Sherlock: The Final Problem

Sherlock: 'Five minutes! It took five minutes to do all of this to us.'

If I had to pick one highlight from tonight's episode, it'd either be Moriarty's rock star posturing to Queen's 'I Want to Break Free' or Mrs Hudson vacuuming to Iron Maiden's 'The Number of the Beast'. It's good to know that during this suspense-laden, at times hopelessly improbable finale, they could still offer up some levity. It was sorely needed at times, especially with Eurus being such a rotter.

As with episode one, I suspect tonight's offering will divide opinion. Let's face it, the brilliance on display occasionally took some believing. Even with a regular episode of Sherlock it's frequently a challenge to buy that his deductions even faintly resemble something plausible, but in an episode where Sherlock is the dullard, and Eurus has almost superhuman powers of prescience and the ability to reprogram minds, there were times when you just had to grit your teeth and get on with it. At times Eurus was positively god-like. Five minutes was all it took to set her plan, and the only reason Sherlock managed to stop her is because she willed it. She left the clues, all Sherlock had to do was follow them to their inevitable conclusion.

Yet despite the unlikeliness of it all, I think I mostly enjoyed this. Cumberbatch was his usual mesmerising self—Sherlock's reaction to the gradual uncovering of his childhood trauma was moderately affecting, as was his emotionally charged phone exchange with the oddly deflated Molly Hooper—and Sian Brooke was again a revelation. Four characters in three episodes is pretty good going, and she played them with enough nuance that they felt like different people. In fact, the first forty minutes, culminating in the reveal that there was no glass between Sherlock and Eurus, and the fake-out of Moriarty's return, were thoroughly absorbing. The middle section is where the wheels, if not fell off, definitely developed something of a flat spot.

There's no denying that Eurus' Crystal Maze-esque testing of Sherlock, Watson and Mycroft gave us a fascinating insight into their characters—how they reacted under pressure, their morality, their affinity for each other, etc.—but the payoff was that the momentum occasionally stuttered. The inter-cutting of the little girl on the plane attempted to maintain some forward movement, but once it was revealed to be fake, the pressure it'd generated dissipated completely. Whether this bothered you or not, likely depends upon whether you found the twists more compelling that the story you thought you were being told. Was seeing Sherlock save his long-lost sister from a mind palace of her own making a better story to you than seeing him save a young girl from a crashing plane?

In fact, half way through the episode I began to ponder how well the show handles its own canniness. It's one thing to come up with these seemingly unending twists, but do they realistically deal with the consequences they beget? For example, shooting Doctor Watson last week was an effective cliffhanger, but was explaining it away as a tranquilliser dart, and then forgetting about it entirely, really a fair resolve? Ditto the blowing up of 221B Baker Street was a cracking idea, but to then have Sherlock and Watson turn up hours later unscathed, after being blown out of an upstairs window with the explosive power of a DX707 up their bottoms, really did take the biscuit.

For me, the character of Eurus was so interesting, the Redbeard payoff so unexpected, that the gripes I had throughout seemed to conveniently diminish. Eurus wasn't evil, she was simply a woman endowed with an incredible gift, struggling to cope with the ramifications of being brilliant. Many were complaining on Twitter that Eurus' turn-around was too quick, but I didn't see it as a turn-around at all; I saw it as a woman ostracised because of what her mental capabilities had made her, with a capacity for love, but no way of knowing what it took to be lovable. She thought that by removing Victor Trevor from the equation that Sherlock would like her more; instead, it resulted in her near complete isolation. She wasn't cured by the end, she was simply reunited with a brother she'd longed to be close to, and a family previously unaware of her existence.

One thing that has been gratifying to watch throughout these four seasons is how they've developed Sherlock as a character. Now that we know why Sherlock's like he is—a metamorphosis brought on by the murder of his best friend—it'll be interesting to rewatch the whole series and witness his slow journey back to humanity. Him hugging Watson last week, and him saving Eurus tonight, perfectly demonstrated how far he's come. He may not be the finished article yet, but with John, Greg, Mycroft, Mrs Hudson and Molly at his side, who's to say what's possible? After a few more years of refinement, maybe he'll even resemble the Sherlock of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's stories.

Looking back, Sherlock's always been an over the top adaptation. For me, it's never been about the realism or the faithfulness of the adaptation: it's been about the ride, the characters, and the sheer audacity of the storytelling—and Moffat and Gatiss have been audacious. Sometimes what they've brought to the table hasn't worked as well as we'd have liked, and maybe at times it's been a little too Time-Lordian, but they've seldom played it safe, have always gone big, and for that we should salute them. That said, I really wish they'd spent more time on consistency. If we're to believe that Sherlock can predict things weeks in advance, then please don't have him miss there being no security glass. I mean, I loved it for its shock value, but Sherlock really shouldn't be missing this shit.

So is that it? The ending may serve as a fitting coda to the show, with 221B Baker Street rebuilt, the Eurus situation resolved, Molly seemingly back on board, and John and Sherlock solving crimes like billy-o, but is that the last we'll ever see of them? Moffat says that he'd be surprised if this was the end, but that it absolutely could be, and Cumberbatch says that he'd love to revisit the show, but has no immediate plans to do so. In truth, nobody's got a clue, but at least no one's said no for definite, so maybe it's not too outlandish to hope for a handful of specials sometime in the future.

Until then, adieu, Sherlock.

Other Thoughts:

—Moriarty's return worked well as a twist, but his presence was pretty much redundant after it was revealed to be a flashback.

—I guess Sherlock repressing his memories explains why he had no awareness of having a sister.

—Victor Trevor was the name of Sherlock's university chum in 'The Adventure Of The Gloria Scott.' There was also a nice visual reference to 'The Dancing Men'.

—The 'Rathbone Place' thing at the end was a nice tip of the hat to the late Basil.

—I can't say I was particularly jazzed with the Molly sequence. She's a great character, but she's had an awful season all told.

—Sherrinford was the name of the institute that Eurus was incarcerated in. Nice twist.

—Did you spot Paul Weller dressed as a viking in the closing minutes?

Quotes:

Mrs Hudson: 'Would you like a cup of tea?'
Mycroft: 'Thank you.'
Mrs Hudson: 'The kettle's over there.'

Sherlock: 'John stays!'
Mycroft: 'This is family.'
Sherlock: 'That's why he stays.'

Sherlock: 'How are you?'
John: 'Bit of a lump.'
Sherlock: 'True dat, but you have your uses.'

Eurus: 'You still don't know about Redbeard, do you? Oh, this is going to be such a good day.'

Sherlock: 'Thanks, Greg.'
---
Four moor peaces eye rote, sea hear.

9 comments:

migmit said...

I want the contacts of Moffats dealer. He has some really good stuff.

Seriously, though, what was that? Discussion on whom to kill — your brother, your best friend, or yourself — to save somebody you don't know and whose existence is at least unverified?

Or, when your crush calls you and begs you to say "I love you" — given that this crush is extremely clever and has a tendency to need some pretty strange things — and you think it's a joke? Really?

Or... who am I kidding, I just hated it. Seriously, they should've left Sherlock dead while they had a chance.

Mallena said...

Sherlock on Shutter Island. I think I liked the movie better. While I usually always enjoy an entertaining psychopath, this series left me cold, this time. Some parts were cool, I liked the scenes of the young kids on the estate, but this whole thing felt like a mishmash of Shutter Island, The Ring, and Silence of the Lambs. I'm not sure how to feel about Euros, or whatever her name was. She killed people, right? I'm going to have to watch this again sometime, because I didn't really understand her story very well. My Magic Eight Ball says: Outcome Murky Try Again.

Silke said...

While I adored every single episode of Sherlock (even though I wasn't too keen on T6T, it was still entertaining as hell), this one was just ridiculously, astoundingly bad. The first really really disappointing Sherlock episode. When it leaked before Sunday, most fans believed it was a joke.
The not so popular episodes (like TBB, THOB or TEH) of Sherlock either failed to incorporate the London-feel or had a shift in the emotional tone like TEH failed to address properly the heartbreak Sherlock caused with his "jump". TFP neither had the beautiful London setting nor did the emotional baseline fit the rest of the story.

The pacing was off, the jokes fell flat (wth was that scene with Mycroft at the beginning?) and most importantly, the sheer amount of plotholes:
- the missing glass
- John chained in the well getting a rope?
- the grendade and it's missing aftermath (and bad bad CGI)
- Sherlock's on and here off-again drug addiction
- but also, what did Eurus do in all those years and months?)
- etc
The show was always a little over the top, but at least the plotting was always, always engaging and entertaining because with a little squinting, it was still believable.

Don't get me started on the secret Holmes sister. That was telenovela-style bad and failed to make you feel invested emotionally at all. Not only that, but of course, she had to be so smart she was basically an X-men with her mindaltering powers. As a woman, I feel utterly annoyed that the female characters are either brushed aside like Molly in that cruel scene or ridiculously overpowered like Mary or Eurus. Couldn't they have given her some interesting character traits instead of a mental illness? How can Mofftiss write such finely nuanced male characters and fall so flat on the female ones?

Anonymous said...

I think I'd be more forgiving toward this series as a whole if they'd cast Moriarty properly in the first place. Every single time he's ever on screen, I cringe. I know Andrew Scott is popular and everything, but I have no idea why. He's a laughable actor, but even the best actors would have trouble with the weird, campy lines the writers think are funny.

mazephoenix said...

This was awful. Eurus was not a compelling enough villain, and her mind-altering powers were laughable. It wishes it was as good as Shutter Island or Silence of the lambs, but lacks all cohesive storytelling, ending on a confused mess. I hope it's over now.

Mark Greig said...

I liked it.

*awkward silence*

I'll see myself out.

sunbunny said...

I didn't like it either but since that ground's been pretty well travelled let's talk about what I did like.

The Musgrave Ritual! I rewatched the Jeremy Brett one just recently so it was fun to see it included. The name of the story became the name of the family's ancestral home and figuring out a riddle and someone being stuck down a hole were both aspects of the story as well.

One of my my favorite moments was John recognizing the Governor's voice on the recording as Mycroft had failed to recognize the danger we were all in. A little Sherlocking from everyone's favorite ex-army doctor.

I’m a sucker for a happy ending and I’m just going to delight in imagining Rosie with two daddies and a gran with an Aston Martin and an Uncle Mycroft. While I didn’t care for Mary's voice over as much as I could have, I enjoyed the open ending the show used to put, if not a period, a semicolon at the end of the show. There will be more adventures for Holmes and Watson although we might not be privy to them. The important thing for the audience to know is that they’re still out there, working. It was a surprisingly uplifting end for a show that can get so dark.

TDS-Matt said...

I liked it too!

It was basically a Steven Moffat-penned Saw movie. You either go with its jumps or you don't. And I went with 'em.

Heather1 said...

I really liked it! Of course, there were leaps of illogic and faith. But I was happy... and so in when Moriarity started prancing around to Queen's "I want to break free". They had me at that and I simply decided to go along for the ride. I also like that it's a show that will do anything. Characters are actually at risk.