Sunday, 8 January 2012

It's Sunday again...

... and you know what that means!  I'll be flicking over to BBC1:

Come on, admit it, if you could introduce yourself like that you definitely would :)

I have a lot of love for this show, which is strange because I'm not really into detective stories or crime novels usually.  I think for me it's the witty dialogue that does it (the writers throw out banter like confetti) and the character development, which is something I've missed with characters as iconic as these two.

I did read the Sherlock Holmes books as a teenager and liked them (The Speckled Band and Blue Carbuncle were my favourites), but I never got on with the Rathbone and Bruce portrayals of the crime-fighting duo, which are probably the most well-known.  I think my problem was that I always found TV Watson to be a bit dense when in the books I really liked how astute he was.  Since the purpose of Watson is to be our viewpoint of the incomprehensibility of Holmes, we often see him not understanding clues or needing explanations, but he's not supposed to be dim-witted.  Yes he looks slow next to Holmes but everyone has that problem.  Watson's had a career in the army as a medical doctor so clearly he's very intelligent, resourceful, and physically fit, allowing for his war wound.  But for a long time the typecast for Watson has been a rather portly, jolly sort of fellow who is in a constant state of bedazzled awe.  He's not Holmes' colleague, he's his porter and fanboy.

What the BBC reboot Sherlock has done which I admire is that it's given the relationship a dynamic where Holmes' eccentricities from the books are played up and his intensely analytical mind comes at the price of his emotional awareness, as genius often can.  Even in the original stories when Holmes does show particular charm or concern towards others it's often an attempt to manipulate them into giving up clues for his latest case.  In the third TV episode of Season One, The Great Game, he comments on how caring about the world at large is a waste of time and energy, as it would compromise his ability to think properly, at which John is duly shocked.  Watson is in awe of his colleague's reasoning skills, but also in constant frustration at how insensitive he is to people's feelings.  Season One begins with Sherlock and John as Mad Genius and Awestruck Groupie respectively, but by this second season you see that a shift has taken place.  Previously they were flatmates.  Now they are friends.  John continues to be impressed by Sherlock but no longer gushes over his every exposition, will firmly chastise him when he goes too far, and navigates the human element for them both (manners, decorum, empathy) since that's the one area of life Holmes struggles to comprehend.  In turn Sherlock has become genuinely fond of his "blogger"; he accepts that his friend has qualities that he doesn't (he can aim a firearm for one thing), delegates to him on cases so that they work together rather than one merely spectating -although he still uses him shamelessly when the need arises-, and may even aquiesce with some good grace when John corrects his behaviour.  In the space of just one episode, 'Scandal in Belgravia', he says both "Please" and "Sorry", I think for the first time ever, as well as jumping to the defence of his landlady when his brother Mycroft insults her.  At Christmas they have visitors!  Actual visitors!  Who want to be there!

I wanted to subtitle that episode "In Which Sherlock Has Friends", or perhaps "In Which Sherlock Ceases To Be A Heartless Machine".  It's a nicer, more complex, and more balanced combination than Genius and Bumbler; Holmes' whirling mind and mad exploits give Watson's life a much needed kick, while Watson's loyalty and solid reliability keep Holmes from spiralling off into the blue unknown.

The rub now will be this; Sherlock has shown his Achilles Heel.  The combination of Holmes and Watson broadens them both as people, but also makes them increasingly susceptible to attack as they rely more on each other.  And now we have Jim Moriarty in the picture.  I'm more than a little concerned.

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