Studying Sherlock: “A Scandal in Belgravia”

Sherlock - Series 2

How do you approach a review? From what I’ve found there are two different ways of doing it. The first way is trying to remain as objective as possible. You can never be fully objective, a review is effectively just an opinion and beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but some reviews do argue their cases with thorough analysis. It’s something which is very hard to pull off, but, if you’re intelligent enough, strong cases which are hard to argue against. The second way is to remain entirely subjective. To talk about your own experiences with the matter at hand, rather than a statement on whether it is good or bad. I’d say my reviews tend to fall into the latter category.

However, sometimes it’s not that easy. Sometimes you get matters like A Scandal in Belgravia. Objectively, this episode is, or is close to, a masterpiece. It’s extremely well written, acted, directed, superbly made in all regards. However, I personally wouldn’t call it a masterpiece. While there’s not really much wrong with it, if anything at all, I really can’t put my finger on why I didn’t enjoy it as much as I should have done. I certainly liked it, and I think it’s very good, but I don’t think of it as the special episode a lot of people do.

As I said, I definitely enjoyed A Scandal in Belgravia. It certainly kept me entertained for an hour and a half, and there’s certainly plenty here to like about it.

The first thing which is noticeably excellent here is the characterisation of Sherlock and his relationship with the other characters. Throughout the first series, Sherlock was portrayed as someone who was incredibly blunt, self-centered, incredibly eccentric, and often in his own little world. The characteristics all remain, with Sherlock still being my favourite character in the whole programme, but he certainly gets some more layers. The most interesting of those is his care and companion. The scene in which he realises Molly’s Christmas present is for him is really touching, and the relationship he builds with Irene is a really interesting bit of character development. He grows a lot over the course of this episode, and it’s really sweet to see how he genuinely cares for Irene, in his own little strange way. Irene, of course, being his equal and opposite, played marvellously by Lara Pulver. The chemistry she has with Cumberbatch is brilliant, and it’s lovely to see how they grow as characters together in this episode. Sherlock for the first time here appears as if he is human, and it’s beautiful to watch. Irene Adler is a fascinating character on her own. Pulver is the perfect casting choice for this character and really owns the role.

However, what is really good here is how the character moments here, which are the strong focus of the story, aren’t the only thing about it. This story also has a very Moffaty complicated plot. The case is made up of lines which appear to be throwaway at first, so the way that it all comes together at the end is utterly genius. I must admit that I guessed the “I am Sher-locked” twist, but that’s because I’m sure I have seen it on some mercy, not due to the nature of the script. It’s certainly a very clever moment and one which makes me regret not getting into this series earlier. The case is also quite tense and fun too, and it’s really enjoyable to see how it gets solved at the end.

Production wise, this episode is also superb. The direction is brilliant, and there’s extremely clever cinematography in certain places. The music is good, and it’s extremely well paced too. There’s not really a moment I feel bored or unimpressed, and every minute of its runtime adds something to the plot or the development of the characters. Can’t say that about a lot of things. Not one second is filler.

There’s also some great humour here too. I actually had to pause the DVD after Watsons’ “I always hear punch me in the face when you’re speaking because it’s usually subtext” because I was laughing too much. Again, Moffat’s best humour is his sarcastic and blunt type, and it’s great to get a lot of that here, from other characters as well, as Sherlock.

As I said, there’s not really much I can criticise about it. I must admit I was disappointed that Moriarty left in the first scene, although that said the scene was beautifully quirky, and I thought Sherlock’s nudity gags were a few too many, but apart from that, I got nothing. I think it’s a really good episode, even more so in retrospect, as it has gone up in my mind since writing this, but there’s just something about it that prevents me from calling it a masterpiece. It’s really good, but not a masterpiece in my opinion.

Maybe it’s just not exactly to my personal tastes. Love stories aren’t my favourite even if this one is damn excellent. I don’t know. But I’m hoping this is a story that will improve on rewatch. And to be honest, this not being my favourite episode of the show so far, just goes to show the quality of this series.

And as I haven’t mentioned it before, damn that theme is good. I kinda want it as my ringtone now.

Overall: A brilliant story with some fantastic character work, but one I can’t say I personally love.

8.5/10

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

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