Many years ago, I came across a quotation from the pianist Charles Rosen, in which he said something to the effect that if everyone else loved something that bored him, he concluded that the fault lay with himself and not with the something. I am attempting to put that philosophy into play with Sherlock. Because...it took me two days to get through the season finale, which I found badly plotted, implausible, and, in general, deeply uninteresting and uninvolving. (At least it was not as badly plotted as The Hounds of Baskerville, which took A. C. Doyle's one outstanding Sherlock Holmes novel, put it through a mandolin, and then drowned it in a Thousand Island dressing of conspiracy theories.) But everyone else (well, except for Dad the Emeritus Historian of Graeco-Roman Egypt) loves Sherlock; ergo, it must be me. So.
Perhaps we can start with things I don't find objectionable:
The acting. Cumberbatch and Freeman are doing excellent work with what they're given. They have strong chemistry, fine dramatic chops, and solid comic timing; moreover, they tend to leave the scenery relatively unchewed (which cannot be said for Jeremy Brett's later episodes, unfortunately).
Neo-Watson and revisionist Lestrade. Martin Freeman's Watson is very much in the post-Burke and Hardwicke (er, that's not to be confused with Burke and Hare) mode, which is to say that he's in possession of little gray cells and reasonably willing to give Holmes what for. In other words, this is a further nail in the coffin of the Nigel Bruce Watson, which is all to the good. I'd have to say that the series' Lestrade (at least what we see of him) is one of its more interesting features: it's unusual to have a Lestrade around who is not a) primarily there to look useless, b) sneaking around looking like a small and unpleasant rodent, and c) obnoxious comic relief. (Doyle's Lestrade eventually warmed up to Holmes and Watson, but this one seems to have arrived there much sooner--at least, he's already on a first-name basis with Watson.)
The meta. I've said more than once that this series foregrounds its status as an adaptation, as it is loaded with nods not just to the canon, but to fan expectations developed from other adaptations. It's practically the grand sum of all pre-existing adaptations, remixed with healthy doses of contemporary TV detective conventions and CSI-style editing. (As Lestrade so kindly pointed out to us in the finale.) In some ways, the series has also been parodying both tabloid celebrity culture and some of the less appealing aspects of fan culture (of the sort liable to wind up on Fandom Wank). I'm an English professor, so I'm programmed to have no objections to all things meta.
I think it's perhaps here that's also the rub for me. As I said in my review of A Scandal in Belgravia, this series is far less original than it seems to think it is. Take, for example, the plot of the series finale: Moriarty appears to be quite familiar with the late Michael Dibdin's The Last Sherlock Holmes Story, and possibly Nicholas Meyer's The Seven-Percent Solution as well. Reflections on Holmes and Watson as a romantic couple, or at least a bromantic one, have been floating around for decades--see Billy Wilder's The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. (On the professional publishing side, St. Martin's has published at least one novel with a [repressed] gay Watson, and of course there's a lifetime supply of Holmes/Watson fanfiction.) Holmes as full-blown jerk, as opposed to bohemian gentleman, owes quite a bit to House. Irene Adler has been developing grand passions for Holmes since goodness knows when. (I'm quite fond of Holmes and Adler as the proud mama and papa of Nero Wolfe, myself.) And, of course, Moriarty as invasive killer weed is inescapable--doesn't everything have to go back to Moriarty? Etc. After decades upon decades of Sherlock Holmes parodies, pastiches, and revisions, it's not shocking that the series keeps retreading old ground. It's just that it's not necessarily very interesting, either. For lack of a better way of putting it, while the series likes to wink at itself and the Sherlock Holmes mythos, it doesn't want to do anything too harsh or too outlandish to it. (We get The Last Sherlock Holmes Story without its major twist.) It doesn't probe the limits or moral implications of the legend (Michael Chabon, Mitch Cullin), or offer anything go-for-broke outrageous (Neil Gaiman), let alone real parodic play (Kim Newman).
Moreover, Lestrade's joke about CSI reminded me that Sherlock seems to be borrowing some of that series' least entertaining and/or remotely believable plots. It's a criminal mastermind obsessed with the series lead! Who constructs weirdly overwrought schemes! And then engages in "deep" mind games with the object of his affections (so to speak)! Which he finishes off with the sort of long speech that is supposed to sound profound, but which makes the audience wonder why the detective/CSI doesn't just shoot him/throw him off the roof/cold-cock him/forcefeed him hot peppers and be done with it! Of course Moriarty is Holmes' criminal double; we've known this since "The Final Problem." But surely there are better, more economical ways of putting this doubling into action? (I once again nudge the reader in Dibdin's direction. Or even Newman's. We could even go back to Doyle, while we're at it.)
To me, then, there's just too much deja vu involved (or, perhaps, deja lu). I feel like I ought to be enjoying this series much more than I am. But, so far, I'm not.