For the most part, I’ve really liked the BBC series Sherlock. Benedict Cumberbatch makes an excellent Sherlock Holmes, and Martin Freeman is definitely my favorite Watson ever. The two have great chemistry, and I’ve enjoyed watching the old stories get re-imagined in a modern setting.
Also Lara Pulver as Irene Adler? Oh, be still my beating heart.
Unfortunately, there’s one big bone I have to pick: Moriarty. I’m sure Andrew Scott is just doing his best with the script and the direction he’s gotten, but I just loathe Moriarty as he was played in season 1 and 2. To the point that the two episodes he was involved in, I actually had a difficult time focusing enough to watch.
It’s boring. Annoying. To the point that even Benedict Cumberbatch being awesome isn’t enough to keep me from scrolling through Twitter.
Now, for all Moriarty gets massive lip-service as a villain, he’s really not the most arresting figure in the source material. I’ll admit that. He’s only in two short stories and one of the novels (The Final Problem, The Adventure of the Empty House, and The Valley of Fear) and he also loses a lot of potential oomph just because he’s always being described by someone else rather than being directly observed by Watson. So I suppose you could say there’s maybe a little too much interpretation possible for Moriarty.
Though one thing does come through I think – there’s a sort of cold menace to him. In The Adventure of the Empty House, Holmes speaks of “reading an inexorable purpose in his grey eyes.” Inexorable. That’s the bit that’s supposed to make Moriarty scary. He’s as smart as Holmes, but without the detective’s (at times questionable) morals and an arachnid inhumanity to him. He ought to be terrifying, yes, because he’s so in control of the situation. The man ought to breathe menace from under a veneer of civilization.
Instead, we get shrieking, overtly crazypants Mortiarty.
We knew what we wanted to do with Moriarty from the very beginning. Moriarty is usually a rather dull, rather posh villain so we thought someone who was genuinely properly frightening. Someone who’s an absolute psycho.
Okay, I get wanting to avoid posh and dull. I am completely on board with that. I can’t say I’ve ever really encountered a Moriarty that I felt was properly menacing. But note menace is not necessarily best achieved via hysterics. And if I wanted to feel even vaguely threatened by the caricature of a psychopath, I’d go watch a slasher movie. At least in that, I can find the threat from someone with such obvious impulse control issues a tad more believable as rapid stabbing occurs.
What really bugs me is this isn’t the first time in a BBC series menace has been badly replaced with histrionics. Remember me bitching up and down about The End of Time? Yeah, one of the things that annoyed me to no end was that they took the crazy knob on the Master, turned it up to 11, and gave him a glow-in-the-dark comedic skull for a head. The Master was at one point a wonderful villain, and he actually didn’t start out too bad in the new Doctor Who series. Then it just sort of went off the rails and he spent all of his time mugging and shrieking.
That’s really what Moriarty felt like, except he was never on the rails to begin with. I could not find it in the least bit believable that he’d orchestrated a series of immensely complex crimes whilst frothing at the mouth. And worse, I just found him boring, because he had precisely one villain setting – over the top – and there’s a very limited amount of scenery chewing I’m willing to accept from something unless I’m specifically watching it because it’s bad.
Please, Steven Moffat. Don’t turn into Russell T. Davies on this one.
Spoilers below, even though you should totally already know what happens with Moriarty and if you don’t, go read the short stories already.
At this point I’m hoping that since this was Reichenbach Falls-ish, that means Moriarity is well and truly out and we’ll never see him again. As I said before, he wasn’t in that many of the original Sherlock Holmes stories to begin with.
But oh! This is another thing that bugs the hell out of me about that episode. I actually thought it was interesting that there was the Moriarty framing Holmes as a fraud sub-plot, particularly since one of the scholarly proposals regarding Moriarty’s existence is that he’s actually someone Holmes made up to excuse a series of cases he messed up – among other rather weird and twisty theories. So that was fun. But then Moriarty shoots himself in the head because he’s so utterly crazypants and hates Holmes that much and what was that even. It made absolutely no sense.
And gosh, I hope that it’s not a plot twist that will allow him to be brought back because I really do want to enjoy watching Sherlock and not just using it as enhanced time to read blog posts on my phone. Bring back Irene Adler instead, please. She was much more interesting as a character.
Hm. Thought for another day – parallels between this Irene Adler and Catwoman as seen in The Dark Knight Rises?