I’ve been rewatching the first two Sherlock series getting ready for series three, and it’s amazing the things you notice after taking some time off. The Cluedo board pinned against the wall, the skull wearing a Santa hat, the absolute idiocy of Mycroft (I mean, really? Calling your kid brother in to a league he clearly wasn’t ready for is one thing but not warning him about the international element? Muttering code words in his presence?). John’s facial expressions deserve an elegy all to themselves. They’re marvelous.
(Also? Spoilers for Belgravia and vauge ones for Reichenback. So read with caution.)
What really struck me, though, was the complete lack of any kind of central plot, or even much of a connection to the later episodes at all.
Belgravia is extremely episodic. You start with the resolution of the swimming pool and its bizarre ending which, granted, needed to happen. Then there’s all of the rejected cases which are fleshed out in some detail, culminating in the dead hiker. That case was amusing, particularly John’s reactions to Sherlock over the internet, and Lestrade’s initial warning to the local DI, and the fact that Sherlock describes their client the way he does in front of said client is downright hilarious. I laughed out loud at all of those pats. But the thing is, it doesn’t really contribute to any central plot, except to give Sherlock and Irene something specific to discuss later on. Then there’s the whole episode at Buckingham Palace: again, highly amusing (the ashtray? the sheet? the… okay, I’ll stop from rehearsing every detail) but not exactly moving anything forward. And on down the line. There’s no real central crime to solve, no real case holding the whole thing together. And the closest we get to that – who exactly is Irene Adler and to what degree should we trust her? – is one that Sherlock pretty much fails at. He doesn’t work out that she’s not dead; he doesn’t work out she’s a criminal in her own way and so shouldn’t be trusted; he doesn’t even realize she’s not in love with him, or doesn’t seem to. I suppose that last one’s a debatable point, but more simply, he certainly doesn’t get this whole showdown is at least as much about Mycroft as it is about Sherlock.
The whole thing felt more like a melodrama than a crime drama, to be clear. In many ways the humor and the sheer busyness of the episode seemed like a distraction. I suspect there are several things going on here that the viewer is perhaps not supposed to notice: