***Full Spoilers for Sherlock follow***
BBC’s Sherlock has a lot going for it, namely the two leading actors who are now stars. Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Strange, Star Trek Into Darkness) and Martin Freeman (Hobbit trilogy, Captain America: Civil War) are both great actors who seem to keep running into each other. From their work together on The Hobbit and now both of them having roles in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the two are somewhat inseparable and for good reason. Their chemistry together is what kept me watching even when I thought I’d had enough of the show during less exciting moments.
A great part of this series was the long episodes and high production value. Granted, there wasn’t generally much of a need for CGI or crazy special effects but the production value was still high. Even more interesting for American audiences is that the show started in 2010 and just ended this year with only 4 seasons and a total of 14 episodes (The unaired pilot doesn’t count). Each episode was about 90 minutes give or take and most contained such great plot points, build up and conclusion that it could be hard to distinguish it from a full feature film. Unfortunately there were some dud episodes and, when there are only 14 total, it’s noticeable.
The first and second seasons were absolutely incredible with great detective work, character development and absolutely delightful interactions between Sherlock and Jim Moriarty played by the extremely talented Andrew Scott. Sherlock and Watson’s relationship developed beautifully as did the character of Sherlock. Watson was always likable but Sherlock was not. Because of the relationship that built between the two, I personally began to care for Sherlock and understand why he was the way he is. Thus, the ending of season 2 caught me completely off guard.
Before explaining that further, context must be given. The season 2 finale sees Moriarty create a program that can break any security which he uses to launch a heist on three separate facilities and then allows himself to be caught and put in prison. Moriarty ends up securing a not guilty verdict through intimidating the jury, sets Holmes up as a suspect for kidnappings and then successfully leads a campaign to completely discredit Sherlock Holmes as a fraud. Sherlock and Moriarty then meet together on a rooftop where Moriarty directs the master detective to kill himself or assassins will kill John, Mrs. Hudson and Lestrade.
This is where the relationship building between Sherlock and John comes into play. Moriarty kills himself in order to cement his plan to have Sherlock admit to being a fraud and killing himself. Sherlock calls John (who is standing in the street nearby), admits to being a fraud and then jumps off the building committing suicide all while John watches. At the time of viewing, I knew there was no way Sherlock could be dead however I could see no other explanation especially when John rushes to the other side of the street and sees Sherlock’s dead corpse, even going as far as to check his pulse.
This scene played out so well that I was in shock. I couldn’t believe what I had just watched and I honestly loved it! It was masterful television and I could not be more pleased as a viewer! We learn later that it was all an elaborate ruse and that Sherlock is alive after all. How he pulled it off is clever and extremely fun! Me trying to explain it would not do it justice at all and, if you are reading this, I expect you already watched the show anyway.
Season 3 picks up 2 years later with no one but Molly and Mycroft knowing that Sherlock is still alive. John, the ever loyal friend, took the loss extremely hard but moved on and started dating Mary when he learns that Sherlock is alive. He is understandably upset but eventually gets over it enough that Sherlock is his best man at the wedding in episode 2 of the same season.
Up to this point, the show was fantastic until they decided to throw a massive wrench into it in the season 3 finale. As if John hasn’t been throw enough, it is revealed that his new and pregnant wife is an ex-assassin. He finds this out after she shoots Sherlock when he catches her in the middle of a heist. The premise of this episode was good. There is a man who knows how to blackmail anyone and is extremely good as manipulation. This in itself made a great story but then the writers decided to put John through even more misery by making his wife a secret assassin! It was too much, so much that I almost didn’t want to watch season 4.
The fourth and final season starts with more of the Mary plot line where one of her old assassin team is back and hunting her down. The episode is interesting enough but I’d really hoped they would leave this plot line alone after John threw the flash drive in the fire. It was nice to get a back story on Mary’s old life but I didn’t want her to have that life in the first place. The episode ends with Mary jumping in front of a bullet to save Sherlock’s life, this only months after giving birth to her and John’s daughter.
The question must be asked. What did John Watson do to deserve all this pain? His character is by far the most likable in the entire series, he is loyal, smart, dependable and good. Yet, time after time, he is kicked while he is down. His best friend commits fake suicide in front of him, his wife turns out to be a lying assassin, he forgives her and then she is taken away from him. Why in the world did they think this was a good direction to take the story? His character didn’t need even more trauma to build up how good he is. I get that Mary dies in the books and that would have been fine with me if she wasn’t also a lying assassin.
Further issue I took with the latter seasons was the insessant drug use by Sherlock. The character was just becoming charming to me when they made him an obnoxious drug addict. I absolutely hated seeing him in drug induced episodes for large periods of time. To a limited degree, I didn’t mind seeing Sherlock in that state as a person of his mind, would likely turn to drugs. However, it was used for far too long as a major plot point and could have been stomped out much sooner especially considering the time gaps the show has allowed in the past.
The series ended on a higher note in the finale with us learning that Sherlock and Mycroft had a younger sister, Eurus. Eurus as it turned out was the person who Sherlock spoke with all night and mistook for the daughter of Culverton Smith (the serial killer from episode 2 of the season). She was also John’s psycharatrist and the woman he was having a texting affair with. Eurus had disguised herself so well that neither John nor Sherlock caught on until it was too late. This was a great twist and I must congratulate the makeup team as I never suspected that all three of these characters was the same actress and same character. Looking at the below images now I can see it but even then, the makeup work is impressive.
Sherlock had locked away his memories of her due to the trauma of their past, which was interesting and not out of character. Eurus was in every way a formidable villain. She had met with Moriarty 5 years earlier and had him create recordings that she could use to torment her brothers with later. This was a fun payoff to the overarching story-line that Moriarty had devised some scheme from the grave. Her psycological torment on the brothers and John was excructiating to watch but well done.
In summary, the finale of season 3 and nearly all of season 4 destroyed a masterpiece of a show for me. The first 2 and 2/3 seasons were absolutely fantastic and the acting throughout the series was phenomenal. If the show had ended after the wedding episode in season 3, I think we would have been better off, but that isn’t to say everything to come after was bad. The season 4 finale was entertaining and Cumberbatch and Freeman are outstanding actors who did praiseworthy work throughout the series. There is still hope that Sherlock could return but I personally think this is the end for a long time. The two main actors, especially Cumberbatch, are in high demand and will be busy filming various projects for years to come.
3 out of 5 Couch Cushions and a Throw Pillow (3.5)