Sherlock s4 ep 3

imageWe open with a horribly frightening scenario, uncomfortably reminiscent of real-life events in the not too distant past that I’d rather not think about: a little girl wakes to find she’s the only person awake on a plane full of unconscious crew and passengers. A mobile phone suddenly starts ringing, breaking the silence around her, and she answers, panicked, only to find the voice on the line is….

Well, that would be telling. It turns out, however, that the little girl on the plane isn’t even the scariest situation this episode has to offer, as we move through a terrifying incident at Mycroft’s house, and on to a tense stand-off at Baker Street before finally ending up in what is a long waking nightmare at Sherrinford itself, courtesy of one Ms Eurus Holmes; a magnetically chilling portrayal by Sian Brooke of a woman who has an intellect “beyond Newton” and a capacity for endlessly imaginative and expansive cruelty beyond all of us.

imageAll this makes The Final Problem the darkest, most complicated Sherlock yet, weaving a deeply disturbing family history that has previously remained oblique and undiscovered to both us and Sherlock himself, into the show’s already established mythology and relationships, and giving us a villain who’s not only much cleverer than our heroes and all our previous villains, but seems, for most of the episode, utterly and solely devoted to the pursuit of the most appalling psychological torture and revenge.

This is not Sherlock as cheerful whodunnit or even meta buddy comedy then, but Sherlock as psychological horror film; for most of the ninety-minute running time, the only sounds coming from my sofa were gasps and whimpers – in fairness, they did find time for a little of the trademark Sherlock humour but, for the most part, this was black and uncompromising; the scene with the governor, the scene with Molly, the sudden realisation of who Redbeard really was – my God.

If the horror was a little too much at times, though, the chemistry between and consistently outstanding performances of Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman and Mark Gatiss helped keep the heart in there too, adding, as Eurus might say, “emotional context” to an episode which, without it, would just have been thoroughly unpleasant. As it was, The Final Problem may have been somewhat traumatic to watch, but it was also gripping, mesmerising viewing and a fine, fitting way to end the series, if end the series it does.

The fate of the show isn’t clear yet; although they all seem keen to return, Cumberbatch, Freeman and showrunners Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss are all much more famous and in demand than they were when they started their “Holmes and Watson as young men in a modern setting” project, and it’s not as if it’s easy to make 3 feature-length movies with writers and a cast like that on a BBC Drama budget. It’s also subject to the law of diminishing returns – I still think that this version of Sherlock is, for the most part, brilliant, but it’s fair to say that the number of people who agree with me has decreased significantly over the past few years. There’s no denying any new series of Sherlock is an event, though; if we got a fifth one, I’d be far from the only one pleased and watching. Ups and downs and focus on Mary and Moriarty aside, I do still love this incarnation of the Baker Street Boys. For now, then, I’m not saying goodbye to them, just farewell. It’s been a blast.


6 thoughts on “Sherlock s4 ep 3

  1. Jed Bartlet January 16, 2017 / 11:02 pm

    I should probably first allow that I thought at least the writers put some effort into this season’s episodes, unlike the lazy, smug, flatulent season 3. And none of the episodes were anything like as bad as that stupid one about the wedding.

    That having been said: this was crap. Plenty of imagination, but deployed for an ultimately trivial purpose. Why did they kill Moriarty off if he’s going to appear in every episode anyway? Why did they kill Mary off (other than to cheer the viewers up) if she’s going to appear in every episode anyway? It meant that even the good scenes (e.g. the one with Molly) failed to land: is Molly going to be killed? Doesn’t matter, does it? She’ll continue to show up.

    There was a point during this episode where I was watching in disbelief, genuinely amazed that the BBC had allowed this to be broadcast. What does Steven Moffat have on them? Is it that the money keeps rolling in from overseas sales, or has he somehow convinced them that he’s a TV genius who needs to be given his head? I can’t argue with the first proposition, but the second is demonstrably untrue; like most creative talent he has to be restrained and edited. What he actually needs is to be chucked into the writers’ room at some American procedural – maybe Elementary, but it probably doesn’t matter, The Mentalist would have been ideal – told he has 42 minutes to tell a story and that there’s a showrunner and head writer both with power of veto, reminded of the importance of plot, and then asked to get effing on with pouring all of that evident imagination into a taut narrative which makes sense on the most basic of levels, something which has eluded him on this show for a long time now.

    Anyway, allowing for all of season 3 being rubbish, and none of season 4 being more than passable, that means it’s now over five years, on my reckoning, since we had a truly great episode of Sherlock (s2 ep 1). That’s… quite a long time.

  2. e January 16, 2017 / 11:10 pm

    This was rubbish. Apparently you can be “compromised” with her in just a few minutes. She spent plenty of time with Mycroft, was John’s therapist, etc. And none of them were mind-controlled zombies but the director and many others were. Sherlock didn’t recognize her voice on the phone. She spends weeks and weeks out of the asylum and no one cares. They pop her back into the same place she escaped from regularly. She manages to gather together all sorts of victims in an overly convoluted stupid “test” (when Moriarity did the same, it felt like it had real weight/when she repeated it, it just felt trite), and somehow she managed to contract out an entire air-liftable stage for the big final reveal and… I could go on but I won’t.

    What a pity the show was cancelled after Series Two, with that amazing cliffhanger. He survived. But *how*?

  3. Traxy January 17, 2017 / 10:09 pm

    I agree with the other two. This episode felt a lot like “Retcon – The Movie” or something with regards to the sister.

    On another note, isn’t the whole point about sociopaths that they genuinely don’t care about people? Sherlock seems very emotional about other people, sooo he’s basically not a “highly functioning sociopath” after all, but really just socially awkward, and potentially Aspberger. You’d have thought Sherlock of all people would know the difference …

    • CJ Cregg January 17, 2017 / 10:18 pm

      I think the idea – at least this season – is that Sherlock never actually was a sociopath. Because of his history and the trauma he’s been suppressing, he’d tried to rewrite himself and sublimate his emotions, to try and convince himself he was pure brain, like his sister (but not evil). Now his memories are out in the open, he can stop pretending not to have emotions and recognise that they make him a more rounded human being. It might well be a retcon, but I enjoyed it anyway.

  4. Kay20 February 22, 2017 / 9:24 am

    I loved this episode. So CJ you’re not alone. I thought it was back to what Sherlock great. Not ponderous, swift at the get go and a focus on the characters.

    The thrill was genuinely there. Though I did miss Greg and Molly quite a bit there was a humanness to this episode that I felt had been lacking a long time. And I do love to watch Mycroft with his brother.

    Fitting end if it is one – it didn’t feel as bloated as the previous episodes to me.

    • CJ Cregg February 26, 2017 / 12:11 am


      PS – I like Molly fine but I missed Greg a bit more. I would totally watch a “Lestrade Investigates” spin-off…

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