Now this is a proper challenge. TV BAFTA nominees were announced this morning and Sherlock wasn’t there for best drama series nor for mini-series either (it’s not entirely clear where it belongs this year since they’ve changed the rules). After spending some time going through the general disappointment trending on Twitter I thought, ok, why then? Why Sherlock is not one of the four best drama series in Britain? And secondly, where the heck is Downton Abbey anyway?
Can it be that in Britain they have four series that are better than Sherlock (and Downton Abbey)? Well, if so, good for them. Considering the mini-series category, This is England ’88 is fine with me, but I haven’t seen the others, so I will have to hold my judgment in the matter of competition here and concentrate solely on Sherlock.
What was wrong with the second series of Sherlock, if anything was wrong at all?
Let’s start by admitting that when it comes to Cumberbatch, my analysis skills may falter. In fact, it took me took two months to work out what was wrong exactly with Third Star, then I was a little quicker with Wreckers, but still needed three weeks. In the end I was able to determine that Third Star is visually interesting and well acted, but the rhythm of the narrative is not climaxing enough to support the emotional load of the last part, making it a little disturbing. When you re-watch it, desperately searching for a structure to help you through the ending, what you find is a bittersweet sequence of episodes which could possibly lead to a harmless open ending. Then the end isn’t harmless at all and you are left there feeling unsettled. As for Wreckers, while I fully appreciate the idea of allowing the viewer to live behind Dawn’s eyes, so to obtain a mimetic experience of the nightmarish but still beautiful countryside, and although I also agree that a horrible truth sometimes is best conveyed through suggestions and glimpses instead of its bare graphic horribleness, still I would have preferred to be informed about at least some basic elements of the plot. Like, what happens to Nick? Is David truly dangerous? As I was afraid I was just missing something, I watched a Q&A with the director and the actors, and the director said that the script was much more fragmented originally, and the actors said they improvised a lot so everyone didn’t really know what the other characters were thinking. After that, two endings were filmed, a happy one and a dreadful one, but none of them seemed to work, so they were both left out leaving the viewer to decide how the film ends. A fascinating experiment, but maybe not an entirely satisfying one. Basically, I blame Third Star for a devastating ending and Wreckers for the lack of one. Still, these two small unbalanced British films are probably better than what you get at your average multiplex this weekend.
Now that I have proved to myself that I can accomplish some kind of analysis of Cumberfilms, let’s go back to Sherlock. Sherlock won a BAFTA last year for best drama series, so it’s not that BAFTA people dislike a 21th century Sherlock Holmes in general, nor this particular 21th century Sherlock Holmes in a good coat and with a short friend. Three actors got a nomination, Cumberbatch as leading character (as usual, it’s the fourth time in his career), Freeman and Scott as supporting character, so it’s not that BAFTA people dislike the acting in Sherlock. The episode Scandal in Belgravia got nominations for craft awards for editing, sound, and Moffat was specifically nominated for writing, so it’s not that BAFTA people were disturbed by the ending of the episode (like I was), worried about some viewers complaining for feeling exposed by nudity, nor annoyed by a boring plot device such as a camera phone.
So what? What what what?
After digging deep, I was able to come up with a couple of minor weaknesses concerning episodes Hound of the Baskerville and Reichenbach Falls.
Baskerville uses the old stupid trick of scaring your limbic system with lights and sounds instead of scaring your entire brain, but this is acceptable because the whole point of the adventure was understanding how your limbic system gets scared and how to use the rest of your brain to solve the situation. Still, the process was somewhat uninteresting, I have to admit, hadn’t it been for the impressive scenery, the great dialogues and the cute dynamics among the characters.
As for Reichenbach, maybe it was politically incorrect to suggest that some employees of some British institutions could be theoretically corrupted by a criminal mastermind who loves wearing Westwood? I don’t know, I’m sorry but I couldn’t come up with anything better. Reichenbach has Nina Simone singing Sinnerman. It’s got Moriarty in a crown. It’s got an hand-in-hand sequence straight from canon ACD. It’s got Cumberbatch hyperventilating on a rooftop overlooking the London skyline. What do you want? Blood? If it’s blood you want, it’s even got blood, the oxygen-saturated blood of said hyperventilating Cumberbatch, spilled on the concrete pavement. C’mon you can’t possibly request more than that for a BAFTA! Ok maybe the blood was not oxygen-saturated because Sherlock faked his death so he supposedly had the blood collected before falling and then used it to fake a wound, but still, in the eyes of poor John that’s Sherlock’s oxygen-saturated blood, as he heard him hyperventilating on the phone and he’s a doctor therefore he knows, and this is bloody heartbreaking, and your argument is invalid.
Is it maybe that two BAFTAs in a row would have been boring?
Really, it’s just that I’m very very curious. What did I miss?