Sherlock: Season Two Blu-ray delivers great video and solid audio in this excellent Blu-ray release
Sherlock Holmes stalks again in a thrilling contemporary version of Arthur Conan Doyle's classic, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the go-to consulting detective in 21st century London, with Martin Freeman as his loyal friend, Dr. John Watson, and Rupert Graves as the long suffering Inspector Lestrade. Fast-paced, funny, and surreally true to the hero's fantastic gifts for deduction.
For more about Sherlock: Season Two and the Sherlock: Season Two Blu-ray release, see Sherlock: Season Two Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on May 23, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Unraveling Sherlock is as much fun as unraveling the titular detective's latest case. But God help you if you blink or walk out of the room without pressing pause. Current Doctor Who overmind and fan-favorite scribe Steven Moffat infuses every inch of he and co-creator Mark Gatiss' positively electric BBC series with endless wit and wile, making for a dizzying, at-times exhausting but ever-spellbinding trio of seemingly uncrackable cases that are every bit as good as the duo's first three episodes. As devious and delicious as Moffat and Gatiss' adaptations of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's stories and characters are, though, it's Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman that put Sherlock Holmes and John Watson in brilliant business, not just on screen, but in the 21st century, as if the world's greatest detective and his loyal companion were destined to traipse around modern day London from the very start. The soon-to-be-household names (who some of you will come to know as Bilbo Baggins and the Necromancer this December, and Bilbo and Smaug the next) don't flinch for a second either and stride headlong into the fray, outpacing and out-manuevering Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law at every turn.
"You can't kill an idea, can you? Not once it's made a home..."
In "A Scandal in Belgravia," Sherlock gets embroiled in the complex plans of the dangerous and desirable Irene Adler and finds himself employing every one of his remarkable skills to survive as the unlikely duo square off in a battle of wits... and perhaps emotions. "The Hounds of Baskerville" whisks the increasingly popular detective and John to the wilds of Darkmoor, and face to face with the supernatural lurking in the eerie landscape. Meanwhile, Moriarty is still out there in the shadows, and is determined to bring Sherlock down, at whatever the cost, in "The Reichenbach Fall."
It would be a mistake to dismiss Sherlock as a timely cash-in, or a series riding the wave of Guy Ritchie's splashy, dashy Sherlock Holmes feature films. It's neither, as the quality of its scripts and performances continue to attest. For the show's second season (or series if you prefer), Moffat and Gatiss tackle three of Doyle's more famous stories: "A Scandal in Bohemia," "The Hound of the Baskervilles" and "The Final Problem." But don't assume you have anything figured out, even if you're familiar with Doyle's works. Each episode is a loose adaptation, sure, but it's the manner in which Moffat and Gatiss twist and wriggle from daunting clue to daunting clue, dazzling deduction to dazzling deduction, that conceals whatever lies in wait around the next corner. It's difficult to predict a single Holmes reaction, much less the outcome and particulars of a case, and trying to do so is often a futile endeavor. It all comes together nicely, though -- plot holes and contrivances are few and far between -- and, whip-smart and demanding as the series tends to be, you needn't worry about getting lost. Aha! moments and grand revelations are satisfying and carefully dispersed, and the show's happy marriage of style and substance should keep both casual viewers and amateur detectives up to speed.
After a bizarre, expectation-defying entrance at the end of the first season, Jim Moriarty (scene-stealer Andrew Scott), Holmes' nemesis, earns plenty of screentime, plucking Sherlock's feathers and toying with the detective to demented, altogether sinister ends. Not that stepping off camera amounts to an absence. Moriarty's presence permeates the air and knocks Sherlock off balance with startling regularity. If anything in the series could be labeled predictable, it's that Scott's wild-eyed madman will stick his twitchy fingers in any pie that could poison Holmes or harm those closest to him. But Moffat and Gatiss use that predictably -- that one known variable -- to introduce real tension and danger into the mix. It isn't as if they're going to ever kill off their title character, no matter what Watson suggests at the outset of "The Reichenbach Fall." But they can make poor Sherlock doubt himself, and they can make him suffer. Oh, how they make him doubt and suffer. Other would-be villains emerge too, first among them a wry dominatrix (Lara Pulver) with a knack for throwing Sherlock off his game, and there's never a sense that Holmes' is capable of staying one step ahead of everyone on the planet, much as he would like to believe. Not that Holmes and Watson take a back seat to the colorful supporting players, new or old. With origins and introductions out of the way, far more attention is devoted to Sherlock and John's relationship, as well as Holmes' relationships with his slimy bureaucrat of a brother Mycroft (Gatiss), morgue attendant Molly Hooper (Louise Brealey), inspector Greg Lestrade (Rupert Graves) and the boys' landlady, the delightful Mrs. Hudson (Una Stubbs).
With just three episodes, though, "The Hounds of Baskerville" wanders off into the woods on a wild goose chase and never comes back around. It's a solid mystery and the Holmes/Watson bickering and bantering is as amusing as ever, but too many sharp lefts make the ending convoluted and, like Season One's second episode, "The Blind Banker," it feels like a bit of a diversion. Especially when dropped in the middle of "A Scandal in Belgravia" and "The Reichenbach Fall," two blistering duels of the minds. In a normal ten or twelve-episode season, it would be a welcome diversion. But here, it wastes precious time and spins its wheels, bringing little to the table and even less to Holmes oft-strained friendship with Watson. If there's any consolation prize to be had it's that Moffat and Gatiss are still at the helm, and having a good deal of fun with a classic Sherlock Holmes tale.
That said, the second season still delivers, leaving me with just one bit of unfinished business. The most frustrating part of penning a review of a BBC series, even one as outstanding as Sherlock, is knowing how many people will shrug off the recommendation and never give the show a chance, regardless of how enthusiastic said review might be. And it's a shame. The internet places almost everything at our fingertips, and yet voices are drowned out, high praise is lost in the crowd, and people brush past a release like Sherlock: Season Two without a passing thought. Word of mouth on the series is rapidly spreading, though. Glowing reviews continue to roll in. Buzz is swirling. International audiences are clamoring for more. And Cumberbatch and Freeman are poised to become A-list stars as The Hobbit and J.J. Abrams' Star Trek sequel materialize. Maybe Moffat and Gatiss' little-adaptation-that-could will round up even more fans than it already has. And maybe, just maybe, we'll see bigger, grander Sherlock seasons in the future. A third season/series is already in the works and, after that? Only time will tell what Moffat, Gatiss, Cumberbatch and Freeman have in store for Holmes and Watson in the great detective's addicting small-screen revival.
The game is afoot yet again with another strong 1080i/AVC-encoded video presentation. Sherlock's chilly London palette is calculated and precise, skintones are cool and convincing, and black levels are reasonably deep, even if the city's moonlit shadows are a tad muted. Detail is excellent too, with lifelike fine textures, impressive closeups and crisp, clean edges. Faint grain-like noise is present as well but rarely a distraction, and intermittent crush and some extremely negligible banding are the only minor issues worth mentioning. Artifacting, aliasing, ringing, flickering and other villains steer clear of BBC's polished and proficient encode, and there's little to criticize, slight digital sheen or no. All in all, Sherlock: Season Two looks as good in high definition as its Season One predecessor and should appease fans hoping for another striking Blu-ray presentation.
Watson might call this one The Case of the Missing Lossless Track. Like Season One's Blu-ray release, Sherlock: Season Two hangs its hat on a 448kbps Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix. There isn't a DTS-HD Master Audio or High Resolution option to be found. Fortunately, the Dolby Digital track gets the job done; so much so that most listeners wouldn't even notice the lack of lossless audio if it weren't for the disc's tech specs. After all, the series' soundscape is light and lively, and not prone to outbursts or eruptions. Dialogue is clear, nicely centered and smartly prioritized, and neither Sherlock's verbal gymnastics nor Moriarty's most devious plots snuff out the series' faintest sound effects or quietest lines. LFE output is playful when Holmes and Watson are bickering, more ominous when danger is lurking nearby, and pointed and pithy as Sherlock untangles his latest mystery. The rear speakers are restrained but involving too, even if they stick to a strictly supporting role. Ultimately, I'm sure a lossless track would enhance the proceedings even further, but I suspect most fans won't get hung up on what could have been, especially when what is sounds pretty good.
Audio Commentaries: Two amusing, chatty and informative audio commentaries are available -- "A Scandal in Bohemia" with co-creators/executive producers Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, producer Sue Vertue, and actors Benedict Cumberbatch and Lara Pulver, and "The Hound of the Baskervilles" with Moffat, Gattiss, Vertue and actor Russell Tovey -- and each one is well worth listening to. The Moriarty-centric "The Reichenbach Fall" doesn't earn a commentary, and that's a real disappointment.
Sherlock Uncovered (HD, 20 minutes): A look at the series' second trio of episodes, the evolution of Holmes and Watson, the new characters and villains that appear, and the process behind adapting Doyle's stories.
Is Sherlock's second season better than its first? It's just as good, but better? Almost. "A Scandal in Belgravia" and "The Reichenbach Fall" set a new series bar, as do Cumberbatch, Freeman and the wickedly wild Andrew Scott, but "The Hounds of Baskerville" feels like a side story best reserved for another time. Even so, nothing -- and I mean nothing -- should prevent you from investing some serious time into Moffat and Gatiss' acclaimed Holmes adaptation. BBC Video's 2-disc set only helps. Even though its Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track isn't the lossless beastie fans were hoping for, it's more than serviceable, and its video presentation is excellent. An extra commentary and another production documentary or two would have been most welcome, but it hardly matters. If you've never seen an episode of Sherlock, there's no time like the present. If you have, well, I'm guessing this one is on your wish list, in your cart, or already resting comfortably in your collection.
Sherlock: Other Seasons
Season 1 2-disc set $29.40
Season 3 2-disc set $29.90
Blu-ray bundles with Sherlock: Season Two (1 bundle)
In May, BBC and 2Entertain Home Entertainment will bring Sherlock: Season Two to Blu-ray. This reimagining of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's classic literary sleuth stars Benedict Cumberbatch (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) as Sherlock Holmes, a socially deficient-but-brilliant ...