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Although I had a lovely and rather civilised NYE being fed a delicious seven course meal and nice booze aplenty, it was really all a lead-up to being able to watch A Scandal in Belgravia again tonight.  With subtitles, so as not to miss a delicious word of dialogue this time around...

I really am itching to watch it for a third time, but I'm trying to be good and not overindulge all at once... but, oh, it was still all rather splendid.  I'm so happy it's all as good as I remembered :o)

But the main thing that's been ticking round my brain since I first saw the preview: well, of course Steven Moffatt pulled this one off quite so marvellously - this story always hangs on the rather shapely (and frequently unclad) shoulders of Miss Adler, in as much as a large part of his first two series of Who have revolved around River.  It's even more noticeable on a second viewing that the archetypal Irene (not all of which is necessarily present in the Belgravia version) is lurking somewhere behind what makes River so intriguing.  She is... The Woman.  The nemesis, the only person in the world actually on his wavelength and clever enough to keep up (and as assuredly sociopathic not to care what they have to do to win the game.)  The difference being is that the Doctor is not really like Sherlock.  He actually kinda likes people (he hugs!), has faith in humanity and all that rubbish - so River gets redeemed because love fixes everything in the Whoverse. 

Belgravia's Irene is the bleaker, colder version of that story - emotion is the weakness here that will make you lose the game (on the surface of it anyhoo).  Both she and Sherlock get to remain quite irredeemably broken, though, and I love that.  They both have terrible difficulty at telling between attraction and intellectual fascination and plain old addiction to anything that makes the world a little less dull, and that's what this.  It's beautifully done to recognise that Sherlock can stay as he is and that's ok - and that acknowledging that he does have actual emotions occasionally still doesn't mean he finds sex remotely interesting... Good lord, anything that doesn't acknowledge sex as the be all and end all of any romantic narrative is unheard of these days.  Which is a shame, as Belgravia manages to be insanely hot mostly because nothing really happens between them deliberately. It's the little things..

 The really amusing stuff is all the literal DW parallels, to the point where Irene knocks Sherlock with a mysterious drug and escapes by falling out of a window.. backwards, while Mr Cumberbatch gets to stumble around doing that drunken foal impression that Matt Smith is so good at. They have a cross/double cross with a phone lock code that's also right out of Let's Kill Hitler...

Really and truly, this Irene is akin to young River at that point  - you might say the whole episode is a very long version of the same redemption arc as LKH, except Irene, gloriously, never really chooses to redeem herself willingly. She's always damned, because she's not interested in being better - merely in being clever and safe and in control (everyone is Irene's bitch - except Sherlock, maybe, for a couple of moments. That's why he has an entire industry centred around him, folks.)

And oh god, the literal beheading by Al Qaida was inspired. It's an extreme version of the patented Moffatt Happy Ending that we're so used to, but it was brilliant in its daftness; in its willingness to go so far beyond the established bounds of the story they had set up and.. oh hell, it's essentially the equivalent of one of those Night and the Doctor DVD minisodes tacked on as an ending.  Sherlock ending up in Karachi infiltrating an Islamic terror cell is in the same ridiculous league as the Doctor running around with  River and Marilyn in a biplane in the background.

And storming Karachi wasn't about sex or power, but merely because he thought the world was more interesting with her in it (because interesting is what motivates him entirely), and I absolutely adored it.  The world is a lot more interesting with Irene around (yeah, thanks Guy Ritchie, but Game of Shadows started to lose me the minute their Irene started choking on her cup of steaming poison about ten minutes in.)

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Jennifer Howell

July 2015

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