Sunday, February 9, 2014

Sherlock's Shark Sighting, or When Writers Get Smug

Sherlock (TV series)
Normally when watching or reading something I enjoy, I pride myself on my ability to shut off that part of my brain that analyzes story structure and characterization and screams at plot holes. I want to be entertained, dammit.

I can forgive a lot, if characters are interesting and plots are tight.

But sometimes, try as I might, I can't. I just can't.

Such was the case with this last season of BBC's Sherlock. I am a big fan. Every episode of the first two seasons was a home run. It hits all the marks. It's ridiculously witty, always keeps you guessing, and works in fascinating character moments without sacrificing on plot. A whole lot of people on both sides of the pond agree with me on that much. And I think that's why season 3 left me wanting.

Chinatown, London. Benedict Cumberbatch during...Apparently the writers of this brilliant series have been reading their own press. They decided it was okay to get lazy, so long as they distract fans with lots of cool text flashing on the screen and keep on giving Benedict Cumberbatch slick dialogue.

And thus follows my SPOILER FILLED take on the mistakes that left me staring at the screen in slack jawed bewilderment, and leery of the upcoming series 4 in two years.

Episode 1 was actually pretty good. I didn't mind that they were being coy with the explanation of how Holmes faked his death. In truth, I thought the ending of season 2 was so contrived, it's best to leave the how to our imaginations anyway. More on that later. The bottom line was that the show was living up to its own standards.

And then the bomb had an off switch.

The BOMB. Had an OFF-SWITCH.

What?

The writers managed to put Holmes and Watson into a genuinely inescapable situation. Congratulations! So what brilliant trick do you come up with to get them out of it?

AN. OFF. SWITCH!

Had that stunt been pulled on any other show, it would have been laughed at with every ounce of mockery it deserves. People would have been chanting "Jump the shark" from the rafters. That was, without a doubt, the most insulting, lazy, sloppy, ridiculous cop out I've seen put to film in recent memory. I have never been jarred so completely out of a story before. I would expect something like that from CSI: Miami.  I thought these writers were better than that. Guess I was mistaken.

Oh noooo. This is Sherlock. We're too cool to have to explain anything. We can get away with it because someone will doubtless say something witty and make you forget all about it. Look look! He's doing something quirky. Isn't that awesome?
What suspense? Just find the off-switch

"They all have off-switches" they made Sherlock say. Uhh, no... They don't. That's the whole point of tamper proof wiring.

GAH!

That was my first inkling that the writers have been reading waaaaay too much of their own fan mail. The interwebs have clearly been gushing too much.

But I did manage to calm down after watching the episode, believe it or not. I simply pretended that Holmes was entirely capable of figuring out how to disarm the bomb -- which was infinitely easier to believe. Fortunately pretending that didn't change anything else about the events as they played out. So I moved on.

Episode 2 rocked. It was admittedly more lighthearted than any other episode to date, but it still felt like the same show. Nothing wrong with a little levity. It's a wedding for cryin out loud. Give John a break. He spent the last whole episode being a damsel in distress. Some friends on Dixonverse compared it to one of those "days off" issues of Uncanny X-Men, where the story is just about them playing football, or Logan and Piotr running into Juggernaut at a bar. A break from the action. And clearly a set up for things to take a sinister twist. I took it for what it was, and loved it.

Almost enough to forgive them for the off switch.

Almost. Did I say I moved on? Okay I lied.

And so comes the season finale.

Deep breath...

Okay. Ya know what? No. This was exhausting enough. Going into episode 3 will require an entry unto itself. Suffice to say that my problems with this season are really with the finale. But endings are important. They are what viewers are going to remember most. And while some people thought that episode 3 somehow redeemed the season for them, I saw it the exact opposite.

So, until I get around to it...

Update: If you are reading this via direct link, jump here for part 2 of the tirade.