SYNOPSIS: "Contemporary crime drama. Compromising photographs threaten the monarchy, but for Sherlock and John the game is on in more ways than one." (bbc.co.uk)
The three episode first series run of the BBC's modern day take on Sherlock Holmes proved wildly popular - indeed our review of the series finale, 'The Great Game' has had over 35,000 pageviews. Which is a bit ridiculous really. But I've been as excited as anyone about the series return. 'A Scandal In Belgravia' has been a long time coming, and it kicked 2012 off in a suitably brilliant fashion.
Inspired by the Conan Doyle short story 'A Scandal In Bohemia', the second series of 'Sherlock' picks off at the cliffhanger ending of 'The Great Game', which saw Moriarty (Andrew Scott) face off with Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Watson (Martin Freeman). One phonecall later from a mystery woman (more on her in a moment....) and Holmes and Watson were effectively off the hook. A little too easy for my liking.
The inadvertent saviours of Holmes and Watson proved to be Irene Adler (Lara Pulver), known for her "recreational scolding", whose ownership of compromising photographs of a female member of the British royalty leads to Holmes being pulled off another case. Probably a good thing as the situation began to worryingly resemble 'CSI: Dartmoor'.
Adler plays a prominent role in the episode becoming a playful but fearsome adversary for Sherlock - much like in 2011's Guy Ritchie big screen adaptation, the addition of a strong antagonist elevates the stakes in a particularly engaging manner. Similar to the film, slo-mo action sequences were in relative abundance (which I could do without) but the on-screen text annotations of Sherlock's deductions are thankfully retained.
Adler's addition also displayed another side to Sherlock - normally so used to his own manipulation, her flirting swayed Sherlock so much that he endangered the safety of those closest to him while also demonstrating a blistering naivety in showing off his deductive skill. Adler, if we needed reminding, was working with Moriarty.
Speaking of Moriarty, he played a remarkably hands-off role in 'A Scandal In Belgravia' although admittedly Adler already had Sherlock's hands full. And Mycroft's (Mark Gatiss) for that matter. Hopefully Moriarty will be more prominent in forthcoming episodes.
This episode was largely excellent - more character-driven than plot-driven, allowing us insight into Sherlock's fierce protection of those closest to him and his bewildering approach to affairs of the heart. It turns out he is human, after all. Indeed, the highlight of the episode was his (seemingly) sincere apology when his forlorn admirer Molly Hooper (Louise Brealey) was again spurned in the blink of an eye. "You always say such horrible things."
Luckily for Sherlock, he also says brilliant things. That is, of course, down to the writing. While Steven Moffat is somewhat floundering (relative to his own high standards) with his recent 'Doctor Who' episodes, he was near to top form here. Although Sherlock's use of the colloquialism "Laters!" was plucked from the 'Juno'-school of abysmal dialogue. Please never again.
Director Paul McGuigan returned, having helmed 'A Study In Pink' and 'The Great Game' in the previous series, on top of his past feature film experience - namely 'Lucky Number Slevin' and 'Push'. McGuigan added an accomplished hand - even allowing for the odd indulgent (but arguably necessary) flourish, such as in the Sherlock's 'CSI: Dartmoor' deductive murder walkthrough.
McGuigan will also be directing the second episode of this series, 'The Hounds Of Baskerville', in which Mark "Mycroft" Gatiss will be adapting Conan Doyle's 'The Hound Of The Baskervilles' - one of my favourite novels as a child, as it happens. The bar has been set. It is high. I am excited. You should be too. "Till next time, Mr Holmes."
Watch 'A Scandal In Belgravia' on BBC iPlayer until 21:39, 22 Jan '12. Click to read our previous reviews of 'Sherlock'. Leave your thoughts on the new episode/series below.