Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Summer DVR Dump: Sherlock 2.01: "A Scandal in Belgravia"

“I always hear ‘Punch me in the face’ when you’re speaking, but it’s usually subtext.”
-Dr. Watson

Since Sarah’s deep in the middle of studying for the bar exam, I’m taking over the “Sherlock” recaps for series two this summer. As with series one, Steven Moffat, Mark Gatiss, and crew put a modern twist on three classic Sherlock Holmes stories. This particular one is based on “A Scandal in Bohemia.” Most notably, it features Irene Adler, the only woman who ever seemed to work her way into Sherlock Holmes’ life. In this version of the story, Adler is a dominatrix who makes a habit of collecting secrets in exchange for protection. I thought this was a very interesting choice, although I wish the development had been a bit more of a slow burn. Three sort-of movies a year doesn’t really make for slow-burn storytelling, though. Instead, we have to believe that Sherlock and Irene are just instantly intrigued by each other’s intelligence. I also found the mystery to be a bit convoluted. It took me a time or two of watching to really understand the connection between the boring little cases Sherlock was confronted with in the beginning of the episode and the big case that unearths itself at the climax of the episode. It could be that PBS broadcasts the show late at night, and my brain isn’t quite up to along closely for 90 minutes at that hour. Don’t get me wrong- I found the episode to be enjoyable overall. I just think that the format limits the storytelling somewhat.

We begin this season where the last one left off. Moriarty, Sherlock, and Dr. Watson are still deep in the middle of their poolside confrontation (see what I did there?). Sherlock and Watson are a little more clever with the self-preservation that Moriarty anticipated (Sherlock pulls a gun on him), but ultimately, Sherlock and Watson are saved by the bell. Moriarty’s phone rings (his ring tone is “Stayin’ Alive,” naturally), and Moriarty is more interested in the phone call than Sherlock and Watson. Given what happens in the rest of the episode, I think this call was most likely from Irene Adler, who is about to enter the bedroom of a young, female member of the royal family. We never learn the exact identity of this royal, but you can use your imagination. Writer Stephen Moffat probably couldn’t get more specific for fear of libel.

Over at Baker Street, Watson’s blog is getting our boys quite a lot of publicity and potential clients. Most of the cases are missing person (or missing corpse) cases, and Sherlock finds this horribly boring. Only one case really interests Sherlock. There’s a guy who was supposed to have died in a plane crash, but his body showed up in a car trunk instead. In between this case and a second missing persons case, there’s a fun bit where Sherlock puts on the iconic deerstalker hat to try and hid from the Paparazzi. Clearly that doesn’t go so well! The photo of him in the hat makes him even more popular. Anyway, not long after that photo is released, a very shaken up man shows up at Baker Street. His car backfired, and he found a guy dead nearby in a field. He’s kind of afraid he might have killed him. Sherlock sends Watson to investigate, and Sherlock himself participates via wi-fi. It’s very season 4 “Fringe” Amber Walter and Astrid.

While this investigation is underway, some suits show up at Baker Street and take Sherlock away. AT the same time, a helicopter shows up at the crime scene to take away Watson. The two men find themselves in Buckingham Palace, with Sherlock clad only in a sheet (the suits brought nice clothing for him to change into, but he refuses to change out of stubbornness). Mycroft appears, along with a royal official of some sort, and Sherlock and Watson are told that they are being hired by the Queen to look into a brewing royal scandal. Irene Adler has made it known that she has photos of her time with the young royal. She claims that she only wants protection in exchange for not divulging the photos, but the Queen doesn’t want to take a chance. Adler has been having Sherlock followed, so she knows about this meeting. There’s a pretty cool sequence where Adler and Sherlock get ready to meet each other in parallel.

There’s a funny sequence where Sherlock goads Watson into beating the crap out of him, which was kind of hilarious, mostly because of the exasperated Arthur Dent-like tone of voice Martin Freedman used when explaining to Sherlock that even though he was a doctor in the Army, he had bad days and could still kick some ass. Anyway, Adler ends up greeting Sherlock naked. I think she wanted to throw him off his game, and she does, but not for the reason she thought she would. Because she’s naked, he can’t read any clues off of her. They engage in some flirtation banter about how Adler likes detective stories, and Sherlock successfully finds the safe where she most likely keeps a smart phone with the incriminating evidence. Sherlock is trying to figure out the combination when a group of American commando-types invade and demand Sherlock opens the safe. Sherlock figures out the combo just as the Americans are about to subdue Watson, then Sherlock, Watson, and Adler go about subduing the Americans.

In the aftermath of the battle and before the police arrive, Adler drugs Sherlock and takes her smart phone back from him. Then she escapes. When Sherlock wakes up back in his bed at Baker Street, he has a text from Adler on his phone. Once Sherlock has recovered somewhat, Mycroft stops by. Sherlock mentions that Adler must have something more than just pictures of a royal in a compromising position, and Mycroft doesn’t deny it. We then fast forward to Christmas, where the boys are having a little get-together (“Christmas drinkies” as medical examiner Molly puts it). After Sherlock is inadvertently very rude to Molly, his apology is interrupted by another text from Adler (she’s been texting him consistently since their first encounter). He turns around and sees the smart phone on the mantle, and he suspects this means that Adler is dead (she said she would die without the phone). Sure enough, a trip to the morgue seems to confirm Sherlock’s suspicions.

We next fast forward to New Year’s Eve Day, where Sherlock is still brooding over Adler’s death. Watson goes out to run errands, and he gets stopped in the street by a woman with a limo. He thinks he’s being taken to see Mycroft again, but he’s actually taken to a random abandoned factory. Inside the factory is none other than Irene Adler. She wants her smart phone back. Watson gets her to send a text to Sherlock to let him know she’s still alive. Sherlock had actually been following Watson, and he’s out in the hallway. He goes home in kind of a daze with his newfound knowledge that she’s alive. When he arrives back at Baker Street, he sees there has been a break-in and Mrs. Hudson, the landlady, has been captured. It’s the American thugs again. By the time Watson gets home, however, Sherlock has soundly dealt with them.

Sherlock spends some time at the morgue with Molly, x-raying Adler’s smart phone, oddly enough. When he returns, Adler herself is sleeping in his bed. She wants her phone back. Again. After some especially persistent whining from Sherlock, Adler lets him see what’s on the phone. She hopes he can deciper it. The document turns out to be a plane manifest. From various clues, he deduces that it is the manifest for Flight 007 from London to Baltimore (woot woot!). When Watson phrases it as “flight double-oh seven,” Sherlock has a breakthrough. He remembers hearing Mycroft say “Bond Air is go.” Adler secretly texts Moriarty about this development, and Moriarty subsequently texts Mycroft. Mycroft sends his people to pick up Sherlock and Watson yet again. At this point, Sherlock realizes that the government was planning to let a terrorist attack on the plane happen to avoid giving up the source of their intelligence.

When Sherlock is let out of Mycroft’s limo, he finds himself looking at the jet that is the target of the terrorist plot. He is taken inside, and he sees that the seats are all occupied by corpses. Mycroft appears and explains that the British government had filled the plane with corpses so that no one would actually die when it went down. Now that the plan has gotten out and the terrorists have been informed that the government knows what they’re up to, however, the plan has been scrapped. Back at Mycroft’s office, Mycroft and Sherlock try negotiating with Adler for the rest of the information on the smart phone. She says she had help from Moriarty to learn how to play the Holmes brothers, and I thought that was kind of gross. Sherlock doesn’t end up needing her help to access the information, though. The four letter passcode on her phone is SHER…as in SHER-locked. It’s kind of silly, really.

At the end of the episode, Mycroft meets up with Watson at a café. He informs Watson that Adler was killed by a terrorist cell in the Middle East, but he thinks Sherlock should be told that she’s in a witness protection scheme here in the United States. Watson agrees that this is probably the best way to go, considering how off the rails Sherlock went the last time he thought Irene was dead. Watson tells Sherlock the lie, and Sherlock simply asks for the smart phone back. He wants a little souvenir of the ordeal, I suppose. We then see, in a flashback I guess, that Sherlock actually saved Adler from the terrorists. I would have rather she saved herself, but I guess since it’s Sherlock’s story, that’s okay.

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