Sherlock Returns: “A Scandal in Belgravia” Review

 After months of anticipation, the second season of BBC’s  ”Sherlock” has finally arrived.  The first episode, “A Scandal in Belgravia,” premiered in the U.K. on New Year’s Day  (though non-U.K. residents, myself included, had to content themselves with watching it online).

 If you haven’t yet heard of this modern-day Sherlock Holmes miniseries, you’re missing out, because first season was absolutely phenomenal.  Of course, this means that my expectations for Season 2 were ridiculously high.

So. There were several things I loved about “A Scandal in Belgravia.” Sadly, Irene Adler was not one of them. I had very mixed feelings about her character, her relationship with Sherlock and her entire storyline.  Like many other fans,  I was looking forward to character dynamic that would be fairly true to the original “Scandal in Bohemia” story.  For awhile, I thought the writers had gotten it right.   Up until the last ten minutes of the episode, I was really enjoying the interplay between Sherlock and Adler.  I felt that each viewed the other as a fascinating and exciting challenge, as a person equal in intelligence and cunning, but not as a love interest. Sherlock is clearly obsessed with Adler and eager to impress her, but his infatuation seems to stem mostly from the fact that she is his intellectual match and a puzzle he cannot solve.  And whatever Sherlock’s feelings for Adler, they are clearly not sexual (which is a relief, as I very much support Sherlock as an asexual).  In the same vein, Adler seemed to be using her sexuality as a means to manipulate and gain power over Sherlock, nothing more (I actually like how they made her a dominatrix). The revelation, then, that Adler actually has feelings for Sherlock kind of ruined this entire dynamic for me.  I also think it took away from the strength and intelligence of Irene’s character.

Also troubling: Why did Sherlock have to outsmart Irene in the end?  The entire point of the original story is that, for the first time, Sherlock encounters someone who is clever enough to outwit him. And, frankly, it is pretty cool that that someone is a woman. Adler earns the title “The Woman” from Sherlock out of respect.  So Irene begging for her life and Sherlock ultimately coming to her rescue was a disappointment for me. And are we *really* supposed to believe that Sherlock Holmes somehow made it to Karachi to save Irene from terrorists? Seriously? That ending was just convoluted and bizarre.

Fortunately, the episode manages to be enjoyable nevertheless.  The things that made the first season so appealing – ridiculously quotable dialogue, fantastic acting, and the incredible chemistry between Sherlock and John Watson (not to mention the drop-dead gorgeousness of actor Benedict Cumberbatch)  – were still very much present in “A Scandal.”   Among my favorite moments:

- Sherlock in his sheet at Buckingham Palace.  And he and Mycroft arguing like five-year-olds.

- “I always hear ‘punch me in the face’ when you’re speaking, but usually it’s subtext.” John wins all the awards.

- Hilarious drugged Sherlock

- Beautiful violin-playing

- Sherlock’s sincere apology to Molly — such an unexpected and touching moment. It was nice to see Sherlock beginning to become slightly more human, slightly more aware of other people’s feelings.

- Basically every scene with Mrs. Hudson.

- The ongoing hints that John and Sherlock might have feelings for each-other that go beyond friendship.  (I don’t care what Moffat and Gatiss may say in interviews; I personally believe John and Sherlock are in fact in love despite not being physically attracted to each-other.)

I was mildly disappointed with the resolution of the Season 1 cliffhanger — after all that waiting, I was hoping for some kind of dramatic explosion, with Sherlock and John perhaps jumping into the pool for cover.  However, there is no denying that this scene was hysterical.  Besides the pure awesome of Moriarty’s BeeGees ringtone, Moriarty and Sherlock sassily mouthing “Sorry!” and “No, it’s fine!” to each-other just about killed me.

Overall, then, I enjoyed this episode despite its shortcomings.  I remain optimistic and am very much looking forward to the rest of Season 2.

 Image Credit: BBC

  • Carly

    I loved the first season. I did not know the new one has started. I will have to watch this. Did not really read your full review because I want to see it first but I will be back. Btw. I really don’t like the Sherlock in the new movie that is currently in the out now. Just not my cup of tea. lol.

  • Guest

    I kind of saw the bit at the end as Irene’s imagination. She was wishing Sherlock would come save her, but he never actually did. I know this is probably wrong, but it wish it were true, haha. It’s so unbelievable that he would have been there to save her.

    • kaila

      I wasn’t sure if it was just Sherlock imagining he had been able to save her, as i thought it wasn’t possible that he could but Mycroft had said earlier it would take Sherlock to fool him and he was pretty sure he wasn’t around.

  • Guest

    “I was hoping for some kind of dramatic explosion, with Sherlock and John perhaps jumping into the pool for cover.”

    But there’s no need for such a somewhat childish and American style of writing – exciting as they can be, not everything has to be about big explosions and dramatic special effects, and in fact the humour in that scene with the ringtone cutting in at such a tense moment is what for me made it a great resolution to the cliffhanger.

    • Critterfur7

      Well, Steven Moffat helped write the new Tintin movie, which features almost nothing but “big explosions and dramatic special effects”. I personally don’t subscribe to the belief that American writing is inherently childish, or that British writing is always subtle and clever. American writers can create intelligent plotlines, and British writers can write fart jokes; it’s down to the individual and their intended audience, not what border they were born within. Sometimes a big explosion is necessary, most times it isn’t. However, if people didn’t like to see big explosions once in a while, fireworks wouldn’t exist :)

  • guest

    .. I was repelled by the ‘changes to the original’ the first time I watched this episode- but now I’ve seen it 4 times and love it more than Sir Arthur C’s way !

    if that isn’t nutty and unexpected, I don’t know what is. sigh–

    I give full credit to the spectacular imaginations of Gatis and Moffat- and the superb, ridiculously compelling performances of Cumberbatch, Freeman and Scott. WOW!

    my take is that Sherlock’s decisions to rescue Irene and allow himself- however secretly- to acknowledge his own feelings for her.. are born in the moment Irene admits she was not working alone- that Moriarty was the spider at the center of the web..

    Irene admittedly misbehaves on a dangerous scale on an equally dangerous playing field.. she plays cleverly. she toys with power games- literally, symbolically- professionally, personally-

    but Moriarty? operates on another plane altogether- stark, raving mad and evil-

    the moment Sherlock understands Irene was Moriarty’s pawn, forgiving her is a possibility.. (in my opinion!)

    without that fact, I don’t believe Sherlock could have allowed himself to feel anything but icy disgust and anger for her double-cross..

    underneath all his protestations of anti-sentiment, Sherlock really is on the side of the angels.
    Coventry. the idea of Mrs Hudson being genuinely hurt. his loyal friend Watson’s safety. all are precious to him–

    I sympathize with Caroline Z’s reaction “why does Sherlock have to outsmart her?!”

    but in the original Scandal in Bohemia, Irene Adler is happily married. she and Sherlock only have a light-hearted (it’s one of the least violent, least convoluted adventures..), elegant, drawing-room-suitable tussle of wits, and then.. she’s off to begin her new life.

    yes, the BBC version makes Sherlock the victor- but the richness we get, in return for this?! counts for alot.

    we get a real relationship! well.. as real as an unconsummated, almost maddeningly insubstantial relationship can be (-:

    but demmed entertaining !