The Lying Detective started and ended with a bang, literally, as two gunshots bookended an episode which contained many of the flaws that have crept into Sherlock but also some of what made it so good in its first two seasons.
Episode two of this fourth series revolved around businessman, philanthropist and serial killer Culverton Smith. Sherlock sought to prove Culverton’s crimes while repairing his relationship with John Watson and coming to terms with his own role in Mary Watson’s death. Also looming in the shadows was the third Holmes sibling, who at episode’s end was revealed to be a sister, Euros/Eurus.
The highlight of the episode was Culverton. Actor Toby Jones brought a disturbing, dirty creepiness to the role – appropriate because the character is unambiguously modelled on Jimmy Savile, the fundraising, much-loved celebrity who turned out to be a monster.
The UK hasn’t really came to terms with Savile. He is probably the most prolific child rapist in British history; a guy who walked through the BBC, hospitals, schools, palaces and political offices dressed like a paedophile and went unchallenged and uncaught.
Once a smart, innovative mystery show, Sherlock has become 30% melodrama, 30% stupid Spooks-like antics, 30% ridiculous, logic-defying twists, and 10% intelligent case-solving. I’m not sure this show is for people who like smart TV anymore ‑ I think it mainly exists for people who like posting hyperbolic reaction gifs on Twitter.
The worst thing to happen to Sherlock, beyond the writers’ insatiable need to force a twist into every plot point and line of dialogue, is Mary Watson, so this episode at least had one thing going for it. Sherlock Holmes is supposed to be an intelligent detective, solving fiendishly clever mysteries with his faithful sidekick, so having a super-secret spy as a third wheel screws the tone up a little. The death of Mary at the episode’s end brings to a close her chapter full of implausible secret agent nonsense.
Sherlock: The Six Thatchers introduced the curious case of Margaret Thatcher statues being broken across the country, something Sherlock thought was connected to Moriarty for some reason, explained away with some mumbo-jumbo about interconnectedness. It turned out they were being broken by a spy, looking for some hidden spy docs inside. Said spy was a former colleague of Mary, who wanted her dead in revenge for an operation gone wrong thanks to a mystery betrayer. Who was that evil traitor? A secretary shown at the start of the episode in a meeting between Sherlock and the UK’s head government and intelligence honchos.
Welcome, then, 2016, and with it, another bi-yearly, sharp, short dose of Sherlock. 2014’s offering was pretty awful, a huge drop on the quality of the first two seasons, the reason for which I went into great depth about here, here and here.
This year we got a one-off special, The Abominable Bride, which was billed as a period piece set in the original 19th century world of Sherlock Holmes. It was instead our 21st century Sherlock dreaming up a 160-year-old version of himself in order to try and work out how Moriarty could be back from the dead, as he appeared to be at the end of series three.
Fargo is a rare-thing in television; a spin-off that is original. Not only original in fact, but arguably an improvement on the thing it was spun-off from.
The series, adapted from the 1996 Coen brothers film of the same name, follows the currently in vogue anthology format (see also: True Detective) where each series is different from the last, featuring different characters and locations.
Sort of anyway, because season one took place in 2006, and season two in 1979, with younger versions of some of the season one characters featured in the second. Lou Solverson in season two becomes Molly’s dad and diner owner in the first season, for instance, while ‘the Indian’ Hanzee Dent gets some plastic surgery and becomes season one’s mob boss Moses Tripoli.
[This article is spoiler free: specific scenes and dialogue is discussed but I’ve kept it as vague as possible. Links to external sites may contain spoilers]
We are, supposedly, in a golden age of television, but with Breaking Bad finished, and Mad Men and Boardwalk Empire taking their final bow over the next year, it’s been difficult to see what great televisual achievement people will be talking about a few years from now. Enter True Detective. Episode one airs on Sky Atlantic tonight, February 22. Thanks to the magic of the internet, I’ve seen the first five episodes of the American show, and it is possibly the most enjoyable first five episodes of television I’ve ever seen.
True Detective follows Louisiana police officers Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) and Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey), as they investigate the murder of a woman ritually posed in a burning field. That synopsis, and the generic title of the show, could well lead you to believe that True Detective is another gruesome police procedural. It isn’t, instead handling its unimaginative-seeming set-up using masterful storytelling coupled with depth, intellect, humour, originality and two outstanding central performances. Below are five reasons in particular to watch the show.
How does a TV show deal with the loss of its main character? There are a handful of examples were shows managed it but in general such a loss spells the end of the show’s successful period. Think of Cheers and in all probability you’ll think of the Shelley Long episodes as opposed to the Kirstie Alley years.
Death in Paradise was never great television, but it was enjoyable enough. It wasn’t trying to analyse the human condition or offer social commentary, but it didn’t use its low ambitions as an excuse for complete stupidity in the writing. Unlike a number of shows firmly in the business of entertaining, By Any Means for instance, it didn’t insult the viewer with utter idiocy. Its weekly mysteries were enjoyable fun and as long as you bought into the set-up the implausible scenarios could be overlooked.
This episode was certainly a lot better than the first two, exciting and fun throughout. It wasn’t a return to form though, and the episode followed the series as a whole in containing major flaws that seriously hurt the quality of the show. The first problem is that the writing contains lots of fragile artifice that falls apart under the slightest scrutiny. The second is that the writers consistently undermine any emotional or climactic scenes in a desire to provide excitement and plot twists. Combined, they damage the integrity and, for anyone interested in something more than a brief rollercoaster ride, the value of the show.
His Last Vow introduced a new villain in media mogul and professional blackmailer Charles Augustus Magnussen. Sherlock was hired by a government official to obtain incriminating letters Magnussen was using to control her. A labyrinth episode followed, with John’s wife revealed to be a former CIA asset and assassin. Sherlock later killed Magnussen, and with it his memory of incriminating information, before relying on his brother to get him off a murder charge.