The Great Game (Sherlock)
|"The Great Game"|
|Episode no.||Series 1
|Directed by||Paul McGuigan|
|Written by||Mark Gatiss|
|Produced by||Sue Vertue|
|Featured music||David Arnold
|Editing by||Mali Evans
|Original air date||8 August 2010|
|Running time||89 minutes|
|List of Sherlock episodes|
Sherlock Holmes is bored and lacking a case. John Watson, finding Sherlock impossible to be around, spends the night at his girlfriend's flat, and sees news of an explosion at Baker Street on the television. He rushes home and finds Mycroft pressuring Sherlock to investigate the murder of an MI6 clerk and the disappearance of a flash drive with important defence plans. Sherlock refuses.
Sherlock is called to Scotland Yard. Inside the bombed-out flat was a strongbox containing a cell phone similar to the one belonging to the victim from "A Study in Pink". A message on the phone leads Sherlock to a pair of trainers in a basement and then receives a call from a terrified woman, obviously reading a message from a third party. If Sherlock does not solve the puzzle in twelve hours, the explosive vest she is wearing will be detonated.
While Sherlock and John examine the trainers, they are interrupted by Molly Hooper, who introduces her new boyfriend Jim, an IT employee, but Sherlock deduces Jim is gay, and Molly storms out. Sherlock traces the shoes to a schoolboy named Carl Powers, who drowned in a pool in London. Sherlock, who was underage at the time, was unable to convince the police to take his theories seriously, but he proves that Powers was poisoned via his eczema medication. The booby-trapped woman is freed.
A second message shows a sports car, stained with blood, and another hostage gives Sherlock eight hours to solve the mystery. Sherlock interviews the owner of the agency that rented the car, deducing that he has a distinct suntan and was recently in Colombia. Finding that the blood in the car had been previously frozen, Sherlock concludes that the lost man, Ian Monkford, paid the agency owner to help him disappear. Once again, the hostage is freed.
A third message and a third hostage point Sherlock to the death of television personality Connie Prince, apparently from tetanus. Supposedly, she cut herself on a nail, but the wound was made after her death. Sherlock pins the crime on the housekeeper (also her brother's lover), who murdered Prince by increasing her botox injections. Although Sherlock solves the puzzle in time, the bomber triggers the explosives when the hostage, who is blind, starts describing her kidnapper's voice. The blast kills her and eleven other people in her building.
The fourth message is a photograph of the River Thames, though no hostage calls. Sherlock finds the corpse of a security guard on the riverbank, identifying the murder as the work of "the Golem", an assassin. Sherlock traces the Golem through his network of homeless persons, but is too late to stop the murder of another victim, an astronomy professor whom the guard had talked to, having realised that a recently discovered painting by Vermeer was a fake. While Sherlock is examining the painting at the museum, the fourth hostage (a child) calls, giving Sherlock only ten seconds to prove the painting is a fake. He does so, and the museum curator admits to faking the picture, and that her secret "partner" was called Moriarty.
Investigating Mycroft's case in secret, Sherlock and John trace the MI6 clerk's death to his prospective brother-in-law, who confesses that he stole the flash drive and accidentally killed him. The man stole the memory stick because of his financial troubles, but still has it because he had no idea how to sell it.
Sherlock waits for John to go out and then arranges to meet Moriarty. He is met instead by John, wearing an explosive vest. Moriarty appears and turns out to be Molly's boyfriend Jim. Moriarty tells Sherlock to stop interfering with him, but Sherlock refuses. Moriarty leaves momentarily but soon returns, having multiple snipers target both Sherlock and John. Sherlock aims his handgun at Moriarty, but then changes his aim to the explosive vest, which he had previously thrown across the pool deck.
The episode (and the first series) ends on this cliffhanger.
Sources and allusions
As with all episodes of Sherlock, the plot combines those of a number of works by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
- Watson's blog discussion about Sherlock's surprising ignorance about several commonplace subjects, including astronomy, comes from A Study in Scarlet.
- Andrew West, the name of the MI6 clerk, comes from "The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans", in which the victim is called Arthur Cadogan West; the idea of the culprit being the brother of the victim's fiancée appears in "The Adventure of the Naval Treaty".
- The pink mobile phone receives messages with Greenwich Pips, with their numbers decreasing with each message, pointing towards "The Five Orange Pips".
- The investigation of the death of Connie Prince resembles "The Adventure of the Retired Colourman", especially Watson's idea about masking tetanus with calcium hypochlorite on the cat's paws and Holmes reading internet forums to gather information about the TV star relatives.
- The conversation between Holmes and Moriarty in the final scene mirrors and quotes the confrontation in Holmes' study in "The Adventure of the Final Problem".
- The "thick Bohemian paper" comes from "A Scandal in Bohemia", as does the scene where Sherlock notes Molly's weight gain.
- Sherlock's statement "I'd be lost without my blogger" echoes his "I am lost without my Boswell" from "A Scandal in Bohemia".
- Holmes' network of homeless persons who help him locate the Golem are referred to as his "eyes and ears all over the city", similar to the Baker Street Irregulars who appear in many of the Sherlock Holmes stories.
- Sherlock firing a gun at a smiley face spray-painted on the wall at the start of the episode and the holes left in the wall is a reference to "The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual", in which "Holmes, in one of his queer humours, would sit in an armchair... and proceed to adorn the opposite wall with a patriotic V. R. done in bullet-pocks".
- The scene where Watson examines the shoes resembles a scene in "A Case of Identity" where he tries to deduce information about Miss Mary Sutherland. Sherlock's remark that Watson "missed everything of importance, but...hit upon the method" is also from the same story.
According to the DVD commentary, "The Great Game" was the first episode of Sherlock to be produced after the BBC accepted the series. The series was filmed in reverse order because co-creator Steven Moffat, the writer of the first episode "A Study in Pink", was busy with the fifth series of Doctor Who.
Andrew Scott made his first appearance as Jim Moriarty in "The Great Game". Moffat said, "We knew what we wanted to do with Moriarty from the very beginning. Moriarty is usually a rather dull, rather posh villain so we thought someone who was genuinely properly frightening. Someone who's an absolute psycho." Moffat and Gatiss were originally not going to put a confrontation between Moriarty and Sherlock into the first three episodes, but realised that they "just had to do a confrontation scene. We had to do a version of the scene in 'The Final Problem' in which the two arch-enemies meet each other."
Sherlock's residence at 221B Baker Street was filmed at 185 North Gower Street. Baker Street was impractical because of heavy traffic, and the number of things labelled "Sherlock Holmes", which would need to be disguised. The laboratory used by Sherlock was filmed at Cardiff University School of Earth and Ocean Sciences.
Broadcast and reception
"The Great Game" was first broadcast on BBC One on 8 August 2010. Overnight figures had been watched by 7.34 million viewers on BBC One and BBC HD, a 31.3% audience share. Final viewing figures rose to 9.18 million.
Chris Tilly of IGN rated "The Great Game" a 9.5 out of 10, describing it as "gripping from start to finish". Of Moriarty's appearance, he said it "didn't disappoint either, the villain of the piece being unlike any incarnation of the character yet seen on screen". He also praised the writing, saying, "Credit should go to writer Mark Gatiss, his script the perfect combination of classic Conan Doyle storytelling with modern-day plot devices and humour, creating a sophisticated mystery that was the perfect marriage of old and new.", and the performances of Cumberbatch and Freeman. John Teti, writing for The A.V. Club, awarded the episode an A- and called it an "extraordinarily dense 90 minutes". He further singled out Andrew Scott for praise, writing that his "portrayal of Moriarty is a thrilling departure from earlier incarnations of the man". The Guardian's Sam Wollaston was optimistic for the programme, describing it as "smart, exciting, and just the right level of confusing" and described "The Great Game" as "a mash-up that totally works" and "an edge-of-the seat ride". However, he admitted he was confused at the end and had some nit-picks.
- Teti, John (7 November 2010). "The Great Game". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 4 April 2011.
- Wollaston, Sam (8 August 2010). "TV review: Sherlock". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 April 2011.
- Cumberbatch, Benedict; Martin Freeman; Mark Gatiss (2010). Audio commentary for "The Great Game" (DVD). Sherlock Series 1 DVD: BBC.
- Levine, Neil (17 April 2010). "Mark Gatiss talks 'Who', 'Sherlock'". Digital Spy. Retrieved 4 May 2012.
- Frost, Vicky (10 August 2010). "Sherlock to return for second series". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 March 2012.
- "Sherlock – did you know?". BBC Entertainment. Retrieved 6 May 2012.
- "Sherlock Holmes, and the riddle of the packed sandwich bar". Daily Mail. 15 August 2010. Retrieved 6 May 2012.
- "University's starring role". Cardiff University. 27 July 2010. Retrieved 15 January 2012.
- Benji, Wilson (1–7 August 2009). "One Final Question: Mark Gatiss". Radio Times (BBC Magazines). p. 146.
- "Network TV BBC Week 32: 7–13 August" (Press release). BBC. Retrieved 6 May 2012.
- Millar, Paul (9 August 2010). "BBC One's 'Sherlock' surges to 7.3m". Digital Spy. Retrieved 6 May 2012.
- "Weekly Top 30 Programmes". Broadcasters' Audience Research Board. Retrieved 6 May 2012.
- Tilly, Chris (9 August 2010). "Sherlock: "The Great Game" Review". IGN. Retrieved 4 April 2011.
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