Thursday, 23 February 2017

against sherlock

Provoked by discussion with fof.

I saw the last two episodes of the recent Sherlock. Ep2 was pleasingly contained, a plausible vessel for an albeit blunt political allegory, the villain and crime were far-fetched (perhaps deliciously so, in the surrealist Black Mirror macabre sense) and/but approximately worth the suspension of disbelief, allowing the more totally indulgent narrative nonsenses and deadend teasers and nonsequitor japes to sit in the background adding vigour to the tipsy but largely coherent ensemble.

Ep3 was doubly infuriating for having previously tantilised us that the ship Sherlock was not Lost, and that the sprawl of high-budget tropes actually served the cause of an elegant cryptic crossword. Sleepless fury ensued. Sherlock is a galling insult to the intelligence of it cast and audience.

The bloated swaggering episode was doubly cloying for its superlative bravado in the face its vacuity, the detective equivalent of tinny over-amplified canned laughter, rolling puns with no punchline, like a winking emperor, knowing himself naked, but now revelling in the joke being on others. The pandora’s box of grave nonsense for grave nonsense’s own sake sprung open by Nolan and now spread abroad by a host of lower budget long-form imitators.

There is a rant I have pent up since the Leftovers, which gathered further bile behind the dam after MrRobot Series 2.0. It is an anger mixed with a grief mixed with a lingering fear for the future of mankind. For being an open-ended, hypertexted, character-driven-ish, streamable serial, Sherlock elbows in amongst longer siblings, but it is, nevertheless, a mature specimen of the long-form drama.

The long-form drama is worse than a mere soap opera for sophisticates, one doesn’t binge on Corrie with anything like the same self-congratulatory air. The sprawling vomit of narrative is an irresponsibility, a dizzying assault on language, an opiate of the worst kind, an introvenous sentimentality piping self-pitious escapist sensation into the darkened cells of the attention deficit generation whose twitter-augmented interaction with the narrative of all of life is rehearsed in the same wry interactivity via cliquing in-jokes which Moffat has made his millions by provoking. It is a deft exploit, it serves a felt need ~ Sherlock was always frothy, but was kept from mere froth where a coherent twist dignified the viewer with salient questions of memory, death and the real. Much as MrRobot achieved to an even richer end, political and psychological insight of a razor sharp piece urgent cultural criticism in Series 1.0, then utterly hollowed itself out along with the whole project, by franchising itself to the narrative equivalent of suburban sprawl, a grey, occasionally titillating morass of narrative semis and white picket plot twists.

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