REVIEW: Sherlock, A Scandal In Belgravia [SPOILER~FREE]

Quick note for those involved in television production - give up, you're wasting your time. Sherlock has won. You simply cannot and will not beat it.

The show drips with such intelligence and style that one genuinely wonders if the those in higher positions actually watched it before it aired. If they had, I would have to wonder why the BBC aren't trying this hard on every production. Anyway, that's irrelevant. Sherlock is back and has lost none of its guile, charm and immense storytelling.

A Scandal in Belgravia, the first installment of the second series, has all the familiar Sherlock hallmarks (not bad considering there's only been three episodes previous) with the added bonus of injecting it with a whole new raft of excitement and nifty camera work.

I will point out now that I'm not going to address the plot at all in this review, it's just too juicy to talk about. Although surprises and "twists" are abundant, they're not at the heart of Sherlock. They're frills to the tight plot and even tighter characters. And these little extras come in many forms; from hilarious gags to eyebrow~raising character traits to your more "normal" gasp~aloud turnarounds.

The audacious and overwhelmingly gripping cliffhanger from Series 1 is... Well, I think you know that Holmes and Watson survive - no great spoiler there. What I will say is that Lara Pulver's Irene Adler is just as sensational as the men she's playing up against (and sometimes women too). Sexy doesn't cover it; she's mesmerising. From her outfits, and sometimes lack of, to her insatiable smarts, you'll be left wondering just who is charge, Adler or Sherlock.

Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman continue to impress hugely and deal with shifts in their characters and relationship beautifully. Fascinatingly, Watson's blogging remains an important part of the story and his online scribblings have been lifted from the sneerier tones used in the first series to become more substantial (and also a neat nod to celebrity culture, without over~egging it). One can only be thankful that The Hobbit didn't take Watson from our screens.

Benny Thundersnatch, as no one calls him, gets the lion's share of the action and will get those eyebrows even further raised with his usual intellectual snarl but also some laughs with his great physicality. There's a gigantic depth of his personality at play here. As some may know, he has a "relationship" with Adler and this alone would be enough to fill the ninety minutes but his many friendships also come under the spotlight. Utterly riveting.

Team Mofftiss have delivered televisual perfection yet again. SteeMo's wonderfully crafted script is magnificently realised by director Paul McGuigan; every word has meaning and every image has power.

It's heartening to see that 2012 will begin with such a thoughtful and artistic piece of television. Most warming, though, is the fact that Sherlock never stops to entertain, gathering in laughs aplenty, gasps by the dozen and tears. If this first episode is any form of indicator of what's to come, then Series 2 looks like it will burn the heart of its predecessor. A feat I would not have thought possible.

Sherlock, A Scandal In Belgravia
airs Jan 1 on BBC One

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