Updating Sherlock Holmes for the 21th century is a bit of tricky business, but “Sherlock” co-creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss have built a wonderful world for leads Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock) and Martin Freeman (Watson) to play around with.
Cumberbatch’s Holmes is exceptionally quirky (obsessive and restless), making him as much fun to watch as it is to say the name Benedict Cumberbatch. Holmes still utilizes his trademark skills of observation — visualized in Guy Ritchie-esque quick cuts — to get a read on anyone in mere seconds, but he’s also aided by modern technology, particularly cell phones, a microscope and forensics.
Balancing Sherlock’s wit, narcissism and humor is Freeman’s impeccably deadpan Watson. I actually enjoy Freeman’s work more than Cumberbatch’s; it displays a wealth of range in keeping up with Holmes’ eccentricities and master sleuthing. The duo’s tete-a-tete quips are the series’ finest attribute.
Last season ended with the much-anticipated confrontation between Sherlock and his arch-nemesis, Jim Moriarty (Andrew Scott). Ensnaring the rivals in a Mexican standoff with snipers and explosives, Moriarty — think the Joker’s frenzied impetuousness combined with a maniacal intellect — makes quite an impression in his few minutes of screen time.
Season 2, or what the Brits call Series 2, jumps right back into the middle of the action. (Side note: If you haven’t seen the first series, it’s streaming on Netflix. While I recommend starting from the beginning, you can jump in here without missing too much.)
The story then settles into the episode’s central mystery, which involves the wickedly smart, sexy dominatrix Irene Adler (Lara Pulver). Holmes is recruited by his cloak-and-dagger brother Mycroft (Gatiss) to thwart Irene’s blackmailing of a British royal.
The second episode offers a mystery reminiscent of “The X-Files” with a conspiracy involving a secret government facility. It tests both Sherlock and Watson’s logic-based investigating.
The first two episodes are quite entertaining, but the third stands out thanks to a Holmes vs. Moriarty showdown. That installment, the best “Sherlock” episode so far, sports an incredibly dark and intense plot that expertly twists and turns.