Netflix Review: BBC’s Sherlock (Seasons 1-4)

250px-Sherlock_titlecardThis review is really, really late. It was pretty difficult formulating all my thoughts and feelings about this show into a single post, but I’ve done my best, and I hope you enjoy this review! WARNING: There may be a couple of spoilers in the review below, so please proceed with caution!

You’ve probably heard of Sherlock, even if you’ve never seen it. It’s one of the ‘big three’ fandoms: Supernatural, Doctor Who, and, of course, Sherlock. The series has its ups and downs throughout the seasons, despite having only three episodes per season and only four seasons to speak of, but I’ll do my review season by season in order to capture my feelings about this show as accurately as I can.

Season 1: The Brilliant Beginning

Sherlock begins, first and foremost, as a retelling of Arthur Conan Doyle’s original Sherlock Holmes stories, set in modern London. The very first episode captures an updated version of the story that started it all, A Study in Scarlet, deftly introducing us to John Watson (played by Martin Freeman, of Hobbit infamy), a retired army doctor with a limp and a taste for danger, and the brilliant, quirky Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch of Tumblr fame). I love how John and Sherlock play off each other; practical, unassuming John and wild, unpredictable Sherlock, thrust together as flatmates on the hunt for a murderer. It is, in all honesty, their friendship that really makes the show.

Season 1 really got me hooked on Sherlock, especially with it’s diabolical cliffhanger ending, wonderful acting and production, and quintessential British flare that takes you direct to the heart of London. In retrospect, this season is so much lighter and funnier than many of the later ones, even though there is the dark undercurrent of Moriarty’s schemes to contend with. But it feels like just a fun show about two unlikely flatmates, one of whom happens to be a detective. Not so with Season 2.

Season 2: The Famous Fall

First of all, let’s get one thing out of the way: I only watched two episodes of this season. While I did watch the beginning minutes of the first episode in order to find out how our heroes extricated themselves from the Season 1 cliffhanger, I never watched the rest. This episode, “A Scandal in Belgravia”, while a fan favorite, contains a fair amount of nudity, and that was not something I was very interested in watching. The other two episodes, however, more than made up for this. Episode 2 is a modern adaptation of the famous Hound of the Baskervilles story. I read the original at a young age, dispute my mother’s warnings that it was super creepy, and thoroughly enjoyed it, and I liked this episode as well.

But it is the third episode,”The Reichenbach Fall”, which really takes the cake. To me, it is the height of this show’s brilliance, the best episode of the whole lot. Tense, exciting, with high emotional stakes and an all-to-literal cliffhanger ending that nearly had me in tears, this was the point where the show peaked. It would have been extraordinarily hard to match this grand display of writing, acting, and production skills (the editing is flawless, as always), and, in my opinion, the rest of the show was unable to surpass this episode.

Season 3: The Mediocre Middle

A lot of people love Season 3, and I can understand why. But the fact remains that I simply did not enjoy it nearly as much as I did the previous seasons. It is at this point, to me, that the series begins to go off the rails; what began as a modern adaptation suddenly became more of it’s own entity, it’s own interpretation laced with vastly different story lines and characters. Many fans have remarked that it feels a little bit like fanfiction, and I agree, but I don’t think that this is a good thing. There are some pieces of fanfiction that are so good they come up to the level of, or surpass, the original source material (*cough, cough* Blue Sky *cough, cough*). But that’s just what they are: fanfiction. When the creators of the show start writing their own show like fanfiction, catering a little too much to the fans and making things a little bit too silly or unbelievable, that’s where things go wrong.

Season 3 of Sherlock simply felt like a different show, and not the show I’d signed up to watch. There were moments of it that I did enjoy, of course, but the entire thing seemed a little off. I didn’t like the direction that they took it, but of course this is just my own gut reaction. It was well produced, well acted, and the plot was certainly well written. It just didn’t sit quite right with me.

Season 4: The Fiendish Finale?

No matter my thoughts about Season 3, I was extraordinarily excited when I heard that Season 4 of Sherlock would soon be coming to Netflix. I actually invited my best friend (another Sherlock fan)  over and we ate snacks and watched all 4.5 hours of Season 4 all the way through in one spectacular evening. (Small note: I actually ended up doing a bit of live tweeting during this event. You can find my hilarious commentary collected here.)

Again, Season 4 felt like a much different show from the first two seasons. It was a lot darker, and there was a ton of people hallucinating, to the point that sometimes I wasn’t sure what exactly was going on in the real world, and what was just hallucinations. But it was epic in a way that the first two seasons couldn’t really match, not even “The Reichenbach Fall”. It was also extremely brutal, as relationships and characters I’d come to know and love were picked apart by the writers.

Fans will probably hate me for saying this, and it is a bit of a spoiler, but I feel like the ending was really the ending. The story seems to have been sufficiently wrapped up, and I think to do any more seasons would be forced. It was a long journey, and sometimes a hard one, because the writers insist on doing every awful thing they can thick of to your favorite characters, but in the end I think I enjoyed it very much. I might have to go back at some point and watch it all again.

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

“Top notch! A first rate show. But you do realize that you’re actually the writers, not the fans, right?”

Content note: This show is definitely not for children. Besides a bit of violence and language, there is a fair amount of innuendo (not to mention that whole “Scandal in Belgravia” bit), including tons of people who mistake Sherlock and John for a gay couple, and stuff like that. It’s not rated TV-14 for no reason!

Thank you so much for reading my review! Have you seen Sherlock? Do you have a favorite season or episode? Do you have a least favorite? Chat with me in the comments below!


One thought on “Netflix Review: BBC’s Sherlock (Seasons 1-4)

  1. Pingback: June Monthly Wrap Up | Aria E. Maher

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