

Few series are as popular as the BBC's Sherlock, especially considering the impact that it has had internationally, including in the United States, where it just finished a run on PBS. From Doctor Who scribes Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat, and based on the legendary tales by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock brilliantly blends a literary treasure with the modern world. Season one was highly successful, but the game is afoot even further in season two.

Unlike in season one, which mostly deals with lesser known Sherlock Holmes stories, season two tackles three of the most infamous plots. Does it help or hurt the series to thrust itself into the spotlight, allowing fans to compare it against various incarnations that have come before it? It would be simplistic and outright wrong to say choosing stories that the public is familiar with is the reason season two is better, as character development, fantastic production value, and top notch acting and writing deserve most of the credit. However, these stories are popular for a reason, and they make a heck of an exciting run for the show!

First up is "A Scandal in Belgravia." Before the mystery can really begin, however, some transition is needed. Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch, Warhorse, Atonement) and Watson (Martin Freeman, Love Actually, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) survive their showdown with Jim Moriarty (Andrew Scott, John Adams, Saving Private Ryan) because of a mysterious phone call.  Then, through a montage, viewers learn that Sherlock has become as famous in his fictional world as he is in the real one. Case after case is solved, a photo is captured with the titular character wearing his iconic hat, even if the wardrobe choice is an accident, and Watson's blog takes off! Watson is concerned that this notoriety will attract the wrong kind of attention. Of course, he is right.

Sherlock is asked to stop a political scandal. Dominatrix Irene Adler, a.k.a. The Woman (Lara Pulver, MI-5, True Blood) has something on a member of the royal family, and Sherlock's brother, Mycroft (series co-creator Mark Gatiss), would like to correct that. It's not a case that Sherlock would like to take, and he isn't eager to get on with it. But what Sherlock does not expect is the draw this woman has over him. Over a period of months, Holmes and Adler strike up a relationship that is as raw and real as any love story, even if their affection is never shown to be consummated.

It's funny to see how Sherlock handles romantic attraction. He cares for Watson and Mrs. Hudson (Una Stubbs, Mist: Sheepdog Tales), but that only extends to keeping them around to help him, not acting nice towards them. Sherlock isn't exactly lovey-dovey with Irene, either, but there's some palpable chemistry in the air between the, which the actors capture expertly. It's a new side of this man, one that is not explored in any other episode of the show. For that alone, "A Scandal in Belgravia" will remain one of the best entries in the series.

Next up is "The Hounds of Baskerville." This tale presents a unique challenge, in that it features a monster. It's a chilling suspense story, and, on paper, one that would be hard to match with the modern sensibilities with Sherlock. Yet, it is a triumph, too! By turning the whole thing into a conspiracy, and with a few twists I will not reveal here, this episode serves the story it is based on, but also makes itself solidly authentic in reality. Helped by a terrific appearance by Russell Tovey, who is known for playing a werewolf himself on Being Human, and treating fans to a more Watson-focused sequence, this creepy investigation should keep you guessing til the end.

Finally, the third feature-length installment in season two is "The Reichenbach Fall." Moriarty returns with a vengeance, playing a long game that Sherlock has much difficulty figuring out. The two may be a match intellectually, but if one has a huge head start, setting all the rules of the game before the other even knows he's playing, there is a distinct advantage. With Moriarty brilliantly turning the public against Sherlock, it is clear that the beloved detective is in hot water. Throughout the ninety minutes, one thing after another keeps going down, with the connections tenuous at best, making them difficult to piece together on the fly.

The tragic climax is one seen coming from a mile away, in retrospect. What happens is built up because of the two episodes before it, and while still surprising, it feels like a natural conclusion. Again, no spoilers here, but it really asks Sherlock to examine just who he is as a person, who and what he cares about, and what he is willing to do to protect them. It's a masterpiece of cinema, and should not disappoint anyone who watches. No one has publicly figured out how the ending is pulled off, though the creators assure their fans that all the clues needed to solve this final mystery are present in the episode.

The special features are a bit sparse. A twenty minute "Sherlock Uncovered" is very interesting, giving facts, secrets, and tricks that are used in all three episodes. Two of the tales have audio commentary, but regrettably, not the final one. And that's it. With four and a half hour of solid excellence, one really wants to know more about the show. But apparently, we are left to deduct our own truth, which, admittedly, is in the tradition of the main character.

Sherlock looks fantastic on Blu-ray, the recommended way to purchase this season. From the special effects in the finale and premiere, to the dark, fog-lined hollow in the middle installment, there are elements of each episode that just will not be as impressive in standard definition. Sherlock delivers for those inclined to invest in the superior audio and visual capabilities, and there is tangible reward to view it that way. It truly looks fantastic in high definition.

A third series of Sherlock has been commissioned, but will not begin production until 2013. For now, buy Sherlock Season Two on Blu-ray, on sale now.

If you like my reviews, please follow me on Twitter! Article originally published as Investigate Sherlock Season Two on Blu-ray on TheTVKing.com.

2 comments:

  1. Nice review of the series.

    Check out my review .

    Cheers!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I liked yours as well! Thanks for posting the link!

    ReplyDelete

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