So the verdict is in, but why bother with an official review when you have a comment section full of far more critical viewers (strictly spoiler-free):
… The writers decided, correctly it seems, that they can just come up with anything and most people won’t care. After enjoying the first two seasons, I thought it was a load of old tosh.
… It was terrible. Amazingly self-conscious, incoherent, and camp. First two seasons were good, and then they painted themselves into a corner that they are not good enough to write themselves out of.
… we seem to be losing Holmesian reflection and gaining only Bondian tricks and Bourneian pace.
… Unusually charitable review. Are expectations being lowered on account of the episode pandering to (some of) the fanbase in virtually every scene and barely showing any narrative ambition? Hope it picks up next episode, because this is televised Sherlock fanfiction at the moment.
… overall a sense that the programme was just incredibly pleased with itself. Oooh, let’s give several far-fetched explanations, for “the fans”. Overall, too much showing off. It was also extremely predictable in places.
… Too much self awareness and jumping around destroyed any dramatic tension there might have been. I’ts like story telling has been sacrificed for style, hope it gets it’s mojo back, the first two series were so good.
… Lots of pretentious camera work that was tiring on the eyes - torches flashing into camera; scenes too dark; too rapid shift from image to image, etc etc , blah, blah. Lost interest in the plot and the characters.
… A confusing and incoherent mess… too much jumping around, distracting visuals, unnecessary plot segues, no focus on anything until the last 20 minutes… All this could be forgiven if it was a good character study, but it wasn’t, there was too much going on for any character to build emotions properly so they seemed to flick as violently as the camerawork. Sherlock himself appears to have gone from callous to cruel, playing with John on the underground for his own kicks felt more psychopath than sociopath.
… The day The Matrix met Scooby Doo.
… Boring. Tedious. Self-indulgent. Pompous. Boring. Up its own behind. Over-cooked. Tedious. Boring. Most dislikable man on the box! Boring.
… It was truly, epically awful. No plot, no tension, great lumps of actorly ham - an embarrassing farrago from start to finish.
And, shock horror or maybe not, but who would’ve thought? Seems more and more viewers even in the UK are switching their preference over to… “American Sherlock”:
… Elementary is much better.
… Disappointing. Tried to be too clever for its own good… Elementary on Sky Living wins for me. Johnny Lee Miller has made Holmes his own now and his axis with Lucy Liu surprisingly more compelling than Cumberbatch/Freeman.
… If Elementary were a BBC production it would rightly receive many plaudits. It has US production values which these days are by no means trashy when you look at the Sky Living/Atlantic pallette of shows. Last time I checked, Johnny Lee Miller (far superior to Benedict Cumberbatch in expressing Holmes’ powers of deduction) and Rhys Ifans were not Americans and Watson as a woman is a contemporary take.
… I see Sherlock and a number of other recent BBC serie, notably Ripper Street, as part of a Doctor Whoification of television drama. Sherlock is poorly structured, clumsily written and over stylised. Nuance and depth of characterisation are lost for sensationalism. In fact the programme has a juvenile feel. You could update Sherlock Holmes with a lot more subtlety and quality than we find here.
… The US version is a truly modern update of Sherlock Holmes (although this is the American’s second modern update - they already did itvery successfully in a show called ‘House’) and Johnny Lee Miller is a much better Sherlock than Benedict Cumberbatch.
The British ‘Sherlock’ is merely transplanting a Victorian gentleman into a modern day setting and just re-hashing the original stories, it adds nothing that we haven’t seen before and is uninspired and dull.
It’s attempts to appear ‘modern’ with its quick cuts and trendy ‘thoughts appearing as words’ just make the show even more irritating.
It is merely a slightly more ‘adult’ version of Doctor Who (another Victorian gentleman who happens to have a time machine).
… Big fan of both actors but found this too pompous and camp for my liking. At least the show seems to have upped production values which was a big issue with the episodes I dipped into from first two series imo.
I must agree with a previous contributor, Johnny Lee Miller’s recovering addict Sherlock is far superior and better developed. Admittedly Elementary took a while to get going but the show has really got into it’s stride with Miller and Liu bouncing off each other well now.
The bottom line for me and to repeat a much derided previous opinion is that this take is just not an adult enough show.
So, for what it’s worth… what to make of it? Was it good or bad or a little bit of both? I don’t know, I enjoyed the first two seasons enough, but it’s not like I was waiting with baited breath for the new episode, also because, come on, it cannot take that long, if you make me wait for more than a year for a continuation of the story, especially after a cliffhanger, I will just forget about it and by the time the show is back it will have lost any momentum and I will vaguely remember what I liked so much about it.
I watched this earlier today on BBC iPlayer (yes you need a VPN for that outside the UK) and found it enjoyable and witty enough if a bit too silly and absurd plot-wise, but the clearest feeling was… a lack of feeling. It felt cold and distant and I found myself not really caring that much about any of the characters.
Maybe it is because in the meantime I have indeed started watching Elementary, at first with a lot of skepticism, as it looked like just another US crime procedural with the Conan Doyle references tacked on to it, but it turned out to be surprisingly better than that, and kept getting better.
So now I’ve gotten used to a truly modern Sherlock, complete with modern neuroses and addictions, and to a really modern take on Watson, not just because she’s a woman or Asian, but because she becomes his equal in the course of the series - a worthy and appreciated partner as well as a real friend.
Watching the new BBC episode, I too, like one of the above-quoted commenters, was struck by how cruel Sherlock was towards his companion, and how insufferable and smug and just plain mean in an unfunny way. Jonny Lee Miller’s Sherlock is much more human and likeable even in his acerbic unlikeability, and Lucy Liu’s Watson knows how to stand up for herself even while admiring her “mentor”. And oh, Mycroft! Sherlock’s brother is Rhys Ifans, enough said. Aidan Quinn as Gregson is brilliant too, and then we have detective Bell, and Sherlock’s sponsor, everyone looks like a much fuller human you can actually warm to, and that’s one of the things that keep you watching and caring, not least because you’re getting frequent enough episodes to keep your interest up. And then… sorry, London, but those views of New York from the roof of the brownstone are something else, and oh the brownstone itself. And there is no landlady making tea for the men, thank you. No, women are actually doing something valuable in the show, not just being maids or girlfriends or femme fatales – what Elementary did with Irene Adler was superb. What they did with Moriarty, even more so. And the fact that Sherlock doesn’t avoid women and sex as some kind of monk is a nice touch too (and adds a bit of comedy or at least lightness, with all those encounters between Watson and Sherlock’s happy female guests in the morning over coffee). By comparison, BBC Sherlock feels stale, old-fashioned and yes a little bit sexist and backwards, even with its sillier and more Bond-style absurd plots and visual tricks and fancy camera work.
So yeah, tastes are tastes, both shows can be enjoyed in their very different approaches and their different limitations, but, my preferences in contemporary tv representations of Sherlock Holmes have also switched decidedly over to the other side of the pond. Interesting to see this has been happening to many others too. Who’d have thought?
(Also, nice tattoos!)