Sherlock, “A Scandal In Belgravia” Preview Screening + Q&A

“It’s Sherlock and love,” Steven Moffat says. “Not Sherlock in love.”

It’s Wednesday 7th December 2011, and after seventeen months the second series of Sherlock is finally here. Well, almost – it’s the preview screening at the BFI Southbank, the first time the new series will be seen by an audience outside of the production team. People have been queueing outside for returns since 9.30am, and when Q&A host Caitlin Moran asks if anyone managed to get some a group of people near the back whoop and cheer. Their perseverance has paid off.

It’s a perfect illustration of Sherlock‘s place in the public consciousness, and the fact that it’s proved itself beyond anything creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss ever expected. They were imagining good reviews and a good reception by critics, but the depth of love the show inspires in its fans was unexpected. It’s without a doubt what brought everybody (including me) to the screening, and it shows in the reactions – whooping, cheering, gasping, sighing (and wolf-whistling) – as 2.01, A Scandal In Belgravia, plays out.

A Scandal In Belgravia is, without doubt or sarcasm, the best Sherlock has ever, ever been. It’s a fact that leaps out fully-formed before ten minutes have passed by, and it gets better with each one that does. Everything that made the first series so incredible is here again, except this time it’s been refined to a level which defies most superlatives. It’s almost shocking to see this much character development on screen at one time, and that’s before we get to the complexities of emotional relationships, from the platonic to the familial and, dare I say, romantic. It’s refreshing to see love, the buzz word of the screening, treated in such an open-minded and universal manner.

Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman are gorgeous in their portrayals of Sherlock and John, in a way that means superb more than anything else you might be thinking. They just work together on screen, and it’s a partnership that will form part of television history. Although A Scandal In Belgravia gives John the least screen time he’s had all series, not a second of Freeman’s performance is wasted, and it’s one of his scenes which was picked out by many – Gatiss included – as the best of the episode. Cumberbatch is as marvellous as you know he will be, but the development to Sherlock’s character in particular is sublime, and shines through in every frame. It’s Gatiss who is a surprise stand out, if only for the fact that Mycroft Holmes has spent so much time on the sidelines – he and Cumberbatch become another of the episode’s double acts (there are several), and the bond between the two is so layered it’s impossible describe unless you’ve seen it.

It’s a theme of the episode as a whole – the relationships wrought on screen are so deeply woven, so humanly complex that you’ll spend days thinking them over, and come up with a new conclusion each morning. It’s almost impossible to achieve on screen, or seems to be, but Steven Moffat, Mark Gatiss, and their incredible cast and crew have made the impossible look easy, and made such three-dimensional characters so fully-formed it’s like watching a theatre performance instead of a television show. But Sherlock has always been more than that, and A Scandal In Belgravia just proves the point.

Sherlock begins on New Year’s Day at 8.10pm, BBC One. Until then, and considering the subject matter, it seems only appropriate to leave with a word on Irene Adler: I’ve chosen fierce.