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Sherlock Season Four Reviews and Recommendations

BBC Sherlock looking dazed, confused and fearful with blurry John Watson and Mycroft Holmes in the background

First Brexit, then Trump and now Series 4. Will the nightmare never stop?

Not having seen all of BBC Sherlock Series 4 (life is too short, especially at my age, and we really should reduce the amount of bad and horrible images and trash we lock into our brains and fill it with good things) and having too many serious issues to focus on at the moment (You see, Humans, this is why we can’t have nice things! We forget Why we aren’t suffering from economic collapse, terrorizing regimes, world wars, and disfiguring, disabling diseases like polio and suddenly think “Oh, the Great Depression, WWII, the McCarthy Era and near nuclear annihilation during the Cold War sounded like jolly times of camaraderie (especially if you were a straight, white male), and weren’t Thatcher and Reagan such lovely parental figures taking such good care of all of us and creating perpetual homelessness to allow us to say at least we aren’t homeless?”). So instead I’m providing links to an excellent review of Sherlock Series/Season 4 by Vox (which brings up several points I’ve been making since S3 Episode 3 at the least (okay, I’ve been complaining since Irene Adler in series 2, but the series didn’t completely derail until S3 E3)) and a compilation of reviews by various press:

(for those who didn’t click on the highlighted links above and want the links spelled out for them)

Seriously, you have to be white, privileged and probably male to say in 2015-2016, “Hey, the world is becoming a really scary place for those poor peasants who don’t have a lot of money. I think we should stop writing bright, witty, fun scripts with a sense that all people have some control over their lives and write dark, nasty, self-referential and self-applauding cynical scripts showing the non-wealthy — and psychopathic — that they are just mice to be toyed with by the fat cats.” Hey, Mofftiss, did you miss the history lecture where it was explained that Oswald Mosley and his buddies were wrong? Women are competent, capable humans without being whores, psychopathic killers, psychotic, camp followers, or submissive supporters. People of color and other ethnicities are not just tokens or excluded from positions of power. And a sense of personal control or ability to alter one’s environment, however slight, is a key aspect to successful human societies, and not just sentimental claptrap of unsophisticated and not cool. Cynicism doesn’t make you cool, sensitive awareness to your environment makes you cool.

This is why Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes series is enduring; intelligence, knowledge and persistence pushes back the darkness of ignorance, brutality and privilege. There’s a reason why Vanity Fair (subtitled “A Novel without a Hero” is a darling of the academic classes, but not as universally beloved as The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes or even Hound of the Baskervilles. Hell, it’s the reason why A Christmas Carol is more popular than Bleak House! (Why look. She apparently did read the classics and the literary critiques and yet still likes good television. How odd.)  Soap opera has it’s place, but inspiration is enduring.

Look, a bit of side history that folks have apparently forgotten. “Star Wars” didn’t  remain in the movie theaters for over a year and change the course of film history because the writing, directing and acting were so scathingly brilliant. You have to look at the times and the other movies that preceded it. By the mid-70’s much of the U.S., Britain and Europe were in the throws of declining economies, oil shortages, layoffs, inflation, rising crime and drug use, urban decay, and pretty bleak times. Movies were pretty bleak: Taxi Driver, Marathon Man, The Omen, The Outlaw Josey Wales, Robin and Marion, The Shootist, The Enforcer, Silver Streak (even the comedies were “life sucks and then you die”). There is a reason why Rocky won the Oscar for Best Picture for 1976 that year! I mean, how do you choose among so many depressingly, gloomy alternatives?  I mean seriously. We were ready for something positive! The year before Robert Mitchum is cutting off his finger in “The Yakuza” and that’s considered a positive outcome! On television we’re watching M.A.S.H. show us the insanity of war and laughing through our tears.

And after years of this relentless gloom and doom parade comes “Star Wars!” (it was — and remains — “Star Wars,” people. That’s what my poster says, that’s what my VHS tape says, that’s what my pre-release poster says. It ain’t “Star Wars: A New Hope.” It’s “Star Wars”. Thank you.) A movie that says that a “farm boy,” ne’er-do-well outlaw with a good heart, and an intelligent and plucky princess can make a difference against all odds (and remember “Rocky” won Best Picture just before the release of “Star Wars”…seeing a pattern?). We all went mad. Multiplexes showed it on as many screen as possible, and the lines still went around the mall to buy tickets eight hours in advance of the midnight showings that were tacked onto the schedule on weekends — six weeks AFTER it was released! In dark periods we don’t need — or want — more dystopian stories, we want stories of hope and a sense of personal agency (preferably without too much treacle).

“Star Wars” has endured because we go back to well-crafted stories of heroism and heroic journeys (surely Moffatt or Gatiss studied Campbell at Uni, didn’t they?). Yes, “The Empire Strikes Back” has better direction and cinematography (okay, the best), but we want and need our heroes to learn and triumph — and work for heroic causes!

In Doyle’s stories, Sherlock Holmes did not work out of greed or personal gain (except the pleasure derived from solving complex and interesting puzzles). He worked to increase knowledge (his own and ultimately general knowledge, hence, the monographs) and for justice. Mofftiss forgot this (or never noticed) along the way and present us not with an eccentric hero but with a self-absorbed “lad” (“frat boy” for U.S. readers) looking to stave off boredom and show off.

And just to remind us, I’ve found a couple of fan videos to “Holding Out for a Hero” (FYI, anyone who has links to some of the original ones from the 80’s and early 90’s, especially the mixed fandom ones, that used to show up at MediaWest*Con until you nearly went made from the song ear worm, please post the links below. Thank you!):

(I threw The Avengers in for Heidi and because I like the original Bonnie Tyler version of the song as well.)

Okay, I’ll will now make a noise like a hoop and roll away (the birds and wildlife are having trouble finding enough food in the 6″ of snow out back). Some day I’ll get back to my stack of Sherlock Holmes pastiche novels to review…

BBC sherlock Inspector Lestrade peering around corner tensely

I hope that’s a psychopathic serial killer around the corner and not Mofftiss with a Series 5 script.

 

In All Fairness, He’s a Drama Queen, Too

Benedict Cumberbatch holding a paper sign at the paparazzi next to photo of otter holding leaf over face

If Benedict Cumberbatch starts working with otters, I bet we could solve global warming and achieve World Peace in my lifetime!

The International Business Times has an interesting summery of Sherlock and Sherlock Holmes news and gossip, including some Sherlock Series/Season 4 updates and hints from Mofftiss. Since Mofftiss is already teasing and people are already guessing about what’s to come in Series/Season 4, I’ll throw out a few guesses and thoughts of my own.

Sherlock Series/Season 4 Possibilities

First, I believe that the comment by Sherlock in “Sign of Three” that he loves to dance and then demonstrates his skills, followed by —

“Never really comes up in crime work but, um, you know, I live in hope of the right case.”

— is a tease for “The Adventure of the Dancing Men” where the men really do dance. Mofftiss have already done one of these literal re-takes with “The Naval Treaty” being about a belly-dancer and not a military department. (Although it will mean Cumberbatch taking a lot more dancing lessons since it was obvious he didn’t do the pirouette and his waltzing wasn’t Strictly Ballroom quality — but lovely all the same.)

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A Scandal in Baker Street, CAM

Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes looking out the Baker Street window with Martin Freeman as John Watson

Those women appear to be protesting. John, what exactly is a “male chauvinist pig?”

The Daily Dot has a piece on the growing concerns among a some Sherlock fans that the apparent sexism and misogyny of Steven Moffat ,expressed in various interviews and certain Dr. Who scripts, has taken root in BBC’s Sherlock series, particularly in the ending of “His Last Vow” in Series/Season 3. Now I’ve expressed my sense that Sherlock has been morphed into The Doctor in my Series/Season 3 rant review, however, I’d avoided publicly airing my earlier concerns about the show’s portrayal of key women from the original Canon. So since I’m burning bridges, let’s go ahead and discuss some issues with the women in Sherlock.

[Oh, and do I really have to say SPOILER ALERT?]

The Daily Dot notes:

What has some fans angry is that Sherlock’s interpretation of Milverton’s death completely removes the agency and power of the female character in the original story. An unfortunate occurrence that neatly fits in with Moffat’s track record with female characters in both Doctor Who and Sherlock.

“The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton” is one of the very few examples in Victorian-era Holmes canon where a female character takes practical action on her own behalf, while Holmes and Watson technically fail to solve the case. Milverton, like Sherlock’s Magnussen, is a foe so powerful that it’s virtually impossible to defeat him using Holmes’ usual methods, which is why the story has to end with Milverton’s death. The final scene of the short story is Holmes identifying Milverton’s killer, but tacitly agreeing with Watson to let her get away with the murder because Milverton was such a loathsome figure.

If Moffat and Gatiss had simply said they wanted Sherlock to kill Magnussen because it was a more interesting story for him as a character, or because it provided an exciting development to lead into the next season, it wouldn’t have been a big deal. But the fact that they seemingly couldn’t believe that a woman defeated Milverton only exacerbates their problems with Sherlock fans who already take issue with the way women are portrayed in the show. Links to the interview are already spreading on social media…

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You’re Disappointed In Me — Sherlock Series 3 Review

…don’t waste your time and ours hooting at crap! Go after the good stuff, or leave it alone.”

— Daniel C. Dennet, Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking, “Sturgeon’s Law”

You're not the only one depressed right now, Sherlock.

You’re not the only one depressed right now, Sherlock.

Because Sherlock is not (was not?) “crap,” I am compelled to share this review, even though I know it won’t make any difference in what is going to happen in Series 4 and 5. I feel in all fairness, though, I must warn you, that, in the words of the divine Miss Bette Davis, “Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.”

First, before I go any further, let me say that even though my comments on episodes 1 and 2 are brief, it’s not due to lack of appreciation. I have not had television reception for 13 years, but purchased both a wide-screen plasma TV and installed minimal cable just to watch the episodes, and then held rather elaborate Sherlock Series/Season 3 parties for the event. I do not regret a penny spent. Sherlock Series/Season 3 Episodes 1 and 2 were incomparably wonderful, nonpareil storytelling in an expanding Sahara of television.

We’ll get to episode 3.

SPOILER ALERT FOR THOSE WHO DON’T REALIZE A REVIEW WILL HAVE SPOILERS

“The Empty Hearse”

I thought “The Empty Hearse” was a brilliant send up of all the post-Reichenbach Fall hysteria, in the original meaning of the word,  which was very reminiscent of the reaction of the reading public when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle killed off Sherlock Holmes in “The Final Problem.” (By the way, Holmes first fans had to wait 10 years for his return.) It was witty, thought provoking, and gave fans some much needed catharsis, as well as poking a bit of biting fun at the excesses it skewers. There was plenty of angst, but there was a great deal of good natured fun with the characters, and just enough mystery and deduction to  make it an actual Sherlock Holmes story, and not simply an homage to fan fiction.  (People forget that “The Empty House” also focused more on Holmes’ return then on the mystery.) Hearse, however, is not necessarily comfortable viewing for those who don’t like facing a bit of self-examination or non-traditional television. And not particularly satisfying, or undertandable, for “mundanes,” i.e., non-fans. But then freshness and originality is what made Sherlock such a success!

“Somebody loves you! If I had to punch that face, I’d avoid the nose and teeth too.”

—Irene Adler, Sherlock, “Scandal in Belgravia”

Fans of the series got John not just punching Sherlock in the face, but fans of the Canon got a nod to the John Watson originally fainting, when Sherlock reveals himself, in Freeman’s masterful performance of a man willing himself to stay standing and conscious. The acting was, if anything, even better than the previous episodes, and I was struggling for some decorum while inwardly bubbling at Benedict Cumberbatch getting to show off his comedic chops (little did I know then what was to come).

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Holmes and Watson: The Adventure of the Iconic Relationship

The following is a little (“Sarcasm?” “Yes.”) monograph on the philosophy of friendship. Apparently, I was channeling Sherlock Holmes (although my inner-Watson felt the need for a little levity). So I suppose I should put an academic warning on this…
Martin Freeman as John Watson and Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes sitting on a bench

Is the enduring appeal of John Watson and Sherlock Holmes in their complete friendship?

When Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote A Study in Scarlet it’s doubtful he realized that he was creating one of the most iconic relationships in literature. With adaptations of the characters appearing onscreen and in print at a near geometric pace, in everything period pastiches to openly labeled alternate universes, Holmes and Watson have replaced David and Jonathan in the 21st Century as a shorthand reference to an everlasting and extraordinarily close friendship. But what makes the friendship so appealing that a hundred years later we are still fascinated with them? How do they epitomize the philosophic ideal of friendship? And what, if anything, do the permutations of the relationship and the characters say about the culture in which they were created and re-created?

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That Bit of Rug Still Shows Some Sign of Three

Just a few quick notes and links. For some really spiffy ones, you might want to check out Anne Zanoni’s Airel’s Miscellany… a la Sherlock and there’s a new site filled with informational resources (growing by leaps and bounds and the sleeplessness of its author) called Guide to Sherlock Episodes and Characters by Barbara Warne.

Word of Warning If You Are Viewing “Sign of Three” For the First Time This Weekend

To avoid choking or spewing, I recommend that first-time viewers NOT drink any beverages during the episodes. Seriously. Each time you think you are going to be safe to take that big gulp, you’re at risk of having things go down the wrong pipe or be shockingly ejected in a wide dispersal pattern (I believe I have found and cleaned everything from the party at this point, although the micro fleece afghan may never be the same. I’m so glad I served champagne and not the red wine!)

While I’m curtailing my Sherlock and Sherlock Holmes fannish spending to optimize my U.K. Invasion funding (%%$%#$$#%  Taxes!), I suspect the nerd and geek in me will not be able to avoid buying the  Sherlock App for my iPad.  There’s a full review and details on Sherlockology here. Who wouldn’t want to be part of Sherlock’s “Homeless Network?” I mean you never know when you might be called upon to help stage a fake suicide, right? But even more exciting is that there are supposedly 10 new mysteries that you get to solve. Alright, Alright, I confess. They got me with the news that there will be some exclusive new footage of Cumberbatch and Freeman as Sherlock and John included as well. The app is a joint venture of The Project Factory and Hartswood Films and should be available now from your UK App store. Supposedly an international and Android release are coming. (You know, it would really be lovely if corporations grasped the fact that these days things need to be released world-wide at the same time because we are connected world-wide and that not doing so only causes people to have to fake IP addresses and engage in behaviours they ordinarily wouldn’t. Just saying…)

And finally, here’s a charming video from CBS about the lasting power of Sherlock Holmes with some nice shots from the Atlantic Sherlock Holmes Convention, some historic footage of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and some lovely interview bits with Lucy Liu and Johnny Lee Miller from Elementary — oh, and a brief segment on all the naked Sherlock Holmes of late (that got your attention, didn’t it?).

 

 

 

If Someone Could Move Watson’s Glass Slightly Out of Reach That Would Be Lovely

5136753-low-sherlock-6442890Horribly depressed, And it’s not just the champers. Or the Seasonal Affected Disorder. (Are we ever going to have sunshine again?) All the papers are raving about “His Last Vow,” calling it the “perfect” ending for the series. I think the shark has been jumped. I think we’re seeing the Dr. Who plot formula migrating to Sherlock, complete with inchoate plot lines and schizophrenic characters and a general assumption that all the viewers suffer from short-term, and definitely long-term (assuming you consider 4 years long term), memory loss. Weeping angels are a hit. So let’s have more weeping angels.  Someone blinked. Alas, I can’t. Am going to finish the bottle of champagne from the Sherlock Party on Sunday and curl up with a good book (perhaps The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes) and try not to think about all the many plot holes, continuity issues, and cheap pandering in “His Last Vow.” Maybe I”ll watch “Sign of Three” or “The Empty Hearse” again. Those were good. Perhaps I can treat “His Last Vow” like the Star Wars Prequels and just ignore it.

I’ll have so more champers and maybe I can kill enough brain cells to watch Vow again without a running commentary of the plot problems… or maybe I could drink enough champers to become a Romanticist and not care about the plot and character problems… No. There’s not enough champers in France and California combined for that.

 

 

OOh, Look, Sherlock! Lots of Treats For Fans

Benedict Cumberbatch as BBC Sherlock in black coat for series 3

Where the hell is that bloody cable installer? I’ve got to hook it up to the hard drive and test the video feed before John gets back.

Just a quick post of links to some yummy things to keep us going and as compensation for those of  us who do not live in an area where we can watch the BBC Sherlock Series 3 on New Year’s Day. (After 13 years with no TV reception, I am waiting for the cable installers to arrive and give me Local Basic Cable for obvious reasons. Please, don’t tell them that I’ll be canceling it after February…)

First, if you think we’ve been inundated with Sherlock Holmes recently, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet! A U.S. judge has ruled that most of Sherlock Holmes canon is now in the public domain (not including John Watson’s second wife, however…). The ruling came as the result of a civil action brought by author and editor Leslie Klinger (the New Annotated Sherlock Holmes) and states that elements of the Sherlock Holmes stories written by Doyle prior to 1 January, 1923 are now in the U.S. public domain. There’s a very well-done article in the New York Times here.  

There’s another one that makes a nice distinction between the stories being in the public domain and the characters and story elements being in the public domain at the Wall Street Journal (which makes sense given the financial implications). And if you’ve a legal frame of mind, the blog TechDirt dices the ruling into judicial slices for you. There’s another article at The Hollywood Reporter that also digs into the ruling and its implications for creatives (writers & filmmakers, natch).

The Doyle estate argument definitely was a weak one for the U.S. courts where a fine distinction between “flat entertainment characters” and “complex literary characters” is not likely to be recognized. (I’m writing that with a straight face. No, really, I am… Okay, there was a little sarcasm in my head and there was maybe a little wink-wink-nudge-nudge going on when I typed “recognized.”) While I expect a veritable flood of Biblical proportions of Sherlock Holmes creative (and I use that term in its loosest sense) to deluge my in-box and the internet, it should be noted that an appeal of the ruling is possible (I’d say likely since otherwise the Doyle estate has basically lost all of its U.S. licensing income immediately, as opposed to at least delaying the loss by another couple of years).

But don’t expect to see a flood of BBC Sherlock fan fiction getting published on Amazon any time soon (well, not unless they pull a 50 Shades of Grey and scrub the serial numbers off with different names, et al). BBC and Team Sherlock made it clear when Elementary was being bantered about that they intend to “protect the interest and wellbeing of our offspring.” A reasonably polite way of saying they’ll sue the trousers and pants off anyone who tries to cash in on their work.

Photo Spoiler Alert: Stop Now If You Don’t Want to See ANYTHING from BBC Sherlock Series 3

Second, there’s a lovely bit of fun on PBS to attempt to quell the riots until the 19th January. It’s called Unlocking Sherlock, and if by chance you haven’t seen it, you should. Mark Gatiss has quite a lot of fun chewing up the scenery as he reads excerpts from Arthur Conan Doyle’s original work, and Steven Moffat is rather charmingly mellow and candid as he talks about Sherlock Season 1 & 2, particularly A Scandal in Belgravia (he admits that his Irene Adler is not a nice person and does some incredibly horrible things during the episode — and that Sherlock is chillingly cold-blooded when he saves Mycroft’s bacon and roasts Adler at the end). And then there are all of those behind-the-scenes clips we hadn’t seen before and the bits with Cumberbatch and Freeman (my gosh, Cumberbatch looks so thin in those clips (and pale)! I want to make a giant pot of Tom Kai Gai (Thai chicken soup) and an entire bakery of goodies and go feed him! Eat! Eat!  Take a little nosh, bubeleh! )

There’s a nice interview with Moftiss (Steven Moffat & Mark Gatiss) about Sherlock Series 3 on ScreenRant.

There’s a whole slew of new official pictures from Sherlock Series 3 released. YOu can see the complete gallery on PBS here. But I’ve grabbed a few faves and posted them below just because the boys look so fine. Continue reading

To Quote You, Sherlock, I Got It Right.

Empty hearse with flowers spelling out 01-01-14, the air date for Sherlock Series 3, Episode 1 in the UK

I hearse you were coming back. Why do I think this promo idea was dreamed up by Mark Gatiss?

I’ll refrain from doing a Sherlock-like gloat… Okay, I can’t help it. I was right. I correctly deduced that Sherlock Series 3 would air 1 January, 2014 in the U.K., giving Moffat and Gatiss the double Holiday punch of a Dr. Who Christmas and a Sherlock New Year’s. There’s a very nice piece, with photos, on the Guardian site here.

Benedict Cumberbatch as BBC Sherlock in deerstalker and coat with sour frown on his face

My sentiments exactly, Sherlock, over the change in plans. Now where can I find an otter who looks like he’s sucking lemons for my desktop?

I am, however, only mildly consoled in my grief that my U.K. Holiday Invasion was canceled due to circumstances beyond my control (although, if I wasn’t already committed to classes starting the following week, I’d seriously consider doing damage to a credit card and fulfilling several items on my “bucket list” in one fell swoop to the London). Meanwhile, I am questioning the psychological affect of the delay in Sherlock Series 3. I find myself unreasonably cheered and excited by a new blog post appearing on the official John Watson blog site. I’ll refrain from commenting on the comments, since I don’t want to have to deal with any spoiler alerts (there are people in developed countries who don’t know who Mary is, seriously?), however, the blog post ties in nicely with the social media teaser video (below) and the hearse promotion.

 

No, Thank You, Ms. Adler. I’m Already Tied Up.

As some of you may have noticed, I’ve been a tad busy lately — and I fear it’s going to continue at least until the end of the year. I am, however, hoping to move Sherlock Cares to a new hosting service and definitely a new theme. The old one is no longer supported by the developer and I’d rather build my own theme than wrestle with any more 3rd Party issues. For one thing, I plan to do some simplification and speed optimization (I’ve been taking a few classes online to hone the brain and update the coding repertoire). I’m also wrestling with the fact that Google appears to be under the influence of Moriarty’s Minions (or possibly is being blackmailed by Charles Augustus Milverton) and is making RSS news feeds, particularly on specific subjects like Sherlock Holmes, problematic. I’m toying with the idea of writing a program to parse a Google news results pageview and then feeding it into my site, but I’m not certain I wouldn’t rather spend the time writing some new fanfic (and non-fan fic). 

I’ve also been re-reading the Canon (inspired by the visit to The International Sherlock Holmes exhibit presently at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry) as well as quite a few spin-offs and pastiches. I hope to get some book reviews and recommendations posted soon with some suggestions for Holiday Gift Giving to share Sherlock Holmes with the world.

Martin Freeman as John Watson and Benedict Cumberbatch as BBC Sherlock Holmes reading pages over someone's shoulder.

Oh, look, Sherlock! We made the Nice AND the Naughty List this year.

I’ll be re-posting the Sherlock Gift Tags PDF from last Holiday Season and coming up with a few Holiday gifts as we work our way towards the Big Day.

Here’s wishing everyone in the U.S. had a Happy Thanksgiving and a lovely Holiday Season of Sherlock Holmes.

 

Sherlock Season 3 Update Notice

CIA Agent in BBc Sherlock A Scandal in Belgravia with mouth taped shut

When Sherlock says he doesn’t want spoilers, he means it! If you feel the same way, don’t read Sherlock Season 3 Spoilers, Sweetie or Guides and Guesses.

Just a quick note to let everyone know that I’ve updated the Sherlock Season 3 Spoilers and Guides and Guesses posts with the information gleaned from the San Diego Comic Con panel and the BBC title teaser. Remember, don’t read if you don’t want any speculations or spoilers of any kind.

Latest update is Sherlock Series 3, Episode 3 villain announcement by Sue Vertue and what it might mean in terms of plot.