What to Watch this Week: Sherlock

There is certainly no shortage of adaptations of the Sherlock Holmes saga. But, in my mind, few have been as successful as BBC’s Sherlock, which stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. Three seasons in to this excellent show (with two more written and, albeit slowly, on the way), it is not lacking in popularity. It probably does not need my recommendation, yet I will give it freely anyways, for what it’s worth. In a culture where the trend leans toward the transient, to television series and movies designed to be consumed in vast proportions and then promptly forgotten, Sherlock stands out.

It is not a show that can only be enjoyed once. Although there are many shocks, thrills and big reveals along the way (none of which will be detailed in this brief but assuredly spoiler-free review), it does not rely on any of these for its value. It is not dependent on novelty, and so I think Sherlock can be appreciated just as much, if not more, on a subsequent viewing. Each episode (structured like and with the length of a film) is so rich, with so many levels and so many little things that can be easily missed. I am confident that I missed a fair number of them (sometimes, I must admit, I pour most of my effort into understanding the various British accents; I am quite incompetent at deciphering accents).

This is not to say that you can’t enjoy them on the first time or that you should watch them more than once, but that as far as television goes, Sherlock lends itself to deeper thought and reflection than most shows. You can see this as well in its very process of production. Sherlock is a great show because those behind it take the time necessary to instil this value. While I was initially distraught upon finishing the Season 3 finale and discovering Season 4 would not be coming until 2017, I see it now as a positive. We have immediate access to so many things, providing instant gratification, offering every kind of known stimulus that one could ever want, often at the tap of a finger. And so perhaps it is a good thing to have the opportunity (rather, the necessity) to wait. Things of value are worth time; they require patience and this patience is rewarded. It helps us to appreciate value better and to savour (instead of to “binge-watch,” as is the current inclination).

The script  of Sherlock is intricately woven and very clever, as are the ways in which the show represents the workings of Sherlock’s superior mind. It is also not lacking in emotional profundity; the relationship between Sherlock and Watson is one of the most enduring and is at the heart, I think, of the historical fascination with Conan Doyle’s classics. Another thing that separates this adaptation from the rest of the pack is the show’s willingness to delve into Sherlock’s emotional and social dysfunctions. It is not afraid to display Sherlock’s cluelessness, coldness, even heartlessness; it does not coddle the viewer with sheer sentimentality. But because of this, when the show does become sentimental, when Sherlock does experience growth or encounter emotions previously foreign to him, the moment is much more profound and rewarding.
If you haven’t yet watched Sherlock, I hope you will go out and watch it (one episode at a time though, not all in a row!) If you have seen it, I hope I’ve been able to help you see something about it in a new way. And if not, then I apologize: after all, I’ve only seen the first three seasons once.