Arthur & George is not your typical Sherlock Holmes story with a dashing detective and clear sense of the villain by the end of the first 60 minutes. This three part ITV series is yet another twist on the many adventures of the famous detective. Adapted from Julian Barnes’s novel, Arthur & George, it focuses on the only case that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle ever solved himself.
Barnes is an award-winning English author whose book has become the basis for the show. The adaptation is mostly faithful, but lacks the detailed stories of the two main men, Arthur and George. The show seems to give you the sense of who Arthur is, while George takes a backseat.
Martin Clunes (as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) and Arsher Ali (as George Edalji) are the new faces of the Sherlock franchise. Besides the main actors, the show itself differs dramatically from the most recent popular adaptation of Sherlock produced by the BBC.
Instead of the modern day twist, the show refocuses on the author of the famous detective. In his lifetime, Conan Doyle was approached on numerous occasions to solve real life crimes, but the case of George Edalji was the first and last time he became a real life Sherlock Holmes.
Viewers are transported back in time to 1903 to solve the case of George Edalji and the Great Wyrley Rippings. The first episode explains how George was accused and later convicted of violently mutilating animals and threatening to attack a school, and after serving seven years in jail he’s out to prove his innocence. George isn’t out to seek revenge, only to clear his name and make sense of the judicial system that has convicted him. Arthur’s job, along with his servant Woody, is to clear George’s name or have theirs tarnished as well.
Viewers are left to decipher much on their own since there are no dramatic murders or quick calculating problem solving that unfolds on screen. They truly get to follow Arthur as he finds his way to the answers. In a sense, there is more of a connection with Arthur because though he is a clever man, one may see him as an equal rather than a superior. Often in other versions of Sherlock Holmes adaptations, Sherlock is built to solve mysteries like a superhuman. One can most often see this in the BBC version, with Sherlock being played by Benedict Cumberbatch.
It isn’t interesting in the beginning because the characters aren’t flashy and the crime committed isn’t outrageously horrifying. However, curiosity grows as the show unfolds. You find yourself starting to care about the characters and debating the innocence of George. Did he do it? Is Arthur clever enough or even capable enough to solve the crime? Or should he just stick to writing about his fake detective Sherlock Holmes?
For those who want to ease into the stories of Sherlock Holmes, this is a great way to begin. It is slowly paced enough to follow and Arthur & George will give you context to the world of Sherlock. Even for an avid Sherlock fan like myself, this show is of interest because I get to see real life events unfold on screen. Fiction has become reality. Viewers will be able to explore a side of Sherlock they have never seen and understand the man behind the detective.
Arthur & George will première on ITV Monday, March 2nd at 9 pm.