You’d be forgiven for thinking this episode of Sherlock takes you into a life drawing class. Lo and behold, are the British finally able to walk free of that suppressing cloak of their paradoxical relationship to nudity? However, the nudity was a problem in one aspect, because of its context and the fact the programme was aired at 8pm, for here we had the character of Irene Adler, described variously as ‘the woman’, a ‘dominatrix’ and a provider of ‘recreational scolding’. She was seen with a riding crop and spoke of the pleasure of pain. Did that really fit with a pre-watershed target audience?
Putting the scheduling issue to one side, what of the programme itself? This BBC Sherlock co-created by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss is no ordinary Sherlock as we know from the first series. This is Sherlock brought into our contemporary world and this week’s A Scandal in Belgravia was a re-working of Conan Doyle’s A Scandal in Bohemia.
We picked up where the last series ended, at the swimming pool where it certainly looked like Moriarty had the upper hand and Holmes was about to be no more, along with Watson. Here, Holmes’s escape was a bit of a cop out, nothing to do with his skills and ingenuity, but it did prove a perfect introduction for the tale about to unfold. In this modern world, Holmes becomes a sought out detective (and celebrity) because of the blog Watson writes for him. Streams of people arrive at his door, but he’s only looking for cases that are not boring.
As he starts on one case, he is urgently called to Buckingham Palace and presented with another: a young female associated with the Royal family is the subject of potential blackmail as Irene Adler has compromising photographs of her, indulging in the services Ms Adler provides. Holmes is resolute in his response, until another factor brought to his attention perks his interest and intellect… More than once we hear ‘brainy is the new sexy’ and in Adler Holmes meets his match, but he can’t read her. An erotically-charged game of wits, sparring, positioning and jousting follows. And this is not the only game of wits as the Holmes brothers engage with Mycroft keeping Sherlock on his toes (and clothed). Unsurprisingly, the plot involves more than a simple threat of scandal to the Royals.
It’s all hocus-pocus really, but wonderfully scripted and acted hocus-pocus that is hugely entertaining and respectful to the original. All the acting is superb, but a special mention goes to Una Stubbs for her superb and resourceful Mrs Hudson. Good to see Oona Chaplin as the ‘boring’ teacher girlfriend of Watson after her great performance in The Hour.
And if you fancy reading the original stories for series 2, quickly grab this week’s Radio Times (and those of the coming two weeks) as they are giving away copies.