Recurring character(s): Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch), Dr. John Watson (Martin Freeman), Detective Inspector Lestrade (Rupert Graves), Mycroft Holmes (Mark Gatiss), James Moriarty (Andrew Scott)
Original air date(s): 01/01/2012 to 01/15/2012 (UK), 05/06/2012 to 05/20/2012 (US) DVD Date: 05/22/2012
Rating: Not Rated Running Time: 461 minutes
Note(s): Based on characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
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Review: This second season of Sherlock, an update of the character created by Arthur Conan Doyle and set in contemporary London, offers three new episodes based on the original stories.
Benedict Cumberbatch plays Sherlock Holmes, an increasingly well-known public figure due in no small part to his extraordinary exploits being documented on a popular blog written by Dr. John Watson (Martin Freeman) and his name splashed across the tabloids. He seems to welcome the attention all the while pretending to loathe it.
The first episode, "A Scandal in Belgravia", is based on the original short story "A Scandal in Bohemia". A key element of both the story and the episode is the inclusion of a woman, who may be Holmes's intellectual equal, Irene Adler (played by Lara Pulver). But first, the cliffhanger from the last episode of the previous season has to be resolved. This scene, with Holmes and Watson being held at gunpoint by Moriarty, is probably the only disappointing element of the entire second season. It ends abruptly, with Moriarty getting a phone call and walking away. What follows though, is wildly entertaining, though it should be said that while there is nominally a case for Sherlock to solve, this episode is all about the interplay between Irene Adler and Holmes.
The second episode, "The Hounds of Baskerville", is based on one of only four full-length novels in the canon, and arguably its most famous, The Hound of the Baskervilles. This is probably the best episode of the three, with a compelling mystery for Sherlock to solve. As a child, a young man witnessed his father being killed by what appears to be a supernaturally strong hound. Today, every time he visits the site he is terrorized by a similar creature. Holmes travels to the area, where a secret government research facility is located. It's an ingenious puzzle that he's presented with, one that he solves just barely escaping with his life.
The third episode of the season, "The Reichenbach Fall", is based on the short story "The Final Problem", in which Doyle, tired of the character, killed him off. Similar in style to "A Scandal in Belgravia", there is not so much of a case here as there is a cat-and-mouse game played with James Moriarty, who is played brilliantly by Andrew Scott. It is quite possibly the best performance of any actor playing any character that I've seen in quite some time. As with the source material, Sherlock supposedly dies at the end but — and this is hardly a spoiler since it's been widely reported that the series has been renewed for a third season — he lives on. Indeed, the final scene is one of Holmes watching Watson standing in front of his grave. What will be most challenging for the writers is to come up with a clever way of having Holmes survive his fall from the top of a building. I can only hope they do a better job of this than they did of resolving the first season cliffhanger.
Although it may be hard to quantify, this season of Sherlock may be superior to the already terrific, hard to top first season. The episodes presented here are very different in scope and content, but they do share outstanding performances by the principal actors in the roles of characters familiar to all mystery readers, retaining the qualities that we admire most about them while bringing a new, fresh perspective to them.