"A Scandal in Belgravia". This tells us several things at once. Need we list them? Probably not. We don't get there immediately, however. First we dispense with the Moriarty cliffhanger with pure bathos, and the hook that Adler is involved somehow. With Moriarty? Apparently. Then we're teased by a series of case fragments, blogged about by Watson with titles that are all plays on Holmes short stories. The scriptwriter know we know this, and are assuring us that they understand the starting point from which they are about to wander quite well indeed.
… Well, she's certainly an "adventuress". Um. Also she's skeletal, jeez, chick, eat a sandwich. And that is the most squeamishly hysterical twist on the Injured Vicar Ploy from the original story that I have ever seen. This script's Adler is one step up on the original story's because she has him sussed. But really, this profession Moffat has given her is a bit lurid. Is he attempting to go for the same associations Victorians would have had with a woman on the stage who had affairs with royalty? Can't suss it out.
Moffat & Cumberbatch have both said in interviews that this script is about Holmes and love, and it certainly is. It's about the Holmes brothers and love as well. There's a lot here about their relationship and what's inside their heads. Holmes is roused to rare ferocity when Mrs Hudson is threatened. Watson punches Holmes in the face when roused. Watson is also proven to have more of a relationship with Holmes than with his string of dates.
Lots of great twists along the way to the final set up. Then I'm left thinking it's falling a little flat. Moriarty, really? Why? We haven't believed until now that she was evil in any way. In love with him? Really? Why? Watson, who knows him best, finds "punch me" to be the subtext in a lot of Holmes's conversation. Doesn't she like chicks? I liked her better when she was ruthlessly and successfully vamping him.
I preferred the ACD story ending, in which Adler heads off a complete victor to the life she was planning for and keeping herself safe for. However, ACD does clean her up: she's virtuous now! It's okay for her to win! Moffat doesn't feel the need for her to change who she is. But in his version her victory is mixed, because Moffat can't, for some reason, allow Holmes to lose. And he really ought to have allowed him to lose all the way.
Now Mycroft losing? I have a harder time with that idea. He's supposed to be smarter. But he is indeed fooled at the end. He makes quite certain that she's dead and concocts a cover story to comfort his brother. He assures Watson that only Sherlock could have fooled him, and Sherlock wasn't there. And our final twist turns that on its head. But it detracts from Adler's skill by making her reliant on rescue by Holmes, about which I'm mixed. Okay, he respects her enough to be there in the first place. Excellent, great, WTF is she doing being captured by terrorists? What in her previous lifestyle would make us believe she would be in circumstances like that?
A misstep in the script, if you ask me. But it wasn't accompanied by many other missteps. Quite a lot of fun, overall. I was pleased. The text overlays never became heavy-handed. The script was parsimonious (seemingly unimportant early elements mattered later). The meta-techniques in the direction were pleasing. I am looking forward to the second episode: hounds!
I continue to be terrified of the fandom for this adaptation.
What did you think?
Music: Am currently stuck on an uplifting trance classic: Andy Blueman, "Everlasting".