The second episode in Sherlock‘s latest run was as complicated as ever. But John Mosby notes that however illogical and unlikely the show can still exhibit good performances…
John Watson and Sherlock Holmes are no longer speaking in the wake of Mary’s murder – a wedge driven between the friends built of grief and guilt.
But then, Sherlock, seemingly a drug-induced mess, taking medicine to try and dilute his thought-processes starts to fixate on a billionaire media celebrity Culverton Smith (Toby Jones). Sherlcok’s being visited by Smith’s daughter who is convinced that he’s a serial killer and suddnely the game is on. But IF Smith is guilty, he hasn’t gone this long by being sloppy. Is he really a big bad guy or is Holmes being used? For that matter, is John Watson being used and who by?
It may be a good thing that there’s only a handful of Sherlock episodes every few years because reviews of those chapters could get a little repetitive.
This middle story of the three 2017 entries, The Lying Detective, is an improvement on the opening story, but that could be damning with faint praise as even the most die-hard fans of the series admitted The Six Thatchers had a scattershot story at best.
As always the performances of the main cast are fine – Cumberbatch here doing the drugged-up erratic version of Holmes that we’ve seen at various junctures, Freeman’s Watson working through his conflicting feelings of grief over the loss of Mary… and Mary herself appearing as a figment of John’s imagination that does most of the exposition and gives him something of a spectral kick every time he starts to wander off into abject self-pity. On each of those examples, the performers do just as well as you’d expect – no-one ever accused the casting of being anything less than great and they do all that the script requires and more with Amanda Abbington being the best thing in it despite lack of her character’s pulse.
But once again, it’s the over-convoluted story that just doesn’t really stand up to scrutiny – the kind of tale that is fun in the moment when you’re distracted by the clever, funny lines and nice visuals but it also needs a certain set of almost impossible events to happen in a certain order for any of it to seem ‘clever’ or for the resolution to work ‘as planned’. With Sherlock Holmes you can sometimes get away with the more wondrous leaps of logic and a few lines of explanatory dialogue saying how Holmes anticipated them, but more and more of these stories seem to be the kind that need a solution to be retrofitted into place once the ‘clever’ scenes have been done. A ‘That’s fun, now, how can we explain it away?‘ situation. Sherlock’s eventual ‘triumph’ and whole plan in The Lying Detective is stupidly over-contrived and needs to accommodate so many x-factors even the great detective simply couldn’t have foreseen it all.
With sometimes uncomfortable echoes of the Jimmy Savile scandal for UK audiences (US audiences may have presumed Trump, but the evil of Savile was clearly the template), Toby Jones places a high-flying philanthropist who knows he can get away with almost anything because of his celebrity and wealth. He doesn’t actually care if he’s liked because he can intimidate those who don’t like him, but the devil-may-care cheeky chappie routine gets him all sorts of access to commit his most nefarious deeds.Young’s a top-notch actor but his portrayal of Culverton Smith makes Gatiss’ Mycroft look positively restrained – which is a pity as the big-bad needed a more nuance and charisma to make it work and here he’s literally boo-hiss throughout.
So, once again, a mixed episode that you’ll want to watch once but – it’s last-second cliff-hanger reveal aside – one you probably won’t want to watch over and over again…