Studying Sherlock: “The Great Game”

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Blimey, we’re at the end of the series already? I’m going to have to get used to this, a series being only 3 episodes long.

Though admittedly, to me, The Great Game only really feels like Episode 2. While The Blind Banker was definitely a good piece of TV, and possibly even a good episode of Sherlock, it wasn’t the Sherlock I met during episode 1. It was quite traditional and clever, rather than modern and genius. The Great Game is more a continuation of the style and the tone established in episode one, developed further and with a touch of Mark Gatiss. Needless to say, it’s absolutely marvellous. Intelligent, witty, eccentric, modern, mad, this is the Sherlock I fell in love with. This is a new sleuth for the twenty first century, and I absolutely love it.

The thing which impresses me most about The Great Game is its plot. While Sherlock has many claims to fame in terms of how it all comes together, such as its stunning character work (which I shall get to later), it is plot which really makes me go “wow”. The Great Game is packed with so many different cases, so many twists and turns that it’s kind of surprising everything wraps up in a coherent way. A good surprise though. Everything is explained intelligently and with logic, and the conclusion to each case is satisfying and admirably clever. I love seeing how the different cases played out. You can tell that Gatiss is a massive fan of horror here, using wonderful skills in suspense and tension to almost create fear. This episode is beautifully dark, and it’s incredibly gripping. The “I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen” is a reviewing cliche, but sometimes it’s true.

The multiple different cases is something which I really enjoyed about this episode, and something which I felt Gatiss tied up extremely well. Most detective shows only feature a single case per episode, whereas this one features at least four or five. Yes, they are all linked, but they’re all so different and watching each one get solved, particularly the ones in the timed conditions, is beautifully thrilling. Perhaps this is a way to make up for the short number of episodes, as this at times doesn’t really feel like a finale, but I don’t care, it’s brilliant and oh so clever.

This episode also has some really strong character work. Mark Gatiss really gets these characters (he did co create the series after all), and his writing of Sherlock himself is easily the best so far. Maybe because Gatiss is a bit eccentric himself, more so than Moffat is, and is possibly writing with a bit of himself in there, but whether there’s a resemblance or not, its fair to say that Gatiss’ understanding of Sherlock is superb. From the scene at the beginning where he’s too busy correcting the grammar of the criminal he was talking too, Sherlock is written marvellously, and Cumberbatch is on fire. All the other characters are written marvellously too. It’s nice to see Lestrade again, after his sad absence from the last episode, Mrs Hudson remains hilarious and entertaining, I could take Molly home she’s so lovely and sweet, and Mycroft (remains marvellously smarmy and odd. Character work is what sets this series from a lot of other detective series. It’s absolutely marvellous.

This story does feature the best scene so far in the series, which is the scene at the swimming pool. Andrew Scott’s Moriarty is perfect. He’s wonderfully menacing and psychopathic, and a very modern villain to suit the modern protagonist. Scott plays him marvellously, he’s unnerving to watch and he does terrify you in places. Gatiss’ writing is also superb. Again, his passion for horror rings in his writing, the darkness of the character is fantastically frightening. I spent the whole time thinking how good Gatiss would be at writing Missy actually, hoping he does that some day.

The scene is incredibly tense, so tense that I don’t know if I even blinked during those last ten minutes. In that scene alone, I can see why this series is one of the highest rated on IMDB. I don’t recall watching something with such wide eyes before, and by the time the credits rolled, I was literally open mouthed.

Despite all this praise though, I would still call A Study in Pink the better story. Maybe it’s because this one is harder to follow, probably requiring a couple of watches to fully get it. This one is also a tad less (traditionally) enjoyable, and admittedly it doesn’t feel like a finale. Maybe that’s because it’s only episode 3 and episode 2 might as well been a different show. Maybe that’s because it’s not meant to be.

But, overall: Stunning character work, plot, direction and performances. This game certainly is great.

9/10

Episode Ranking
1. A Study in Pink
2. The Great Game
3. The Blind Banker

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