“The name is Sherlock Holmes. The address is 221B Baker Street.” *epic wink*
A Study in Pink
Summary: This episode introduces us to Dr. John Watson, an army medic recently returned from combat in Afghanistan. He’s having trouble re-adjusting to civilian life in London, has a psychosomatic limp that resulted from a war injury, and is feeling bored and depressed…until he decides to rent a flat with brilliant consulting detective Sherlock Holmes. Next thing he knows, he’s running around the city investigating serial suicides, and it only gets crazier from there.
Why it’s ranked here: I remember watching this episode for the first time back in 2011, when Netflix was a new and exciting thing. The words “21st-century Sherlock Holmes” drew me to the show, but did not prepare me for how awesome it was going to be. From the moment Sherlock first appeared on screen, to the part when Mycroft says “Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson” over the epic theme music, I was squealing internally with pure nerdy joy. There’s nothing quite like one’s first experience with a brilliant bit of telly.
But this episode is, in its own right, one of the best episodes of any show that I’ve ever seen. It’s the perfect blend of funny and intense, and the dialogue is so fast and so dense that it improves upon multiple viewings. Both Sherlock and John are immediately set up to be fascinating characters, as is the rest of the cast.
Some highlights: First, all the lines that were ripped from the original Sherlock Holmes stories. I didn’t read most of the stories until after I watched this episode, but the writers clearly did. Sherlock’s deduction of John at the beginning came straight from “The Sign of Four,” except with a cell phone instead of a watch (Afghanistan was still the country in question, though! Not much has changed, apparently…). And Sherlock’s immediate dismissal of Anderson’s suggestion that the word at the crime scene was meant to be German for “revenge” becomes much funnier when you realize that in the book, A Study in Scarlet, that’s exactly what it was. (Also in said book, Lestrade proposed that the killer might have been writing “Rachel,” and Holmes immediately shot him down.) I like television writers who read.
Speaking of that crime scene, I love how Sherlock’s deductions appear on the screen while he’s examining the Pink Lady. It’s a bit of an unusual move, and it may not have worked in another show, but here it was another great depiction of how the Great Detective’s mind works, without him having to explain every step.
Then there’s Mycroft’s introduction. I’m sure I wasn’t alone in thinking that the mysterious, omniscient person who kidnapped John and introduced himself as Sherlock’s arch-enemy was Moriarty. Turns out, he’s just Sherlock’s brother, who shares his ego and love of the theatrical. John’s reaction on finding this out at the end was priceless.
Despite the abandoned warehouse, the remote-controlled telephones and security cameras, and the ominous umbrella…it really is just a childish feud.
Then there’s the whole ending scene, with the “battle of wits” (sorry, I can’t help comparing it to the scene in The Princess Bride). It was so intense, from beginning to end, and it revealed so much about Sherlock, not to mention introducing his real arch-nemesis for the first time. The last fifteen minutes or so of the episode set up Sherlock’s entire moral dilemma for the rest of the show: “What’s the point of being clever if you can’t prove it?…You’ll do anything, anything at all, to stop being bored.”
That scene also firmly established that John Watson is not the bumbling pushover he is in many Sherlock Holmes adaptations. He’s every bit as much of an adrenaline junkie as Sherlock, and he clearly didn’t spend all that time in the army stitching up wounds. Please don’t threaten his friends in front of him.
Oh, and the Cabbie? Possibly the creepiest villain on this show, and yes, I’m including Moriarty in that assessment. He’s so normal at first glance, and yet, the more you look at him, the more you realize there’s something very, very wrong with the mind behind those glasses. Thanks to this episode, I’ll always be sure to get a good look at the driver any time I take a cab anywhere. Pity Sherlock didn’t learn the same lesson…
Of course, since he used to be an evil Roman soothsayer, perhaps we should have suspected him earlier.
Anyway, by the time the credits rolled on this episode, I was completely in love with Sherlock and the BBC (this was my first proper introduction to the channel). I haven’t looked back since.
And neither have they. Best Friends Forever.