Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss writing a Sherlock Holmes series? Steven Moffat? My favourite Doctor Who writer? And it's going to co-star Martin Freeman, AKA Arthur Dent? Plus, it's set in the modern era and includes texting and blogging? I think you're just pulling my leg. Wait! What? It actually happened? And it aired? Oh... well... Here we go. I'm going to keep these mini-reviews somewhat spoiler free, which means I'm not really going to dive into the plots too much.
"A Study in Pink" by Steven Moffat
In the first episode, Moffat sets the scene with a ton of exposition and introduction, and a killer cab driver to boot. The first half of the episode, in which we meet Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock and Martin Freeman as Watson, is exhilarating. Moffat uses his trademark complicated sequences, where all things lead into the next thing properly, to a perfect degree. When the identity of the killer is revealed, it's not terribly surprising, but the secret of the killer's game is absolutely shocking and riveting. While the main story is unfolding, Moffat also sets up the long con of who Sherlock's enemy is, and it's not who you think (well sort of). Fantastic opening episode all over.
"The Blind Banker" by Stephen Thompson
Of course the second episode is a bit of a stumble. Strange symbols painted everywhere are seemingly responsible for the deaths of some unrelated individuals. It all leads to a... traveling Chinese circus troupe. Groan. Even though the main mystery is dreary, the smaller details make the episode shine, such as the development of both the main characters: Watson meets a lady, and Sherlock begins to understand the concept of friendship. There's also a case of mistaken identity that is so well set-up that straight up blew me away, even though it's a merely minor plot detail.
"The Great Game" by Mark Gatiss
And we recover for an episode almost as good as the first. Someone is playing a murderous game with Sherlock, forcing him to solve 5 puzzles where lives hang in the balance. Of course, this relates to the long con that Moffat and Gatiss have set up, and it delivers. Sort of. This episode ends in an extremely unexpected way, but wholly in the spirit of the original stories. As Sherlock tries to solve each puzzle, the stakes get higher, while Watson tries to solve a relatively minor mystery that seems unconnected to this great game. Or is it? Overall, an excellent episode.
So, in general, the series was gripping, entertaining, full of action, intelligent, and both lead actors bring their A-game. Some overall points to make about the series, though.
Firstly, the delight in mysteries is the mystery itself, not the solution. Each episode deflates slightly once all the answers have been given. Moffat, out of all the writers, wisely decides to keep some elements of his solution ambiguous, frustrating to Sherlock, but clever for the audience. It's the middle episode that chooses to solve everything, and it's a boring ending, even the connection to the long con of the series.
Secondly, Cumberbatch's performance as Sherlock is fantastic. He plays the famous detective almost like an Asperger's Syndrome. He only cares about the science of deduction, and he will do anything to do it, including alienating people, hurting them emotionally, etc. There's an enjoyable running gag throughout all three episodes about the young female medical examiner who has a crush on Sherlock and is rebuked hilariously each time. Sherlock is oblivious to it all.
I thoroughly enjoyed Sherlock and I look forward to a second series, considering the ending of the third episode. I just hope that it happens, and isn't left on that particular note. For solid Sherlock Holmes fun, look no further. Certainly don't watch the terrible Guy Ritchie version, overly long, inherently stupid, plainly uninteresting.