Sherlock: The Great Game

Originally written for King Swineshead at Watch With Mothers HQ


They’re a right pain in the backside – a fact that Sherlock discovers fairly early on in last night’s episode when he’s blown against a wall – in the least fun interpretation of that phrase imaginable.

He survives, but Baker Street is a wreck. The police claim it was a gas leak, but in that case why is there a locked box at the heart of the explosion with a letter to Sherlock inside? And by ‘letter’, I of course mean ‘pink iPhone’, because it’s the 21st century innit?

The iPhone leads Holmes and Watson into a maze of fiendish clues. The first is a picture of an abandoned room that turns out to be the basement flat in Sherlock’s building. When they arrive, all they find are a pair of 80s hi-top trainers sitting mournfully in the middle of the floor, leading me to hope the solution of the case would be that Vanilla Ice had spontaneously combusted (sadly, I since discovered that he’s alive, and planning to tour with Jedward).

So far, so odd. But the levels of dastardly are turned up to 11 when the investigative duo receive a call from a distraught version of the speaking clock. It’s a human who’s been rigged up as a ladybomb, and she’s covered in more wires and gadgetry than a teenager’s bedroom. She reads out a message from the real baddy via a pager, informing Sherlock that he has but a handful of hours to solve Trainergate before the unfortunate woman (and her car) go boom-bangy-boom, taking a score of hapless pedestrians with them.

Sherlock whizzes through The Mystery of the Room With Trainers In and saves the weeping lady (clearly he has ‘works best to a deadline’ on his CV. Along with ‘genius’ and ‘Withnail lookalike’).

However, he barely has time to change his nicotine patches before he’s confronted with another conundrum and given even less time to solve it. It all makes for a very tense and extremely dark episode (particularly when Captain Bombface picks an elderly blind woman to be his ‘voice’, telling her what to say to Sherlock via an earpiece), and I suppose it was an ideal piece of Sunday night entertainment if you’ve always harboured a long-term desire to watch a chap who looks like Withnail fighting Lurch from the Addams family in a strobe lit Planetarium whilst Tim from The Office looks on.

However, I didn’t enjoy it quite it as much as I thought I would – and I for one LOVE fights at tourist attractions. Just the other day I instigated a punch up at the Tate Modern and ended up battling Jackie Chan and Keith Chegwin in the Turbine Hall. And subsequently won the Turner Prize.

Don’t get me wrong- it was still head and shoulders above anything else I’ve seen on the tellybox for a while. But having Sherlock rush through various cases like a video game character doing a time trial mission made the episode a trifle confusing, especially considering how intricate some of his deductions were. If you blinked (and I occasionally did) you would miss a gallon of clues and be left saying things like ‘eh?’ and ‘whaaa?’ when he finally solved the case based on a speck of paint he saw on a man’s elbow three minutes before. Or something.

But I can understand why Moffat and Gatiss went down that route, as every fiendish conundrum left you more eager to see which criminal mastermind was behind it. It was like watching an episode of Countdown hosted by Charles Manson. The sense of anticipation that had built up by the time they finally unveiled Moriarty (for it was he) was worth the moderate amount of confusion involved.

At first I was slightly disappointed to discover that Sherlock’s arch-nemesis looked like a gay leprechaun crossed with Ant McPartlin, but he made up for what he lacked in appearance with an almost enchanting level of boggle-eyed bonkersness. He couldn’t have been much more evil if he’d come into view playing football with a kitten and poking a nun with a fork.

Also, the setting for Sherlock’s showdown with ‘consultant criminal’ Moriarty was an utterly inspired choice: a disused swimming pool. For those not familiar with the Holmes novels, Conan Doyle’s hero has an equivalent showdown at the Reichenbach falls, plunging over them locked in a fight to his apparent death. However, due to public demand Conan Doyle brought Holmes back, crediting his unlikely survival to the fictional art of ‘baritsu’ – a sort of Japanese wrestling.

So yes, like Sir Conan Doyle’s readers we’ve been left on a cliffhanger, albeit a slightly less literal one. I look forward to watching Moffat’s Sherlock get out of trouble by employing a combination of Jedi mind tricks, airbending and Venusian Aikido next series. Oh, and BBC, if you’re reading this: there had betterbe a next series, or I’ll come down to Londonshire and baritsu the commissioning editor in the facehole.



About Hilary Wardle
Hilary is a freelance journalist and copywriter who writes for a wide range of websites, magazines and newspapers, including Buzzfeed, MSN, The Poke, Chortle, the Guardian and the Independent. She specialises in arts and entertainment, comedy, video games and viral content. Contact her at

One Response to Sherlock: The Great Game

  1. Tim says:

    As we have had so little chance to really appreciate the threat of Moriarty in this short first season, I think it was important to demonstrate both his history and the multiple threats he poses to Sherlock – hence the anthology of puzzles. It certainly made for fast-paced viewing!

    If you’re interested, I have penned a review of the season just finished over at my blog – I would welcome your thoughts and comments on what has been a very promising debut!

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