May 20, 2012 -- When the news broke that Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat, best known for their very successful reboot of the popular BBC series “Dr. Who” were behind the new BBC series “Sherlock,” an updating of the Sherlock Holmes stories, a lot of fans like myself were excited. We weren't disappointed in the first season of Sherlock, but it has been a long, long wait (at least for those of us without access to BBC programming) for that second season. It is worth the wait. This second season Blu-Ray set goes on sale May 22, 2012 at Amazon.com and other outlets.
The Sherlock Holmes mysteries by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, were first published in 1887. Since then, Sherlock Holmes has been portrayed by some 75 actors in over 200 films, perhaps the best known actor to portray Holmes was Basil Rathbone, who played him in over a dozen films in the 1930s and 1940s, with Nigel Bruce playing Dr. Watson in those films. This new series is proving to be just as playful, irreverent and memorable as that Rathbone-Bruce pairing, with Benedict Cumberbatch (“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”) playing Holmes and Martin Freeman (“Love, Actually”) as Dr. Watson.
The new series is very polished, with high production values and very smartly-written scripts. In the second season, the first episode, “A Scandal in Belgravia” is has dialogue that is almost absurdly clever. Based on the book, “A Scandal in Bohemia” it features “the woman” Irene Adler (played by Lara Pulver of the “True Blood” TV series). In this episode, as well as the other two, there is a good deal of speculation about the sexual orientation of Holmes, and a number of jokes about the relationship between Holmes and Watson. They are sometimes mistaken for a gay couple. While Watson is evidently straight, Holmes' sexuality is a mystery.
The second episode, “The Hounds of Baskerville” isn't quite as clever as the first episode as it tries to link the legend of the Hell Hound with military genetic experiments. The characters are not quite as interesting. Holmes is drawn into the case by Henry Knight (Russell Tovey) a man haunted with visions of a monstrous hound which killed his father years ago. When Holmes witnesses the hound himself, he does something remarkable. He refuses to believe his own eyes and seeks another explanation for what he saw. This reveals Sherlock to be a man who is heavily analytical in his thinking and who relies on science to explain all things. Supernatural explanations are rejected.
Further insight into Sherlock's thought processes are on display in this episode and other episodes in the series, superimposed words, images, point-of-view memory images and other tricks are used to take us inside the mind of the great detective. All this is somewhat reminiscent of the visual devices used to show the thoughts and mental insights of mathematician John Nash in the film “A Beautiful Mind.” One of the more remarkable images in the series shows Sherlock losing consciousness and falling into bed in a scene which mixes outdoor and indoor shots together. How this scene, and others, were done is explained in the “making of” extra on the second disk of the Blu-Ray second season set called “Sherlock Uncovered.” All the disks also have additional audio commentary tracks.
The third episode “The Reichenbach Fall,” inspired by the Sherlock book “The Final Problem” is a kind of mental duel to the death between Sherlock and criminal mastermind Jim Moriarty (Andrew Scott of “Band of Brothers”). Elements of this same book were used as the basis for the recent Sherlock Holmes movie “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.” In this episode Moriarty concocts a very elaborate scheme to discredit and destroy Holmes. This results in an overly convoluted plot in which several simple and obvious solutions to the problem are rejected in favor ever more elaborate schemes.
These three episodes are based upon what are arguably the three best-known stories in all of the many Sherlock Holmes series of books. The strength of this series lies in its witty dialogue and a strong acting ensemble led by Cumberbatch, Freeman, Mark Gatiss (who also is the co-creator of the seris, a series writer and executive producer) as Mycroft Holmes, Una Stubbs as Holmes' landlord Mrs. Hudson and others. Holmes' affection for Mr. Hudson is also revealed when Holmes exacts severe revenge on a CIA operative who dared to harm Mrs. Hudson in the episode “A Scandal in Belgravia.”
Although the second season Blu-Ray pack is labeled as being in the 1080i format, my two Blu-Ray players both indicated it was 1080p (progressive). When I pushed the “stop” button on either my Sony Blu-Ray player or my Samsung Blu-Ray player, the two disks always returned to the beginning of the disk, instead of resuming play where it left off, and by the beginning, I mean the very start, before the previews and FBI warnings and all that. I learned to use only the “pause” button if I needed to stop the disk for a moment. Most disks don't behave this way. On most disks, you can push the stop button, then when you push the play button, the program picks up right where you left off.
Season Two is a two-disk pack. Each disk is a dual-layer 50 gigabyte Blu-Ray disk (the series is also available in DVD format). The first disk has the first two episodes. The second disk has the third episode, plus the “Sherlock Uncovered” documentary feature about the second season. The Audio format is Dolby® 5.1 surround, English and French, with English SDH subtitles (except the documentary, which is English only stereo). Video format is widescreen, 16:9. I've seen some video conversions from the English formats, like PAL that didn't work so well converted to NTSC. This one looks fine, with good video quality. Each episode is 90 minutes long. Each episode is like a standalone film, but it is best to watch these in order because each episode builds on the previous ones. This Blu-Ray two-disk set rates an A.
Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.