Watching the Detectives: BBC's SHERLOCK and DIRK GENTLY

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Watson and Sherlock and Dirk and Todd

Mysteries abound from the BBC, as one detective cuts through the chaff to find the hidden connection while the other blithely pinballs from event to event claiming that everything is connected. That's the Doyle/Adams dichotomy that exists between SHERLOCK and DIRK GENTLY'S HOLISTIC DETECTIVE AGENCY, both of which are now available on Blu-ray and digital release.

This season of SHERLOCK -- the fourth and surely the final, although rumors that it is have been tamped down upon by the series showrunners -- is a slim one, having only three episodes to it. (IMDb lists "The Abominable Bride" as an Episode 0 of the season, but it is not included in this release). The episodes are interconnected, but feel quite apart from that which has gone before. We enter the season quite primed to solve the mystery of Jim Moriarty's seeming return from the dead (never minding that fact that we never got a satisfactory explanation for Sherlock's own resurrection). I myself had prognosticated that the man we saw as James Moriarty was in fact the actor he once claimed to be, and that the real Moriarty was someone hidden yet closer to Holmes and Watson, in the form of Mary Elizabeth Morstan (which I had anagrammed into "Hazel Stebman Moriarty"). This turns out not to be the case, although we find that Mary Watson, mother of John's infant daughter, is nothing if not resourceful, calculating, and capable of planning well into the future, which are all very Moriarty-like traits.

From the revelation of the AGRA drive in "The Six Thatchers" in which Holmes gets his conclusion completely wrong to "The Lying Detective" where he intentionally lets the world think he's gone off the deep end as he's misled into accusing a media magnate of being a serial killer (happy ending: he actually was one), the paths of the mysteries to be solved are tortuous and tortured. I found myself actually longing for Lestrade to bring a simple murder case to Holmes as an adventure, but the series seemed more intent on international intrigue, culminating with "The Final Problem" and the introduction of the hinted at third (and most dangerous) Holmes sibling.

"The Final Problem" -- aside from actually using the phrase "Final Problem" in its titling -- has all the airs of this being the final SHERLOCK season, not ruling out any specials that might reunite the cast. Its conclusion montage certainly lets on that there are many, many more adventures of Holmes and Watson, as portrayed so iconically by Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, but it does so in a way that we are certain that we will never actually see these adventures played out.

On the other side of the coin, we have DIRK GENTLY'S HOLISTIC DETECTIVE AGENCY, a continuation of the pair of books from the inimitable Douglas Adams. The printed stories are given a nod in some of Dirk's comments, but it takes me a bit to accept Samuel Barnett as the detective who believes in the interconnectedness of all things. For one, Barnett's Dirk is far too neat in appearance compared to the man who had a standoff with his looming refrigerator and its rotting contents of doom.

Dirk is the guest star in his own adventure, as the focus is on Todd Brotzman (Elijah Wood), a hotel bellhop with a mounting pile of personal problems. The storyline is sprawling, the cast is enormous, and things just don't seem to make sense for the first five of the eight episodes -- in short, the perfect Dirk Gently story, because it's all connected, and those connections start to draw close the nearer we approach the end.

I particularly enjoyed the addition of Bart (Fiona Dourif), the "holistic assassin" who doesn't know who she's supposed to kill, but anybody she kills inevitable deserved it. Watching her partnered with Ken (Mpho Koaho), who starts out terrorized and slowly comes around to realizing that her view of the universe is actually correct, is one of the best aspects of this series, although figuring out the machinations of a secret society of soul-swapping lunatics controlled by a zookeeper who used to be a rock star (Aaron Douglas, who played The Turtle on THE FLASH), and tying the knot in a time loop spanning four generations was certainly fun. Even so, there were elements of the show that remain unexplained, and seem to weigh it down, such as the CIA involvement in Dirk's (and Bart's) history, and the purpose of the four members of the Rowdy Three. Perhaps those are threads that will continue into the second season, and we may get more answers then. (I particularly want to find out the specifics of how Karma caught up with Todd in the end.)