With the very final-sounding "The Final Problem", #Sherlock season 4 has come to an end (and maybe the series as a whole). After the uneven season opener "The Six Thatchers" and the return-to-form of "The Lying Detective", how did it do?
For me, "The Final Problem" fell somewhere between the two. Like "The Six Thatchers" it had problems, but it had great moments too, that for brief periods threatened to return us to Sherlock's glory days.
The episode runs on - sort of - from "The Lying Detective"'s cliffhanger reveal of the secret Holmes sister #Eurus (Sian Brooke). Sherlock (#BenedictCumberbatch) and #JohnWatson (#MartinFreeman) interrogate #Mycroft (series co-creator #MarkGatiss) to get to the truth about the third Holmes sibling.
Through some nifty flashbacks, we learn that Euros was the smartest of all three siblings, "an era defining genius beyond Newton". He explains that Euros' dangerous obsession with her youngest brother led to her drowning his dog (more on that later) and burning down the Holmes family mansion. As a result of the danger she posed, she was incarcerated in the island prison of #Sherrinford. It's basically Sherlock's equivalent of Arkham Asylum, Mycroft assures us. The location is described as "a map reference for hell".
The three intrepid family members (yes, John does count, just ask Sherlock) stage a daring break-in to Sherrinford, wherein Eurus, having taken control of the prison, engages them in a Moriarty-esque trial of wits that brings the Holmes brothers' past back to haunt them and threatens all of their lives.
That's the spoiler free stuff out the window. If you read on from here, beware that spoilers abound for "The Final Problem".
Rather than a standard episode recap, I thought I would break things down into: The Good (what worked), The Bad (what didn't) and The Confusing (the plot holes that have been gnawing at my brain since the episode ended).
- Mark Gatiss had plenty of chances to shine as Mycroft here. If you've been at all aware of British comedy in the last decade or two you will know that Gatiss is a hugely accomplished comedic actor, and his slimy, smarmy Mycroft is often used as such in Sherlock. But here, Gatiss was given room to stretch his dramatic acting muscles, particularly in the scene where Eurus makes Sherlock choose between killing him and John.
- I've been looking forward to the appearance of Jim #Moriarty ever since I saw #AndrewScott in the cast list for this episode on IMDb. It didn't disappoint. Well, okay, maybe it did a bit with the reveal that Moriarty's jaunt to Sherrinford took place in flashback, five years in the past. But still, it was, in his words "awesome" to see everyone's favourite criminal mastermind step off a helicopter grooving it Queen, and calling the prison governor "Big G". He's relateable that way.
- Talking of people grooving to songs, Mrs. Hudson vacuuming to the strains of Iron Maiden was pretty cool, too. After last week's reveal that she drives an Aston Martin it's pretty clear that Mrs. Hudson is living the life we all want. #LifeGoals. Bonus points for her passive-aggressive dismissal of Mycroft's desire for a cup of tea.
- Sian Brooke gave an amazing performance as Eurus - both in her many disguises in the last two episodes and in this one, where she more resembles the girl from The Ring. She delivers some chilling lines and does more with her eyes than most actors manage with their whole face.
- The grenade-in-the-flat scene had its problems (more to follow) but there was still some fun to be had with the three boys trying to simultaneously bicker and devise an escape plan while trying not to move a muscle.
- Excellent performances again from Cumberbatch and Freeman, but when is that ever not the case?
- That explosion - complete with Holmes and Watson leaping from the windows of 221B Baker Street - looked...kind of terrible. Also, it didn't really advance the plot even a bit, apart from the provide some cover for them being "missing" and/or in a coma to sneak into Sherrinford. You think a man as smart and powerful as Mycroft would find it pretty easy to conjure a believable alibi, though.
- Poor Molly. She has had her emotions played with by Sherlock since the beginning, but here it was the Holmes sister who broke her heart (though she didn't know it). The scene with Molly was undeniably tense and well done, but I can't help but feel bad for her character
- As good as Eurus was, her whole humans-as-lab-rats morality play was a bit, well, naff. You would think the greatest genius the world has ever seen could do better than rip off the Saw franchise.
The Confusing (i.e., the plot holes)
- OK so...why exactly did Sherlock and John decide that scaring Mycroft by hiring two men to dress up as a clown and small child was the best way to get the truth out of him? Granted, John does say that the only time he'll tell the truth is when he's "pissing himself", but still. Surely saying "Hey Mycroft, a woman who claims to be your sister has been wearing disguises for weeks and just shot me (albeit with a tranquilizer gun)" would do the trick.
- I can buy - just about - that Eurus is able to take over the remote island super-prison using nothing but her freaky super-intelligence mind control and a violin, but why does no-one notice when she goes jetting off the mainland (presumably via helicopter) to put on some wigs and ride a bus for no reason? I mean, we know Mycroft is checking in on her - he does it in the other episodes of the season - but even if the prison staff were lying to him, is there no one in air traffic control, or a particularly eagle-eye plane spotter, seeing this helicopter going to and from the island?
- How is Sherrinford prison kept so damn secret? It's a prison designed for the worst of the worst, the most dangerous people around. It's pretty safe to deduce that even plenty of folks in the government don't know it exists. But surely there's some lone YouTuber in the world of Sherlock posting overlong videos to PROVE the UK government has a secret black site prison and that Mycroft Holmes is secretly a shape-shifting lizard person.
- Still on the prison - who built that thing? It's high-tech and carved into rock. That kind of thing takes work. Planning and blueprints and architects and engineers and builders. Not one of them let slip about the secretive - and probably wildly - high paying job they once took out in the middle of the ocean?
- How did Eurus, pretending to be a girl on a crashing plane, speak in the girl's voice while still being visible on the prison's screens? The girl's voice could not have been pre-recorded as she answers specific questions. The same goes for her face on the screens. So, what, is Eurus also the world's greatest ventriloquist?
- How did Sherlock suppress his memory of Eurus' murder of Redbeard (not his dog, as we'd been led to believe, but his childhood friend Victor)? Eurus stated that she had heard Sherlock had "re-wired" his memories, suggesting he had done so himself, but Mycroft leads us to believe that he had done it to protect his younger brother. So what happened? Not a plot hole as such, but it would have been good to know more.
- After Sherlock spoils Eurus' fun by threatening to kill himself instead of one of John or Mycroft, she tranquilizes the three of them and apparently airlifts them(or Sherlock and John, at least) from the prison to the Holmes family homestead. Here, Sherlock wakes up in a fake prison cell and John finds himself in well (just like poor Victor). This throws up lots of questions. Did Eurus take a helicopter containing two unconscious men and the staff and tools required to build a fake room for Sherlock? If not, did she build it in advance, and how so given that this appeared to be a last minute change to her plan? If she pre-built it, how did it stay up for so long given that the detective dismantles it with a simple push? If she didn't, did she have to pop to a local B&Q (other hardware stores are available) and build it while hoping the sawing and hammering didn't wake the boys?
- If John's legs were in chains, how was he able to be pulled out of the well?
- After all that, all the psychotic murderer and master criminal needed was a hug? Really? Really? REALLY?
- At the end, we learn that Sherlock visits a now-mute Eurus to play violin, and that Mycroft and the Holmes parents also pay her familial visits. How easily murder, attempted murder, and innumerable other crimes are forgotten! Also, presumably they are safe because Eurus no longer talks, but what if she decides to...well, talk? Knowing her persuasive powers, why take the risk of being in the same room as her?
- How many damn people in the Sherlock-verse spend time making "play this in case I die" videos. Moriarty, Mary Watson, anyone else?
Ultimately, "The Final Problem" proved problematic. Good moments were overshadowed by a convulted evil plot that was full of holes, and a too-easy resolution for the Holmes family. The final montage (thanks to a #MaryWatson voiceover) feels final, though co-creators #StephenMoffat and Mark Gatiss have suggested the boys could be back for season 5. We'll have to wait and see if that happens, though it would be nice to think that the series won't end like this. "It's about the stories", as Mrs. Watson so poignantly reminds us. It's a message Moffat and Gatiss would do well to remember if they do bring our favourite crime-solving double act back.