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We swam against the critical tide a little for the first series of ‘Sherlock’ in 2010, finding its knowingness irritating, its swagger presumptuous and its modern setting, perhaps perversely, suffering in the light of so many inferior contemporary takes on a genre virtually invented by Arthur Conan Doyle.
We were converted, however, by 2012’s ‘A Scandal in Belgravia’, repeated tonight. Based upon ‘A Scandal in Bohemia’, it’s an absolute triumph. It wears its complete self-assurance more lightly; its virtuosity is inclusive rather than alienating; and it offers Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman (playing Holmes and Watson, of course) subtle, significant character development to feast upon. To say that Morarity is more panto villain than genuine threat is but a minor caveat; Lara Pulver as Irene Adler, ‘the woman’ of Holmes legend, makes a more than capable adversary for Sherlock.
Doyle’s well-worn characters – archetypes of their kind – are now seamlessly integrated into the modern world. Watson’s blog on Holmes’s exploits is a sensation, and Sherlock even Skypes into a crime scene; the sinister hand of state is represented with great poise and complexity by Gatiss himself as Sherlock’s brother, Mycroft. This is just great television, from its smart, witty resolution of the series one cliffhanger at the swimmming pool to its ghoulish, outrageous but hard-won final twist. Go on, treat yourself – if only to see if any clues are laid for – spoiler alert! – Sherlock’s ‘death’ two episodes later…