“When all else fails, there are two men sitting, arguing in a scruffy flat, like they’ve always been there and they always will. The best and wisest men I have ever known. My Baker Street Boys. Sherlock Holmes and John Watson.”
Could this be the last ever season of Sherlock? Many, including myself, hope not, as it has delivered top quality television, tremendous acting, fantastic writing and the occasional head scratcher throughout its four seasons. Some of those seasons were a bit hit-and-miss but when it did hit, it hit hard and strong. Like a Samoan rugby player after two red bulls and a Pot Noodle.
Anticipation for this season was incredibly high, amongst myself and the other Holmies (just made that up, already hate it) thanks to some big budget, Hollywood level trailers and the somewhat cliffhanger finale of season 3, which showed the brief return of one of the greatest TV villains (possibly of all time), Andrew Scott’s James Moriarty.
I won’t be doing a full episode-by-episode breakdown and review for this article because honestly, who has the time for that? I have the box set of Ugly Betty to get through. A paragraph or two per episode should suffice and a few more to highlight aspects of the show that need to be addressed. Now with that out of the way, let’s get on with that terrible first episode.
Maybe terrible is too strong a word but it really wasn’t one of the best. ‘The Six Thatchers’ started out by addressing the cliffhanger in the previous episode and explaining that it was just a bit of a warning to Sherlock and for everyone to just move on. Fair enough, it’s not like I was excited or anything. We then had a small mystery involving the dead son of a former Thatcherite politician which was very good and had a touch of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle about it. The rest of the episode felt a bit flat, however, and is not one I look forward to watching again.
This may be down to the episode centring around one of the most irritating characters (in my opinion) of the whole series, Mary Watson. John’s wife Mary, whilst presumably important to him, just didn’t do it for me. She just seemed like too much of a know it all and her elite team of soldiers ‘A.G.R.A’ looked more like Primark employees who’d wandered into the wrong terrorist coup. Happened to me once. Understandable.
The second episode ‘The Lying Detective’ was of much better stock with a great villain in the almost always superb Toby Jones taking on the role of philanthropist Culverton Smith. A bit hammy in places but evil enough to really get under your skin, which is exactly what this type villain is supposed to do. What I didn’t like about this episode however, was how they used an incredibly delicate part of the Sherlock Holmes’ character in such a way that I felt it ruined the overall narrative.
Sherlock Holmes is a junkie. It was identified in the books through his frequent visits to opium dens and has been ‘upgraded’ in modern television and cinematic versions to an addiction to heroin. The reason he uses dirty ‘skag’ is because his brain doesn’t switch off and he needs stimulus to distract him from the tedium of everyday life. Critical to his make up but one that has been used in too much of blasé way in this modern version of the story. Holmes had ‘used’ twice in Sherlock before this season and both times it was to help with a case, that I can come to terms with, albeit reluctantly. For this episode, however, he is upset at a personal loss and uses it essentially just to become friends with John Watson again. That I just cannot agree with. Sure the two becoming reacquainted was touching and poignant, but I reckon if he just sent memes every day it would have had the same outcome and wouldn’t have caused him to reach for the needle. You just have to watch the American iteration of Sherlock Elementary to show how intense and serious his dedication to sobriety should be, when watching it you feel that any brief dalliance back to heroin would be devastating for Sherlock, his closest friends and the viewers as well.
The third and possibly the last episode of Sherlock we will ever see, was brilliant, the murder/puzzle rooms, opening a deep wound with the under used Molly Hooper, seeing Moriarty again, the chemistry between our now three ‘heroes’ Sherlock, Mycroft and Watson, was of a very high standard and featured great performances all around. There was some issues with this episode however, some that were symbolic to the whole fourth season itself. Some parts just didn’t feel like a Sherlock Holmes story.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed ‘The Final Problem’ immensely, a lot of which was down to the puzzle rooms set up by villain Euros, designed to test the limits of Sherlock and his acquaintances with deathly consequences and emotional destruction, it was like watching a Pavlovian version of a Saw film (incidentally that quote was the reason I wrote this article). It just didn’t feel like I was watching Holmes and Watson anymore, just an action movie that was very well0written. Another issue was the emotional battering in one of the rooms for both Sherlock and Molly Hooper. Molly’s love for Sherlock has been evident from the first ever episode with no reciprocation from him, which made seeing him force her to admit her love as part of a terrible game all the more troubling. Whilst that was great writing and has bundles of emotional depth, you hear nothing else about it. Molly was crushed and Sherlock reacted violently but all we see is Molly smiling in the final montage. Surely there was some fallout from this heartbreaking upheaval, you can’t just leave something as harrowing as that and hope folk will be OK with not knowing what happened. Also Euros’ accent was annoying. Not a huge grievance but one that slowly started to melt my brain.
All in all, a strong season but not one of the best. The disappointing first episode was one of the worst of the whole series but it was made up for with the finale despite all its problems. With the main actors, Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch being in such high demand these days, it will be extremely difficult for another season to happen. Which is terrible as it is still essential, event television and any Sherlock Holmes on TV is worthwhile. If it is the end however at least we can all take solace in the fact that the last time get to see our heroes, Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, they were awkwardly running in slow motion towards the camera.
What more can you ask for?