The Lying Detective

“It’s not a game anymore”. That’s been series four’s big slogan. Well episode two appeared to be one big game. Admittedly a game that carried serious consequences and risk, but Sherlock executed his game plan to perfection in what was one of the most intricately clever scripts the show has produced.

The first half an hour of this episode took quite a while to get going. Watching was like chewing on grisly beef. You know that you love the flavour, it’s just quite hard to digest. Sherlock’s self-induced period of being high on drugs was an entertaining watch. The script was very funny, Benedict Cumberbatch performed excellently too. The direction was a bit of problem though. It was quite obvious that Sherlock was, as Steven Moffat put it, “out of his tits”, so did we really need constantly rotating, swirling and nauseating camera angles. The way the first half hour was directed and produced just made it quite an uncomfortable watch, when really it was already quite clear how high Sherlock was. 

I didn’t feel like we got enough about the background into Toby Jones’ character, Culverton Smith. If you’ve got an actor like Toby Jones then utilise him. Moffat has been guilty in Doctor Who of under using immensely talented guest stars. Donald Sumpter as Rassilon for example. Peter Capaldi could also fall into that category. Culverton Smith’s friends were all too willing to just simply hook themselves up to the drugs he was inviting them to take. Rather than egg on willing participants, I would’ve liked to see a lot more of Smith manipulating victims and actually committing the murders he boasted about.

A real highlight of this episode was Mrs Hudson. She’s had very little character development over the first three series. Of course she’s had her moments but on the whole, her chances to take centre stage have been limited. Here however, she really excelled and the way she brought Sherlock and John back together was the stand out moment of the first hour. I hope we see more of this new Mrs Hudson next week.

The whole episode was essentially a three way character piece on Culverton Smith, but more importantly John and Sherlock. I enjoyed watching John’s interactions with the ghost of Mary and it showed a more human side to him. Mary’s tactic to “save John Watson” was very clever, and further demonstrated what a caring and loyal man John is. Talking about human sides, this was the episode where a caring and sensitive soul leapt out of Sherlock. It was nice to see the mask that he always wears, a mask of intelligence and arrogance break momentarily to console John, after he confessed to texting the girl on the bus. Before that though, he put himself through total hell, just to try and get John back into his life. Out of all four series, this is the episode that best demonstrated what a close and strong friendship the pair have, and without it, the show would crumble.

Culverton Smith was an interesting villain. I’ve already mentioned how I’d have liked to have seen more of him in action. However what we did see of him was brilliant. Toby Jones portrayed such a creepy, vile and easy to hate character. It was like Jimmy Saville morphed together with Harold Shipman. The spine-tingling and eerie atmosphere he created when he was present was remarkable and it was an all-round superb performance by Jones.

The script all came together very nicely in the end. You could maybe argue that some things were a little too convenient. Sherlock planning everything three weeks in advance could’ve gone wrong, but I suppose his, at times, inexplicable deductions are the charm of the show. The fourth microphone hidden in the walking stick though, was a piece of genius from Moffat. As the face of Culverton fell, I can imagine the faces of the watching millions lit up as they realised that Sherlock, even in the state that he was in, had beaten the man who had almost murdered him. The final few minutes where John’s therapist revealed herself as Sherlock and Mycroft’s secret sister was a jaw-dropping conclusion. I loved how she had impersonated Culverton’s daughter to get close to Sherlock and find out more about him. It was a fitting way to end a dramatic episode, and it’s set up next week’s finale perfectly.

One thing that did niggle me was the “next time” trailer, straight after the episode was finished. We ended with Sherlock’s sister shooting John, so did we need to see John alive in next week’s finale? Yes, it might be unlikely that John would be killed off, but it’s ruined a week of everyone guessing, will he die or will he not. Back in series four of Doctor Who, the penultimate episode ended with the tenth Doctor beginning to regenerate and that led to a week of fans wildly discussing different theories of what could happen and how he could avoid changing. Here though, that thrill has been taken away by a misplaced trailer. It doesn’t take anything away from how good this week’s episode was, but surely the marketing department should have a bit of communication with the writers or producers to stop such things from happening. 

Overall, this was another strong episode. Despite a slow start, the episode really picked up in the second half. Perhaps some more air time could’ve been given to the wonderful Toby Jones, but it’s hard to complain with what we did get. The acting was superb across the board once again and the writers have set up a finale where there are endless possibilities, and I for one cannot wait.

Episode Rating: 8/10