SPOILER ALERT: THIS BLOG TALKS ABOUT MURDERS ON THE HBO MURDER SHOW WITHOUT NAMING ANY NAMES OR PLOT TWISTS OR EVEN NAMING THE MURDER SHOW. DON'T READ IF YOU DON'T WANT TO FIND OUT THERE ARE A LOT OF MURDERS.
As a casual observer of that murder-y show, famous for its murders, that had its most murder-y episode last night, I didn't wind up quite as disappointed as longtime fans who were hoping for at least a few characterization-based conclusions and not just the most massive murder spree of any television show ever. Which brings me back to Sherlock Holmes and one of the reasons I like him so much.
Sherlock Holmes doesn't need a murder to make him leave the house.
Sure, he bitches about it: "As to my own little practice, it seems to be degenerating into an agency for recovering lost lead pencils and giving advice to young ladies from boarding-schools." But Sherlock still gives the advice, still travels out to the country to check on said young ladies. He puzzles over a lost hat and goose. He goes to find out why someone wears a veil. Sherlock Holmes isn't all about murders. He's about mysteries.
Writers usually succumb to the gravity of the black hole of murder mystery when it comes to Sherlock Holmes, because murder is the most easy plot to draw drama out of. (And Scotland Yard shows up for your story automatically.) Those who don't know him best throw him in the box with Jessica Fletcher from TV's Murder She Wrote, a murder mystery writer living in a town of 3,560 people that somehow had a murder every single week for years. If you thought Shirley Jackson's classic tale "The Lottery" was bad, Fletcher's town of Cabot Cove makes that story's cultish trap of a town seem like a safe space, just to give Jessica Fletcher murders to fill her time hunting murderers.
Sherlock Holmes, living in the largest city on Earth of his time, somehow managed to actually get bored now and then because there weren't enough mysteries to work on, even of the hat and goose variety. Not that London didn't have murders, but as Sherlock himself said, "Crime is common. Logic is rare."
Making a story, movie, or TV show that doesn't depend on murders for drama is harder than making a show that depends upon murders for its drama. Even at his last, when he was most tired of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle still managed to get in a "this girl wants to married a bad dude" story, a "somebody wants to buy my house in a weird way" story, a "my wife might be a non-murdery vampire" story, and a "this old lady's dog doesn't like her" story, all in his last season of tales, and that's one reason Sherlock Holmes has stayed more popular than once-famous murder detectives like Ellery Queen. (Remember that guy? He had his own magazine, TV show, etc., as famous as could be. Once.)
But no mystery in last night's montage of murders in HBO's murder show. Makes one wonder if it will be around a hundred years from now like our old friend Sherlock. Crime is common, and logic is rare, just like he said.