The First Six Sherlock Episodes, Ranked -The Toast

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6. The Blind Banker

This one’s a breeze! Not only did it suffer from coming right on the heels of the glorious “A Study in Pink,” it was also just…gross. Lackluster and Orientalist, really, which is why Benedict and I chose to ax it after our crofter’s cottage retreat. I’ll never forget how he finally admitted we needed to make a change.

“Nicole,” he said, “I ALSO don’t like the idea that we’re reinforcing the idea that if you’ve asked a young female coworker out a billion times, and she keeps saying no, and then quits her job and doesn’t tell you why, you should go looking for her.”

“Right! Right.”

“Like, okay, maybe she’s running from a Chinese smuggling organization, or maybe you just created a hostile work environment.”

“Do we really know that he asked her out a bunch, though? Maybe it was just this one time?”

“How many times would it take, Nicole?”

“Maybe she’s not ready yet. It’s only been….thirty years.”

(several paragraphs of deep, penetrating glances excised here for space)

5. The Hounds of Baskerville

This episode is fine. There is nothing glaringly wrong with this episode, and some moments of good cheer. I have never understood the case made by those who place it under “The Blind Banker.” I particularly enjoyed the sequence in which Sherlock figures out the stalwart military man’s override code is “Maggie” as in “Thatcher” after glancing over his bookshelves for five seconds.

Although, right, I personally would feel better if high-ranking British military officers had to have, like, at least an eight-digit alpha-numeric password to access classified CIA files? I mean, last time I checked, Five Guys forced me to toss a number into my password in order to store my order (no raw onions, pls.)

This episode’s low moments include the dumb-looking CGI monster dog, and also that we keep thinking Mycroft will show up but doesn’t, because Mycroft is the best. Mark Gatiss’ Mycroft and Andrew Scott’s Moriarty = two great gay actors playing fascinating gay roles, which helps make up for some of the hurr-hurr stuff Moffatt tries to do. I want Mark Gatiss to be in every episode. DO you remember when he told Mrs. Hudson to shut up?

“Apologies.” (thin smile)

4. The Great Game

Again, a good episode. I enjoyed the art thing. Other highlights: the pips on the phone, and Sherlock not knowing that the Earth revolves around the sun. This is something I use a lot now, when I fuck something up. “It was garbage night, and now we’re swimming in kitty litter.”

“It is not RELEVANT to the WORK.”

Now, of the little puzzles that Sherlock has to solve in this episode, my favourite was Carl Powers, because I will take aaaaaaaaaaany glimpse into Young Sherlock (I said this on Twitter, but where is our Muppet Babies-esque Sherlock prequel? Everyone goes teenager for these sorts of things, but I want an eerily-early potty-trained Sherlock fighting with Mycroft 24/7.)

Things that weren’t as great: The Golem, probably. That…was a curious choice. And the Mycroft subplot, although, again, a welcome excuse to see him, was a little dull.

It all fades away, though, when cast in the shining sun of Sherlock and Moriarty and Watson by the pool. I enjoyed Moriarty being perfect ALWAYS. Isn’t he fantastic? Isn’t he menacing? “THAT’S WHAT PEOPLE DOOOOO.” To this day, when I watch that episode (I have watched each episode probably….twelve times?) I have to immediately watch the first three minutes of s2 in order to make sure everyone lives.

Let’s think about this as one of the top four episodes, instead of one of the bottom three?

Then it becomes…challenging. I must now enter my mind palace.

Can it be done, these next three? It’s not as simple as it sounds, because now I must in my heart allow my feminism and my fandom to duke it out, and there can only be one victor. I have had a series of conversations with my nearest and dearest these last few days, and I think that you can tell a lot about a person via their top three Sherlock rankings. My husband thinks that it’s got to be “Reichenbach Fall” on top, followed by “A Study in Pink,” with “Scandal in Belgravia” bringing up the rear. I disagree, but while writing this, I did swap two rankings.

The mind is ever-evolving.

Let’s start by discussing “A Study in Pink,” because when I pit “Reichenbach” and “Scandal” against each other, I become very upset, because I don’t think “A Study in Pink” deserves to be only the third-best episode. “A Study in Pink” does, like, 40% of the heavy lifting for the rest of the series. Pilots (we are leaving the un-aired original pilot out of our rankings, but it’s a DVD extra in the first season, I believe) are always horrible, they usually seem tremendously inferior to the rest of the show, and it’s rarely their fault. “A Study in Pink” avoids almost all the pitfalls of its species, while still managing to do the “oh, hi, I’m John, are we living together, then? Who’s our landlady? Oh, the police call you in on things? You’re DREADFULLY clever” mechanics we can’t possibly do without.

The cab driver is chilling. Chilling and perfect. Really, my only tiny concern with “A Study in Pink” is Sherlock’s little “but I have to know if I chose the right pill!” hissy fit when John takes out the cabbie, because, um, GO TO THE LAB and have the pill with your fingerprints on it tested for poison, numbnuts.

But, no, it’s just a fabulous, fabulous episode, and I can find very little fault with it.

And now we come to “The Reichenbach Fall.”

“Reichenbach” is one of the best television episodes of anything, ever, which is hard for me to say, because my least favourite thing in the WORLD, and every fucking show does it (it’s essentially 75% of Rockford Files episodes) is to say “oh, you know what would be exciting and edgy and different? Let’s have everyone think our hero is actually an ANTIHERO, for a whole episode, and he’ll be disgraced and his friends will slowly distance themselves and then we’ll see him squirm.”

I hate it. HATE it. But when it’s ninety minutes, it seems like less of a cheap gag, and it was honestly worth it to me to see Moriarty give Sherlock that “haHA” face when he’s pretending to cower in front of him and the tabloid lady is doing her “YOU repel MEEE” rejoinder.


Women are always the worsttttttttt on this show! If I see a picture of Sally Donovan, I want to strangle her. I would never, ever complain about Lestrade, because Rupert Graves is the MOST, but maybe we could have gender-swapped Lestrade and Donovan, so the female POC got to be the friend and ally whose mind is slowly poisoned against Sherlock by a wily and jealous white dude? Anderson is perfect and loathsome, I just get really uncomfortable about how much I hate Sally Donovan, and I choose to blame Moffatt for missing an opportunity to do something more interesting. And then, again, our gullible journalist friend!

The weird subplot with all the international assassins was also unnecessary.

It’s still an incredible episode, it swung for the fences, and that panoramic shot with Moriarty playing “Staying Alive” on the roof and then AND THEN when he shoots himself because Sherlock is going to chew each of his veins until he squeaks? I love it.

I actually have to think that my husband putting “A Scandal in Belgravia” in the third spot is a bit of a victory for constantly bombarding your male oppressor with strident feminist rants, because all of my objections to “Scandal” are political in nature. Shall I enumerate them?

It is actually my favourite episode, and this becomes more apparent to me as I make my own case against it:

1. Irene is ultimately outwitted by Sherlock, a decision which is somehow less progressive than that made by Conan Doyle in the 3rd century A.D.

2. She is not outwitted in a true battle of wits, she is outwitted because of womanly emotions.

3. I mean, too, you can see how they work overtime to prevent Sherlock ever losing a fair fight to her (except for the big one). She DRUGGED and BEAT HIM to get her phone back the first time, for heaven’s sake.

4. I also just cannot cannot cannot abide “brainy is the new sexy,” only partly because a young man once said to me “you’re sexy because you’re so smart” at an almost unbelievably ill-timed moment and now I have to lift weights three days a week so that if I ever see him again I can cleanly rip his head from his neck and then do wall slams with it.

5. He doesn’t just outwit her, he has to save her, too.  So, not only does he get to win, he gets to be the hero, too. If he’d outwitted her, and she wound up dead, that’s some character-building complexity.

No, that’s basically the feminist case, here. But I love it, I love every moment of it. The Christmas interlude where Molly Hooper tells him what a bag of dicks he is, and he makes his little apology-kiss. Irene’s CLOTHES. Irene’s femme-y henchwoman who yearns for her. Oh, right:

6. It’s ridiculous that Irene is ostensibly mostly drawn to women and she doesn’t make out ONCE with her henchwoman.

But Mycroft, guys, Mycroft getting his “YA BURNT” text message from Moriarty and then just sitting there, grimly, at his desk. The Coventry thing in general, just…so good. When the Americans rough up Mrs. Hudson, and Sherlock lets it off the leash for a few minutes to fuck the CIA guy up. And, then, the payoff final scene when everyone is happy and he tosses the phone up in the air…gets me every time, even as I resent it.

So, then, a decision must be made.

1(c) The Reichenbach Fall

1(b) A Study in Pink

1(a) A Scandal in Belgravia

(leaps off roof of St Bartholmew’s Hospital with arms outstretched; nothing a woman does should be criticized)

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