We Need to Talk About Sherlock



SPOILERS AHEAD: turn back now.

I’ve finished watching series four of Sherlock and don’t want to post any discussions to social media until I know it’s not ruining someone’s enjoyment of the series. But I do need to talk about it.

The first ep was ruined for me by someone on Instagram who spoilered before it went to air so I’m treading lightly. Anyways, here goes:

The Holmes family seem to reflect Tolstoy’s contention in Anna Karenina that ‘every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way’. The Holmeses are definitely a beast unto themselves and, until recently, revolved mainly around middle child Sherlock. It’s his name on the show after all. (Let’s just get this out of the way: Middle children are awesome, thank you very much).

Despite the title, Sherlock has always very much been an ensemble piece and all the better for it. In season four the spotlight moves away from the titular character just a tad and takes us on an emotional roller coaster ride through family and friendship. Sadly there are devastating casualties along the way.

Before discussing these I must take a second (or many) to thank the writers and producers for creating such wonderful female characters. These women are no shrinking violets and they become even more proactive in the new series.

Amanda Abbington as Mary is a kick arse former assassin for hire. Her hair is full of secrets, despite it not being that big. She is smart as and takes no shit either from Sherlock nor her husband John Watson (he’s a doctor and Sherlock’s best friend, just in case you missed the last bazillion years). Mary’s friendship with Sherlock is that of equals and it’s beautiful to see it blossom without descending into mush. It is on the strength of this friendship that Mary literally takes a bullet for him. It’s not ballsy; it’s ovariany. As those of us who have seen the series know, this decision is devastating. We lose Mary. And even in her last minutes she’s trying to help Sherlock with her compassion. Her death sees Watson let out a guttural stream, made all the more poignant by the fact that Abbington and Martin Freeman (who plays Watson), had just dissolved their in real life marriage. My heart wept, even though I knew it was coming.

Then we have Mrs Hudson, played by Una Stubs. Una won my heart as a little kid in her performance as Aunt Sally in Worzel Gummidge. An already important background player, Mrs Hudson comes into her own this season and it is MAGNIFICENT. Previous series have alluded to her complex background with her former drug dealer husband (Sherlock helped him get the death penalty), possible pot addiction and previous history as a stripper (maybe). We see connections to this played out as she kidnaps Sherlock to save him from himself. Her telling Sherlock ‘You’re not my first smackhead’ will go down as one of my favourite moments in recent TV history. The revelation that she drives an Astin Martin like a rally car driver is genius. And no, she won’t let you borrow it.

Molly Hooper, played by Louise Brealey, despite being enamoured with Sherlock, proves her incredible competence and self-control by again helping Sherlock. Unfortunately we don’t know that much about Molly’s background just yet – she works in the morgue and could be seen as the typical lonely single woman. But she’s clever and very good at forensics. Thankfully the characterisations in Sherlock are not that one-dimensional and I am sure there is more of Molly to come. Her role in last year’s Christmas special was also nuts amazing. There has been commentary that the last episode in this series left a lot of unanswered questions – why was Molly upset when Sherlock called? Will she forgive him for making her say ‘I love you’ once he’s explained why he did so? How did she get such a nice apartment on an, one assumes, NHS wage? It all seemed a bit open ended. But, where there are questions there is hope for a new series. Well that’s what I’m telling myself. The writers have done a great job in slowly unpacking the backgrounds and blank spaces of other characters – one would hope this will be the case with Molly.

One of the major draws of this series was a possible revelation about the Holmes family; was there a third sibling, assumed to be another Holmes brother? And yes there is a sibling, and she’s a she; Eurus Holmes. Sian Brooke, as Eurus, somehow manages to pop herself into Sherlock’s day-to-day narrative as three different characters before the big reveal. It’s bloody well done. Eurus, as the youngest, is a dangerous, incredibly intelligent psychopath who is locked up in a high tech maximum prison on an island (think of Azkaban, but with tea and recreational violins). She manages to release herself from the prison, as all highly intelligent psychopaths seem to do, and insinuates herself into her big brothers’ lives. Then she traps them and Dr Watson in a deadly game of deduction, pitting friend against brother and showing a frightful amount of cruelty. But in the end she just wants to be saved, loved by her family and to play violin with her bug brother Sherlock … or something. I’m not really sure. The familial stuff had a lovely ending and was in keeping with the running theme of redemption in Sherlock as a whole. Again one wonders where they will take that from here as ‘The Final Problem’ (the concluding episode) didn’t really provide an ongoing solution. Nor it should really; if you show your cards all at once then that’s the end of the game. And for now, hopefully, the game is on.

Of course I’ve not said much about the male characters. As with the female ones we see their stories unfold and characterisations develop. Sherlock becomes the ‘good man’ Lestrade always said he might become. Mycroft turns out not to be as much of a twat as we first thought and gains some empathy from viewers. John Watson is kind of a dick, but he’s still the good friend Sherlock needed and also redeems himself at the end. As for the villains, whilst I’m sure actor Toby Jones is probably a nice man, as billionaire (?) serial and cereal killer Culverton Smith he totally nails being a creepy evil dude. If I saw him out and about I’d probably run away. That’s a first for me as many of the Sherlock villains have a charm about them that makes me want to know more. Even Moriarty.
And yes, Moriarty is back and makes a fabulous entrance to Queen’s I Want to Break Free. As is fitting. I just want to know where he got those sunglasses from. Snazzy.

Despite some plot questions it’s a great series with some wonderful and memorable dialogue. The end bit’s kinda cheesy but I’m glad that Mary got the last word. It’s also sweet that the final shot is from Rathbone House, a nod to actor Basil Rathbone who played Sherlock from the 1930s.

And now, of course, to wait for season five. We can’t just leave Sherlock all happy families now, can we? Please no.


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