The Final Problem
In what is likely to be the show’s last episode for a good number of years, if not ever, the Sherlock season four finale was an episode that continued with the new and darker tone that has been present throughout this season. The finale enthralled, it gripped and it teased, but ultimately it underwhelmed.
For the first hour, I was engrossed in this story. It began brilliantly with a cleverly engineered haunted house by Sherlock to find out if Eurus was in fact a sister he’d forgotten. Back at Baker Street, seeing Mycroft be treated by a client by Sherlock, John and Mrs Hudson, as he seeked their help, was the first and last light hearted moment of the episode. The exchange was huge fun to watch. Once Mycroft eventually took his place in the client’s chair, we were shown a new side to Sherlock that we hadn’t seen previously in any of the four seasons. Benedict Cumberbatch exquisitely portrayed a version of Sherlock who was brimming with rage and frustration. It wasn’t because somebody had interrupted him while he was working on a case, or because he’d run out of cigarettes. Sherlock was so furious because his own sister had been hidden away from him, and this passion he displayed to find out how to help her was brilliant to see.
Once Sherlock et al. arrived on Sherinford, the intensity was ramped up several notches. What was so good about the Shutter Island type setting was that anything could have happened. You didn’t know who to trust, who was under Eurus’ control, what would be in the next room, or who. The way the hour or so, that we saw on Sherinford was directed and produced was masterful. The little pre-recorded snippets of Moriarty ticking away, the flashes of red light and the constant insane preaching from Eurus all made it such an uncomfortable and dark location. You felt as though you were trapped with Sherlock, just by watching.
The idea of Sherinford isn’t anything new from Steven Moffat. We saw the Doctor get trapped inside his own confession dial in Heaven Sent. Sherinford, like the confession dial, was a ready made personal hell for Sherlock. I’m not complaining about the concept being rehashed though because on both occassions, it was written and executed perfectly. As well as learning a lot about Sherlock, Mycroft had his finest hour in the show. Making it easier for Sherlock to shoot him rather than John was a lovely, warm moment rammed into a dark and nail biting scene. Seeing a more caring and selfless side to Mycroft was welcome and his character really excelled in the bear pit that was Sherinford.
As I touched on earlier, the way this episode was produced and shot was sensational. The CGI in the explosion of Baker Street was a triumph. Moriarty’s entrance to “I Want to Break Free” was a thrilling scene, where I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to be disappointed to later discover it was from five years ago. The soundtrack of the episode was another highlight, a feature that always stands out in the show.
However, despite a phenomenal first hour, the episode somewhat tailed off towards the end. It had been set up so well, there were endless possibilities that could’ve happened. Once Sherlock was drugged and transported to the Holmes’ old family house, all the tension seemed to just vanish. I never felt as though John was in any danger, despite being chained to the bottom of a well. There’s no way a main character would get killed off so easily, therefore the fear I had for John’s life throughout his time at Sherinford had dissipated. Even Eurus, who had been such an enigma and a loose cannon for the first hour completely changed and in the end, it was quite easy for Sherlock to overcome her puzzle, find her and save John. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it was more than this. I said in my review of episode one that if the show was to continue being much darker, it had to maintain its qualities that made it so good. There was no clever detective work for Sherlock to get stuck into, nothing for John to assist him with either. The gravestones felt like they were thrown in just to show that Moffat and Gatiss had put some thought into the conclusion, and Sherlock hadn’t found Eurus in her room, just by chance.
Red Beard was another aspect of the plot that seemed anticlimactic. The way the name “Red Beard” was so often used, and remembered in such glowing terms made it pretty obvious before the “big revelation” that he was no dog. Last week, the line “People always stop looking after three” was so deliberately thrown in, that something like this had to happen. Teasing something, and then delivering less than what was teased is the number one way to let the viewer down. “After three” could’ve referred to anything or anyone. Was Moriarty related to the Holmes? Was there another psychotic sibling? In the end, just a friend for Sherlock felt like a cheap way out, a plot that required very little effort and in the end, didn’t really add to the plot or need to be there. A twist for the sake of a twist.
The final DVD that Mary sent John was like a destruction of the fourth wall. If you think about it, why would Mary prepare something like that? Why go to all that effort just in case she had a premature death? To me, it felt like Moffat and Gatiss telling us viewers that if the show does go on another lengthy hiatus, or it never returns, that we shouldn’t worry because John and Sherlock will always be busy together solving crimes. It niggled me slightly, because why couldn’t we actually see them solving any crimes? Mary has been dead for two episodes now, that’s three hours of air time. Surely enough to see at least one mystery debunked by the famous pair? My concern of too big a shift away from what made the show so brilliant was realised in the last two episodes, but particularly this week.
For the first hour, I was gripped, I was aghast and I was loving the season four finale. The acting from the entire cast somehow peaked to a level unlike anything we’ve seen from them before. Similarly to last year’s Doctor Who finale Hell Bent though, I felt like a lot of potential was wasted and we weren’t really given a conclusion that fitted the grand build up. If the show is ever to return, then I for one sincerely hope we get the old Sherlock back. The Sherlock that chased around on the coat tails of LeStrade, hungry for fresh cases with John Watson by his side. To a certain extent, the change in direction worked. I’ve been entertained by all three episodes in series four. But if you’ve got Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman shaped ingredients to produce a marvellous detective show, produce a marvellous detective show.
Episode Rating: 6/10