A Scandal In Belgravia
The Hounds of Baskerville
The Reichenbach Fall
Picking up where it left off last year, the second season of Sherlock begins at a breathless pace, building on the excellent work done last year before taking the show in a bold and intriguing direction. With the relationships already established, Sherlock’s second season dives a lot deeper in the psyche of its key characters with Sherlock pushed to the limits multiple times. These cracks of frailty in Sherlock’s perfect character really help humanise him a lot more this time around, contrasting beautifully with the larger-than-life persona the media have now painted him as.
The story opens on the exact scene where the last season left off. Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch) and John Watson (Martin Freeman) find themselves at gunpoint and the mercy of maniacal Moriarty (Andrew Scott) who made his startling appearance during last year’s finale. Following the resolution to this cliffhanger, the season takes a much more conventional and familiar format as seen last year, with the threat of Moriarty an ever-present danger lurking in the shadows. With deeper characterisation and Sherlock himself pushed to the limit multiple times, the second season is far more engrossing than the first and some of this is thanks to its antagonists that really hold their own against Sherlock.
The first episode’s case revolves around a dominatrix called Irene Adler (Lara Pulver) and some revealing photographs. Unable to read her like his other subjects, Sherlock is instantly drawn to this lady and the two have some great chemistry during this episode, especially with Watson caught in the middle of this strange dynamic. The second episode is by far the least endearing and involves a man claiming to witness monstrous hounds in the woods. The third and final episode is quite simply outstanding. A master plan created by Moriarty pushes Sherlock and everyone around him to the absolute limit and this episode in particular is easily the best in this modern take of Sherlock Holmes.
While the cases themselves follow the same conventional format as last season, albeit with a few more twists and turns along the way, it’s the evolution of Dr Watson and Sherlock’s relationship coupled with the higher stakes and memorable antagonists that really makes this season so special. While last year comfortably exuded a more formulaic manner in approaching and dealing with the cases, this time around Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayal of the eccentric genius feels suitably strained; a man pushed to breaking point who could snap at any moment.
Revelling in Sherlock’s newfound exasperation is the unhinged, ever-so-slightly camp, arch nemesis Moriarty. The two have such a great chemistry together and Andrew Scott is an absolute scene-stealer during his theatrical moments on screen, elevating an already excellent finale. It’s quite the surprising end too, closing an absolutely breathless season of entertainment in a surprising way that leaves many questions unanswered going into the third season.
Building on the unique visual design established last year, Sherlock’s three episodes feature a lot more stylistic moments to accompany its memorable musical score. Newspaper headlines flash up on screen, split-screen edits and cuts combine with all of the unique traits associated with Sherlock’s brilliance including text floating around his head as the eccentric genius continues to flaunt his unfathomable intelligence.
With an outstanding finale and a real improvement in both plotting and characterisation, Sherlock’s second season excels in almost every way over the first. While the second episode doesn’t quite match up to the brilliance of the first and third, Sherlock builds on its solid foundation last year to deliver some of the best storytelling since the show’s inception. While some may lament the controversial ending, Sherlock features some of Stephen Moffat’s best writing and combined with the brilliance of its two lead actors, make it a series you really should be watching.
Verdict - 9/10