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28 of 56 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Marked Decrease In Quality Over S1, 22 Jan. 2012
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This review is from: Sherlock - Series 2 [DVD] (DVD)
As a devoted lover of Sherlock's first season, it physically pains me to lower my rating for the much anticipated second season to three stars, especially when I felt series one was nothing less than a ten star production.

'A Scandal In Belgravia' - What we were given with episode one of series two was nothing less than a travesty that degraded the program's intellectual integrity. As a long time devotee of Sherlock Holmes, I was of the opinion Sherlock was perhaps the most faithful film adaptation we had yet to see - Sherlock and John were, at their cores, Holmes/Watson of Canon, and I was entirely more enthusiastic about this series than befits someone my age. Cumberbatch had done what not even Jeremy Brett managed to do; that is, become Sherlock Holmes in my eyes. And yet, after viewing ASIB, I was so put off that I was ready to abandon the series entirely. That is how bad it was.

The cliffhanger "resolution" was utter nonsense, a complete cop out, and left us with several loose ends/outright plot holes. But no matter. I was more than willing to overlook this flaw because the wait was over, and Sherlock was back. I am not some prude who can't bear to see women portrayed as sexual creatures, but the already weak episode went downhill the moment Irene Adler's character stepped on screen. There was not even an attempt made at presenting her as the clever woman of Doyle's stories, the only woman to ever outwit Holmes, and in turn, make the detective rethink his stance on a woman's wit. She does not use even one brain cell throughout, her cleverness is all smoke and mirrors and a healthy heaping of sex. Still, after their initial pissing contest, it remained redeemable, if a bit ridiculous.

Yet the script quickly degrades to the point where nothing in this episode can be looked at as redeemable. Holmes outwits Adler, and in the end, she is made into a simpering damsel in distress. A lesbian turned straight for Sherlock. It was degrading to sexuality in the extreme, not just Irene Adler's but Sherlock is portrayed as weak and exploitable because he is a virgin. There were so many instances throughout this episode where Holmes' character was so far beyond unrecognizable (NOT the fault of the actor, but the script), every second of it was painful. And they were ALL due to this nonsense around making Adler some sort of love interest.

The writing itself was puerile in the extreme. There was no great plotted mystery to solve, the deductions were terrible, the intelligence from the first series utterly degraded so that Moffat could write something which read like bad fan fiction aimed at twelve year olds - which is the ultimate direction I fear he intends to take Sherlock. It was more like a James Bond movie than anything to do with Sherlock Holmes, and it literally left me so infuriated I was ready to have done with this series altogether.

'The Hounds of Baskerville' and 'The Reichenbach Fall', however, were a vast improvement over Moffat's failed attempt. The latter two writers successfully cleared away the clutter that could not be utilized in updating the original Canon stories, stripping plots down to the bare bones and giving us something engaging, well written and credible in the process. More importantly, we see the characterizations click back into place despite profound liberties being taken with the stories themselves. Mark Gatiss is a phenomenal pastiche and horror writer, and I was excited to see how the two fused together so nicely - I have seen my share of HOUN adaptations, but this one was genuinely frightening. And as poignantly acted and scripted as the final episode was, I think a vast amount of credit should go to Thompson for two things. First, for taking the criticisms he received for The Blind Banker and using them to improve his craft and giving us what could be the finest episode to date, both characterization and scripting wise. Secondly, for taking Molly, a character created by the disgustingly misogynistic Steven Moffat (who should truly be kept from writing any female characters ever again, god spare us all) and turned her into a phenomenal entity in her brief but instrumental scenes. Well done, sir.

In spite of my aggravation surrounding ASIB, the other two episodes redeemed this as a worthwhile program. Cumberbatch's acting is sometimes limited to the script (his grasp on the character seems to depend on how Sherlock is written in a given situation) though Martin Freeman will genuinely bring you to tears. I truly wish my rating could be higher, yet if you skip the first episode, this is almost the excellent series it was in the first season.
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