John: “So, you don't do...anything?”
Sherlock: "Everything else is transport."
(Scene from the unaired pilot, Sherlock explaining to John why he doesn't seem to sleep with either boys or girls)
So after the first two episodes I went and did a bit of research on the show and it amused me that they couldn't do a lot of shots in the actual Baker Street since the show is set in a modern world where everything is exactly the same as it is today except, of course, that the Sherlock Holmes books were never published, and that street just had too much Sherlock memoribilia on it. Heh.
Anyway. The third episode.
Sherlock: "You read his blog?"
Lestrade: "'Course I read his blog, we all do! Do you really not know that the earth goes around the sun?"
For someone like me, who has no knowledge of the original books, this show is not about the cases. It's about the characters. The writers have managed to fill the episodes - apart for the second one, but that one also wasn't written by either Moffat or Gatiss - with enough character fodder that it takes more than one viewing to catch it all (no, seriously. You have to watch it more than once. And you can't watch it with subtitles either - you'll just miss far too much if you're gonna spend your time reading instead of looking at what goes on onscreen.) And that kind of writing in television is sadly not something you can just take for granted. In far too many shows what you have to look for is the subtext, the things that are not shown on screen, in order to make the characters interesting. This is not that kind of show.
One of the things I like about the show is that while it's a show exclusively about men it's not a very, well, manly show. Even though the character of Sherlock has many stereotypically "masculine" traits, he's not exactly Tom Selleck. Testosteronely speaking, it's not what you might expect from a standard crime show. Instead it focuses on the relationship aspect, and on what is going on inside the characters' heads, which I appreciate, and what we end up with is a soft-spoken, smartly-not-to-mention-expensively dressed antihero who has zero interest in girls, has at least one diagnosis right out of DSM-V and who is, on top of all that, some sort of antisocial super-geek. The show's second main character is a former soldier, but one who suffers from PTSD and has his own therapist. John, unlike Sherlock, is clearly interested in women, but the writers still made a point of leaving the viewers guessing about John by having Sherlock - a man who can tell all your secrets by the way you tie your shoelaces - take one look at John in the first episode and assume he is both gay and interested in him.
And then we have the arch nemesis of the show, also known as Moriarty, also known as a Vivienne Westwood's biggest fan.
John: "So why is he doing this then? Playing this game with you? Do you think he wants to be caught?"
Sherlock: "I think he wants to be distracted."
John: "Well, I hope you'll be very happy together."
The third episode has a few main plotlines in it. The first one, as with the two previous episodes, is about the Sherlock/John relationship. In The Great Game the writers keep having the same kind of fun with the assumption people have about Sherlock and John being a couple as they did in the first two episodes, but all in all it's not really an issue to any of the characters or to the show itself if people think they are more than just friends. Why the writers' keep playing up to it is simply a nod to the fact that this version is set in the 21st century London and today when two men move in together, the assumption that they might be a couple is not a very dramatic one for people to make.
What the show very obviously is trying to explore, is the nature of this very strangely formed bond between two very different people who both, in their own way, really, really need each other. John is going crazy from being too safe and Sherlock is going crazy because no one gets him and nobody is interested in hearing his view of the world except when they can catch a criminal by doing so. When John shows up he immediately starts stroking Sherlock's ego. He finds Sherlock's skills brilliant rather than repulsive, and he openly tells him so. And maybe that really is what starts the whole thing, how he managed the unlikely feat of worming his way into Sherlock's...I'm not gonna say heart but, you know. "Every genius needs an audience."
Cabbie: "Still the addict. But this... this is what you're really addicted to. You do anything, anything at all, to stop being bored."
This line, even though being from the first episode, is this episode's second main plotline. Sherlock is a man bored with the world. He's also a dangerous man, which nearly every other character has deemed fit to inform John of at one point, and there's no telling what he'll do if pushed too far. Of course, John knows this, and it bothers him a lot and he tells Sherlock that it bothers him a lot. Because John and Sherlock are very similar in that they both really, really enjoy the cases and the highs from hunting criminals. Where they differ is the fact that John like any normal person cares about the actual human lives involved, whereas Sherlock doesn't.
That is, he doesn't until we get to the end of this episode. It's the Scene, the Moment, that the episode and the whole show has been moving towards from the very first screenframe. What will happen to Sherlock the first time he has to deal with a threat that is emotional instead of intellectual? And, well, I wasn't disappointed.
And, like I've said before, it's a good thing John is on this show. If he wasn't there would be nothing really likable about Sherlock except the fact that he solves crime, because the show has made it very clear that were it not for a few small variables our so-called protagonist could just as well have been using his skills the same way Moriarty does. After this episode, we now know that one of those variables is John.
I also did a recap-as-I-was-watching reactions of this episode:
Episode 103 The Great Game
- The episode starts. Sherlock is a callous jerk. We knew this already.
- Yes, Sherlock, of course you have to delete some things from your mind if you're gonna keep so much other stuff in there. What is the point of knowing about useless things such as world politics and heliocentricism?
- Mycroft and Sherlock staring at John is disturbing. Somehow you get the feeling that John is the pawn in some sort of childish brother-game of power. Hmm., actually, that's kinda hot.
- Why are they making Molly’s boyfriend so obviously attracted to Sherlock? I mean, you could see it from space. My dog could see it. It makes Sherlock’s conclusion about him being gay pretty unimpressive.
- Speaking of, I don't really get Molly's crush on Sherlock. Yes, he's esthetically attractive and all that jazz, but he's also an uncaring sociopath who looks down on everyone around him with the exception of John, and doesn't try to hide it. Molly just doesn't seem dumb enough to like Sherlock.
- I have to say, this episode is really quite nervewracking. *bites nails*
- Okay, I spotted the whole Sherlock-is-being-callously-unconcerned-about-all-the-hostages-until-it’s-John-when-we-suddenly-get-to-see-him-care-oh-so-much-nawwww coming from the first moment of the first episode of this show.
- Have to say, did NOT see that coming. The scene with Molly's "gay" boyfriend make more sense now. Someone with more brains than me probably guessed it was Moriarty from the start.
- Okay, so the last 20 minutes of this episodes were just really Good TV. Seeing how the whole episode was about how uncaring Sherlock is about other people, I was sure it was gonna be a game of spot-the-tiny-but-significant-signs-that-Sherlock-does-feel-distress-when-John-is-in-danger, but no. He just kind of...lost it, didn't he? Huh.
- Okay, so the next episodes in the miniseries won’t be aired until late 2011. With my attention span the risk that I won’t be interested by that point is pretty high. I so rarely get into TV shows nowadays so why is BBC doing this to me?