Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Sherlock strikes again!

Happy New Year, everyone!

And, with the new year, for all us Sherlock Holmes fans, Benedict Cumberbatch and company have returned with another new episode of the popular BBC series "Sherlock."

Quite a trip!  Quite a piece of writing.  Twisting plot and bizarre settings to say the least.  Where to begin?

It was the deliciously spooky Victorian atmosphere that hit me right off the bat.  The sight of a terrified wife dashing off into the evening fog outside her palatial  mansion, searching for her lost husband in a hedge maze while a mysterious figure in bridal costume lurks in the shadows was a masterpiece of  a scene, I thought.  (Reminiscent of the atmosphere I was trying to project in my short Holmes story "The Arendall Horror.")

A touch of comedy relief was provided with Holmes' trademark icy sarcasm and Mrs. Hudson rebuking Dr. Watson for not giving her a bigger role in his Strand stories.  And, a bit of spontaneous psycho-therapy in the unlikeliest of settings.  Holmes and Watson are staked out in the pitch darkness waiting for a murderer to strike, and Watson picks that moment to play shrink.  "Why do you insist on being alone, Holmes?" he asks.  "Oh, I know, I describe you in my stories as the brain without a heart, and the public eats it up, but I know there's more to you than that."  Is there ever.  This one is a wild ride through the subconscious mind of Sherlock Holmes, Moriarty always lurking in the shadows as the specter that embodies Sherlock's self-doubt.

 The set-up wasn't exactly paranormal, but definitely existential, with unnerving crossovers between the present-day world of Sherlock and the 19th century world of Holmes, the line of reality blurring with nightmarish effect, leaving the audience in doubt as to which time period is reality, and which a cocaine-induced dream.  Blended in are striking clues to the imperfection of reality, like bits of paper hanging in mid-air, and Victorian characters letting slip such temporally incongruent expressions as "virus in the data."

The creepiness level is off the chart, with such indelible images as a double six-gun-packing killer bride who looks like the Joker in drag, and a hundred-and-twenty-year-old corpse rising from the damp, wormy earth.  But, the creepiest scene of all for me was the sight of a bloated Mycroft Holmes scarfing down triple plum puddings (Jabba the Hutt would have barfed!)

Dr. Watson's wife is there, too, with mysterious designs of her own and more than a few tricks up her sleeve.  There's even a touch of socio-political commentary mixed in, with Holmes speaking in support of feminist revolution.

The twists and turns almost got to be too much to bear, but it was always enjoyable.  The writing seemed to sway wildly between the serious and the satirical, and I confess I was sometimes left scratching my head.  You can read this one as a parody of Holmes or an homage, but like a dark, disturbing and sometimes wildly funny dream, it will stay with you, that's for sure.

So much left to explore with Sherlock Holmes, it seems.  "The stage is set, the curtain rises.  And, the game's afoot!"

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