Before anything else, as an audience member of, well, anything (but particularly film and TV), here are my priorities:
- To be entertained
- To feel things (more points if these are good things)
Not on the list are pointing out what writers did wrong, whether or not there were plot holes, if my chosen form of entertained adhered to a recommended format, or if it met the critics’ standards of quality television.
And this is why I can watch Robin Hood: Men in Tights hundreds of times and laugh every time, and why I’ll never watch August: Osage County again (I did feel things—irritation mostly—but was definitely not entertained).
I judge subjectively. Because, in truth, that is what we all do, whether or not we choose to chocolate-coat (I prefer this to sugar) the fact with fancy explanations.
This brings me to BBC Sherlock’s third series, which I’d been waiting for for two years. And you know what? In my subjective view, it was well worth the wait.
Self-referential and plenty of hat-tipping to the fandom? Possibly, and yet I don’t think this would really affect the understanding of viewers not familiar with the show. The same goes for its multiple winks and nods to the original Conan Doyle books. Sure, they’re inside jokes in a way. And if you’re familiar with the references, you’ll delight in them. At the same time, if not, nothing’s amiss. That’s why they’re Easter eggs.
If you’ve been following the show since it began or feel the affinity that I do, these things mean a great deal: That Mary Morstan was played by Martin Freeman’s real-life partner. That Sherlock’s parents really are Benedict Cumberbatch’s parents. That young Sherlock was played by the son of the writer and the producer. And so on.
In fact, if you’re a fan of Gatiss’s or Moffat’s other work, you’ll find a lot of other little gems to grin about, intentional or not.
And all that’s a huge part of the point, though it’s not the point at all. The point is that all three episodes with their varying tones took me on different carnival rides of emotions. The first was mostly the excitement of reacquaintance, like bumping into best friends who were abroad for two years. The second was squishy stuff—feels and feels and laugh-out-loud humor, a romcom for those who prefer their romantic heroes sociopathic. And the third was THAT ride, the king of the carnival, the one you save for last, the rollercoaster.
After all the episodes (why, even in between) comes the speculation. Theories and arguments about theories, all of which manage to sustain the fandom for the next two? three? years of wait. Are all these theories logical? Does anyone even get it right?
Well, no, because the answers never are thoroughly logical either. The writers like to throw the show’s viewers tasty tidbits every now and then, knowing how we fancy ourselves little detectives. While I’m delighted when I make the right guesses, I always prefer being wrong. Am I disappointed that not everything is explained satisfactorily? No. Sherlock Holmes, in all his incarnations, was never predictable. He was always one step ahead. It may occasionally look like a cheat, but there are only a reasonable number of possible explanations to every phenomenon. And because of that, I often feel this “cheating” is essential. How dull he would be if we could second-guess him all the time! How ordinary he would seem if his mind-palace were identical to our own!
(Apply this same suspension of disbelief to Moriarty, Magnussen, Mycroft, and everyone else that matters or begins with an M. Hell, even Moffat. There.)
On the very opposite end of this scale, I’m glad when someone outsmarts Sherlock Holmes once in a while. And I’m glad we’re seeing his human side. Because without a human side, and without people who equal or surpass his brilliance, there would be no sense of jeopardy. If he were infallible, would there be any real threat, any sense of danger?
(That said, I wish they would stop resurrecting people. As much as I am able to suspend my disbelief to the high heavens, I’m starting to take any character’s “death” less seriously than I’m supposed to. I’m not that big a fan of zombie shows . . .)
But the thing is, I’m grinning from ear to ear. I enjoyed the ride. I did. I will now proceed to bask in this enjoyment for the rest of the week, or month, or year.