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Living Loz
Fictional meanderings... 
3rd-Aug-2010 11:52 am
Life on Mars (Gene Watches You)
Sherlock: Episode the Second

So. My immediate reaction on seeing the writing credits wasn't "yay, a different Steve!", but "this is a mini series and you couldn't be bothered to write all the episodes, Moff and Gatiss? Really? Really?"

And the thing is? It totally shows. Because although I thought the overall plot was better formed this week --- in that it wasn't telegraphed within a minute of the set-up --- the characterisation that had been established only last week suddenly got whacked upside the head.

It can be summarised oh so very easily.

1. What happened to Watson?

No. Really. What the fuck happened to him? One episode he's super stoic, sliiiightly confused and in denial but on the whole incredibly intelligent, capable and, you know, a badass soldier, who lives for danger whether he likes it or not, and has found himself on this wild and awesome ride. This week he's a fumbling grocery-shopping failure that LEAVES THE PERSON HE'S MEANT TO BE PROTECTING, shows absolutely no backbone when threatened, and on the whole, bumbles around obliviously like an ineffective tosser. No. No! He was excellent last episode. Don't change him!

Much as I love Martin Freeman a whole, WHOLE lot, the thing I really liked was that he was playing against type. And this episode he was back to being a) Arthur Dent's less brave, less resourceful second cousin, b) Mike's less hardware capable, less amusing third cousin, c) Ed Robinson's more confused, lonelier first cousin, and d) not getting nearly as much fake loving as that other John.

It frustrates me.

Other annoyances I had were:

a. Lestrade and his team not being there. Why establish all of that conflict with one team, only to bring in another DI with a host of others (who are mysteriously invisible, for the most part.) Over time, yes, but straight away? You only have three episodes to play with, is that really wise?

b. Sarah being introduced so early. Sherlock and Watson barely know each other. Watson needs to have his bromance before he gets a romance. This is a personal preference thing and based only on "eee, boys!" because Sarah was actually completely awesome and I'd want to date her were I not straight.

c. How 'exotic' it was trying to be. That doesn't work any more as a fictional device, and it shouldn't work any more as a fictional device. I find it frankly creepy and diminishing.

d. The ending, which was very tacked on.

I feel very much like the first episode was a pilot and these next two commissioned based on it being received well by testing audiences (with a few, minor caveats --- such as "oooh, that Watson fellow's fairly equal to Sherlock, in't'ee? You should dumb him down so as he makes Sherlock look a proper genius.") Can anyone tell me if that's the case? It would explain a lot.

3rd-Aug-2010 04:18 am (UTC)
Oh that sucks. Usually they wait at least one season before messing around with the basic integrity of the characters.

(I've got my fingers crossed that the third episode is back on track though!)
3rd-Aug-2010 05:50 am (UTC)
It wasn't terrible telly, it was just --- weak, compared with last week, in completely different ways to how last week was weak. Man, it's annoying.

I also have my fingers crossed for the next episode.
3rd-Aug-2010 05:09 am (UTC)
YES YES YES to all your points, especially d. As soon as the voiceover started over the shot of the teapot I got a bad feeling about the episode. Sigh. And they were doing so well, too.
3rd-Aug-2010 05:53 am (UTC)
I was the same as you. I was somewhat appeased by it then being a museum presentation, but then it still went down that path of "oooooh, oriental mysticism and mystery!" and SERIOUSLY? Bah fucking humbug is what I say.
3rd-Aug-2010 07:40 am (UTC)
I wrote basically the same review two days ago. *lol* Great minds and all that.
3rd-Aug-2010 08:00 am (UTC)
It was infuriating.
3rd-Aug-2010 02:41 pm (UTC)
Some say infuriating, I count it as fanfiction fodder. I'm also pissed off at Moffat for not bothering to write this episode. There was no continuity because of it. I missed Lestrade but I can't tell if the episode was adapted from "The Adventure of the Dancing Men" or "The Sign of Four". Lestrade wasn't in the former book, still, I don't see a reason for him not to be in this.

I hate to admit it, but I've heard a lot of my friends who considered this episode as rascist and I just don't see it. I don't see the exoticism as exotic or rascist. That's just life in London. I don't think it was trying to be exotic, but frankly I doubt the British version of the mob has that much persistence, skill or class. And it wouldn't be as visual.

Also, some people hate the fact the Soo Lin died but for me it showed how John was affected by it (albeit far too briefly). John was awesome killing the bad guy last week but his lack of remorse was a little worrying. I enjoyed the emotion he showed this episode, from his frustration to Sherlock and his very human desire to get laid.

I think Stephen Thompson failed to get the update about how awesome John is. So it's up to us fanfic writers to pick up the ball.

(also, in my mind John is struggling with an online gambling problem and he's slowly drowning without anyone realising. Once this is addressed he can go back to being awesome)

Yeah, not as great as the last episode. I find it ironic that writers seem to lack communication skills because they obviously don't talk to each other. That's why I love NCIS because for the most part it is highly consistent. This, isn't. But the idea is fantastic and the ground work is layed out so it gives me something to work with.

Yay for fanfic!
3rd-Aug-2010 03:12 pm (UTC)
My default is almost never "fanfic", so --- is it really too much to ask a series to be internally consistent without having to handwave and fanwank the parts that don't gel? My reaction is: No!

Audiences shouldn't have to explain away or justify canon. It should be something they can do, if they want, but they shouldn't have to.

I definitely saw this episode as, er, if not exactly racist, definitely borderline culturally insensitive. (Though I would say racist.) The use of music, all of the Asian characters given a voice having pronounced Chinese accents --- even if they could conceivably sound more English, like the shop owner. There being a very small amount of characters who aren't white and middle class being given a voice anyway, and most of the ones we get being EVIL. It was definitely trying to be all "oooh, mystical" with using an ancient numbering system, and with the circus (although the circus made sense, being a touristy thing anyway, it was still --- eh, it was one tiny part of a larger fail.)

As an example: the scene near The Lucky Cat really didn't need "generic traditional-sounding Chinese music #1", you know?
3rd-Aug-2010 03:42 pm (UTC)
True. I fail at noticing music and colour. Now that you've pointed it out, you're right. It's London! In the 21st Century. It should be a lot more ethnically mixed. I thought the human race was passed the whole, "they're different so they must be evil" thing. The first episode is a lot more tolerant of sexuality, it's a shame that isn't extended to more obvious traits such as skin colour or accent.

I still think the ancient numbering system was used just to add to the complexity of the code and not because of exoticism. Like Latin is used. And like you say, the circus being for tourists. I don't really have a problem with the Chinese Mafia being this week's Big Bad, when a Brit is the Big Bad we often undergo the same kind of stereotyping, but when there is nothing to counteract that-

I can imagine John having to deal with a patient who was the victim of a racial attack and Sherlock completely NOT seeing it. I can just hear Sherlock giving a long speech on the stupidity of the human race and the fact it is so superficial, ignoring the importance of the mind over the body.

Yeah, the stereotyping of the Chinese was appauling now you mention it but I find the lack of ethnic diversity much more disappointing. Especially since this episode brought in a whole batch of new characters.

I still have my fingers crossed for the next episode though. Maybe Gatiss or Moffat could actually be bothered to write this one. If I created something like Sherlock, I'd make sure to only hand it off to people who understood my vision. I kind of get the feeling this episode wasn't talked through at all. Shame, really.
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