WARNING: This post contains spoilers! Do not read if you haven’t seen this yet!
The thing about the original Sherlock Holmes stories is this: They were aspirational.
People who read them admired Sherlock and — especially kids — wanted to be him.
This is a vital point and central to the charm of the original stories.
It doesn’t matter that Holmes at one point injected cocaine or smoked a pipe or cigarettes.
Conan Doyle came to recognize the hazard of cocaine and weaned Holmes off it.
Tobacco had a socially-acceptable aspect to it up until the past few decades and anyone who has done it understands its mentally-stimulating effects.
So, how does the modernized Sherlock that just aired on the BBC yesterday measure up?
While all of it — script, acting, direction — was absolutely brilliant, I think it’d take a very, very strange person to look at that Sherlock and say, “I want to be like him.”
This new Sherlock has been corrupted — both by our modern age of knowing too much and by our sordid modern age itself.
He is no longer a brilliant scientist, he is a borderline sociopath — a self-admitted one at that!
Yes, he’s smart, yes, he can see what us mere mortals stupidly miss — but my god, who the hell wants to be a prick like him?
There was another modern take on the story of Sherlock Holmes, in the movies, called Zero Effect. And while that character was also corrupted, he was also endearing and emotionally vulnerable because of his social ineptitude.
The only vulnerability in the BBC Sherlock was challenging his overbearing ego.
Really, I wanted to push the pill down his throat near the end.
None of this is to say I didn’t like it. It was really magnificent. Dr. Watson is now a real human being. Lestrade is still one-dimensional but perhaps they’ll do for him what they did for Watson (although with them also bringing in a secondary police official, it could be they’ve written him off as an inept patsy again). Mycroft was a surprise I should have seen coming.
As for the storytelling — it brings TV into the Internet age, perfectly keeping the attention of harried multitaskers by multitasking itself at points. I won’t say more because that would be too big a spoiler.
I really did cheer (inside) when Holmes did things like telling someone to shut up when he wasn’t speaking and telling another character to turn around so he wasn’t looking at Holmes. Really, really brilliant touches and things I could personally identify with too!
But that really wasn’t the Sherlock Holmes of the stories.
And that’s a great big problem here. I feel as if I’m watching a revision of history. A 1984-ish version of Holmes.
But I will keep watching.
And once you’ve seen it, so will you.
But I won’t feel clean doing so.
And that might be due to seeing too much of myself in this new Sherlock.
“How smart we are—how aptly we put things!”
— Seeds by Sherwood Anderson