Although I have written movie and book reviews, this is my first show review. I am thrilled to be able to share with you my reaction to and rating of Sherlock Season 1.
As this is a spoiler-free review, I will limit how much I reveal of the plot.
Sherlock Season 1 aired in 2010 and was produced by BBC and Hartswood films. It is based off of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes books, but instead of being placed in Victorian England, the show is set in modern-day London.
The show stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Rupert Graves, Una Stubbs, Mark Gatiss, Louise Brealey, and Andrew Scott.
In addition to being nominated for various awards, Sherlock won in three categories in the Primetime Emmy Awards.
Immersive setting highly relevant to a modern-day audience
Strong character development
Benefit of a familiar character with a new spin
Intelligent, occasionally comical, script
Catchy theme song
I could not think of any specific cons for this season.
The acting, especially by Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, was incredible. They both played their parts well. All of the fantastic and obnoxious qualities of Sherlock were brought out and emphasized.
The setting is more relevant to a modern-day audience than Victorian London and allows for a unique spin on a Sherlock Holmes story. The presence of modern conveniences such as security cameras and phones creates a new playing field for a new Sherlock to test his intellect.
The main characters are highly developed.
Sherlock is a highly intelligent man who lacks empathy. He is nevertheless shown on several occasions to have at least some degree of care depending on who the person is. He is blunt, but occasionally shows remorse for his words when they have caused damage. He diagnoses himself as a sociopath, which is shown by this comment:
I’m not a psychopath, Anderson. I’m a high-functioning sociopath. Do your research.”
Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock
Ironically, he is not actually a psychopath or a sociopath, which is argued very strongly in this article by psychologist Maria Konnikova. One line of reasoning used in the article is that he is not actually devoid of empathy, shown by his treatment of Watson and Mrs. Hudson on numerous occasions. Another point is that he does feel emotions and that his calculated coldness is learned rather than innate. Konnikova makes several other valid points, so I would recommend her article.
Watson also seems to be of higher-than-average intelligence, but he cannot compete with Sherlock. Watson, however, has a deep sense of empathy and values human life while wanting to negate human suffering. He has his own dark side, however, and when Sherlock asks him if he wants to see more death, he says:
Oh, God, yes.”
John Watson in Sherlock
Sherlock Holmes is a familiar character, which means that the directors of this show have to find a way to embrace the old while creating a new take on Sherlock. They have done this masterfully.
The first time we see Sherlock, he is viciously beating a corpse with a whip. That seems contrary to his character: the cold, intelligent type. But it isn’t. It’s a new take on his character. By emphasizing his lack of empathy at the beginning, the directors make his character more ambiguous.
Is Sherlock good or bad? Well, he’s both, just like any other human being. He has his negative and positive qualities, and by showing his negative qualities first, the directors introduced the possibility of a bad or morally ambiguous character.
It is a way of generating curiosity and analysis. Viewers get to know the harder parts of Sherlock and then have to decide if that is somewhat made up for by his better qualities.
This makes Sherlock so much more than the intelligent “consulting detective.”
The script is often comical and further develops the characters. When Sherlock asks Molly about her lipstick and Anderson about how long his wife has been away, this reveals both his lack of tact and the ingenuity of the script that made that apparent.
The titles of the episodes are intriguing. For instance, a quick search of “A Study in Pink” finds that it is an echo of the first Sherlock Holmes book written by Arthur Conan Doyle, A Study in Scarlet. It is also a strange title because of the associations people have with the color pink: for example, happiness, peppiness, even superficiality. It stands out from the darker atmosphere of Sherlock. It is also interesting to note that this becomes the name of Watson’s blog article.
The plot is engaging and kept me watching carefully. It is always fun to try to deduce how Sherlock has come to his conclusions before he condescends to explain it. The first episode, “A Study in Pink,” is solving the case of serial suicides, which I thought was creative.
I would rate this show 10 out of 10 stars. It was so good that I failed to find any cons.
Have you watched it yourself? Or do you intend to? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.
During my first couple of years at college, my roommate and I would reward ourselves for getting homework done with occasional episodes of the Flash.
Season 1 was a strong start, Season 2 was simultaneously repetitive and bizarre, and we never made it further than a couple of episodes into Season 3.
Anyway, somehow my roommate and I decided we would be more motivated if for every 20 minutes of homework, we could watch 5 minutes of a show.
Yeah, that was a terrible idea. We would pause the show in the middle of fight sequences, sad scenes, and at all the wrong times. Despite that, the habit stuck for awhile.
It made the worst episode of The Flash I have ever watched take FOREVER.
So, what was the worst episode? The one that had us looking forward more to the 20 minutes of homework than the 5 minute break?
It’s called “The Runaway Dinosaur.”
What’s funny is this same episode that my roommate and I hated is celebrated on several sites as one of the best episodes of the season. I honestly cannot understand why.
I mean, it was bad enough that I even remembered the name of the episode for more than a year. I never remember the names of episodes.
(One more warning: spoilers ahead!)
Here’s some context for the episode: When Zoom threatens Wally, Barry Allen (The Flash) gives up his powers to save him. Later, Dr. Wells sets off a particle accelerator to try to bring back Barry Allen’s powers.
Does Barry get his powers back? Nope. He essentially explodes out of existence. Oops!
The Actual Episode:
The episode starts out with them all in shock, because Barry was supposed to be all speedy again, and instead they think they killed him.
Then they all find out that Jesse and Wally were knocked out. To make matters worse, Jesse’s heart has stopped beating.
Wally is woken up almost immediately by Iris and Joe, who are relieved and act as if nothing at all is wrong with Jesse. Dr. Wells is distraught and pretty much freaking out. Joe and Iris offer no assistance to Wells, and when Jesse starts breathing again, they do not show any sign of caring.
When they get back into the room where Barry poofed out of existence, Joe asks Barry’s father to go take care of Jesse. With no sign of haste on either of their parts, Jesse eventually gets help. (About time!)
Then Cisco uses his Vibe powers when touching the suit to locate Barry, who is apparently in a vortex of zappy energy.
Barry wakes up in his bed in his childhood home. He catches a glimpse of the book the episode is named for – The Runaway Dinosaur.
He goes downstairs and sees Joe. Except – here’s the catch – it’s not Joe. It’s the speed force in human form. Why? Well, because…
We thought you would be more comfortable talking to someone who looked familiar in a place you knew.”
From the episode “The Runaway Dinosaur”
Yeah, because that would make anyone comfortable. Having the literal force of speed manifest in the body of a loved one. That’s not creepy at all…
To further explain, Mr. Speed Force Joe says that “we” (the speed force) have been around since the beginning and will be around until the heat death of the universe.
Barry says, “That’s trippy.”
And Mr. Speed Force Joe says what no one would ever think the force of speed would say if it could talk.
We pretty much invented trippy here.”
From the episode “The Runaway Dinosaur”
Where even is here? Why did using a particle accelerator on Barry trap him in the force of speed? Why is speed itself a pluralistic being?
To make it even better, he can’t go home until he catches this quickly moving silhouette that zips around. So poor Barry chases it around for awhile. This seems like the speed force’s way of torturing Barry.
Meanwhile, back at STAR labs, Cisco and Iris go to the building’s morgue, where they are apparently still keeping all the bodies of dead meta-humans. They are looking for records that might help Jesse. They also find zombie-Tony, who was apparently woken up by the particle accelerator.
Instead of acting scared like any normal person, Cisco sounds more annoyed.
A zombie? For real?”
From the episode “The Runaway Dinosaur”
Then, it’s back to Barry. He asks the speed force why he was given his powers.
Because you’re the Flash, Barry.”
From the episode “The Runaway Dinosaur”
Now, that just seems like circular reasoning. Why was he made the Flash? Well, because he is the Flash. See how that really isn’t an answer?
I don’t know why I expected the physical manifestation of speed to be more logical, but I did.
Then back to Cisco and Dr. Wells, who have figured out how to reach Barry through a “simple feedback loop.” Wells explains matter-of-factly that this means he will need to zap Cisco while he is vibing, and then they can separate Barry from speed itself.
Did that explanation make your head hurt? Well, apparently none of us are as smart as Dr. Wells, because it makes perfect sense in his mind.
At the same time, Iris and Joe find out the zombie-Tony has a major crush on Iris that even death hasn’t stifled. So, of course they decide to use Iris as bait. True, she’s all for it, but it’s still disturbing.
After the speed force takes Barry to his mother’s grave, and he runs off, he finds himself back home. There, he is confronted by the speed force again, in the shape of his mother.
Then it gets weirder. Speed Force Mom kisses him on the forehead and reads him a children’s book that his actual mother, Nora Allen, used to read him when he was younger.
It’s called The Runaway Dinosaur. The dinosaur in it feels like there is nothing special about being a Maiasaur and wants to be a different kind of dinosaur. The book boasts cutesy lines such as this:
But if you were a T-Rex,” said his mother, “how would you hug me with your tiny little arms?”
From the episode “The Runaway Dinosaur”
That’s cute and all, but the book has nothing to do with running away. Why is it even called The Runaway Dinosaur? Is it supposed to be figurative? Like, he’s “running” away from his identity? Well, okay, but this is a board book, which means it’s mostly for kiddos 3 years and younger. How are they supposed to pick up on that?
Then he catches the silhouette, which happens to be himself, and gets his powers back. Cisco and Iris try to reach him again, because zombie-Tony is literally trying to break down the door to get Iris and they need Barry to save them.
Iris calls Barry home and Barry deals with zombie-Tony by running in circles around him. Dr. Wells slaps a sci-fi explanation on that and voila! Zombie-Tony goes back to sleep.
The Flash is then able to revive Jesse because of the speed force, which apparently also can do miracle healings.
The episode ends with the Flash making all sorts of new revelations about fate and his relationship with Iris.
So, what happened here?
My guess is they wanted Barry to go through something as powerful as a religious experience, but with secular vibes. So they had the speed force play God and attach meaning to everything. Because this pseudo-religious experience was just an assortment of false experiences with his fake loved-ones, it came across as empty and absurd.
Also, it was a way for Barry to face his emotions and the loss of his mother. I just don’t think getting a bedtime story from Speed Force Mom was the right way to heal that trauma.
Did you watch this episode? Do you feel like it was terrible, great, or just alright? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.
Still Life is Penny’s fascinating debut. The story is set in Three Pines, where the elderly Jane Neal is found dead from an arrow wound. Most suspect that this is simply a tragic hunting accident, but Chief Inspector Gamache suspects it is murder.
Strong sense of setting
Rich character development
Suspenseful yet nuanced storytelling
Effective use of quotes and literary sources
Well-written poetry included
Did her research
Somewhat scattered beginning, a little hard to get into at first
The book starts like this:
Miss Jane Neal met her maker in the early morning mist of Thanksgiving Sunday. It was pretty much a surprise all round…”
“She had fallen spread-eagled, as though making angels in the bright and brittle leaves.”
Still Life by Louise Penny
I enjoyed Penny’s language. I was bemused at the caricature of death she made by comparing a woman’s position at death with the idea of children making snow angels.
Then the story goes back in time to when she was supposed to meet her friend for coffee. After that, it explains how a group of local boys pelted a gay couple with duck manure.
It goes on to explain that Jane Neal is a shy artist who is just finally willing to show her art to the public eye. Only problem? Her masterpiece, Fair Day, is like a child’s drawing, or an ancient cave drawing.
All of that happens before 10 pages are up. Now, I am no great reader of mysteries. In fact, this is probably the first mystery I’ve read in 10 years. But I was thinking, hey, let’s go back to the snow-angel corpse instead of this odd series of occurrences that I’m frankly not interested in.
But I was wrong. Every detail of those first 10 pages was absolutely integral to the story. I just didn’t have the perspective of the whole story in mind.
As a result, I will say that it was not a novel whose beginning gripped me, but I will concede that these pages were necessary to the development of the drama of the novel.
The story is set in the village of Three Pines, which is compared rightfully to Narnia. There is certainly something magical about the personalities of the characters who live there. They have the glint of life about them, the engaging complexities of truly well-developed characters.
Olivier and Gabri’s Bistro and B & B are my favorite places in Three Pines. Each piece of furniture and decor in the Bistro has a price tag attached to it. People can buy the table they are eating at, the coat rack, the chairs! It is such a creative place for the characters to spend their time.
“Each piece looked as though it had been born there.”
Still Life by Louise Penny
Each of Penny’s characters has many facets to their colorful personality.
Gamache, for example is careful, pushy, kind, stern, intelligent, ignorant…
Clara is a woman who grieves for the loss of Jane but has an edge of steel in her at times. Her husband, Peter, can be cold as ice or warm and loving, easily offended but loyal.
Ruth is a toughie who raps her cane off the ground to shock people to attention, isn’t afraid to let her opinions be known, and has a penchant for poetry.
There were many more complex characters, but these were some of my favorites.
The storytelling was remarkable because of the way seemingly unrelated events and pieces of information came together in the end. Penny is clearly a master at foreshadowing without giving away the mystery, at providing both depth and forthright depictions.
This is not a thriller – the suspense of what might happen at any moment is not sharp. Instead, the book draws you into Three Pines, where the action is happening, and invites you to stay awhile. It promises a good story, without car chases, without shootouts, but with a certain compelling sense of danger and turmoil lurking just below the surface.
Quotes and Literary Sources
Penny is clearly well-read. She uses a host of references and direct quotes from Auden, Melville, and John Donne, as well as several others. One that stuck out to me as particularly well chosen was this one:
“Evil is unspectacular and always human, and shares our bed and eats at our own table.”
W. H. Auden
Ruth Zardo is a poet in the novel, and Penny has included poems she has written for the character. I will say that they do give the impression of being by an actual poet. It’s convincing, that’s what matters.
Penny did her research, and that’s part of what makes the novel so intriguing. This is notable in the section of the book where Gamache is trying to figure out the details of hunting with a bow. Penny uses Gamache’s ignorance as an excuse to reveal beginner’s hunting mistakes, the differences between bows, common myths about hunting with bows, and all the little details of this topic.
This book is one of the best I have read in recent years, which has earned it the rating of 9.8 out of 10 stars.
Before Covid-19, I had some preconceptions about what a pandemic would be like. Frightening, restricting, dangerous. Like one of those dystopian novels I read for fun, perhaps like the plague in Legend by Marie Lu.
Never in a million years would I have suspected living during a pandemic would be boring.
Sure, those who have contracted Covid-19 and their friends and family are fully aware of how terrible a pandemic is.
But for the rest of us – those who have to isolate, or limit social interaction, or have had all their plans cancelled – bored might be the perfect word.
If you are not bored and you and your loved ones are healthy, good for you. But if you are bored – this is the article for you.
Below are my suggestions to make the most of life during a pandemic.
#1 Exercise, Exercise, Exercise
If you’re anything like me, quarantine life has made you lax when it comes to exercise.
Without the routine of heading to the local YMCA to train at my Tang Soo Do studio, I quickly became unfit. Even when restrictions were lifted somewhat and I was able to return to the studio on occasion, I had trouble getting into a regular routine of exercise.
Recently I’ve made a new resolution to do better with exercise – and I know how I’ll do it.
The pandemic has made things like going to the gym a colossal pain for some and nearly impossible for others, so I’ll focus on the things that can be done without equipment.
Walking, for instance. It has never been my thing, but with how beautiful campus is in the summer and fall, it’s almost irresistible.
I also plan to get into a daily routine similar to my warm-ups for Tang Soo Do. Push-ups, jumping jacks, crunches. Dying cockroach.
Yeah, you read that right. There is an exercise called dying cockroach, where you lay on your back and flail your arms and legs in frenzied motions for a long time. It’s brutal.
There are also plenty of stairs in the dorm where I am residing, so I may just spend half an hour sometime walking up and down them. That would be a workout!
Hopefully some of these ideas will work for you as well.
#2 Be artsy!
For this section, I am going to assume you have little to no experience in art. If you already are an artist, you already know you can spend time during a pandemic doing artsy stuff and likely are doing that anyway.
Here are several media to consider:
One thing you can do with these is try an adult coloring book. It’s relaxing and fun and there’s not as much pressure to create from your imagination since you just have to fill in the line. Yet there is creativity in the colors you choose and skill in how well the design is colored in.
My great grandma had the creative idea of turning her coloring book creations into cards for her loved ones. It was sweet, and sending off such colorful cards may help to alleviate loneliness for yourself and your friends during this time.
If you decide to go freestyle, use good colored pencils and at least decent paper in case you decide to preserve some of your creations.
For watercolor paint, I use Artist Loft brand. I know, it’s cheap – but I have found it sufficient for my projects. Not the pan set, the tubes. I hate those hardened little cakes of paint.
Beginner’s tip – if you use the tubes, you only need a tiny drop of paint mixed with plenty of water. Don’t waste paint. It’s called watercolor for a reason.
Another tip – if you use low-quality paper, you’ll get a low-quality result even if you are a quite talented artist. You can tell a high-quality paper not by the price tag, but by the thickness. I recommend at least 140 lb. paper (if you’re not sure what that means, it’s okay – watercolor paper lists this right on the front so you can tell if you got the right one.)
A final tip – choose your brushes carefully. They don’t have to be expensive but you have to be sure there aren’t any stray bristles and that you take good care of them. I won’t even link to brushes I recommend because I always buy mine in a physical store so I can examine them. Never store them bristle down! If you’re washing them, don’t leave them upside down in water. That’s okay for a short time, but if you leave them for too long, it will damage them.
The best acrylic paint is not too watery and not chunky either – it goes onto paper smoothly.
I recommend going with a great brand such as Martha Stewart or the professional option of Golden acrylics. It’s an investment, but you’ll find that they last a while if you are conservative and only use what you need.
Martha Stewart brand acrylic paint has great quality. I’ve used it before teaching in the classroom at the art store where I work.
I started using Golden acrylics recently and they are brilliant, with vibrant colors and smooth texture.
I just use watercolor paper for acrylics, too. For brushes, I buy these in a physical store as well and look for tell-tale signs they are not any good such as stray bristles.
I am not as experienced in oil paint, but I can give some beginner’s advice because I’ve already made all the beginner’s mistakes with my first painting…oops…
First of all, do not get Artist Loft brand. They suck when it comes to oil paints. I kept the paints in a box for a couple of months before trying to use them and then all the oily stuff oozed out all over the tubes and made them sticky and gross.
Try a good brand, like Winsor & Newton instead.
For brushes, I won’t recommend any. I would have to see them in person to tell their quality, touch them and examine them. However, keep in mind that they will need to be washed in paint thinner, not water. Water doesn’t mix with oil-based paint and will not take it out of the brush.
I actually just used canvas for my oil painting, but you can get oil paint paper. I don’t know enough to be helpful in recommending what surface to paint on for oil, but I will say that canvas was sufficient for my purposes.
I began with markers using Copics. Those are professional markers and they are expensive. However, they blend remarkably well and are refillable. I would recommend a pack of grays, skin tones, and primaries to start if you use these. I prefer Copic Sketch over Copic Ciao because the Sketch markers can hold more ink.
Fair warning – they are addicting.
Use the multiliner that comes with their gray pack or buy a separate pack of multiliners of that brand to be sure your pen lines don’t bleed when marker is applied.
A Quick Note….
I have found that using high quality media, while more expensive, has better results. The professionals use high quality equipment for a reason – it makes it easier, not harder, to create masterpieces.
Some of the links above lead to cheap alternatives to high quality media that I have found sufficient for my own amateur artwork. Others lead to more expensive varieties I would nevertheless recommend even for beginners to achieve higher quality results.
I work in an art store, so I have background in helping customers find products that will fit their artistic needs. As a result, I am aware of the best brands and the brands that are cheaper but can produce phenomenal results.
#3 Journalingor Writing Emails
Journaling is an amazing way to spend the time if you are in quarantine or restricted in activities due to Covid-19. Chronicle your experience of living during a pandemic to show off to your future grandchildren.
Keep a daily record of reflections and insights you think of randomly in the middle of night or during your daily routine.
Writing emails or letters is another way to connect with friends let people know you are thinking of them. Make sure if it’s a letter that your friends and relatives aren’t going to be upset about the small possibility of spreading Covid-19 that way. Chances are, they won’t be worried about it, but it’s better to ask in times like these.
#4 Make a time capsule
A time capsule would be a good way to remind our future selves what the Covid-19 Crisis was like, or to show our children or grandchildren.
First, buy a durable container. Metal is best if you want it to last for a long time, but undoubtedly plastic would last too even if it has a higher chance of cracking under the weight of dirt.
Second, carefully choose items that represent the times, such as reusable masks and pictures. Be sure that these are things you don’t mind parting with, because digging the box up again would be a pain and counter-intuitive.
Third, pick a place in the yard and bury the capsule. 3 or 4 feet deep would probably be sufficient, but if it’s less than that it could be dug up by mistake.
Fourth, mark the spot with something that will last like a large painted rock. On the marker, write the date the capsule was buried as well as the date it should be dug up.
#5 Sew masks
Sewing masks is not as hard as it may seem. I made two before I was gifted several and no longer had the need for more, and they have served me well.
I recommend getting on Youtube for some helpful how-to videos.
#6 Watch something new
If you don’t know, the reason why I posted a picture from Avatar: The Last Airbender is because it is now airing on Netflix. I have seen it make Netflix’s top ten several times in the past few weeks, and for good reason! If you like it, follow it up with The Legend of Korra.
If you usually watch all the shows in a particular genre, try a different genre. If you typically don’t watch anime, try anime! If you are squeamish about horror, try something with slight elements of horror. If you usually avoid the sad stuff, try something sad like A Silent Voice, which my sisters recommended to me. Get outside your comfort zone!
Learn something new! During the pandemic, when I was bored I downloaded the Khan Academy app, the Duolingo app, and the TED Talks app. I’ve used Duolingo and TED talks the most out of the three.
With Khan Academy, you can learn any school subject or lesson that you may have forgotten or that you are not familiar with. You don’t have to make an account, but if you do, it’s free and it tracks your progress.
With Duolingo, you can learn another language. I am currently learning Latin and Spanish little by little.
With the TED Talk app, you can listen to talks about a variety of educational subjects, as well as ones that are just funny. I watched this one recently, which explains the concept behind a video game that teaches about loneliness. I also watched this hilarious one where a comedian describes what happened when he replied to spam emails.
While I wouldn’t say I learned much from the spam email one, it is true that TED Talks in general provide great educational content.
#8 Socialize…long distance
Socializing long distance can take many forms. It could be an email or letter. It could be a Zoom or Skype call.
James Wilson, a founder of the podcast Tabletop Gaming Guild, offered me a new idea about how to connect with my friends.
Tabletop Simulator is more expensive at $19.99 for a subscription, but offers a variety of games, including Wingspan, Blood Rage and Scythe.
Board Game Arena is completely FREE. You can play games such as Stone Age, 7 Wonders, Terra Mystica, Takenoko, Saboteur, and so much more!
Full disclaimer – I haven’t tried either yet, but I wanted to pass on the suggestion. I’m at college, so I am lucky enough to be able to see many of my friends in person. In the event my friends and I are sent home due to the risk of Covid-19, I will definitely start online gaming with my friends.
I’m big on reading. If you’re a reader too, I recommend trying out some of my favorites:
Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
A YA Fantasy about a rich criminal mastermind who happens to be 12 years old. This mastermind, Artemis Fowl, is determined to get his hands on fairy gold. The fairies he deals with are not the ones from typical bedtime stories – they have advanced technology and live underground.
Btw, it’s nothing like the movie, which was terrible. I also made a review of the movie.
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
This is a touching novel mostly about a dying father writing to his young son, and his many reflections. It is about love, betrayal, faith, and family, and it’s fascinating. The language and metaphors are beautiful and creative.
Still Life by Louise Penny
This is a murder mystery. I typically dislike murder mysteries, but this one I adored.
It’s about an old woman who dies in what appears to be a hunting accident, but Inspector Gamache suspects it may be murder. The beginning is a little slow, but every part of it is an essential piece of the puzzle and contributes to the power of the work.
You could take the route I did and pay for the domain, then use WordPress to organize your site. It’s not hard because WordPress is so intuitive. WordPress allows for both pages and posts, so if you want to create a blog, it’s never been easier!
Or you can use Wix.com or Weebly.com to create your website for free. There is less freedom this way though. For example, Weebly.com requires “weebly” to be in the site name.
I can tell you that Weebly is pretty good because I’ve used it for college classes. Back when I was an education major, I made my digital portfolio using Weebly.
Wix has been recommended to me on numerous occasions by close friends, so I thought I would include it as well, although I haven’t had experience with it myself.
No matter which route you take, Youtube will be your best friend! Look up how-to videos to make the most of your website-building experience.