Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Russian Sherlock 2013 Episode # 2 "Rock, Paper, Scissors" - Recap and Review

Russian John Watson Andrei Panin new Sherlock Holmes 2013 TV Series Episode 2 Rock Paper Scissors

The opening shot is a beautifully rendered one - It is a foggy street and breaking out of this white veil, a hansom comes thundering out at us. Soon, the hansom is ambushed and the men escorting the treasure are shot dead.

At 221 B Baker Street, Sherlock Holmes (Igor Petrenko) and Dr John Watson (Andrei Panin) have had another of their friendly boxing bouts. Peter Small (Mikhail Evlanov), one of Dr Watson's former acquaintances arrives, seeking his help for his wounds.

It is too late for Peter and he dies shortly. Inspector Lestrade (Mikhail Boyarskiy) is hot on Peter's trail and demands an explanation from the residents of 221 B as to the whereabouts of a bag Peter was carrying.

Both Dr Watson and Sherlock claim to have seen Peter for the first time. After Lestrade leaves, Dr Watson explains about his past experiences with Peter Small. Peter had one of his legs cut off right in front of Dr Watson.

Sherlock deduces that Peter has a child at St. Marks' orphanage. He is proved right when they run into Peter's daughter, Mary Small at the orphanage. Mary has an visitor, Thaddeus “Tad” Sholto. Tad also happens to be one of Dr Watson's former army acquaintances and had saved the lives of Dr Watson and Peter Small in a military operation.

The rest of the episode focuses on how Sherlock and Dr Watson solve the mystery behind the death of Peter Small.

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Canonical References
1. During the opening credits scene, Dr John Watson's voiceover mentions the following lines from the Canon - “Holmes certainly is not a difficult man to live with, but I got more and more interested in his personality. There wasn't an end to this energy. His eyes were sharp and piercing. If you didn't count the periods of stupor in which he was falling from time to time. His hands were invariably blotted with ink and stained with chemicals, yet he was possessed of an extraordinary delicacy of touch as I frequently had the occasion to observe when I watched him manipulating his fragile philosophical instruments. Somebody may set me down as a hopeless busybody when I confess how much this man stimulated my curiosity and how often I endeavored to break through the reticence which he showed on all that concerned himself”.

2. Dr John Watson and Sherlock Holmes have the following exchange almost verbatim from A Study in Scarlet: “You remind me of Edgar Allen Poe's Dupin. I had no idea that such individuals did exist outside of stories.No doubt you think that you are complimenting me in comparing me to Dupin,...  Now, in my opinion, Dupin was a very inferior fellow. That trick of his of breaking in on his friends' thoughts with an apropos remark after a quarter of an hour's silence is really very showy and superficial.

3. Sherlock refers to a case in which a bankrupt landowner kills his wife, step daughters a year apart by poisoning with arsenic, in order to have the inheritance all for himself. When caught, he claimed that one of them died from a snake's bite. - This reminded me of the plot of The Adventure of the Speckled Band, in which Dr Grimesby Roylott killed his step daughter Julia Stoner using a swamp adder. Julia's twin sister, Helen Stoner then seeks Sherlock Holmes' assistance.

4. Sherlock deduces that Peter Small worked as a cab-man based on the callus between his fingers and the condition of his boot soles - Sherlock Holmes states in A Study in Scarlet: “By a man's finger nails, by his coat-sleeve, by his boot, by his trouser knees, by the callosities of his forefinger and thumb, by his expression, by his shirt cuffs—by each of these things a man's calling is plainly revealed. That all united should fail to enlighten the competent enquirer in any case is almost inconceivable” 

5. Mycroft Holmes makes a mention of Francis Carfas, secret agent and helper - Possible reference to the original story, The Adventure of Lady Frances Carfax.

Russian Sherlock Holmes in disguise in the new Russian Sherlock Holmes 2013 TV Series

Igor Petrenko puts his own stamp on an iconic character. His take leans more towards the Robert Downey Jr. type - a bit over the top. 

Andrei Panin continues to impress as Dr John Watson. His impersonation of the affable doctor deserves to go down as one of the best ever on screen.

I liked the part where Dr Watson offers discounts to veterans and the disabled. Equally good was the reference to him being a student at the University of London.

The best part though is Dr Watson facing troubles with the publisher to get his poem about the war published. The publisher instead advises him to write something more palatable to the general taste like a cute love story with a touch of murder mystery. The publisher even gives Charles Dickens as an example, who did not mind  writing detective plots. Dr Watson decides to pay the money himself to have his poem printed, but lack of funds prevent him from sealing the deal. The publisher informs the budding author that writing detective stories instead would fetch him a handsome sum instead.

These scenes paralleled the real life obstacles faces by Arthur Conan Doyle in getting public approval for his serious works of non-fiction get. But much against his wishes his fictitious works featuring Sherlock Holmes proved to be bestsellers. Despite his lifelong efforts, Arthur Conan Doyle is still best known for his works involving the Bohemian detective.

These were nice touches and showed the passion of the show writers for the original stories.

This episode introduces us to two of the most important women in the Sherlock Holmes Canon - Mrs Hudson and Irene Adler, played by Ingeborga Dapkunaite  and Lyanka Gryu respectively.

Lyanka makes a pretty and playful Irene. She pays a visit to Sherlock at 221 B Baker Street and steals a photograph right under his nose. Their playful banter that hints at past intimacy is another influence of the Guy Ritchie/Robert Downey Jr. movies.

Ingeborga Dapkunaite, on the other hand plays a commanding and a relatively young Mrs Hudson. We are used to Mrs Hudson being played by very elderly actresses. The latest Russian adaptation makes a clear breakaway from this stereotyped portrayal.

Ingeborga makes her mark in the scene, where she has to choose between either having the detective and the army veteran as her tenants or the two elderly ladies who have had enough of the trouble brought on by the adorementioned two roommates.

In addition to these two ladies, we also meet Mycroft Holmes, Sherlock's elder brother and one of the founders of the Diogenes Club. We do not get to see his face yet, but he still maintains his dominating presence and is treated with utmost respect by members of the official force, including Inspector Lestrade.

The episode is very loosely based on the original story The Sign of the Four. The writers have made changes to make this an interesting take on the classic story. There is an encounter between the good guys and baddies on a river, just as in the source novel. The final scene with Mary Small receiving a pearl every year to fund her education was touching and another nod to the original story, in which Mary Morstan receives a pearl every year from Thaddeus Sholto.

Recommended to fans of Sherlock Holmes.

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Image Sources: Central Partnership, Channel One Russia, Sherlock Holmes News 

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Russian Sherlock 2013 “221 B Baker Street” - Review
Vasily Livanov as Sherlock Holmes
Vasily Livanov as Sherlock Holmes

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