Matthew Rhys

Sherlock “The Empty Hearse” / The Thirteenth Tale / Death Comes to Pemberley

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Christmas is over, the New Year has been seen in, but just before we exit holiday standby mode here are three quick reviews of BBC television festive fare from the last week. There are some mild, implied spoilers but nothing too overt.

Sherlock S3 E1 “The Empty Hearse” (BBC One)

sherlockcoverThe BBC’s high-quality modern version of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous consulting detective finally made its long-awaited return to our screens two years after Sherlock Holmes’ apparently fatal plunge off a hospital rooftop. There had been much speculation about how Holmes cheated death and the episode had great fun in dodging and deferring that question, instead presenting some of the more outlandish Internet theories that have been bandied around in the interim (one of which included a lovely cameo by Derren Brown); when the real solution is finally rolled out late in the day, the in-show conspiracy theorist deflates and pronounces it “Disappointing” before immediately picking holes in it, refusing to believe the answer – just like the real-life social media reaction that followed after the show aired. Co-creators Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat know their audience, that’s for sure. Read the rest of this entry »

The Americans S1 E1-4 (ITV)

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This is a very curious series to find on ITV1, let alone in the ‘primetime’-ish spot of 10pm on a Saturday evening. I get the feeling some channel executives read the series synopsis (enemy sleeper cell agents at work in the United States) and expected an all-action popular series along the same line as 24 or Alias or at the very least a big cult hit such as Homeland. But what they got was none of those things.

Instead this is a remarkably downbeat, low-key drama about two Soviet KGB officers in deep undercover as American citizens working and living with their two teenage children in Washington DC in 1981. Everything is very drab and dreary and the accent is on slow-burn realism, so that even the fight scenes when they do come tend to be awkward, clumsy playground scraps rather than the sort of gravity-defying stunts you usually get in a US show.

I’ll be honest, I’m not sure that I see the point in this series. It tells us very little that is new or interesting, save for some telling lines about how the Soviet agents are scared stiff by the arrival of Ronald Reagan in the White House, a man they see as clearly unhinged and out to start a world-ending war. The tradecraft is all old-hat and of course being set in the 80s means that the technology is positively archaic – which has a certain charm to it at first but not really a lasting one. Read the rest of this entry »