‘The monarchy is threatened by some the emergence of some compromising photographs. Sherlock is soon on the case, and uncovers links with international terrorism and corruption in the British government. But to avert a royal scandal he must best Irene Adler, a woman every bit as brilliant as he is.‘
Fans the world over have been waiting anxiously for Season 2 of Sherlock so they can finally get a conclusion to The Great Game‘s nail-biting cliffhanger. While there is certain to be a lot of disappointment at how things end up playing out, the rest of the episode more than makes up for it.
A Scandal in Belgravia moves away from the standard pattern of a single mystery, instead delving deep into the character of Sherlock Holmes and his relationships with the people around him. Benedict Cumberbatch (Holmes) is on fire in this episode, nailing the arrogant and abrasive nature of Holmes while still showing us a great deal of the vulnerability behind the great detective’s mask. One particular scene at a Christmas gathering shows Holmes’ casual cruelty and weaknesses in a brilliant monologue that will have people squirming in discomfort as they wait for Holmes to realise what he’s actually doing. Holmes is often out of his element in this episode, with his deductive powers being subverted by unwanted emotional distractions.
The cause of Holmes’ many problems is the one and only Irene Adler (Lara Pulver), or ‘The Woman’ as she is more commonly known. As the only woman to ever beat Sherlock Holmes, Irene Adler has been used in countless adaptations, despite only appearing in one story: A Scandal in Bohemia. While A Scandal in Belgravia initially seems to be an adaptation of this story, Steven Moffat’s script quickly moves away from the premise of blackmail into a fast paced story of double and triple crosses that seems disjointed at first until it all ties together nicely at the end. The quick fire structure allows the story to focus on the character of Holmes while dropping all the necessary hints for the big reveal at the end and in combination with Paul McGuigan’s excellent direction creates one of the most compelling episodes to date, easily on par with The Great Game or A Study in Pink.
Unfortunately, while the story was great and Holmes’ character arc worked fantastically, the character of Irene Adler felt a little bit lacking. Her manipulations of Holmes played very well, but the inevitable descent into the damsel in distress role felt unfair to the character. Another off-putting decision was making the character into a dominatrix; it played well for the humour, but felt like it was decided because it was an easy way to make her seem like a powerful woman. It’s one of the unfortunate cliché’s of modern screen that a woman can only be strong if she is sexually dominating. I still really loved the character, but I hope that the writers can add a bit more depth to her if they decide to bring her back to the show.
Overall, despite a few flaws this was an excellent episode of Sherlock, and one of the best episodes of TV in 2012 (all four days of it). I already think that Sherlock is the best adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective and I look forward to seeing the story the writers tell leading up to the inevitable cliffhanger in The Reichenbach Fall in a few weeks.
What I Liked – Fantastic performance by Benedict Cumberbatch. Great character study of Holmes. Looks at the effect that Sherlock and Watson’s relationship has on their lives.
What I Didn’t Like – Irene Adler’s character could have had a bit more depth. Cliffhanger conclusion felt anticlimactic.
Rating – 5 out of 5 (Awesome)
Next Episode: The Hounds of Baskerville