Friday, January 31, 2014

New Sherlock!

Just a quick thought tonight. Light Sherlock S3E1 Spoilers ahead. I finally talked Muscles into sitting down and watching the new Sherlock with me. I loved it unreservedly - it was everything I wanted, which was essentially more of what I loved about the first two seasons. I laughed, I gasped, I raged, and I was happy to be back. But something struck me a few hours later: I think I finally understand why people are complaining about Moffat re: Doctor Who. Now, I say this as someone who has watched barely a handful of Eccleston-era Who and nothing since, but who hangs around a lot of Whovians. And the buzz on my radar lately - especially right after the big anniversary episode - is that Moffat is ruining Doctor Who by eliminating the emotional stakes. I've read a few compelling rants and blog posts to that tune, but having no context, it was just people venting on the internet.

But I think he did it with Sherlock, too. And I don't even mean the fact that Sherlock doesn't really die, because we knew that, and in the episode the emotional stakes are extremely high when it's revealed that he ISN'T dead. And I don't even mean the return to status quo and forgiveness for his deception, because the show couldn't really move forward without it. But everyone gets forgiven or in some way backhandedly vindicated. At the end of last season, there was this great moment where we see Mycroft get hit with the realization that he's responsible for his brother's death. It's a half second, but a powerful one, where we see this smart, detached guy facing a huge consequence for his meddling.

But that great moment is just as quickly erased in the first episode of the new season. The context of what happened is subtly rewritten, just a quip, but it takes away Mycroft's guilt completely. It's an easy way to bring their relationship back to the way it was, sure, and the relationship looks to be developing in interesting ways. But erasing that moment in retrospect, I think, dos a disservice to the show. Neither Sherlock nor Mycroft ever really have to pay for the consequences of their game-playing, and the people who do pay the heftiest price (namely John) never really get vindicated. The closest Sherlock gets to genuinely apologizing is a gag, and that's agonizing. Martin Freeman plays Watson's inarticulate rage so perfectly that it's almost painful to watch, and yet, without honest apology or explanation (and only the barest hint of remorse on Sherlock's part), we're back to the status quo.

Now, do I think this ruined the show? No, because really it's all perfectly in step with Sherlock's character (and, really, to a certain extent John's). But even with only a few episodes of Doctor Who under my belt, I realize that show is a different beast, where Sherlock's asocial anticking would be out of place, and the value of empathy is higher - where devaluing emotional impact and eliminating consequences would undermine the whole point of the show.

Which is interesting, to me - that what ostensibly makes one highly beloved show so successful is maybe the same thing that's ruining another one. Thoughts?

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