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Posts Tagged ‘PBS Masterpiece Mystery!’

I’ll admit it: The only thing that Jane Austen and Sherlock have in common, aside from their Britishness, is PBS and the BBC, who co-produce the many excellent film series and costume dramas that Jane Austen fans enjoy. That is my main excuse for reviewing a mystery set in the modern age. After watching Season One of Sherlock,  I eagerly looked forward to Season 2. I was not disappointed with the first episode, A Scandal in Belgravia. A number of viewers in the U.K., however, were outraged.

Lara Pulver as Irene Adler, dominatrix

Parents who watched the Belgravia episode with their young children wrote to the BBC complaining about the plot – which revolved around a dominatrix – and the nudity. While no female parts were anatomically shown, a great deal of bare flesh was displayed for about 2-3 minutes. I seriously doubt that young children are able to understand the double entendres spoken by Sherlock and Irene Adler (Lara Pulver), the woman whose craftiness and intelligence equals his. Much like a championship tennis game or chess match, it is great fun to watch these two characters connive, spar, tease and flirt in a game of mental and verbal one upmanship. And so, I surmise, that the irate parents were concerned about nudity, not subtext. Frankly, I’d be more angry about the explicit violence their children are exposed to in film and on television and try to put a halt to that, but what do I know?

Irene talks nonchalantly as the two men try not to react.

The plot in the first Season 2 episode is really is not so much about solving the mystery as about Sherlock finding himself  in thrall of Ms. Adler’s devious mind. A dominatrix who possesses incriminating photos of her sexual involvement with a British royal, she is able to do mental battle with Sherlock and hold her own. Upon first meeting her, Sherlock cannot make a “read” on her, for she reveals no clues about herself. How could she? She’s naked.  And so he finds her irresistibly intriguing.

Sherlock and Dr. Watson in Buckingham Palace. Unwilling to come, he refused to dress, a fact that barely surprised his roommie.

Some critics yawned at the plot, but I think they missed the point. This episode is all about Irene Adler tempting Sherlock out of his celibacy and distracting him with sexual thoughts. The episode was purportedly written to deflect any thoughts about Sherlock and Dr. Watson engaging in a homosexual relationship. I never had such a thought, but apparently many did.

Tit for tat. Cumberbatch gets to do a partial nude scene.

Once again Benedict Cumberbatch has done an outstanding job in portraying a man who, aside from his brilliant mind, is completely off his rocker. To me he is the definitive Sherlock. No other actor, past or present (even Robert Downey Jr) can match him in my eyes. By now, Dr. Watson (Martin Freeman), has grown accustomed to his strange roommie, and can anticipate how Sherlock will react at any given moment. The two odd friends have solidified into a smooth-working team.

Sherlock refuses to visit the crime scene, but is willing to study the site via WiFi. In this scene he is lecturing the inspector for suspecting the suspect.

Guest star, Lara Pulver, is one brave actress. Not only did she perform an important scene entirely in the nude, she was convincing as the woman who could outsmart Sherlock. I was highly captivated by their interplay.

Sherlock and Irene Adler discuss the crime in her sitting room. The camera zooms in on the actual scene as the two are solving the mystery. It’s these original touches that make this series so visually exciting.

If , after reading my take on the first episode, you still think the topic of A Scandal in Belgravia is too mature for your children, I suggest that you rent a movie for your offspring, trundle them off to a different room, then sit back and enjoy one of the more weirdly satisfying and witty mystery series on TV.

Sherlock will air tonight and on May 13th and May 20th for 1 1/2 hours at 9 PM EST (or check your local listing.) PBS has also arranged a twitter party during these events. Hash tag #SherlockPBS.

The episodes will stream online at PBSs website one day after the initial air date. Click here. 

Read my reviews of Sherlock Season One here.

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Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch) examines microscopic evidence

Copyright (c) Jane Austen’s World. The ending of the final episode of Sherlock!, which represented the final Mystery! for PBS’s 2010 Masterpiece season left me sitting on the edge of my seat, and … I won’t spoil your enjoyment if you haven’t watched it yet. Click here to view The Great Game online if you missed it. Two of the three episodes will be available until December 7.

The countdown clock is ticking: 12 hours

Sherlock’s ingenuity is put to the test in The Great Game, which a darker and more complex tale than the previous two episodes. Holmes races against time to solve a mystery that began when he was a boy. Clues arrive from an adversary worthy of Sherlock, whose detective skills are put through their paces. Dr. Watson is also on top of his game, and more critical as Holmes’s partner than ever.

Watson accuses Sherlock of enjoying himself, even as another victim's deadline has dropped to 3 hours

The cat-and-mouse games become more and more intricate as clues arrive from Sherlock’s dangerous adversary. His presence has been hinted at in previous episodes, but, again, I won’t give the game away.

Watson (Martin Freeman) puzzles through the clues, which are elementary for Holmes

The script is fiercely funny and its wit sharper than the edge of a freshly honed knife. The ending is shocking. I won’t give it away except to say that PBS MUST air the second season of this series. That’s all.

The ending is a game changer that makes this series a must-see

Reade other Sherlock! reviews :

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Beautiful Soo Lin Yao (Gemma Chan) is doomed.

Copyright (c) Jane Austen’s World. While not quite as satisfying as the first episode, The Blind Banker, the second installment of Masterpiece Mystery’s Sherlock! had many fine moments. Sherlock is called by a former schoolmate to investigate the break in at his bank and the vandalism of the portrait of a banker. A bright yellow graffiti line has been sprayed over the banker’s eyes and a cryptic Chinese symbol has been painted on a wall opposite the portrait. What does all this mean? Intrigued, Sherlock follows the clues to solve this seemingly impossible puzzle.

The camera angles are quite original. Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch) talks his way into an apartment building.

In this episode Watson is worried over the lack of income to support his and Sherlock’s lifestyle. He needs a job and cash to live on. But Sherlock has not a care in the world. As he waits for an interesting case, he uses the exasperated Watson’s laptop. Insult above injury!

Watson (Martin Freeman) can no longer hide his exasperation with Sherlock

Then Sherlock is called by his old schoolboy friend to investigate a break-in at a bank, and all of a sudden Sherlock springs into action. When a bank employee is found inside an apartment with the doors and windows locked from the inside, Sherlock realizes that the murderer must have scaled the high rise’s walls to accomplish the dastardly deed. In order to solve the encrypted Chinese messages that are left near the victims’ bodies, he must find a “book that everybody owns.”

The victim had just returned from Hong Kong. His doors and windows were locked. So how was he murdered?

In the meantime, Watson has had enough of Sherlock’s lack of practicality. Anxious about food and rent, he accepts a part time job at a medical clinic and finds himself attracted to his boss, Sarah.

Sarah (Zoe Telford) has the strangest date ever with Dr. Watson

Their first date not only points out Sherlock’s total concentration on a case (the single-minded detective wonders why Watson would prefer a date over solving a mystery) but Watson, still trustful, accepts Sherlock’s offer of tickets to the circus. And then the “fun begins.”

The tickets Holmes gives Watson are to a Chinese circus

While I loved seeing the personal background story about Watson, I was not as riveted watching this episode as the first one. The script is still witty and intelligent, and the action is fast and furious, but this episode seemed all too familiar.  As Sherlock and Watson race against time to prevent another murder, I felt I had seen this plot before.

Which book will help to solve the cryptic Chinese symbols?

All one can ask of a good detective mystery is a good story, and I did find myself sitting on the edge of my seat a number of times. If you missed this episode, you can watch it online for the next few weeks.

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Watch the series. Sherlock! online starting Monday, October 25

Sherlock! Jane Austen's World

Dr. Watson (Martin Freeman) needs a place to stay

I was never a rabid Sherlock Holmes fan. The films seemed stilted and the detective as conceived by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was too old-fashioned to suit me. The only person I cared for was Dr. Watson. Sometimes I would feel a vague interest in a tale or two, but I never related to this strange but knowledgeable sleuth … until Benedict Cumberbatch arrived on the scene.

Sherlock! Jane Austen's World

There's room for him in an apartment on Baker Street

Benedict as Sherlock Holmes is close to perfect as the edgy, modern, sociopathic detective. Sherlock’s odd ticks and quirks, his quick mind and uncanny ability to read a person’s life story based on a few clues are used to great effect in introducing his character, that of Dr. Watson, and the London police force, with whom he shares a “don’t care if you hate me” attitude.

Sherlock! Jane Austen's World

The catch? His roommate will be Sherlock Holmes, a fanatic when it comes to sleuthing

To Sherlock, a crime spree is like Christmas — only made better by the possibility that these crimes may be the work of a devious serial killer. The game is on, and before it is over, Sherlock will put his life on the line — all to keep from being bored to death.

Sherlock! Jane Austen's World

Suicide or murder? The fourth victim gives Holmes a crucial clue.

A Study in Pink, a take on A Study in Scarlett, Doyle’s first Holmes mystery, is the first of three offerings in the last series this year for PBS’s Masterpiece Mystery! The script is witty, the action fast paced, and the final solution a mix of classic Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and The Princess Bride, in which Wallace Shawn as Vizzini challenges Cary Elwes (Westley) into a deadly contest in which Westley must decide on which cup holds the poison.

Sherlock! Jane Austen's World

Rupert Graves as Lestrade consults Holmes out of desperation

Will Sherlock outwit the serial killer? Will Watson cure himself of his psychosomatic limp and save his new apartment mate?

 

Sherlock! Jane Austen's World

The lighting and camera angles are divine

Will the viewer remain absolutely entertained by this intelligent, witty, and fast-paced script? Kudos go to the cinematography, which is visually exciting. I am only sorry that we will be treated to three measly scripts this season. PBS, for next year please order up a half dozen or more.

Sherlock! Jane Austen's World

We enter Holmes's mind via captions

The characters:

Sherlock Holmes, Benedict Cumberbatch
Dr. John Watson, Martin Freeman
DI Lestrade, Rupert Graves
Mrs. Hudson, Una Stubbs
Molly Hooper, Louise Brealey
Sgt. Sally Donovan,Vinette Robinson
Ella, Tanya Moodie
Helen, Siobhán Hewlett
Sir Jeffrey Patterson, William Scott-Masson
Margaret Patterson, Victoria Wicks
Gary, Sean Young
Jimmy, James Duncan

Holmes (Cumberbatch) and Watson (Freeman) are a perfect match

Read more about the series:

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Kenneth Branagh in Faceless Killers

Kurt Wallander’s life is all about work and it is killing him. Kenneth Branagh is perfect as  the world weary Swedish cop who cares about his cases at the expense of his family and physical and emotional health. The actor is fearless in depicting a tired, overweight and unkempt man who drinks too much, sleeps too little, and suffers from diabetes and depression. Wallander’s wife has left him, his relationships with his daughter and father stink, and he has no friends to speak of.

The first three episodes of Wallander (Series One) were a revelation. Series Two is as good if not better. The series is filmed in the bleak landscape of southern Sweden and in the small port city of Ystad. Initially, there was thought of producing a feature film, but Branagh voted against it, saying.

I thought it might be tough in the current climate to produce a film with somebody like me in it and expect it would last much longer than an opening weekend. Just because our business is incredibly brutal.” – Kenneth Branagh

Wallander is the brain child of Henning Mankell, a successful Swedish author who created the character in reaction to the anti-immigration sentiment expressed in his country.

I had no idea this would be the start of a long journey,” Mankell says. “I was writing the first novel out of anger at what was happening in Sweden. And, since xenophobia is a crime, I needed a police officer. So the story came first, then the character. Then I realised I was creating a tool that could be used to tell stories about the situation in Sweden — and Europe — in the 1990s. The best use of that tool was to say ‘What story shall I tell?’, then put him in it.” – Times Online

Tom Hiddleston and Kenneth Branagh in Wallander

Wallander’s single-minded doggedness in solving his investigations leaves him with little room in life for anything else. The solitary detective is miserable but unable to do anything to change his life, as Kenneth Branagh explained in a recent interview:

So there is little room in his mind for small talk, superficiality. He’s not much interested in sport. He doesn’t have hobbies. He doesn’t have extra room or space for what might be therapeutic reflection. It’s almost always about why people commit acts of violence. And complicated analysis and consideration of what drove him or her to it. Or why the person he has interviewed responded in the way they did. And sometimes in his own life why he is unable to say to his own daughter, “I love you”, or return her call.

‘So all of that physically just makes you feel heavier. I remember reading the script for the first of these new ones – I’d not been near it for a year – and by the end of it I was hunched and bent over. And I felt as though my skin was sagging. I felt as though the gravitational weight of Wallander was starting to have an impact.’  – Telegraph Co.UK

Jeannie Spark as Linda Wallander and Arsher Ali as Jamal, the young doctor she is seeing

The first series, produced by Yellow Bird, Mankell’s film production company, in partnership with Left Bank Pictures, ran on PBS in 2009. Wallander garnered Branagh a Golden Globe nomination and a BAFTA for Best Drama Series for the first season.

PBS will offer the following episodes in Series 2:

Faceless Killers, October 3


An elderly couple is brutally assaulted in their rural farmhouse. The press takes hold of the foreigner angle, inciting swift and deadly retribution against local migrant workers. But there is more to the case — a potential mistress, a lost son and a large sum of money. Wallander’s inquiry takes him deep into his own damaged psyche, forcing him to examine and question his own motives before he can even begin to understand those of a killer.

The Man Who Smiled, October 10,

Gustaf Torstensson quietly chants “Mea culpa, mea culpa,” as he drives to his death. His son Sten Torstensson, a friend of Inspector Kurt Wallander, begs the detective to investigate the suspicious case — Wallander is his last hope. But hope has all but drained from Wallander’s life, as he’s now on indefinite leave from his work and has been all but forgotten after enduring an on-the-job trauma.

The Fifth Woman, October 17

Inspector Kurt Wallander is torn between two disparate cases while dealing with one harsh and heartbreaking reality — the demise of his father. When another victim is found, it is clear that a serial killer is at work in Ystad.

Other features:

As usual, PBS Masterpiece Mystery provides special features that add dimension to the series.

Other posts

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Oxford, Halloween night and under a full moon

Falling Darkness, the final episode of season 3 of Inspector Lewis on PBS Masterpiece Mystery! begins on Halloween Eve, a night when the moon is full and young goblins go from house to house trick or treating.

Tiny hobgoblins trick or treating at Lewis's door

The viewer is witness to Inspector Lewis’s playful reaction as children in costume arrive at his doorstep. But all too soon Hathaway appears at his doorstep to halt all the fun and announce a murder.

Lewis greeting Hathaway

The victim, Ligeia Willard, is found with a stake through her heart and garlic in her mouth. Could it be witchcraft? Or revenge? for Dr. Willard is a renowned scientist at a stem cell research institute and “not overly popular with the spiritually certain.”

The stem cell research institute was being picketed. Could a protester have killed Dr. Willard?

Dr. Willard, as it turns out, was also Laura Hobson’s good friend and college house mate years ago. They shared their house with another friend, Ellen, and two male friends, Alec and Peter.

Dr. Laura Hobson (Clare Holman) at home, dealing with her friend's death

Griefstricken over her friend’s death, Laura removes herself from the investigation. When another murder of a young woman, Rowena, occurs in that same house, the string of clues lead to Laura as the main suspect.

Rupert Graves as Alec Pickman, one of Laura's former housemate

The plot of Falling Darkness revolves around Laura Hobson and events in her past that might solve the mystery. This is an unwelcome development for Inspector Lewis, who must follow correct investigative procedure and check out Laura’s alibis.

Hathaway (Laurence Fox) follows the clues.

The incomparable Rupert Graves, whose portrayal of Freddie in A Room With a View I shall never forget, makes an appearance as Alec Pickman, a hopeless alcoholic, former lothario, and one of the men who shared the house with Laura and her friends.

Ursula Van Tessel, psychic, assures Lewis that "She didn't suffer," causing him to wince

In this plot we learn more about Laura’s past as Hathaway and Lewis work furiously to solve the murders and clear her name. On a personal level, season III ended strongly with this episode, for Lewis and Laura have developed their relationship to the point where they can hold hands in public, but I did not feel that all the ends had been neatly tied and addressed, such as the reason Rowena was murdered. Neglecting such a detial is bad murder mystery form.

The clues keep leading to Laura

I will miss Lewis and Hathaway and the setting of Oxford tremendously, but with Wallander slated to air next week, I will be amply compensated for their absence.

Lewis and Hathaway walk through Oxford

Watch Falling Darkness online at this link for two weeks starting Monday, September 28th, through October 26th, 2010.

Laura thanks Lewis for his help

Last episode of the season, and until next year, The End

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Oxford University's campus is strangely empty in Your Sudden Death Question

The fourth installment of Inspector Lewis, Season III, starts off with an August Bank Holiday that has emptied Oxford University of professors, students and all but a handful of staff. A small group is assembling for a Bank Holiday Quizaholic Weekend.

Marcus Richards (Alan Davies) the quiz master

The members of the group introduce themselves in teams, including Ethan Croft, an obnoxious, boozing primary school teacher, whose once promising career as a linguist at Oxford U. was derailed by a sex scandal.

Nicholas Farrell and Timothy West play two Oxford professors on the Grey Guardian team

The teams include two older Oxford academics, two students, two young mothers, soldiers, and lawyers.

Alfie Wilkinson( Jack Fox) and Ava Taylor (Tabitha Wady) compete on Team "Toxic Debt"

The cash prize for winning the Quiz is £5,000 lbs, but before the first round even gets under way, Mr. Croft is found floating face down in an ornamental fountain. Lewis and Hathaway interview Jean Croft, the dead man’s stunned widow. She confesses to wanting to kill him for his infidelities. The viewer quickly eliminates her as a suspect, as do Lewis and Hathaway.

Susannah Doyle plays Jean Croft, grieving widow

They mull over the situation a bit more. Was the murder a crime of passion?

Pondering the murder suspects

Ethan’s old flame, Robyn, appeared at the event with her friend, Eve Rigby (Sally Bretton). Ethan is instantly smitten with Eve, and hardly gives Robyn a glance. Robyn realizes that he does not recall their relationship, when she was 14 to his 16. Later she appears to be angry. Could she have killed Ethan out of  jealous rage?

Could Robyn Strong (Ruth Gemmel), a lonely single mother, have killed the victim out of jealousy and passion?

Then Eve is killed, and Hathaway and Lewis must deal with a second body. They are convinced that the two murders are somehow connected. Could the two soldiers, British Army Lieutenant Diane Baxter and Color Sergeant Brian Kaye, have killed the victims on behalf of the government.

Diane Baxter makes an important admission.

As Lewis and Hathaway find out more about a secret project that Croft was involved with, it would not be out of line to suspect the soldiers of killing him on behalf of the Government.

Lewis informs the assembled suspects that they cannot leave until the murder is solved

Professor Milner’s young wife had the affair with Croft, which ended his career at Oxford.

Could Gwen Milner (Helen Grace) have a reason for murdering Croft?

As they wait for Hathaway and Lewis to solve the murders, the teams are allowed to compete in the Quiz game.

Sebastian Anderson (Alastair Mackenzie) and Jessica Neil (Emma Cleasby) are stuck on campus until the mystery is solved.

Different possibilities present themselves, including the Quiz organizer whose shady business practices might have been uncovered by Croft. Or was the mysterious project that he was working on as a linguist responsible for his death?

Lewis and Hathaway go over the clues.

A translator is enlisted to read Croft's foreign language documents.

One by one, the clues tumble into place and before the 90 minutes are up, Lewis and Hathaway have solved the murders and the quiz contestants can go home – all save the killer.

Spoiler Alert!:

I loved this episode for the continued deepening of the relationship between Lewis and Dr. Laura Hobson, and Lewis and Hathaway. Their personal back stories are revealed slowly, like peeling the layers of an onion one story at a time.

Hathaway retrieves his lovely guitar with the aid of Lewis.

Hathaway eavesdrops as Lewis calls Laura Hobson.

Dr. Laura Hobson (Clare Holman) understands loneliness every bit as well as Lewis.

The mystery of Your Sudden Death Question was splendid, and this time around I did not solve the murder until the end. I give this episode of Inspector Lewis, written by Alan Plater, three out of three Regency fans! You can watch the episode online at this link from Monday, September 20 to October 19, 2010.

Inspector Lewis, Season III

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