57 – Sherlock – His Last Vow

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Finally Sherlock is back to old’s self. This episode was exactly what I was hoping it would be and more. No longer is the jumbled up tiresome best of format that the wedding episode half heartedly tried to present but instead back to the ambitious movie style episodes that for the most part actually run chronologically and keep the audience from falling asleep. Yeah I didn’t like the wedding episode.

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From the start a word that I would describe this episode as is funny. There are some great moments including the hilarious introduction of Sherlock in this episode. The comedy in this series always works really well probably because Martin Freeman was always a comedy actor, and has only recently branched into these more serious roles, and the chemistry between him and Benedict Cumberbatch is back at it’s best.

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One of my main criticisms of the first two episodes of this series is the distinct lack of a villain. Both antagonists were un-established with little motivation and no distinguishing features at all. It is ironic then perhaps that my biggest praise for this episode is the spectacularly creepy and threatening Charles Augustus Magnussen. This villain is possibly even better than Jim Moriarty, played by Andrew Scott, and it’s because he added another layer to the antagonist role, he was a believable genius who completely disrespects other people and claims that he owns them. This was a very disturbing claim and it really felt like nobody other than Sherlock was brave enough to take him on. I wish that he hadn’t been so immediately killed off (although with a show like this it’s incredibly possible that he’s not actually dead) and that instead we’re going back to Moriarty who as brilliant as he is we have already seen a great deal and I think it would have been maybe a bit more interesting to explore more of the motives of Magnussen.

I didn’t particularly care for the whole Mary Morstan twist as it was so quickly resolved it might as well have not have happened. However in a show that has a run time of an hour and a half these sub plots are going to have to be included and it was at least fairly interesting to watch.

The best moment perhaps was the mind palace scene where Sherlock has been shot and he has to try to survive by consulting his friends within his head who give him advice and manages to prevent himself from dying. It was on the verge of being over the top but managed to stay on the edge and instead created a visual masterpiece that was thrilling to watch.

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Looking back on this series as a whole I have to admit I was disappointed. The first two series were some of my favourite television episodes ever and were the best written, shot and acted detective drama’s I had ever seen so going into this series with the 2 year wait and the huge anticipation for the reveal of how Sherlock survived the fall I was trying to be as optimistic and possible that this series would maintain the same quality. So to begin with I was a little bit disappointed by the reveal which was quite anti climatic but then there was all these weird arrangement issues.

The first two episodes felt a bit like the writers wrote a tonne of different scenes then sort of threw them at a wall and then tried to link them all together. Some scenes were dynamic and brought something new to the table, some scenes were hilarious like the stag night but then some scenes were almost out place heart warming confessions between John and Sherlock and smaller undeveloped cases. Especially episode 2, A Sign of Three, which was basically Sherlock hosting This is your life and showing small funny VT’s to his live audience at the wedding. I would go as far to say that I hardly count episode 2 as a Sherlock episode. It is the definition of a filler episode. It had good moments but they were all disjointed and left me almost falling asleep.

Luckily as I have described in this blog I was fairly pleased with episode 3 and it got back to focussing on the case again rather than the large focus on the characters which was present in the first two episodes. It got the balance right and created a brilliant new villain. As far as where the series goes from here though I am much less enthusiastic for the next series as I am worried about where they are taking the story.

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I wish they had perhaps kept of bringing back Moriarty for another series and instead had a bit more fun with Magnussen and kept him alive. Also I’m not to sure where they are going with Mary being pregnant, this is a major break away from the Conan Doyle canon and makes me worried as it seems like the child will possibly be just another distraction from the story being about Sherlock and John solving cases with Lestrade (who is strangely absent throughout this series).

I suppose in 2 to 3 years when they release the next series I might have been worrying about nothing, but if this series was anything to go by it looks like the show is starting to dip in quality.

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51 – Sherlock A Sign of Three

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Sherlock episode 2 came out on Sunday and featured the wedding of John and Mary and saw Sherlock as the best man and face the seemingly overwhelming task of delivering a best man’s speech.

I’ll start by saying everything that is usually good about the Sherlock is the same in this episode so the direction, soundtrack and acting were all the same quality as usual however I had a problem with the story. During Sherlock’s speech the show kept going back to other stories. The episode felt more like a best of Sherlock presented by Benedict Cumberbatch and featuring clips of other stories instead of a fluent chronological story. Eventually all the stories were connected and lead to classic Sherlock deductions and a really brilliant scene in a court room inside Sherlock’s head where like a big game of guess who he goes through potential suspects and victims and tries to deduce what’s actually going on.

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As much as I felt cheated that the episode didn’t showcase another developed hour and a half long case but just many small cases, these small cases were still fairly interesting but slightly rushed. There was a hilarious scene where John and Sherlock go on a stag do and despite Sherlock’s best efforts they get completely drunk, at which point a client comes in asking for help and the pair then proceed to try and solve the case drunk. A highlight was when Sherlock usually clever deductions that appear as white text on the screen just showed incredibly simple descriptions and then when Sherlock was sick on the crime scene. It was a really entertaining segment amongst a mediocre episode.

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These segments as interesting as they were to watch just felt like they were taking us out of the story as they were so loosely connected to the eventual conclusion they may as well not have been in there. I actually started to find myself getting bored watching it which is strange when you consider that I was such a big fan of the first two series. It’s so irritating for me that I wasn’t very impressed by this episode as the way they make this show means there probably won’t be another series for another 2 years. I just hope the next episode brings back some of the magic of the show and features a fluent plot that still has loads of twists and turns but doesn’t have to keep cutting to more boring segments just to fill it’s air time.

48 – The Game is back on (Sherlock The Empty Hearse)

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Sherlock is back and so am I from my brief sabbatical from blogging. A new series of Sherlock kicked off with The Empty Hearse which followed Sherlock as he returned to London and his formerly trusty companion John Watson, while John struggles with how to cope with a man whom he had grieved over for 2 years seemingly returning from the dead, Sherlock begins unravelling a terrorist plot in the heart of London (business as usual).

The strange thing about Sherlock is that despite it being a 1 and a half hour show the pace of the story tends to be very fast which reflects the speed at which Sherlock thinks which is thrilling to watch but it means it takes much longer for the audience (or at least I hope it’s the audience and not just me) to catch up with what actually happened on the screen. So much information passes by so quickly so that even now half an hour after the show finished I still feel like I’m unravelling what happened. So I’ll break down what I didn’t like as much about the episode and what was good and then attempt an overall opinion. The game is on!

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The biggest reason for the anticipation for this episode was obviously finally finding out how Sherlock had survived the jump off the building in the previous series which aired a whole 2 years ago. The episode starts with a thrilling sequence that seemingly explains what happened, this involved what many people on the internet had speculated about (mission impossible style sherlock masks, bungee cords and disguising Moriarty’s body) but this explanation is revealed to be just another characters theory. Now this episode even keeps us waiting even more and then the explanation officially given by Sherlock crops up during another set piece in the underground. It was handed quite poorly in my opinion as with no explanation or reasoning we jump from the underground to Sherlock talking to Anderson about the jump and then back to the underground afterwards. It’s a very weird jump and as the explanation was what most people were looking forward to it I think it could have been portrayed in a more fluid way that works in the story instead of shifting the attention away from a crucial moment in the plot.

Also was the explanation meant to actually be what happened or did Sherlock lie to Anderson. Anderson has doubts afterwards but is that meant to just represent how unhinged and paranoid he’s now become. I hope that Sherlock did lie and they’re are more secrets regarding the fall yet to come as the explanation given of jumping onto a inflatable crash mat just felt like an anticlimax. As ridiculous as the idea of having mission impossible Sherlock masks and bungee cords I think I preferred as it was much more impressive to watch. I admit Derren Brown appearing would have been far fetched and that was what gave it away to me that it wasn’t the actual event but just a hilarious fantasy. This feeling of disappointment in the explanation becomes inevitable though when you make people wait 2 years. If this was the real explanation then it definitely doesn’t feel worth the 2 year wait.

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Sherlock has always been shot and edited in a stunning way. This enables the audience a brilliant insight into how Sherlock’s obviously unique mind works and using a variety of extreme close up shots and on screen text that flickers up on the screen imitating Sherlock’s thoughts we can see all his deductions being made in real time as he looks at a crime scene. This is one of the main things which set’s this series apart from other crime thrillers. This direction was first achieved by directed Paul McGuigan who directed the first series and the first episode of series 2. However this episode was directed by Jeremy Lovering and for the most part his direction reflects previous directors before him and the deductions are just as captivating to watch as always however it felt like there was more gimmicks in this episode than usual.

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The main gimmick that bothered me was during a scene where John is about to get burned on a bonfire there is an awful lot of slow motion shots, which I understand can be used to increase the drama but it was like every other shot and in a situation that’s very tense and Sherlock is rushing to save John it would have been nice to just keep moving and not slow the pace down so much by overusing slow motion.

One element that was missing was an interesting antagonist. All that is offered in the episode is a man who was involved with some terrorists and tried to blow up Westminster without any real given motivation. I don’t think the character even got a line, they just opened a briefcase, pressed a button then got caught almost immediately and his plan is ruined. Although the end suggests this man is connected to the main villain of the series which will be¬†Charles Augustus Magnussen. However since losing Andrew Scott’s fantastic Moriarty it seemed a very apparent missing piece.

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What was brilliant though was simply seeing all the characters again and seeing the chemistry between them all again. Mainly between John and Sherlock where it is at it’s most tense than any other point of the series and it was brilliant to see how John copes with Sherlock’s return and his own conflict with himself of wherever he is pleased to see his friend again or outraged this sees Martin Freeman’s best performance in the series to date. The dispute between the two culminates in a actually quite touching moment inside a train carriage which is about to explode and the two are fearing for their lives and finally confess how they have been feeling and try to repair their friendship, however in true Sherlock fashion Sherlock has already diffused the bomb and let Watson forgive him before he admits it.

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There was a couple of great cameos by Benedict Cumberbatch’s actual parents starring as Sherlock’s parents and of course the hilarious Derren Brown and Andrew Scott’s bizarre Moriarty cameo in another fake fall theory where he shares a romantic moment with Sherlock which felt like a joke at the increase in strange fan fiction surrounding the series. Also Martin Freeman’s wife and fellow actor Amanda Abbington joined the show as John Watson’s soon to be wife and made an excellent addition to the cast and I think her addition will allow the show to move into new area’s now which is very exciting.

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The story was really compelling if not more so than usual and managed to balance the aftermath of the last series, a thrilling plot ¬†that takes Sherlock into London’s underground, which fit so well with the series that it’s surprising they’ve only just done a story set there, and establishing hints at a new villain and the story ark for the rest of the series. This was all presented in the usual feature film style and as it’s cast stars Benedict Cumberbatch’s and Martin Freeman’s fame grows by the year the episode felt more like a movie than ever before.

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Everything that was great about the show before remained great, the cast acted perfectly, the score was just as captivating, the witty dialogue between characters and the brilliantly written deductions and mysteries remained as usual and as the series goes on it’s only going to develop more and build upon it’s foundations by adding new characters and putting the characters in new territory. Especially in the next episode where we see Sherlock as John’s best man and what I can only assume is going to be one hell of a hilarious best man’s speech, but I suspect it will be less zany anecdotes and more a showcase of Sherlock’s condescending wit which will probably criticize most of the guests. I simply cannot wait and this episode definitely started the series on a high.

15 – A mime and a man talking to himself

By accident on youtube I recently came across two short films starring two actors who I have grown to like, Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch. Who have recently been involved in Peter Jackon’s new Hobbit trilogy where Martin plays the hobbit protagonist and Benedict is voicing a dragon and starring as the necromancer in the third film. In fact just the other day a new trailer has been released for the next film.

I didn’t enjoy the first hobbit film that much because I thought it was too slow but what I did enjoy was Benedict Cumberbatch’s recent role as Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness which I really enjoyed. The list of great shows and films that they have respectively starred in spans from The Office to Atonement but what I personally know them for is BBC’s Sherlock and considering the huge cliffhanger that the last series left on I cannot wait for the next series. The teaser for which is below.

But anyway onto the short films. The first I saw was The Girl is Mime starring Martin Freeman as a mime artist with a guilty conscience.

This short film is really nicely made, especially when you find out that it was written, filmed and edited within 48 hours which is actually astonishing. Also this film is great research as the clip uses shot reverse shot very clearly in the exchange between the detective and the mime characters.

The obvious part of what is great about this film is that it conveys a story without the use of any dialogue. This is achieved because of the great physical acting that Martin Freeman does throughout the clip. The use of the main character miming is done for comical effect but also there is a slight bit of creepiness. Possibly because of the close resemblance to clowns which people can be unnerved by, also this weirdness is exaggerated because of the assumption that the main character kills both his wife and himself.

Also their is the use of more saturated colours in the more tense interrogation parts and less saturated colours in the flashback shots where the tone is more happy. The same can be said of the music, it is faster paced and high pitched in the flashbacks to connote happiness and is slower paced and more tense in the interrogation parts. The music is reminiscent of classic silent films and shares that jangly composed score.

The other short film I found, this time starring Benedict Cumberbatch was Inseperable

This film follows a father who is going through a very difficult period of his life where he finds out that he is going to die so arranges for his twin brother who is a gambling addict living on the streets to exchange lives with him.

Like the mime film this short film also has very little dialogue being used and relies more on very prudent visual images to tell the story. This makes it a lot more interesting for the audience to watch as you can piece together the story yourself without being told what is happening. In this sense it is actually quite disorientating but this could be an attempt to mimic the grave realisation the characters go through.

It’s worth mentioning that Benedict Cumberbatch does a really great performance in this film especially as he has to play two different characters and convey a lot of emotions. But he really pulls it off and proves he is a brilliant actor.

I found the soundtrack had more of an effect in this film as it created the tone of the film. I felt slow, tense and dark. One strange thing was that when the character in the film finds out he has a life threatening illness a sort sci-fi/horror esque noise. I think this to reflect the horror and fear that the character has at this point of the story.

I guess these two clips proves that sometimes youtube actually has more to offer than just cat videos.

Oh and BBC, just air season 3 of sherlock I’m fed up of trying to work out how Sherlock survived. Even though I’m pretty sure it involves jumping into that convenient truck nearby then rolling onto the floor.
Not that I’ve thought it through…
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