94 Things I Love About “A Study In Pink” (The Pilot of “Sherlock”)

WARNING: THIS POST IS FULL OF SPOILERS FOR THE PILOT EPISODE OF SHERLOCK.  DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVE NOT WATCHED THE SHOW AND ARE PLANNING TO DO SO.

AND IF YOU HAVE NOT WATCHED IT, YOU SHOULD BE PLANNING TO DO SO.

Consider this a final warning.

I’ve reviewed Sherlock on this blog before and detailed just why the BBC miniseries is one of my favorite things on Earth.  There are plenty of general reasons – Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayal of Sherlock, Martin Freeman’s portrayal of Watson, Mark Gattis and Steven Moffat’s writing, Paul McGuigan’s directing…but today, I thought I’d take it a step further with an in-depth look into the pilot episode, “A Study In Pink”.  Here, for no particular numerical reason, are 94 things I love about the start to one of the best things I’ve ever seen on TV…

  1. Dr. John Watson, who’s our first character introduced.  In 90 wordless seconds, we see shots of the war, his nightmares and his general depressed state.  No words, and yet we already know the character quite well.
  2. Watson’s first conversation with his therapist.  “You just wrote ‘still has trust issues’.”  “And you read my writing upside down.”
  3. Watson says “Nothing happens to me”.  Leading us – BANG! – right into the opening credits…
  4. And oh, those opening credits.  Sherlock owns a majestic, soaring theme that gets in and out.
  5. And that giant ferris wheel, which pops up later.  What is that?
  6. The haunting, mysterious montage that essentially starts our story.  Three separate people taking the same pills in completely separate situations?  We’re completely drawn in within minutes – yet we know nothing.
  7. Everyone gets a text at the same time in the press conference room.  “Wrong!” pops up on the screen – the first of this show’s many visual tech cues.  It’s an innovative way of communicating messages – and, later on, a way of looking inside Sherlock’s mind.
  8. Inspector Lestrade’s sheepishly and unfortunately delivered line during the press conference – “well, don’t commit suicide.”
  9. Watson’s friend: “I heard you were abroad somewhere, getting shot at.  What happened?”  Watson (beat): “I got shot.”
  10. The 8:28 mark – the first time we see the title character of our show.  And it’s a shot of Sherlock un-zippering a dead body’s corpse in the morgue.
  11. …and 14 seconds later, he’s whipping the hell out of some dead body!  “So – bad day, was it?” asks Molly, our lovestruck lab assistant.
  12. That musical cue that kicks in once Sherlock starts beating the corpse – for scientific purposes, of course.  But oh, that glorious musical cue! We’ll be hearing it often.
  13. The way Sherlock unwittingly rebuffs Molly’s date attempt.  “I was wondering if later…” “You’re wearing lipstick.  You weren’t wearing lipstick before.” “I was wondering if you’d like to have coffee.”  “Black, two sugars, please.  I’ll be upstairs.”
  14. “Afghanistan or Iraq?”
  15. Within seconds, Holmes deduces the following facts about Watson: a) military background, b) he’s just home from service, c) he’s a potential flatmate, d) he’s an army doctor, e) he’s got an alcoholic brother and f) his limp is psychosomatic.  Savant.
  16. “The name’s Sherlock Holmes and the address is 221B Baker Street.  Afternoon.”
  17. And the wink.  Oh, Benedict Cumberbatch.  Yes, I’m a straight man.

    Seriously, though.

  18. Our fourth suicide victim.  All we see are the fingernails, dress and heels. All pink.  All details that come around later.
  19. “So you stopped her husband from being executed?”  “Oh, no, I ensured it.”
  20. Sherlock gets the case, waits for a beat, and – jumps for joy in the air!  He spins around as the camera spins with him.  “Brilliant!”
  21. “DAMN my leg!” exclaims Watson.  “I understand, dear, I’ve got a hip”, responds Mrs. Hudson.
  22. She’s not their housekeeper.
  23. Watson’s response to the prospect of more violence.  “Oh, god yes.”
  24. “The game, Mrs. Hudson, is on!”
  25. Sherlock’s job title.  CONSULTING detective.  The only one in the world, he claims.
  26. The brilliant montage where Sherlock explains how he figured out everything about Watson.  Smart, snappy, supremely entertaining.
  27. Sherlock knows that Watson’s brother is an alcoholic by the scuff marks around the port for the phone charger.  “You were right.  The police DON’T consult amateurs.”
  28. …but he misses the fact that “Harry” is short for “Harriet”!  “Sister!  I always miss something.”
  29. “Freak’s here, bringin’ him in.”  So…it’s clear what everyone else thinks of Sherlock, then.
  30. “And it’s clear she’s scrubbing your floors, by the state of her knees!”  And it’s clear what he thinks of them.
  31. “Shut up.”  “I didn’t say anything!”  “You were thinking, it’s annoying.”
  32. Sherlock’s thought process, explained by words that pop up on the screen and click together.  Brilliant.

    I have no snark here. This is just awesome.

  33. 26 minutes in, Lestrade throws in the towel.  He may be stubborn, but he knows he needs Sherlock.
  34. “Fun?  There’s a women lying dead.”  “Perfectly sound analysis, but I was hoping you’d go deeper.”
  35. “It’s fantastic!”  “Do you know you do that out loud?”  Watson, you’ll learn.
  36. The conversation between Sherlock, running down the stairs, and Lestrade, at the spiral structure’s stop.  It all ends in the serial killer’s mistake – “PINK!”
  37. Watson’s first warning, from Sgt. Donovan.  “Because he’s a psychopath.  Psychopaths get bored.”
  38. The way he receives his second warning.  Every pay phone ringing.  Security cameras moving.  A mysterious voice on the phone.  A car that picks him up.
  39. …but in the back of the car, subverting expectations, is a bored young woman named Anthea.  Not her real name, of course.
  40. “You know, you could have just phoned me…on my phone.”  Oh, Martin Freeman.
  41. It seems we meet our supervillain, a mysterious man in a random parking garage.  Dramatic, all-knowing…who is this fellow?

    Well, he’s actually this guy.

  42. Sherlock’s texts.  “Baker Street.  Come at once if convenient.”  Then – “if inconvenient, come anyway.”
  43. Mark Gattiss’ line delivery of “you’re not haunted by the war, Dr. Watson.  You miss it.”  In fact, all his line deliveries.
  44. Watson to “Athena”: “do you ever get any free time?”  Player.
  45. Sherlock sorts his cases by nicotine.  This one?  “A three-patch problem.”
  46. The shot of Sherlock, lying on his back in his bed, as we’re reintroduced to him in the flat.
  47. “Do people still have archenemies?”
  48. Watson: “do people usually assume you’re the murderer?”  Sherlock just smiles.
  49. The way Sherlock tells Watson not to be offended when he calls him an idiot.  “Don’t be offended, practically everyone is.”
  50. Sherlock knows how to tug at Watson’s heartstrings.  “I said dangerous – and here you are.” And Watson’s limping away.
  51. “That’s the frailty of genius, John. It needs an audience.”
  52. The way that window shots are formed in the show, with the reflection of anyone walking or driving by.  Anyone, in this particular episode, could be the killer.
  53. The waiter incorrectly assumes that Watson is Sherlock’s date.  Twice.
  54. And that Sherlock incorrectly assumes that Watson’s interested in him.  Oops.
  55. Sherlock’s dinner is on the house? Why?  He got the owner off of a murder rap – he was merely housebreaking on the other side of town!
  56. Sherlock jumps out of the restaurant.  Watson does, too – and leaves the cane behind.  Psychosomatic, indeed.
  57. The chase through the city to get to the cab.  Maps in Sherlock’s head.  Climbs up staircases and roofs.  Flashing street signs.  Maddeningly well-edited.
  58. Sherlock fakes being a policeman.  Watson keeps up the façade.  “Uh, any problems, just let us know.”
  59. “That was the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever done.”  “And you invaded Afghanistan.”

    Everybody love everybody!

  60. “I’m not your sniffer dog!”  “Oh, Anderson’s my sniffer dog.”  Lestrade, suddenly sly.
  61. Cumberbatch, perfect at every moment.  “I’m not a psychopath, Anderson, I’m a high-functioning sociopath.  Do your research.”
  62. “Don’t move, don’t breathe, don’t speak!  Anderson, turn the other way!”  Anderson : Sherlock :: Toby : The Office.
  63. OK, one more.  “Anderson, don’t speak out loud, you lower the IQ of the whole street.”
  64. Talk about ominous – the shot of the cab driver behind Mrs. Hudson, faceless in the dark, is extraordinarily eerie.
  65. More great editing – the wipe from one person walking in front of the camera to Sherlock walking outside to meet the cabbie.
  66. The cabbie’s accent.  “Back of an ‘ed.”  “Mr. ‘Olmes.”
  67. Why won’t Holmes call the police on the murderous cabbie?  Because the cabbie appeals to him.  He knows that Sherlock wants to know how those people died.
  68. No, he NEEDS to know how those people died.
  69. The music as Sherlock’s driven away.  Subtle yet suspenseful – and possibly heroic.
  70. “One thing about bein’ a cabbie: you always know a nice, quiet spot for a murder.”

    Hey, it’s old Wormtail!

  71. The cabbie points a gun at Sherlock.  The response?  “Oh, dull.”
  72. So many introductory shots with people framed to the side.  Makes for some fun cuts from scene to scene.
  73. The two grimiest pills you’ve ever seen, slowly taken out by the cabbie.  Slowly drawing Sherlock into his game.
  74. Oh, Sherlock has a website, and it’s called “The Science of Deduction”.  Because of course it is.
  75. The murderer’s game – sort of a twisted “Princess Bride”-esque affair.  One bottle’s a deadly pill, one bottle’s a regular one.  And he’s alive after four games.
  76. “It’s not chance, Mr. Holmes.  It’s chess.”
  77. And to emphasize the point, he makes one chilling move – he moves one bottle toward Sherlock.  Sherlock, who NEEDS to know if he has the good or the bad pill in front of him…
  78. …but not without some sly humor first.  “Either way, you’re wasted as a cabbie.”
  79. Sherlock knows why the cabbie’s out for blood.  He figures out that he’s dying.  Why murder?  “Most fun you can have with an aneurysm”, says the cabbie.
  80. But seriously, why murder?  “I have a sponsor”, notes the cabbie.  For every life he takes, his children get more money.  Brilliant.
  81. He won’t reveal the name.  And the tension, with close-ups and searing music is unbearable.  It all builds up to the cabbie shooting his gun…
  82. …which, of course, is a fake gun.  Only a lighter, in fact.
  83. Is Sherlock clever enough to bet his life?  This is a rarity – someone calling Sherlock stupid.  Someone portending to be smarter than Sherlock?
  84. He’s going to take the pill.  He’s holding it up to his mouth.  He’s got a 50/50 shot at death.  And then…

    #ExtraSuspenseDueToInclusionOfPicture

  85. Watson.  With a gun.  Across buildings.  A hero at last.
  86. “MORIARTY!!!!”
  87. Sherlock has a blanket.  Why?  For shock.  “But I’m not in shock.”
  88. Another Sherlock monologue, going off on who shot the cabbie, when he realizes…it was, in fact, his flat mate.  “Forget everything I just said”, he tells Lestrade.
  89. “Good shot.”
  90. “Don’t giggle, it’s a crime scene.”
  91. Sherlock claims he wasn’t going to take the pill. Watson knows otherwise.  “Because you’re an idiot.”  A rare humor-induced smile.  We’re done here, it seems.
  92. But wait!  The archenemy himself shows up.  Watson cowers, until…
  93. “You always upset Mummy.”  Oh.  It’s his brother, Mycroft.  Not Moriarty.  Not yet.
  94. “Sorry, sir – whose status?”  “Sherlock Holmes.  And Dr. Watson.”  And cut.

Anything I forgot?  Leave it in the comments below.  Any TV shows or movies you’d like to see in the new “Things I Love” series?  Leave ’em below as well.

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5 responses to “94 Things I Love About “A Study In Pink” (The Pilot of “Sherlock”)

  1. Big thumbs up on Luther. Two excellent but different types of UK series. If you like those, try the short-lived “Zen” with Rufus Sewell, “Above Suspicion” with Kelly Reilly and Ciaran Hinds, and “Kidnap and Ransom” with Trevor Eve.

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