The second series of BBC’s Sherlock aired its finale last weekend, and the bad news is we have to wait until May here in the U.S. for it to air on PBS. Darn the luck! It’s going to be pretty unbearable, I understand, but here is a brief, mostly-spoiler-free rundown of why Sherlock fans will think it’s worth the wait (or get mad at me for making you more excited). If you want to know absolutely nothing about the new series, maybe don’t read, but I’m only going to get TV Guide-level spoilery.
While the first three episodes were allusions to various Holmes adventures by Arthur Conan Doyle, “A Study in Pink” being the one most based on a single story, all three episodes in series 2 are direct references to specific, and very famous, cases. The three episodes are written by the same three writers as series 1, which is a very good thing.
Episode 1, “A Scandal in Belgravia,” written by our friend Steven Moffat, is based on “A Scandal in Bohemia,” where Holmes first meets his rival/love interest Irene Adler as she attempts to blackmail the king of Bohemia with some saucy and incriminating photographs. Sherlock’s relationship with Adler (Lara Pulver) is a very tumultuous one, as she’s close to being his intellectual equal but is ostensibly a “bad guy.” With Moffat writing, be prepared for it to be a bit more suggestive, and twistier, than the Victorian novella upon which it’s based.
Episode 2, written by Mark Gatiss, is “The Hounds of Baskerville,” based on “The Hound of the Baskervilles.” This is arguably Sherlock Holmes’ most famous case, where he investigates a murder inspired by the legend of a fearsome, demonic hound on behalf of a very troubled young man (Russell Tovey). This is Doyle’s most supernatural story, and, as a result, the episode is the series’ most horror-like. Given Gatiss’ proclivity to horror, in both his own writing and the fact that he hosted a show about it in Britain, that ensures a healthy dose of chills, but, as the show endeavors to be “realistic,” expect 21st Century science to be a major factor.
Episode 3, written by Steve Thompson, is “The Reichenbach Fall,” based on “The Final Problem.” If you’ve read any Sherlock Holmes, you probably know “The Final Problem” very well, but suffice to say it brings the conflict between Sherlock and his arch nemesis, the Napoleon of crime, Moriarty (Andrew Scott), to a head. Steve Thompson wrote “The Blind Banker” in series one, which many consider to be the inferior story of the season, as well as writing “The Curse of the Black Spot” in series 6 of Doctor Who. Whether he redeems himself or not is up to you to decide, but I’ll say “The Reichenbach Fall” is certainly livelier than his previous outing.
If you were fans of the series’ directorial style before, get ready for more of that in series 2. Paul McGuigan, who directed two episodes, returns to direct two more, and Doctor Who director Toby Haynes takes the reins of the third, replacing former DW director Euros Lyn. Sherlock established itself as a visually striking and innovative show, and it continues and improves upon the theme here.
If you enjoyed the side characters, Inspector Lestrade (Rupert Graves), Mrs. Hudson (Una Stubbs), and Sherlock’s brother Mycroft Holmes (Mark Gatiss), have no fear as they all return in a greater capacity in series two. All three represent or accentuate aspects of Holmes, and it’s very nice to see them become fuller, richer characters as the series progresses.
And, finally, what’s the main reason to look forward to series two of Sherlock? Holmes and Watson, of course! The longer these two work together, the more complex and fraternal their relationship becomes, often to the chagrin of the distant and repressed super sleuth. Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman play off of each other like two old friends and truly bring the century-old characters to life in a realistic way, unlike the more cartoonish interpretations in the big screen adventures, fun as those movies may be.
So there you have it. Good scripts, good directing, good acting; what else do you need in a TV show? Sherlock‘s second series premieres on PBS Sunday May 6th and runs for three consecutive weeks; check your local station for time.