Short Review: mostly, I really, really enjoyed it, but there were a few things I was displeased with.
Longer, spoilery review below the cut. Ranting in point form, with little to no organization. Bear with.
- First off, character interaction between the main cast was wonderful. I like how John and Sherlock's relationship has grown and how well, or unwell in some cases, they work with each other. I especially loved the Mrs. Hudson stuff, with even Sherlock getting upset when Mycroft is rude to her and being all 'no, you may NOT touch my housekeeper'. I also liked everyone secretly meeting to figure out how to look after Sherlock. And I enjoyed Mycroft and Sherlock interacting, as well. The little moment in the morgue with the cigarettes was really great.
- I did NOT like that they got rid of Sarah. She was literally the only female character I liked last season, apart from Mrs. Hudson. I also did not like how they handled Lestrade. What I really liked in the first series was how they didn't make him the typical buffoon. He was more a good, capable cop, who called in Sherlock when he was in over his head. I felt they made him a bit silly in this episode.
- Sherlock's emotional growth is nice, too. His apologizing to Molly was very sweet and nice to see (even if we had to see him act like a complete asshole in order to get him to do it). I like the idea that John has somehow managed to instill some sense of when he's gone too far, but that he's still Sherlock who says whatever he's thinking and doesn't really care about anything else.
- Irene: yeah, she was about what I expected, really. I thought Lara Pulver did a good job with what was written. She managed to convey being clever and manipulative really well. Having just reread the original Scandal in Bohemia short story, I was probably more aware of what they changed about the original character and I wasn't pleased with a lot of it. I know you need to update and expand what is essentially 'Holmes tries to get photos, woman figures him out', but I felt that they went in the wrong direction. Irene is a high class, demure lady in the story, or at least presents herself as one. That's why she gets away with things. Giving her the profession of essentially beating up and manipulating people for a living does not make it surprising when she beats up and manipulates Sherlock.
- Also, having her lose in the end, while appropriate for the expanded story they'd written for themselves (no one really wanted to see Sherlock's mistake cause a terrorist attack), it defeats her entire original purpose. She's no longer the one who got away.
- Things I did like about her: the fact that Sherlock couldn't read her because she was naked was very clever. Taking away her clothes took away one of his main sources of information and believably befuddled him. I also thought Benedict did a good job of showing how panicked that made Sherlock feel, too. I also thought on the whole they Lara and Benedict had good chemistry and that the show made it so that whether you like them as a couple or not, you could find enough evidence to support either argument.
- There were a bunch of little details I really liked, too: Sherlock's violin playing, the fact that we could tell the time of year by the song he was playing, the immediate panicked response as soon as John's life was threatened, Sherlock and John giggling in Buckingham palace, Sherlock and John's fistfight, the references to the original story with Sherlock's disguise and John's setting off the fire alarm, Sherlock's drugged out episode, the fact that Lestrade apparently filmed it, John acting like a doctor where appropriate, the parade of clients, John's blog titles and Sherlock's deerstalker (thank you so much, writers!).
-In conclusion: acting was awesome, story was a bit meh, and characterization rocked for the most part.
New canon has put the kibosh on at least four different fics I was working on, but I think I can salvage at least three. It also gave us Sherlock's room (yay for my personal canon of the peridoic table being on his wall becoming actual canon). Am I right in thinking it's on the ground floor?
I am looking forward to the rest of the season mightily.