Top 10 Wen-sday – Top Ten Sherlock Episodes

Benedict Cumberbatch, list, Mark Gatiss, Martin Freeman, Sherlock Holmes, Top 10

So with the new year comes some new additions to my blogging schedule. You will hopefully already have seen my new Monday and Tuesday topics. However, I’m pleased to announce a new, monthly addition. Yes folks, the first Wednesday of the month I will bestow upon you a Top Ten List of my choosing. I bet you can’t hold in your excitement. Now Top 5 Wednesday is already a thing on Goodreads but I think this has a much more appealing sounding name. I’m always on the lookout for opportunities to make things sound more palatable. If you work with me and ask for a Caesar salad then you’d better say “can I have a Caeser pleaser” or you’ll risk my ignoring you. Of course, if I was only doing this based on the sound of the title then it would be Top Two Tuesday but that would be a fucking waste of everyone’s time. So here we are.

After the triumphant New Year’s Day episode of Sherlock, I’ve been reading/watching a lot of fans reacting to what they had watched. There are still the belligerent few who don’t believe that Moriarty is dead or who believe that, just this once, it’s twins. Inevitably there are those who want as many people as possible to know how big a fan they are by pointing out all of the in-jokes and references in the episode as if anyone really gives a fuck. Most importantly though are the ones who are attempting to place the new episode in their individual ranking system. It was at this time that I discovered that my favourite ever episode, The Hounds of Baskerville, is a lot of people’s least favourite. Firstly, have they not seen the abysmal The Blind Banker? Secondly, are they fucking stupid? So I’ve decided, now there are ten whole episodes to choose from, it’s time to sort this out once and for all.

   Ten: The Blind Banker

I find this narrative to be the most boring and the least consistent with the character. I think Sherlock is too bouncy and excitable when investigating at the offices. In terms of the series as a whole, this episode sticks out like a sore fucking thumb. It drags, there are no engaging characters and it just feels out of place with the whole modernisation thing. Anyone who doesn’t see this as the weakest episode of them all is clearly a better person than I.

   Nine: A Scandal In Belgravia

A bit of a personal pet peeve but I’ve always hated the way Irene Adler is shoehorned into Sherlock Holmes adaptations. It’s normally romantic. The Guy Ritchie films did and then Moffat and Gatiss did it. In terms of the books, Irene Adler isn’t that important. She appears in one short story and then is mentioned a handful of times as the woman. She stands out as the only woman to have bested Holmes and earned his respect. That may be the nearest the sleuth gets to romance but it doesn’t mean we needed to have Adler making doe eyes for 90 minutes. This is pure fluff and nothing more.

   Eight: A Study in Pink

A pretty good episode all in all but it suffers from being the first in the series. It also suffers from being stretched out from a 60-minute tale to a 90 minute one.

 Seven: The Empty Hearse

I think people are a little easier on this episode because it was the first one in such a long time. It’s very interesting to see Sherlock come back and readjust to Watson’s new life. The conspiracy theorists are a lot of fun. However, the real narrative is just a bit of a bore. John trapped in a bonfire? Plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament? Nothing to get overly excited about. The best things about it were the brief time with Watson’s moustache and Sherlock’s parents.

   Six: His Final Vow

This episode worked so well because of Sherlock’s utter dedication to his friend. It cemented their relationship and Mary’s place within the group. The story again was lacking some drama but, as it was about the relationship, that’s to be expected. If this story tells us anything it’s that the writers really didn’t know what to do with Magnussen. He was never as huge a threat a Moriarty was and certainly didn’t justify the end, un-Holmes like result.

Fifth Equal: The Sign of Three

I know a lot of people hated this episode but I really enjoyed its episodic structure. The tying together of so many different strands to solves a current case is what made Sherlock great. Yes, the narrative itself was a bit lacklustre but the episode made up for it by being fun. That’s what I suspect a lot of people hated about it. It wasn’t the serious and clever Sherlock they’ve seen before. It was a depiction of a good friendship and the changes that occur when one of the pair gets married. A touching and very funny episode.

Fifth Equal: The Abominable Bride

This episode was just a triumph from start to finish. The old-school Holmes was joyful and the tongue-in-cheek rehash was so much fun. The narrative was less of an issue here and left a lot to be desired. There was no real mystery and the whole thing was very obvious. It was meant to be though. It was just the amuse-bouche before the long wait for the next series. Keeping the fans wanting more without giving them any new information. Still, for the spectacle, styling and acting alone this deserves to be higher on the list.

 Three: The Reichenbach Fall

The Reichenbach Fall was just a brilliant episode and its all thanks to one man. Andrew Scott as Moriarty is the best piece of Sherlock casting since Cumberbatch himself. Considering he was such an important character to get right, Scott played him perfectly. He is also given an amazing amount to do. Moriarty destroying Holmes’ reputation was just an amazing plot. It may have been a bit inflated but this was a smart and action-packed series finale.

Two: The Great Game

It was the strength of this episode that got me to give Sherlock another chance. Andrew Scott’s first, brief appearance as the eponymous villain cemented him as truly evil. Mark Gatiss’ script is sharp and the pace works brilliantly for the 90 minutes. It was the first Sherlock episode that didn’t drag. There is so much drama going on from start to finish. It feels like a true modernisation of Conan Doyle’s work.

One: The Hounds of Baskerville

Without a shadow of a doubt, this is the best written and best updated of all the Sherlock stories. The Hound of the Baskervilles could easily have been a nightmare to modernise but Gatiss does so remarkably well. It’s as dark and scary as we’ve come to expect from his Doctor Who episodes and it really pushes the Sherlock/Watson relationship. Plus, the styling of the episode is just amazing. I mean the scene in his mind-palace is the most amazing thing I’ve seen on the show. Beautiful.

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