Sherlock: Series 2 review (Blu-ray)

Sherlock returns to build upon the critical and fan acclaim from series one, but the question is: can the show emulate or even surpass the high bar set by 2010's three episodes? With the original line-up returning to continue where they left off you wouldn't want to bet against them.

Cumberbatch and Freeman play our dynamic duo of Holmes and Watson, with Scott and Stubbs reprising their roles as Jim Moriarty and Mrs Hudson. Plus co-creators Gatiss and Moffat lead the scriptwriting team, relishing the opportunity to dive into three of the most exciting, classic Arthur Conan Doyle stories and give their own modern take.

Series two kicks off with the ambitious and lively A Scandal In Belgravia, where Holmes is tasked with recovering some rather compromising photos of a minor member of the royal family, which were taken and are held by the woman known as the dominatrix, played by Laura Pulver. Introduing a new element to Sherlock – namely love (or is it?) – is a great start to the series. Moffat's kinetic and frantic storytelling in this episode keeps the viewer on edge, managing to provide you with an answer but swiftly asking another question at the same time. The twists and turns provide plenty of room for the lead actors to show their strengths, with Cumberbatch demonstrating a wide range of emotion for Holmes and Irene Adler becoming an intriguing ad unpredictable antagonist. It's an almighty piece of television which is the standout of the three episodes in the set.

However, that does not mean that the other two episodes are to be ignored. Next in line is an adaptation of the most recognised tale of the great detective, The Hounds of Baskervilles. Gatiss assumes the writing responsibilities for this one and brings his experience and passion for horror to this grim tale. Holmes and Watson are contacted by a young man (Russell Tovey) who is plagued by traumatic memories of the death of his father who was killed by a monstrous hound on Dartmoor. After some snooping, the team uncover a conspiracy at the sinister MoD testing site known as Baskerville. Escaping the city and exploring a new location is a pleasant change for the series as the wild landscapes of Dartmoor are used to strong effect in this ghost story. Freeman's Watson steps into the spotlight a little more this time with his own adventures plus we get to see his calming and positive influence on the troubled Sherlock, traumatised after catching a glimpse of the beast. This episode offers up less comedy and focuses on the scare factor with a different take on the tale and some nods back to the much-loved original.

To close out the second series we have The Reichenbach Fall. As Holmes's renown puts him into the public spotlight, Moriarty launches a grand, scathing attack on his nemesis leading to a mighty showdown and Sherlock's final problem. The focus this time around is on Moriarty and leads me to my one issue with the show. Scott doesn't manage to bring the menace and threat that he requires the majority of the time. This Moriarty is insane rather than pure evil and is often used to comedic effect when it is not needed; the writers must be partly blamed for this characterisation. There is plenty of comedy elsewhere in the show, Moriarty didn't need to be part of it too. However, the character does have his moments and the climax to this episode is riveting, with the final face-off provng delightful. It was an exciting and eventful episode with an enthralling and unpredictable twist. A good conclusion to close the series.

Series two has built upon the first effort and the results are one of the best TV dramas around. The stellar performances, the crafty camerawork, the sweeping and kinetic score, the witty dialogue, the drama and most importantly the respect for the original stories and their characters make this a dream for any Sherlock Holmes affcionado. With these new adaptations, the introduction of technology and modern culture the show is also accesible and enjoyable for new viewers. Sherlock has got the best of both worlds and is simply must-watch television. With the rapidly rising stars of Cumberbatch and Freeman, series three may be a way off but we are assured it is on it's way. This reviewer is simply grateful for three exciting 90-minute stories. My TV licence money has been very well spent.

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Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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