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BBC Sherlock disappointments

The more I think about it, the more frustrated I get with the recent BBC Sherlock series. In pieces, it's lovely. I get such a chuckle at the thought of Sherlock-as-Poirot confronting John, the games (literal and otherwise) between Mycroft and Sherlock, the need to check Guy Fawkes fires for hedgehogs. And the drunk deductions, the lovely Mary-and-Sherlock interactions, the speech itself, pretty much everything that comes out of Mrs. Hudson's mouth in TSOT. Archie. That opening when Lestrade receives Sherlock's text. So many little moments I was so glad to see play out before me.

At the end of the day, though, these episodes are a wonderful ride the first time or two but then start to become boring. There aren't those moments that made me want to shake my computer monitor to keep the characters from doing what I knew they were going to do, like when Sherlock is teetering on taking that pill in ASIP. I don't get to wonder, just for a second, if maybe John isn't Moriarty. There's no teetering on the edge of doubt after Sherlock saw that hound in Baskerville, no Sherlock getting ready for his own arrest (*wibbles*). There is no meat in those first episodes, and it's because at its most basic they fail to actually tell a story.

[spoilers for HLV]If anything, "His Last Vow" has the exact opposite problem. It has plot in abundance, and quite lovely plot at that. The trouble is there's too much plot; you feel like it's one thing after another. And again, parts of it are simply lovely. But I don't really have any sense why magnussen is supposed to be such an awful man. I have to work out for myself rather than have shown why Mary's shooting of Sherlock was the best possible outcome, if that's even true. I have to make sense of all the family stuff, all the Mary stuff. There's simply so much up in the air that it feels at the end of the day like I've been hit by one too many revelations and am simply left disoriented.

These problems were avoidable. In fact, avoiding them would have alleviated them. HLV's problems would have been fixed by more build-up over a longer period, which could have been the plot TEH + TSOT so desperately needed. I have so many ideas of how you could have given those episodes some real depth, even some casework, without it really detracting from those lovely moments that make those episodes so much fun. Sadly, BBC didn't ask me. Perhaps Moffat should consider taking a few plot lines from Tumblr? I'm sure they wouldn't mind sharing.

[Speaking of Tumblr, I'm slowly crawling back onto that site. Just original thoughts, no sharing at least for the moment and probably only things that are already native to that site. I'd laid off a while back, but with the new episodes I want to be able to make quick comments about fannish things there.]

The odd thing is, I still love Sherlock, both the BBC character and the Doyle original. I want to read great fanfic. I want to write it. I want to reread the Doyle stories. I want to trade crazy theories and attempt Sherlock-level deductions on the show. I'm not nearly as eager for the actual show to come back, to be honest. Originally the BBC was talking about a Christmas release for series four, but a recent Moffat interview says it will most likely be two years and I'm... strangely okay with this. Hiatus isn't so bad. I'd appreciate it if Moffat would lay off insulting the fandom in interviews and (increasingly) in the scripts themselves, but if he doesn't approve of what I'm working with I'll find a way to work through the pain.

The timing on all this is really kind of shitty, though. I've written about 10,000 words (majorly slimmed down to about 6k and feel like I'm finally seeing the end of a HLV gapfiller fic I'd been working on, and it's leaving me with a serious case of the meh's. The original story doesn't quite seem to support what I'm trying to do with it, and as a story series three isn't really inspiring me to want to comment on it, at least not in quite that way. I want to play with the character dynamics, but not so much the events themselves. That's okay, I guess, and I do have other ideas, both for Doyle-fic and BBC-fic. But it's just... disappointing at some level. Maybe my frustration is flowing as much out of that effort as anything, because there's a reason I don't really do well with longer stories. I'm just better at doing that story essence boiled down to a single flash rather than a prolonged fic.

Anyway. Still love Doyle. Still love this version of Sherlock and Watson. Still love hating Moffat. But I'd be lying if I didn't say there was stuff going on here that left me more than a bit disappointed.

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( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
just_ann_now
Jan. 31st, 2014 10:58 pm (UTC)
I am terribly, terribly disappointed as well. The plots and characterizations are ludicrous. I felt physically disgusted watching the drunk scene, They don't need to write the fanfic - that's our job. Their job is to give us fascinating and compelling characters and intriguing plots.

I read the transcript for "His Last Vow", figuring better to be prepared for something awful than to be painfully surprised, and if that had been fanfic, I would have back-buttoned out so fast my head would have spun around like a manic owl. None of it makes any sense.

*glares at Moffat and Gatiss liek whoa* YOU GUYS DO YOUR JOBS AND LET US DO OURS
marta_bee
Jan. 31st, 2014 11:21 pm (UTC)
[HLV spoilers, in case anyone wants to avoid them]

I feel worse for you than I do for me! The weird thing is, when I'm watching it I get swept away by it but then when I sit down and think about it, I'm just... I don't know. Alternatingly underwhelmed and confused and turned off by it. Which makes it very difficult to enjoy it the further I get past that first viewing, I guess, let alone write fic.

I think HLV had some very interesting ideas in it and could have actually been quite interesting - if they had been properly set up. The whole concept of the line between sensational journalism and blackmail, for instance, and the thought that proof isn't even necessary. Following up on Reichenbach, that could have been a very powerful theme. The concept that Mary isn't who she seems, that she has a dark past and that John would be drawn to her as a happily-ever-after... that would have been some interesting character work.

The more I think about it, though HLV still fails to tell a good story. It's a jumble of action rather than a jumble of sentiment but still a more or less contextless jumble. Which leaves me feeling vaguely uneasy with how much I enjoyed the series. I mean, I actually loved the drunk deductions, for some reason I can't quite nail down; intellectually it's the height of indulgence, and I keep thinking I shouldn't be enjoying it half as much as I did. But then I don't have much experience at all with actually being drunk so maybe that's part of why it's novel and funny rather than nauseous-inducing.

At the end of the day, I don't think it's entirely ruined the show for me, though at the moment there's a part of me that's glad it's over with and we can let the much-better storytellers of fandom step in and do justice to the characters. I still want to work with the characters, but I'm also more inclined to reread some of the original Doyle stories and perhaps work with the characters in that guise than Moffat's.

It's weird. So much of the show made me flat-out giddy on a first watch, and I'm still not entirely sure why. It's definitely not aging well in my mind, though. I'm not repulsed, just... disappointed. Very much so.
just_ann_now
Feb. 1st, 2014 12:46 am (UTC)
It's like a bad romance - I keep going back and rewatching, and every time it's STILL BAD, but I still rewatch *head desk* And I haven't even asked Mr Marwalk what he thinks of it all. A lot goes over his head with the accents and how fast they all talk (his same complaint about Dr Who), so it may take several rewatches before he forms an opinion.

The first episode of Season One ("The Great Game") and first of Season Two ("A Scandal in Belgravia") are my favorites, and I imagine I'll continue to rewatch those two with great joy. I love Irene - major, major girlcrush - and her quick cameo in "The Sign of Three" was the high point of the episode for me.

The concept that Mary isn't who she seems, that she has a dark past... CIA wet work? WHAT. That's more believable of Mrs Hudson than of Mary.
marta_bee
Feb. 1st, 2014 02:29 pm (UTC)
On Mary: I could (and probably should) do a whole post on how much was wrong about the way she was handled in HLV, and what it would take to get it right. Out of fairness, I said I liked the concept that John would be drawn to someone so us, which isn't to say I liked its execution. At all. At all all.

I've seen two theories about her background and involvement in John's life that could make some degree of sense, if done well. #1: She was working with, possibly as the equivalent of ACD canon's Sebastian Moran, possibly that she'd been assigned to assassinate John and so when Moriarty... well, in light of HLV's ending let's just say disappeared, it made the most sense to stay close to her mark out of... what? expectation Jim might turn up again? Lack of other opportunities?

The other option I've heard is that she's to some degree reformed. She hasn't been completely found out (so Magnussen can still blackmail her successfully, but she was caught on some matter that, while not the worst thing she's done would still land her in jail. To avoid that she goes back on the government's payroll, not as an assassin necessarily but as a kind of bodyguard for John while Sherlock's dealing with Moriarty's network. I favor that theory because it makes sense of her statement to John, that he won't love her once he knows the truth - knowing Sherlock was alive and keeping that information from him would certainly qualify there.

The point, though, is that Moffat + Co. didn't actually tell us either of these stories. You could debate whether there's any plausible version of events that could get a quiet GP together with an ex-CIA assassin, but even if you can stretch your imagination to that point, it's a reason that needs to be given by the show to make it plausible. So much of this series was full of "let's throw as much crazy shit at Tumblr and sit back while they sort it out" nonsense, which is really just frustrating at the end of the day. It's not subtle or clever or elegant, and at the end of the day, it just makes the show so much more confusing than it should be.
lindahoyland
Feb. 1st, 2014 12:05 am (UTC)
I've been rewatching some of the Granada series and rereading a few of the original stories. I could not even work out what was happening have the time in the new episodes but I love Holmes as a character and his friendship with Watson.
marta_bee
Feb. 2nd, 2014 02:46 am (UTC)
I've been thinking about your comment all day, particularly why I'm still so drawn to this show. While I like those classic adaptations (I'm listening to a radio series at the moment), I'm really drawn to the idea of a modern Sherlock, who doesn't have the distance a Victorian character gives us. I want someone who can get a bit gritty, and who is clever for his age in a way that still feels very clever. I also think the shows, even the latest ones, are very well done from a production level, and think a lot of the humor and characterization and the sort is very absorbing. I like it.

I also hate that I like it, particularly this final series. it just didn't tell a story worth hearing, and if it had it had the tools for greatness. Which is just beyond frustrating. So I do sympathize with people who choose not to watch, or simply don't understand it. 9There is quite a bit to absorb.)
lindahoyland
Feb. 2nd, 2014 02:56 am (UTC)
I quite like the idea of a modern Sherlock and have no issues with that,it's a fun idea, but I want a story to watch that is not being too clever and that a casual as well as a commmitted fan can enjoy without getting a headache from endless flashbacks and in jokes.

I also like stories to be clear on good and evil, one reason I like classic detective tales and Tolkien too for that matter!
pipmer1
Feb. 2nd, 2014 10:11 am (UTC)
I do have to say that I can watch TSoT over and over again without being bored at all. I just love everything about that episode. I haven't watched TEH more than once, so I can't speak for its staying power. I watched HLV twice, and enjoyed it more the second time.


I can see why people are disappointed, and maybe I'm just not critical or discerning enough, but I found myself satisfied after each initial viewing. Except for the very end of HLV, of course. TEH was my least favourite, but I still enjoyed it. TSoT just makes me feel disgustingly happy, and HLV had me on the edge of my seat throughout with all the intense action and emotion. It's not like I have low standards, *at all*, at least I don't think I do. Maybe I was just so happy to have Sherlock back that I was ready to accept anything they gave us.


I do agree that the feel of this season was vastly different from the first two. And I really am ambivalent about the portrayal of Mary in HLV. I absolutely adored her in the first two episodes, but in VOW I'm just not sure how I feel about her anymore.


I think it would solve a lot of problems if we had more episodes per season. It would certainly allow for more fleshing out of plots and characters, if nothing else.
ellieet
Feb. 3rd, 2014 12:56 am (UTC)
Hello there, stranger here - but can I just say I agree with a LOT of this post?
rakshathedemon
Feb. 3rd, 2014 09:20 am (UTC)
Overall, I preferred this season of Sherlock to Season 2 by far. (the Hound of the Baskervilles episode, can't remember its title, seemed very contrived to me, and far less compelling than Doyle's story; and I hate what they did to the character of Irene Adler) I really enjoyed the Holmes family interaction and the Holmes/Watson interaction and liked Mary even after she was revealed as jaded former government assassin Mary.

While the concept of Sherlock's mind palace is intriguing; I thought it was overdone. However, I totally forgave the writers because of the 25 seconds encounter of Sherlock And Redbeard that took place there. (and may I say that the actors who played Redbeard and Little Sherlock, both I believe who were first-time thespians, were marvelous. Especially Redbeard, but then I just loved him anyway) Still, I hope that they don't use the mind palace to as great an extent next season (unless Redbeard returns for an encore flashback).

I was definitely turned off by Magnusson's 'marking' of 21B Baker St. I thought it was unnecessary; it had already been established that Magnusson was a slimy, scummy, horrible and yet powerful person. I just had the feeling that it was done to make the episode more edgy or provocative. Ick. I kept wondering why neither Holmes nor Watson felt the need to clean up the floor or wherever after the blackmailer & his thugs had left, or at least ask Mrs. Hudson for some extra rags.

I continue to be annoyed by the insistence of the writers that Sherlock Holmes is a sociopath. Perhaps this Sherlock is supposed to be one; but Conan Doyle's Holmes was not. And current-Sherlock doesn't seem to me to fit the definitions I've read - though please note that I am not an expert or even extremely knowledgeable about sociopathy/psychopathy.

I love the idea of John & Mary expecting a baby; but fear that the writers will plan a miscarriage, or write the child and Mary out of the show. I would like to see Sherlock as the kid's godfather...

I still don't understand how Sherlock mentally tagged Mary as a liar before the third episode.

The big revelation at the end of His Last Vow - seems very contrived. First Sherlock, and now you-know-who, back from the dead? (no, not Voldemort)

And I'm not happy about Sherlock Holmes becoming a murderer. It was hard to tell whether Sherlock shot an unarmed man because (A) Mycroft wanted Magnusson dead (it was implied, during their family Christmas), (B) Sherlock despised Magnusson above all other criminals, (C) Magnusson was humiliating Watson and Sherlock couldn't stand it anymore, (D) Magnusson was threatening Watson's wife and therefore Watson's happiness (and his unborn daughter's existence as well) Sherlock could not allow that, or all of the above. I am hoping it was only for (D), but it wasn't clear.

But there was much to enjoy in Season 3. The Holmes family dynamics deserve their own show, particularly when you add Mom & Dad. I loved the further exploration of the Holmes/Mycroft relationship.

So I will definitely watch Season 4; and enjoy Sherlock and Watson's adventures if I can (can I mention that Martin Freeman continues to be brilliant as Watson), and hope that the writers/directors employ a bit more of comprehensible, linear storytelling next time.

( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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