We admit television series don't get much attention in this column, but this week's release of Sherlock, Season Two is just too good to pass up. Benedict Cumberbatch is Sherlock, gifted as a detective but completely bereft of social skills. Martin Freeman is his partner and friend John Watson, a war vet with some lingering mental-health issues.
Cumberbatch is wonderful as Sherlock, uncaring, self-absorbed and endlessly irritated with the people around him (people who, while intelligent, can't match his brilliant skills of observation); he's made rudeness into an art form, but he's still strangely likable. No, that's not quite right; maybe "respected" is more accurate. Because, like him or not, he does solve cases that baffle the police.
As Watson, Freeman maintains an uneasy balance as Sherlock's friend, confidant, babysitter, etiquette teacher (he has to cue him when to say "thank you") and fellow crime fighter.
You don't have to be a Sir Arthur Conan Doyle fan to appreciate this modernized version of Sherlock, but it helps (each episode contains several nods to the original -- The Greek Interpreter becomes The Geek Interpreter, for example). Each of the three stories in Season Two has some basis in Doyle's original tales, but they've been significantly twisted and tweaked.
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The first episode is a revamped A Scandal in Bohemia; here it's A Scandal in Belgravia, and while Sherlock's foe is again a woman named Irene Adler, this time she's a dominatrix and in possession of some scandalous photographs of a royal in a compromising position.
For The Hounds of Baskerville, it's a research lab with an experiment gone very, very wrong instead of a giant dog that's haunting Sherlock's client (Russell Tovey from the BBC's Being Human).
It's the final episode that will leave viewers anxious for the next season -- The Reichenbach Fall involves the unexpected deaths of two main characters.
Extras for Sherlock, Season Two include audio commentary by the actors, and co-creators/writers Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss (who also happens to play Mycroft Holmes, Sherlock's equally intelligent but more politically astute brother), and the featurette Sherlock Uncovered, an overview of the season.