The beauty of streaming is that you can watch anything anytime, but you miss out on the anticipation of the next episode when you’re caught up in a series. Some shows frankly suffer without that anticipation, but when one does capture your attention, then binge-watching takes on a whole new pleasure.
Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch is definitly binge worthy. Sherlock Holmes is a perennial favorite anyway and this version, currently running on Crackle, brings the intelligence of the original characters together with a nuanced understanding of Holmes’s probable psychological issues as well as drug abuse and addiction. It’s set in the 20th century, but has the film noir feel of the 20s, or maybe that’s just London. The visual depictions of Homes’ convoluted thought processes had a psychedelic vibe that somewhere between 60’s and classic horror film.
While the show pulls from the original stories, the plots have roller coaster twists and turns. I’m not the most critical viewer but half of them, I did not see coming! I especially did not foresee sweet little old lady housekeeper Mrs. Hudson throwing Sherlock in a car boot at gunpont! The really innovative twists in this version are the amplified character of Mycroft Holmes, Sherlock’s older brother. He only appears into 4 of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories, older, smarter, but considerably less kinetic. In this TV series, he’s manipulative, sneaky, and very nearly as amoral as Moriarty. Moriarty has evolved from a diabolic genius who craved money and power into a seriously sick criminal with a perverse idea of games. Martin Freeman adds wonderful depth to John Watson. Sometimes portrayed as an imbecile in movies, Watson was after all a doctor, and Martin shows the empathy and personal challenges an Army doctor would struggle with.
I also watched The King’s Man, the prequel to the Kingsman movies. It’s worth seeing if you’re a fan of the franchise, but sadly, it lacks the festive bravado of the earlier movies. Only one fight sequence has the kapow, kersplat dynamic that reflects the comic books that the series pulls from. The themes, however, are where the movie really suffers. There was a pacifist movement before World War I, but it led largely by Marxist and socialist groups. Jean Jaurès in particular held off France’s entry into the war for several years, despite strong anti-German feelings, until he was assassinated in 1914. The British aristocracy would have had even more of the same nationalist feelings as the rest of the country as many of those families had long histories of serving in the military. The bit about the white feather was very real. However, it wasn’t just sons of noblemen who signed up for the army out of patriotic fervor, and it wasn’t just sons of noble men who died. The poem that’s recited in the movie, Dulce et Decorum Est, is a very real portrayal of the shock that many idealistic young men experienced. The poet, Wilfred Owen, would have been considered part of the growing middle class.
After that, working at the manor didn’t seem like such good job prospects when you could get better income and your own flat with a factory job. This was a huge change from the strict Edwardian code of before the war and while the aristocracy may have welcomed it, they still didn’t mingle with servants. The Duke of Oxford as an egalitarian philanthropist is awkward. Much more likely is Kingsman’s being founded through paternalistic oversight as was hinted as in the earlier films.
Changing perspectives in history isn’t uncommon or even a bad thing. Revisiting past events with new, distant perspective is one of the main functions of historical analysis. One area that’s receiving a lot of attention today is the role of colonial soldiers. Those trenches weren’t full of just white men. But it’s dangerous to ignore the drives of a particular era in favor of a tidy narrative. The nationalist feelings that led to World War I are more complex and less easy to tell than the plot of a disgruntled megalomaniac, but like today, the causes of war are more complex than one person. Yeah, I’m looking at you, Putin.