‘Sherlock, Saga and the Stuff of Legends, Or how TV crime took over our lives’ by Sarah Hilary

//‘Sherlock, Saga and the Stuff of Legends, Or how TV crime took over our lives’ by Sarah Hilary

‘Sherlock, Saga and the Stuff of Legends, Or how TV crime took over our lives’ by Sarah Hilary

Ah, Sherlock Holmes! How we love him. And Saga Norén. Is there anyone who hasn’t fallen for her? I’m criminally late to The Bridge’s fan-club, but for my money Saga is an even more convincing version of Sherlock than Sherlock: unapologetically brilliant at her job; at odds with the world around her; not instantly or obviously likeable but hypnotically watchable and, yes, loveable.

A detective with no social skills or filter? Really? This was a question posed by a friend of mine who was a detective with the Metropolitan Police for fourteen years. Good question. I could watch Saga for hours on end (did in fact, when I was catching up with the first series of The Bridge), but I’d stop short of writing a heroine like her, fearing it would raise too many eyebrows. My heroine, Marnie Rome, has her share of problems but she lacks Saga’s spectacular isolation.

Iconic, larger than life characters are the ones we take to our hearts; I watch Sherlock and The Bridge with the same thrill I got from reading fairy tales as a child. Here is a strange world full of exotic creatures who will behave in unexpected ways. As long as we’re given a foothold in reality (hello, John Watson and Martin Rohde) then why not go all-out to create a mythic spectacle? This is fiction, after all.

I bought my daughter a Sherlock t-shirt for her birthday: “I don’t understand,” it says on the front and, on the back, “I still don’t understand”. The quotes are attributed to John Watson but they could apply to quite a lot of us, I imagine. We love to puzzle over the show, on Twitter or elsewhere, speculating as to twists in the plot (or in the characters).

Watching is different to reading. There’s a social aspect to it, for one thing. We all watch the same episodes at the same time and we’re all waiting a week for What Comes Next; plenty of time for theories to abound.

Probably the best fun I had with a TV show last year was watching The Returned and exchanging tweets about who did what and why and to whom. And who was dead and why and from what. Terrific fun, and the writers and producers know it – they love to watch us swapping theories. It doubles their resolve to keep us on our toes.

As a writer, I feel a little of this same impetus to confound the reader. But TV is different; it’s allowed to break more rules, for one thing. We’re willing participants in the show’s desire to pull the wool over our eyes, and the rug from under our feet. Credibility is less important than the spectacle. So we forgive the makers of Sherlock for their outrageous liberties with Conan Doyle’s character because, damn, it’s good TV. And Saga Norén’s lack of social skills, while they might disqualify her from being a lead detective in real life, are part of the joy of watching The Bridge. As for The Returned, it’s all about the pathos of the zombies. Yes, really. Watch, and you’ll see.