Sherlock: A Study in Pink (Review)

Wow.

I really like this series so far. It’s grabbed my attention, and I’m hooked (brought to us in the USA via Masterpiece Mystery).

Synopsis by Wikipedia (WARNING, SPOILERS!!):

John Watson, an ex-army doctor injured in the war in Afghanistan, meets Sherlock Holmes through a mutual friend. They become flatmates, sharing rooms at 221B Baker Street owned by landlady Mrs. Hudson.

There have been a strange series of deaths that Inspector Lestrade supposes to be serial suicides. Sherlock is consulted by Lestrade to look into the latest crime scene which is of a woman wearing an "alarming shade of pink". Sherlock deduces that the woman is an serial adulterer with an unhappy, decade long marriage. However, this victim, unlike others, left a note: she clawed the word "Rache" into the floor before dying. Sherlock quickly ignores the suggestion of the forensic expert, Anderson, that it’s the German word for revenge and settles on "Rachel", deeming that the victim died before finishing the scrawl.

Examining the woman’s clothing and accessories, Sherlock reveals that she’s from out of town, intending to stay over for one night which he deduces from splashes of mud on only one leg, thrown up by the wheel of the case. However Lestrade explains that no suitcase was found in the premises. Sherlock flies off, searching for the spot where the murderer might have ditched the case. It turns out that the murderer threw it into a nearby garbage container.

Meanwhile, John receives a call from a public phone. After the subsequent conversation, a black sedan arrives, taking John to an empty warehouse. There, he meets a man claiming to be Sherlock’s "arch-enemy" who proposes money in return of information about Sherlock’s activities, which John refuses. The man warns John to "choose a side" and walks off.

John finds Sherlock in 221B, where he asks John to send a text message to a number which he reveals to be the fourth victim’s. The two then go out for a dinner in a local Italian restaurant where it strikes Sherlock that the murderer must be someone who can stalk and approach people without raising suspicion on the streets of London. That instant, Sherlock perceives a cabbie across the street with a passenger. They give chase with Sherlock using his profound knowledge of London’s streets and alleys to run into the cab via various detours and backstreets. Eventually they catch up with the cab but the passenger turns out to be a newly arrived American; a perfect alibi.

Back at Baker Street, Sherlock and John find Scotland Yard executing a drug bust, in retaliation for the fact that Sherlock withheld evidence by chasing after the suitcase himself. In a chain of deductions, he reasons that the last victim planted her mobile phone on the murderer and clawed her mail address password upon the floor, allowing the investigators to trace the GPS signal. John sees that the signal is coming from 221B at which point Mrs. Hudson tells him that there’s a cabbie waiting for him downstairs. Sherlock, in a moment of epiphany, realizes the plot. It was the cabbie approaching people without suspicion and taking them to irrelevant locations where they’re found dead.

Sherlock leaves his apartment, facing off the cabbie who confesses his doings, but also proclaims that he doesn’t kill – instead, he speaks to his victims and they kill themselves. He challenges Sherlock to solve his puzzle instead of arresting him then and there. They drive around London and finally arrive at a school building. There, the cabbie pulls out a gun and two bottles he claims contain one harmless pill and one poisonous pill. Sherlock and the cabbie have a dialogue about motives and consequences after which Sherlock reads that the cabbie is dying. The murderer confesses that he has an aneurysm. To secure his children’s future, he kills people and is paid by a "sponsor" to do so; his ‘victims’ can either take a 50/50 chance at picking the right pill and surviving or get shot by the gun. Refusing to play the pill game and calling off the cabbie’s gun bluff (which in reality is a novelty cigarette lighter), Sherlock walks off, but he’s challenged once again to choose a pill to see if he’d got it right.

Meanwhile, John has traced the GPS signal from the victim’s phone and followed Sherlock. He perceives him to be in danger when he spots him across the building where he is about to take one of the pills. The cabbie is shot by a bullet piercing through a nearby window. He lies there fatally wounded as Sherlock questions him, first about whether he got the pill game right, then, realising it’s not important, about his sponsor. Upon his reluctance to tell, Sherlock stomps on the cabbie’s bullet wound and manages to get a name: "Moriarty".

Outside, Scotland Yard has surrounded the perimeter and Sherlock is treated for shock. Lestrade questions Sherlock about the shooter and he starts to make some deductions before realizing it must be John. Sherlock feigns shock to cover for John and tells Lestrade to ignore everything he has just said. Sherlock and John leave the scene but run into the man who abducted John earlier in the episode, who turns out to be Mycroft Holmes, Sherlock’s elder brother, with whom he has a grudge. After a brief conversation, Sherlock and John return to Baker Street, and Mycroft instructs his secretary to increase their surveillance status.

According to the Wikipedia article, it’s loosely based on "A Study in Scarlet" but I don’t see a huge connection. I like how this refresh is taking new cases and using the actors to portray Holmes and Watson true to the canon.

There are some serious deviations from the canon in that Sherlock uses nicotine patches for his main habit ("It’s a three-patch problem.") and there seems to be a reference to an earlier drug habit when the cabbie challenges Sherlock to his puzzle.

I love the way Cumberbatch portrays Sherlock, and while Martin Freeman has no mustache, his portrayal of Watson is spot on. The writers have gone back to the canon and have tried to take the characters and put them into a modern-day setting without ruining the premise.

Sherlock is as anti-social as ever (even more so than Brett’s version), preferring to text instead of meeting face-to-face or calling someone. The series writers haven’t made him up as sexual (like they did in Sherlock: Case of Evil) and they haven’t made him steampunk (like the the 2009 Sherlock Holmes film). They also don’t seem to be focusing on Sherlock’s "dark moods" like they did in the Jeremy Brett Granada series (which I enjoyed immensely). Maybe the next episode will focus more on Sherlock’s dark moods. I liked that depth to Brett’s Holmes; though I think that’s one of the things that contributed to his early death.

Like I said in my opening, I’m hooked. This is a great "re-hash" of the original canon, and the writers are keeping true to Holmes’ and Watson’s personalities. If you have a chance to watch, I highly recommend it. Stars: 5/5.

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