TV Review: Sherlock, His Last Vow

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So that’s it, our winter fling with Sherlock is over! But what a finale, “His Last Vow” has everything; intrigue, misdirection, revelations and mystery. After last week’s episode which received mixed reactions from fans, Episode 3 sees Sherlock back at the height of its powers.

We finally venture inside Sherlock’s mind palace in this episode in a dream sequence to rival David Lynch, the place where Sherlock keeps all his memories and knowledge stored away in rooms is not always the sanest of places. Here we not only encounter his younger self, but his childhood dog, a much more malevolent version of his brother Mycroft and most disturbingly Moriarty enclosed in a padded cell but very much alive and as mad as ever. This whole sequence takes place in the 3 seconds of consciousness Sherlock has after being shot, it is a brilliant mixture of science, humor and Sherlock brilliance. Stylistically it is great with Molly appearing as the scientific version of his psyche and Mycroft popping up to remind him how stupid he is being, all this is done with an effortless cinematography that reflects the erratic nature of Sherlock’s mind. His descent down the staircase of his mind palace intersperses these scenes and it is only when in the hospital, when agonizing each step back the winding Parisian flight of stairs corresponds with a heartbeat, that you can appreciate how hard Sherlock is willing to fight to save his friend John Watson.

To the biggest reveal of the episode and even the series … look away now if you have yet to watch it!

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There’s something about Mary. Mary Watson nee. Morstan is not what she seems; the clues were always there, she recognized the skip code, she has no family, and she can rival Sherlock keeping up with his weirdness. Even so, this was one mystery the audience was not really trying to solve. The writers have so cleverly introduced Mary into our hearts, she was perfect for John and a brilliant witty rival to Sherlock that it almost feels like she has betrayed us as we see her standing there gun to the head of Magnussen. We still don’t really know who or what she was, assassin seems the most logical profession given what Magnussen sees in his file but nothing is spelled out. The knowing and not knowing is used brilliantly to maintain and even increase our respect for Mary as she runs from this dangerous past life, had the facts been spelled out plainly it would lend her character a more controversial edge that wouldn’t really suit the tone of the program.

Magnussen is perhaps the biggest red herring the program has ever attempted to slip by us, and it worked! Built up as a Moriarty type figure, brooding in the background and controlling the attacks on Sherlock and John, but as it turns out he was simply fodder to bring out the amazing truth about Mary. While he is certainly important to the plot, he is mainly there as a distraction and a conduit for action. Clearly set up as a Rupert Murdoch figure, he is designed to be hated. With files on every important person in the country, Magnussen even has Mycroft running scared. It is with Magnussen that the shows real twists and turns manifest themselves, with          Sherlock gambling his freedom and the security of the state on Magnussen’s “vaults”.

While this episode was certainly high in drama, it didn’t lack comedy. Curve balls including Sherlock having a girlfriend, and perhaps less shockingly being found in crack den serve to lighten the tone of the show. The introduction of Sherlock’s thoroughly ordinary parents was a stroke of genius and Christmas at the Holmes’ is quite a treat.

“His Last Vow” has been known to fans for a while as “His Last Bow”, leading internet theorists to conclude this would be the final series but happily they were mistaken. With the reappearance of Moriarty on every TV screen in the country Mycroft his forced to call Sherlock back from his exile after the events surrounding Magnussen’s “vaults” setting us up nicely for another series.

This third series of the show came back with a bang, faltered slightly in the second third but then came through for a triumphant finish in a finale to rival “The Reichenbach Fall”. As usual every episode was brimming with English acting talent, comedy and drama and even Episode 2 which was commonly held to be a little below standard was brilliant compared to other trudging crime dramas. Just a year wait this time, but I have a feeling it’s going to be a long year with the mystery of Moriarty hanging over us!

 

TV Review: Sherlock, The Sign of Three

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The second episode of Sherlock focused more on comedy and the building of characters and character relationships than any episode thus far. Based around the wedding of Watson and Mary, the show has chosen to shake up its format slightly; rather than the linear storyline that we usually enjoy The Sign of Three is formatted around a series of flashbacks to previous cases all presented by Sherlock during his best man speech. While it is admirable that Stephen Thompson has the courage to try something new with a TV show that has such militant fans, he unfortunately fell a little short this week.

Somehow the flashback sequences weren’t strong enough to carry an audiences attention in the same way the usual story-arc can; the use of multiple short stories is definitely strong in the history of Conan-Doyle’s detective but these stories just didn’t come together in a clever enough way to countenance such a radical change in formula.

While the format was clunky there were some stand out sequences, particularly the stag night. Sherlock . . . on a stag night – it’s better than you could ever imagine. What starts out as a night driven by a mathematically worked out alcohol intake ends with Sherlock and Watson drunkenly out on the case of a ghostly boyfriend. Cumberbatch and Freeman are hilariously accurate as a drunken duo, their bleary eyed concentration matched only by the brilliant composition of the shots with half the screen often out of focus, fading in and out in line with the duos drunkenness.

Despite his self proclaimed “high functioning sociopath” status Sherlock rises to the challenge of being best man admirably: YouTubing napkin designs, arranging seating plans and interviewing (and intimidating) ex boyfriends. All of which is done which the usual Sherlock awkward brilliance.
The Sign of Three is one of the funniest episodes of Sherlock so far, so it’s a shame that the dramatic elements fell so flat with a frankly weak murder plot made even weaker by the fact that 40% of the people I watched it with got it way before Sherlock!

Mary Marston, however, really came into her own in this episode, Abbington’s flawless (and unsurprising) chemistry with real-life partner Freeman made the episode for me – perhaps overtaken by Mary’s effortless manipulation of both Sherlock and Watson, always in their best interests of course! Her easy charm and unflappable nature make her a more that welcome addition to the team.

Though episode two was more patchy than usual, a strong comic stream runs through the whole episode and the style of the whole piece is as innovation and intriguing as ever but the flashback formula just didn’t gel. While the seemingly inconsequential anecdotes Sherlock throws out in his best man speech do come together to form a bigger picture, the writer has perhaps not been clever enough neglecting to lay the breadcrumbs for the audience to follow. While the bigger, more obvious murder plot is playing on the audiences mind the less interesting ones fall away leaving the big reveal with a feeling of unwelcome familiarity – none of the information is entirely new. The whole episode was very much like having a McDonalds meal – thoroughly enjoyable while eating but twinged with a sense of disappointment after you’ve finished. While the episode was very entertaining, the unraveled murder plot left more than a few questions unanswered when looking back.

SHERLOCK IS BACK!!!

Ok so before my review proper I need to have a little fan girl moment to say “Arghhhhhhhhhhhh Sherlock is back!!!!” . . . OK overexcited moment over on to the professional bit.

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**Spoilers**

Sherlock’s back in with a bang in the first episode of this the third and much awaited series of the BBC drama. Everything we once loved about the great detective has returned to our screens, seemingly empowered by his 2 year break Sherlock bursts into our living rooms in a whirlwind of fan theories and swishing overcoats. Embracing the MANY theories as to how Sherlock survived his “Reichenbach” fall “The Empty Hearse” tantalizes audiences by dramatizing a diverse cross section of the theories from the plausible to the more outlandish, fan-fiction inspired but never really revealing the truth about his fall.

This device of drawing the audience into a theory before trashing it is used through out the episode and never gets old, each time the audience willing it to be the big reveal. Writer Stephen Moffat cleverly avoids disappointing anyone by letting the fans dictate what might have happened; he has said in many an interview that the fan theories are far more elaborate and interesting than the truth – so why not embrace that creativity!

The writers of “The Empty Hearse” have us wait a full 10 minutes to see that face, but when we do that little smile of his is enough to wipe away the last 2 years of waiting, wondering and theorizing.

Of course Sherlock is not only returning to us but to John Watson, having grown a grief moustache and moved on with his life Watson is not as pleased as Sherlock would have had him at his triumphant return. In a nice slapstick routine Sherlock dressed as a waiter reveals himself to John only to have John not recognize him. This is followed by a brilliant sequence in which Sherlock is attacked by John in multiple restaurants of descending quality; each of which they are thrown out of before ending up in the street, Sherlock with a broken nose.

Having decided to return to his previous position as Sherlock’s medical consultant/sidekick Watson returns to Baker Street only to be thrown in at the deep end as he is kidnapped and placed in a burning bonfire. Based around Bonfire Night, “The Empty Hearse” features an attack on Parliament and a lot of explosives. 5th November, now known as Bonfire Night is the night in 1605 when Guy Fawkes, a Catholic member of the Gunpowder Plot, placed explosives under parliament in an attempt to kill the Protestant King James I. To celebrate the capture of the terrorists people lit bonfires around London, and so people around Britain still light bonfires and set of fireworks on 5th November. The more sinister use of the bonfire as a live funerary pyre is sure to scar some kids at next year’s celebrations!

The quickly unraveling plot is full of the brilliant stylistic markers we have come to expect from the previous 2 series, the sharp editing, use of overlapping images and above all the fantastic transitionally pieces. The plot is fast paced and moves between emotion, pathos and action effortlessly, a brilliant return for the famous detective.

The 2-year wait has more than paid off; the plot, characters and music all seem like old friends that have been given a new lease of life. The franchise seems reanimated and refocused, and even though the whole thing will be over again in 17 days it’s sure to be a rollercoaster ride of a series with many a new mystery to obsess over.

TV Review: Atlantis, A Twist Of Fate

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Episode four of the BBC’s Atlantis continues with the young series’s adventure, comedy and little bits of mystery. Not a bad but undeniably simple, Atlantisis not going to be winning awards for scripts any time soon. However, the harmless family fun continues.

This week our trio finds an abandoned baby in the woods. After some jostling as to who would look after it, Hercules comes to save the day. With a few of the obligatory jokes that always occur when men are looking after babies–who farted? Oh wait it’s the baby, etc., etc.–we settle into a hunt for the baby’s mother.

A bit of contemporary archaeological reconstruction leads them to a broken pot, which when constructed was a little pig rattle for the baby – this means the mother was obviously coerced into leaving the baby, right? A slight leap, but let’s face it, with 45 minutes to play with we can allow the writers some professional license.

 Read the full review here

TV Review: Atlantis, The Boy Must Die

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Three episodes in and Atlantis finally has my attention. The difficulties I had with the first two episodes, namely the terrible acting and linear storyline, have all but remedied themselves. While Jack Donnelly is never going to win a BAFTA, the vacant look of surprise he appears to constantly wear has become less intrusive and more in keeping with the plot. The increased attention given to other characters is the key to Atlantis’ continuing upward trend.

This week was a week for romance. Not only did we properly meet Ariadne (Aiysha Hart) for the first time, but a sweet burgeoning love story is emerging between Hercules and Medusa (Jemima Rooper). A character we have only previously met in passing, Ariadne, the princess of Atlantis, becomes the catalyst for action. Her affection for Jason have finally come to the attention of others, increasing the punishment for Jason and co’s insubordination towards the Queens nephew, Heptarian (Oliver Walker). Unfortunately for Jason and the gang, not only is Heptarian betrothed to Ariadne, but he is also the “Lord of Poseidon”, a position that allows him special privileges and treatments within the city. Consequently, the slight altercation between him and Jason ends in the boys being sent “to the bulls”.

Read full review

TV Review: Atlantis – The Earth Bull

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Atlantis fills the BBC’s Saturday evening slot, their most profitable time slot made famous by Dr Who. The first episode of Atlantis sees Jason enter a strange parallel world while looking for the wreckage of his father’s submarine. In this ‘other world’ the city of Atlantis is alive and very much above sea level, populated by figures from Greek mythology and living in fear of the Minotaur of King Minos.

The fact that they have gone down the route of setting it in a parallel universe allows the writers to avoid worrying about any historical inaccuracies (of which there are many).

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Episode 2 to follow soon!

New Doctor Revealed

peter-capaldi-640x360So it’s been a while since I posted something, and apparently it takes something as momentous as a new Doctor Who being announced to stop me being lazy!

So with Matt Smith leaving the show after the Christmas Special at the end of this year we see, after a live BBC1 show, that Peter Capaldi (of Malcom Tucker fame) will take over as the shows lead.

With Steven Mofat, the show’s all round creative director, only giving the clue that the new Doctor would be “Different from Matt”; Capaldi seems set to lead the franchise into a whole new era. While personally I was a huge Matt Smith fan, Capaldi’s more advanced years may lend a gravitas to show that will bring back fans alienated by Smith’s more exuberant performance. With a Doctor Who appearance already in the bag (Capaldi appeared in the Fires of Pompeii) the actor must already be familiar with the scale and workings of the show.

While an audition in Mofat’s own home secured him the role, the actor says “I’m like the Doctor himself I find myself in a state of utter terror and delight.”

So overall it’s a thumbs up from Jackanory Reviews, can’t wait for the 50th anniversary now!