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IN EPISODE one of Sherlock Season 3, Sherlock groupies meet to discuss how the famed sleuth faked his death. The support group – who lend their name to the episode’s title, The Last Hearse – give a collective sigh of relief when he turns out to be alive.
Then the speculation really starts as everyone adds their own outland- ish theory. Except John Watson (Martin Freeman), of course. He is just so angry it happened in the first place.
That speculation mirrors a fraction of the online and real-life talk about Sherlock, not just the speculation around his TV death, but the escalating craziness that surrounds actor Benedict Cumberbatch.
The Cumber Collective (the more PC version of the collective names attributed to the actor’s fans) love him as much for his portrayal of the updated character from Arthur Conan Doyle’s books as for the fact that he is, well, Benedict Cumberbatch.
In the time between seasons two and three, both lead actors worked on Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy and Cumberbatch took roles in the films 12 Years a Slave, The Fifth Estate, August: Osage Country and Star Trek: Into Darkness, upping his Hollywood cred and fan base considerably.
Unsurprising then the speculation that series creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss were influenced by the real-life hoopla to create a more meta feel for this new season – causing the legion of Sherlock fans to tweet and blog about the TV detective, just like people do about Cumberbatch in real life. Unsurprising, but not exactly true.
Sherlock constantly voices his disdain at how Watson portrays him in the blog, just as the original book character did. Arthur Conan Doyle was very much aware of his readers and how they interacted with his story – it was part of the story’s fiction that Watson’s accounts of their cases were being published in the Strand Magazine.
So do not confuse that awareness of the audience with the real-life fandemonium.
Where the TV series diverges from the book series in quite a modern way is in the inclusion and portrayal of women. There are few female characters in the series, probably because those on TV see right through Sherlock (except for poor Molly Hooper, the forensic pathologist played by Louise Brealey).
Episode 2 – Sign of Three – has Sherlock trying to write the perfect speech for Watson’s wedding to Mary Morsten (Amanda Abbington, long-time partner of Freeman).
The dynamic changes after this because now there is this woman who isn’t overawed by his abilities.
Where the TV series really enters new territory is in His Last Vow, episode three, which has a rather implausible reveal. Actually, several implausible bits hint at desperation on the part of the writers. Still, there is quite a bit of material to mine in the original source material, so here is hoping they go back to the beginning.
• Sherlock Season 3 on BBC Entertainment (DStv channel 120) on Friday at 8pm.