‘Sherlock’ Isn’t as Brilliant as You Think. Here’s Why:


Every new human being I have met in the past two years has, in some point in the relationship, asked me, “Do you watch Sherlock?” in the sort of hopeful, tentative tone we all asked each other, “Is it all a bad dream?” after Trump was elected. On receiving a reply in the negative, they invariably said something in the vein of, “You ought to.”

Well, I’ve watched it now. Enough to know that I won’t be watching it again. Tell me, does nobody notice the glaring errors?

In Series 1, Episode 1, John Watson runs into an old friend at the park. The friend asks him why he does not turn to his brother for assistance. Later on, we see Holmes deduce that Watson’s brother Harry is an alchoholic, who may have walked out on his wife, which is why John doesn’t go to him for help, although his brother is financially well-to-do. Watson then corrects Holmes, saying that Harry is short for Harriet. The sibling is a sister, not a brother. This seems to indicate that Watson has both a sister and a brother of the same description, to put it rather generously.

In the very same episode, on first meeting Watson, Holmes says of Watson’s limp, “Your therapist thinks its psychosomatic. And she’s right, I’m afraid.” Later, he explains this deduction, saying that as he had a psychosomatic limp, it was only obvious that he should have a therapist. But then, how did he know that John’s therapist was female?

This niggling little problem was enough to turn me off Sherlock forever, but then, Fate struck. I happened to be in a room with someone watching it, and mere mortal that I am, I ended up watching the following episode from start to finish.

In Series 3, Episode 9, a businessman named Magnussen threatens everybody with information. However, all of this information is stored in the crevices of his cranium, and not in underground vaults as Sherlock was led to believe. However, in the beginning of the episode, Lady Smallwood is confronted by Magnussen, and he tells her he has in his possession some incriminating letters writtten by her husband.That means there exists a physical copy of those letters. Otherwise, how could you possibly threaten someone with making them public? If they were made public without proof, they could just as easily be dismissed as a tabloid newspaper’s desperation to sniff out a story where there was none. Of course, the parties concerned would know it was true, but nobody else.

A hallmark of the US public school system is that it is drilled within every student that they must only use widely verified sources, and include a bibliography at the end of their reports. (Perhaps if the practice continued into adulthood, fake news would matter less.) This is such an underrated quality; if everybody were to compare the facts across sources, and get their information from legitimate news agencies, those tabloids would lie abandoned in the checkout aisle of every grocery store. Even those who do read the tabloids do it for entertainment, not to find legitimate news stories. Do you expect to read a scandalous headline about a singer/female politician/celeb? Of course you do. You care, just enough to gasp over it, or point it out to a friend, but it’s out of your mind the minute the cashier says, “Next, please.”

The big reveal at the end of that episode is that Magnussen does not have any physical proof of other people’s secrets. This might make him a powerfuly enemy of the woman known as Mary Watson, but it doesn’t really make him all that threatening to Lady Smallwood.

That is not to say there’s nothing good about Sherlock. There is. There is not another person on the planet who would have made a better Watson than Martin Freeman. Benedict Cumberbatch is an unforgettable Holmes. Every actor on the show has presence, and it is powerful. The twists and turns of the Magnussen episode in particular were extremely worthy. However, to forgive the logical mistakes is a bit much to ask.

In a sitcom, perhaps, one wouldn’t even have batted an eye. You’re there for the laughs at the end of a draining day. In a drama, especially one that has all the elements of a thrilling crime show, you expect a little more. After all, while writing a show about a master sleuth, ought you not to pick up the plot devices?

Image Credit: pbs.org

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