**WARNING: I am sounding the spoiler claxon**
Thank goodness for that! Just when concern was creeping in; what if the mediocre ending of series three was a rip-roaring success in their mind and thus that was now their guiding tone for this new series? What if this series was going to be us having to drudge through drug-addiction and unrequited friendship, just to reach the point we started? I had clung to the hope over the last week that the first episode had been necessary for the wider plot, and we would be rewarded in the long run when the entirety of the series had played out, and having lived through The Lying Detective, I think it’s fair to say, my optimism was not misplaced.
I’ll confess that until about half-way through the episode, I was fearing the worst. I didn’t want to go through the trials and tribulations of drug usage, hitting rock bottom and inevitably making some massively catastrophic blunder. There were moments where I was genuinely concerned about where the episode and perhaps the season were headed; when Culverton Smith’s ‘daughter’ suddenly disappeared and when his actual daughter showed up in Smith’s favourite room. But there was plenty to keep me watching and giving me hope that Sherlock was on his way back to us – when he said he had a plan, I found myself breathing a small sigh of relief, it was like the writers were telling us to hang in there, all would be revealed. And wasn’t it just.
There were some great touches early on. The chalky resemblance of Sherlock’s mind palace, especially given there was a distinct lack of it at all in the first episode, and that way that he brushed it away. The demonstration of his superior deductive brain continually whirring at a 100 miles per hour, and him being unable to keep up in his drug addled state. The signs were there early that Sherlock was still there. Whilst we’re on the subject of the mind, Mary’s presence in the form of John’s imagining of his departed wife was a welcome addition, surprisingly. It was great that she was constantly reminding John that she wasn’t there, that he was just imagining her, that all the cleverness and reasoning was coming from his own mind.
The actual story was less about unravelling an earth-shattering mystery, he solved the riddle of who Smith wanted to kill very quickly. Instead the focus was on outmaneuvering a calculated serial killer who had money and power on his side. Toby Jones was brilliant as Culverton, although how could anyone believe that Smith was a genuinely kind-hearted philanthropist; every syllable he uttered and toothy smile he gave sent shivers down my spine. Proof that Sherlock is as much about worthy adversaries, big bad villains, acted profoundly well.
Talking of acting, I know Benedict Cumberbatch is a great actor. I know Benedict Cumberbatch is a great Sherlock Holmes. The would-be death scene though was still a revelation. The emotionally charged ‘I don’t want to die’ scene and acting out the attempted strangulation was acted really really well. It was different from the other types of near-death struggles we’ve scene Sherlock in, and it seemed conceivable that maybe this time he might actually meet his end. The cockiness was gone. There was genuine fear and it set-up the line about Mary’s sacrifice putting a value on his life that he didn’t know how to spend, perfectly.
The supporting cast were all back in force this time. Last week I lamented the loss of Molly’s nervous energy around Sherlock, but this week it made sense to me. Her weary appraisal of Sherlock’s abuse of his body, a mixture of concern, disdain, and fatigue, worked well and served nicely as a stark contrast to his very carefree and unconcerned nature. Lestrade was a far smaller part this time, but he had a similar weariness and resigned despair when dealing with interviewing John after the scalpel incident. I also thought his reaction to Smith’s clear enjoyment of confessing to all his murders, the disgust, was a brilliant touch.
Mrs. Hudson. Mrs. Hudson. Oh you are most definitely not a housekeeper. It wasn’t the fact that she’d driven her Aston across London at high-speeds with Sherlock in the boot that was brilliant. It was her complete disregard for the officers who wanted to deal with her afterwards. It was her pithy put-down of Mycroft, telling him he didn’t know enough about his little brother, laughing at his complete ignorance. It was her telling us, the viewers, the thing we should have known all along – Sherlock is an emotional creature. We’ve always assumed the cold and distant, but that’s not actually been true. It was also her steadfastly sending MI6 out of her house, and withering appraisal of Mycroft when he didn’t leave. She was used really well, and I liked that the explanation of her car was thrown in casually.
It may come as a surprise, given my griping last time about Sherlock being too emotionally invested, about the balance being too far in favour of friendships, that I thought the scene in Sherlock’s flat with John was equally as good. A lot was dealt with, in particular guilt over Mary’s death, and it was done well – the emotion wasn’t ramped up too much; the balance was right. That scene also gave the two moments when I audibly exclaimed. First when John addressed his imagining of Mary, ‘I cheated on you’. The confirmation of what appeared to have developed in the first episode. He was somewhat redeemed when he clarified that he had not actually cheated in the physical sense, but embarked on a flirtatious exchange of text messages. I was a little deflated by this, as I felt a bit cheated that she wasn’t proving to be someone more important. [I should have known!] The second time I jumped in my seat was when Sherlock’s phone sounded the text tone we all know to mean Irene Adler. I had actually forgotten than John didn’t know she was alive, and was glad to see that. I also really enjoyed John using some deductive reasoning himself, and realising that it must be Sherlock’s birthday, as well as offering the light-hearted but emotionally tinged advice that Sherlock should text her back. The big question is whether ‘The Woman’ will be back in the next episode. I’ve seen a comment from a cast member describing this series as ‘very complete’, so I do wonder whether she might just make an appearance in some form.
So the big shocker – Sherlock has a sister! I’m not yet sure how I feel about the ending of this episode, but only because I don’t know where the story is going to go yet. I liked that John was caught out by the same assumption Sherlock made in the first episode of series 1, everyone had assumed the third Holmes would be a brother, not a sister. Euros it seems is going to be very interesting, with lots of bread crumbs left along the way; Mycroft saying ‘it didn’t matter last time’, the fact Sherlock failed to notice her identity when she came to his flat or when he arrived at the psychiatrists house, and the distractions with references to ‘Sherringford’.
I have no real idea of where the last episode is going to take us, but I am looking forward to it immensely. Sammi has a really great theory, that Euros and Sherringford are twins. Euros is clearly deranged and evil, but possibly did something bad that involved Sherringford, who is now kept safe and secure under the watchful eyes of Mycroft (forgot to mention, I loved the surveillance sequence where Sherlock was walking about London with helicopters and CCTV following his every move). I wonder whether Euros could possibly have had some links to Moriarty in some way. I also have a feeling that somehow something to do with pirates is going to be involved!
Overall, this was back to Sherlock we want to see. The Six Thatchers was a necessary episode, and is never going to be my favourite, but when it’s coupled with The Lying Detective it feels a lot more complete. I’m very hopeful for next week and the series finale, as well as being somewhat saddened that just as it’s gotten really good, it’s going to come to an end.
Let me know whether you found this week better too, or if there are potential plot points and clues I might have missed, either in comments or on Twitter @JackGeekstalk. Think I’ll be rewatching this one to see if there’s anything else I can pick up!