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PBS Brings Sherlock Back To America

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on May 4, 2012 6:20PM

Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman star as Sherlock Holmes and John Watson

The amazingly named Benedict Cumberbatch returns to PBS' Masterpiece Mystery with Martin Freeman in the second season of the BBC's update of Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock. This iteration updates the story and brings it into new millennial London with Cumberpatch playing the coldly analytical and slightly cruel title character alongside Freeman's tougher and more grounded take on Watson. The shows first season brought the classic character into modern times adeptly by weaving in present-day technology with old school super-sleuthing, and like the original tales, much of the content was of a darker nature than most associate more recent retellings of the Holmes tales. Quite possibly the most welcome update was the casting of Andrew Scott as the sociopathic arch-enemy of Holmes, Jim Moriarty.

The new season's three episode arc is a little rockier than the first season, and this is partially due to the necessary character development that always follows the initial thrill of a first meeting. Moriarity is far more a physical presence this time around and he consumes all of the scenery around him in a way that make you never want to see him leave the screen. This time around, though, Holmes meets a close second Moriarity's villainy in Lara Pulver's dominatrix, Irene Adler. Yup, dominatrix. The second season of Holmes is not exactly family fare but it's a hardy affair that will make your pulse race. And Pulver stretches the twisted love triangle between our main characters into a complicated quartet that's a delight to see our heroes navigate through.

Andrew Scott as Jim Moriarty
And it's the moments of character growth that give the second season its lift, and this is most evident in the arc of the first and third episodes "A Scandal in Belgravia" and "The Reichenbach Fall." Both of these episodes are dominated by Holmes' battles with the series villains, but more tellingly they also spotlight Holmes' battles with himself and his more human inclinations. As was revealed in the final episode of the first season, this Sherlock has a soft spot for those close to him, small though that number might be. Outside of Sherlock's special relationship with his partner Watson—and one of the shows funnier moments is when he's questioned about that relationship in a Seinfeldian "not that there's anything wrong with it" sort of way—we see his circle of affinity grow a little broader. The result of this is a more humanly conflicted Sherlock, but also a more dangerously sharp and resolute Sherlock. This is also probably why the middle episode, a retelling of "The Hounds of Baskerville," falls a bit flat and comes off more as a self contained adventure tale than anything of substance, when compared to its bookending episodes.

Overall this Sherlock stick with what makes it work and dishes out speedy and smart dialogue, unexpected but logical twists and turns, and well defined characters you either love to love or love to hate. It's the kind of show you wish came out in more than three-episode bursts but you learn to appreciate the fact that such brevity allows for deeper development since necessity forces the writer to utilize every moment to forward the larger story. And what a story it it.

Sherlock, Series 2, airs on WTTW in Chicago on Sundays, May 6, 13, and 20 at 8 p.m.