2.5 / 5 stars
Sherlock season 4 begins where the Christmas special left off. We see Mycroft playing altered security footage that makes it appear Sherlock wasn’t the one who shot Charles Magnussen, leaving him free to deal with Jim Moriarty. Sherlock then returns home to 221B Baker Street, continuing to solve crimes while waiting for the resurfacing of his arch-nemesis. Meanwhile, the dynamic between the crime-solving duo has changed now that Mary has given birth to a daughter.
Three years with less than two hours of Sherlock was not enough to satisfy me, so when the premiere dates for season 4 were released, I couldn’t wait to once again (attempt to) solve crimes with Sherlock Holmes.
In anticipation of season 4, I re-watched all the previous episodes in December. Leading up to January, I was so excited. Moriarty, by far, is my favorite villain and Andrew Scott does such a great job playing him. I couldn’t wait to see anything even tangentially related to him. In addition, I love the interaction between Sherlock, John, and Mary and was excited to see how their relationships would further develop.
However, I don’t feel like season 4 met my expectations. This was the first Sherlock season to disappoint. Don’t get me wrong, I was engaged during the runtime of each episode, but the endings were just… not good.
Think of a movie set: On screen, with visual effects and specific camera placements, the set looks real. But when you go behind the scenes, you realize the doors lead nowhere, the windows look out to nothing, and the whole set is located on a Hollywood soundstage. Season 4 was very much like that for me.
The mysteries that Sherlock had to deal with were still entertaining. I was on the edge of my seat as the show delivered twist after twist. However, towards the end of each episode, the resolutions that came about left me feeling extremely unsatisfied. The show I knew as witty enough to prevent me from ever questioning plot holes or leaps in logic now had me second-guessing the entire story. I hated how some of the things turned out in season. While there are good moments, the ultimate conclusion was unsatisfactory and this undercuts the brilliance of earlier sequences for me.
Before I begin my spoiler-filled review, I’d just like to say that I’m love to hear your thoughts on this season of Sherlock, past seasons, or other adaptations! (I’m sorry to say the only other adaptation I’ve watched are the Robert Downey Jr. movies). I’d be more than happy to discuss thoughts.
You have been warned! (Seriously though, don’t read on if you haven’t watched season 4. Despite the divisive reviews, I would still recommend season 4 to Sherlock fans just because it wasn’t an abomination. In my opinion, spoilers will greatly detract from your viewing pleasure of season 4 as it is precisely not knowing that makes the game so fun.)
Ep. 1 The Six Thatchers: 1.5 stars (if not for Mary’s you-know-what, it would be 2.5)
WOW. I cannot believe everything that happened in season 4, unfortunately many of them bad. Mary’s death gutted me. Just no. That was not okay. I actually liked how the three of them became a team and I mean, how awesome is it that she’s a retired agent?
Speaking of super-spies, how was Sherlock, a “junkie who solves crimes to get high”, able to overpower Ajay, one of the A.G.R.A. members? That fight should have been one between a shark and a mouse.
The Six Thatchers had an interesting premise (lucky that the Margaret Thatcher busts were custom edition and there were only six!) but ultimately, the conclusion fell flat. The Black Pearl of the Borgias red herring was unsatisfactory since I do want to know what happened to it. John’s emotional affair with “E” was just weird. Later, we find out it was Eurus, Sherlock’s sister, but what possesses her to do such a thing? Though it did make John agonize a bit, it didn’t really have a significant impact. Ajay died without a big bang, making him feel pretty useless, like the entire betrayal resulting in A.G.R.A.’s failure plot. There was no pressing urgency to solving this case as it happened years ago and since then, the British government had stopped using freelance agents.
In the end though, Vivian Norbury is no Moriarty and the episode suffered from an acute lack of the supervillain. Her character motivations were weak. Everything about her was so forgettable.
There were good moments though: Toby the bloodhound had such an adorably funny moment and the way the scene was shot was creative and entertaining (with the map and the atomic structures of the chemicals he was smelling). Sherlock lecturing Rosie was endearing. She is such a cutie pie, but then again, what baby isn’t? The Sherlock montages were great as always! Sherlock’s crime-solving, as always, was fun to watch, although I suspect those mysteries might have been more entertaining than the one of Vivian Norbury. I enjoyed Mary’s traveling montage, especially her Boston or New York accent (? I’m really not sure but I thought it was good, whatever accent it was).
Ep. 2 The Lying Detective: 3 stars
Culverton Smith was well-portrayed by Toby Jones. He definitely seemed creepy and sadistic enough to be a “cereal killer”, but so much so that you had to wonder if he might have been faking it, as the show implied. He did a great job hiding in plain sight (well, not really in his case—he hid behind wealth and fame) as did all the villains of this season. Even now, I still get scared when I think of Culverton, especially when I think of him worming his way through secret passageways in his hospital. *shivers*
Artistically, this episode is really well-done. As always, the camera work and on-screen text do a great job of portraying Sherlock’s thoughts. When Sherlock goes from being on the bridge to standing in the middle of the street, to lying on the couch in his apartment, the editing was done brilliantly. I particularly loved the scene in which Sherlock “shows” fake Faith how he knows her kitchen is small.
I never expected Sherlock’s secret sibling to be a secret sister! Damn the show for making me believe it was a brother! Eurus is so good at pretending to be other people that it’s still hard to tell she was Faith and E so props to Sian Brookes! She’s truly an amazing actress. I think Sherlock does a really good job of casting actors; I don’t think I’ve ever felt like any of the actors/actresses were unsuited to their roles.
I loved the moment when all the people go to John’s new therapist’s house because Sherlock told them two weeks ago, even though John only got a new therapist less than a week ago! That was superb, especially seeing John’s stunned reaction.
I’m not sure how I feel about Sherlock going to hell in order to “save” John Watson. It was all so dramatic. I’m also not sure how to feel about John’s hallucination of Mary; in part, I do like it because I love Mary’s smart mouth but it felt kind of weird.
The romance angles at the end were completely unnecessary. I did ship Sherlock and Irene Adler but when John urged Sherlock to text her back and implied they should get together, I thought about the relationship a bit more and I realized that she would probably not be a good partner. I found it so strange that Lady Smallwood suddenly gave her number to Mycroft. That came out of left field.
Ep. 3 The Final Problem: 4 stars for everything but the ending, which gets 1 star
Up until the conclusion of this episode, I was actually on the verge of panic attacks/heart attacks. This episode is Sherlock like we have never seen it before. The showrunners had said that season 4 was darker than previous seasons but I never felt it until this episode. Right from the start, the episode wanders into horror territory, which I actually liked, even though it turned out to be staged by Sherlock, which then begs the question of how and why he went to all this trouble instead of just asking Mycroft about Eurus?
Of course, I was happy John wasn’t seriously injured/fatally wounded but in that case, why does Eurus shoot John with a tranquilizer dart? My prevailing theory is that a smoking gun makes for a good opening and cliffhanger… similar to many other elements in season 4. In fact, this season is more akin to the horror genre since all the twists are like jump scares, only intended for the effect without any real deep meaning, consequence, or purpose. In a similar vein, the grenade that Eurus sends to the apartment does absolutely no damage to Sherlock, John, or Mycroft, and later, we see many iconic furniture pieces and decorative objects in the apartment are still intact. How is that possible? How!?
The moments of Moriarty were few and he was relegated to cameo appearances but the almost-didn’t-seem-like-it flashback scene was awesome. I was screaming on the inside (my internal hysterics: holy shit he’s alive yes I love him but no that’s not possible because he’s dead like he’s dead for sure, there’s no way he could’ve survived the gun shot but oh my god it doesn’t matter because Moriarty is here in person on my screen).
However, I didn’t really understand the role that Moriarty plays in Eurus’ scheme aside from being a minor distraction to psych out Sherlock. Was Eurus the woman behind the man behind all the criminals of the first two seasons? There was just so much left unexplained regarding Moriarty and Eurus’ relationship. We know they talked for five minutes, unsupervised, but then what? They banded together to take down the world’s only consulting detective?
In addition to the unresolved Moriarty thread, there are lots of aspects of Eurus’ master plan that stretches belief. I called bullshit when Mycroft said she could manipulate/brainwash/reprogram people by talking to them. All she seemed was psychopathic to me when I was watching the tapes of her… I’m not really sure what the show meant by “brainwash”. How did she take over Sherrinford again? Like, how did she manipulate everyone in the secure facility without word ever getting to Mycroft?
Why did she concoct such an elaborate game for Sherlock? Why did she choose Sherlock? Did the show actually try to make me believe that all she wanted was someone who would understand her, love her, play with her, etc.? For someone unable to comprehend emotions, I’m a little shocked that that was Eurus’ endgame all along. I still can’t believe a hug solved all of it. Ugh.
This is why my rating of the finale’s ending is 1 star. I really thought Eurus would be a villain with similar motivations as Moriarty so the ultimate reveal rendered everything she did was pointless, especially since she retreats so far into herself that she’s really not a threat to society anymore. However, it was a genuinely thrilling episode, with crime-solving and high stakes (for everyone but our main characters), hence my 4 star rating for the rest of the episode.
I did like the twist of Redbeard actually being Sherlock’s childhood best friend and not his dog, as we were led to believe. It makes sense that Sherlock is a high-functioning sociopath because his mind is trying to repress his memories of the trauma, thus causing him to emotionally distance himself from everyone. This seemed logical, unlike many other things that the show tried (and failed) to explain.