Doc On The Box – Sherlock 4.1 – The Six Thatchers

“Did You Miss Me?”

Summoned back from his incredibly short exile due to the reappearance, on video at least, of his arch nemesis, Sherlock Holmes is pardoned and returned to Baker Street. But with no sign of Moriarty’s plan, he throws himself into his work, assisted by John and/or Mary Watson, depending on who’s available due to their new child.

His interest is sparked by a strange case of a long dead body found in a recently wrecked car outside a stately home. Not the case of the body – he solves that in about five seconds flat – but in the smashed bust of Margaret Thatcher that happened at about the same time. And then another bust of Mrs T is found destroyed, in a different, unrelated location…

Well, I wasn’t going to write this until the end of the series, but I can see the blossoming of “Where Sherlock Has Gone Wrong” and “How To Fix Sherlock” tweets and articles, so I thought, why not jump on the band wagon. Let’s make this the message of 2017 – if you can’t say something good about something, then don’t say anything. Let’s try and rein in the negativity in the world, just  a little bit. Certainly don’t just tweet “SHERLOCK SUCKED” – why not spend a little time backing up your argument as to what is wrong with the television show that doubtless did very well in the ratings and a large number of people enjoyed?

Oh, to clarify, I didn’t think it sucked at all. I really enjoyed it – if enjoyed is the way to describe the ending…

There seem to be an issue out there that Sherlock is developing something approximating emotions. Well, you may have noticed two things. One, the characters have been growing since the start of series one and he’s been changing since the start. Second, Sherlock is played by multi-million dollar fee earning Benedict Cumberbatch, who, presumably, isn’t earning that fee for this. He’s doing it because he enjoys the challenge and the people he works with. If you just want three episodes rehashing series one, fine, but you might need to get someone in a Cumberbatch costume to act them out for you. He’s one of the finest actors out there and he’s going to need a challenge.

Similarly, the notion that Sherlock should be about the crime and not the characters – that’s never been the point of this show. Ever. It’s a dark show and so the leads need dark developments. But if you want a crime show with no character development for the sleuths, then you get Midsomer Murders…

Plot-wise this mirrored a standard Sherlock episode (if there is such a thing – there are only ten previous ones) with the case of the Six Thatchers taking up the first half, surprisingly following The Adventure Of The Six Napoleons pretty faithfully, before it takes a left turn into more personal and darker territory. And of course, this review isn’t going there – spoiler-free and all that.

This episode, despite the personal developments, still had a case at the heart of it (unlike, say, the wedding episode, where it felt a bit tacked on) and despite my hope that whenever you hear a reference to a “lady” that Lara Pulver’s going to appear being dashed once again, it held together nicely. And the mistake that is going to take the series who knows where seemed entirely in character and the developments thereafter kept the characters true to themselves.

I can understand the disappointment with parts of series three of Sherlock. I can certainly understand people’s concerns with The Abominable Bride. I can see the disappointment here with the lack of Moriarty or even Toby Jones. But I saw this as a return to top form for the series – Cumberbatch and Freeman have never been better – and I can’t wait to see where it goes from here.

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15 comments

  1. I’m afraid I’ll have to disagree with you there and say that I was slightly bored with this episode. I liked the character development of Sherlock – nothing wrong with that – and the darker, more personal territory, but it did feel a trifle over-long and sentimental towards the end. Also, just like Dr Who, it’s becoming too self-referential, one for avid watchers only. It was the first episode my sons ever watched and I found myself wishing it had been more straightforwardly enjoyable, so perhaps that coloured my perception.

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  2. I like the little nuggets from the original books for the avid Sherlock Holmes fans and no-one who has read them should have been surprised by the ending even if the writers chose to do it on screen and in a more violent manner. And after Game of Thrones, well, we know that no character is safe surely?

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  3. I’ve never been shy about my criticism of Sherlock, especially Gatiss’ episodes, but I think this was easily the best one he’s written. Normally his dialogue is like a weird parody of Moffat’s (especially in Hounds of Baskerville), but here I thought he had the tone exactly right. The only duff note for me was Sherlock’s behaviour at the very beginning, which felt like warmed over Doctor Who, but then I’ve never really understood what they were trying to do with the drug stuff from Abominable Bride. After all, they very carefully spent three series showing us that Sherlock is NOT abusing drugs.

    I would say that it feels like a very different show than when it started, and not all of that is down to character development. Adding Mary ramped up the international espionage element in a way that makes even Alias seem sensible, and I’m not sure that was ever a good fit. Last night’s episode may be an attempt to course correct, which I think is a good idea.

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  4. Here’s a sillygism for you: Benedict Cumberbatch is to Sherlock Holmes as Margaret Rutherford is to Miss Marple. Holmes is, was, and always will be a product of his time, the late 19th and early 20th centuries. While viewing this series, on more than one occasion I’ve suspended my disbelief by entertaining the notion that I’m watching a brilliant but erratic individual with dissociative identity disorder (he thinks he’s Holmes) being sympathetically abetted by a well-meaning but credulous friend (who goes along with being Watson). Comparatively speaking then, calling Cumberbatch’s character Stephen Strange or Munchausen—anything but Sherlock Holmes—wouldn’t be too far amiss.

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      • Yes, I did have THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS in mind. And, who knows, when the producers of SHERLOCK finally do finish with mercilessly plagiarizing (some would go further and say “deconstructing without reconstituting”) Conan Doyle’s characters, they should consider it as a way of making a graceful exit: “It was all in his mind” does make for a better excuse than “We lost control. Sorry about that.”

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  5. Loved the character development, but I thought the mystery aspect was rather weak.

    The episode followed the common Sherlock formula of sticking fairly closely to the original story in the first part, then going off in a widely different direction afterwards. In previous episodes, like Scandal in Belgravia and His Last Vow, this worked because the part you recognize from the stories has just enough variation in it to be a sort of fun tribute to the original story, and it’s also kept to about the first third of the episode so that you don’t get bored of the old stuff. The rest of the story, while different, still stays true to the spirit of the original. This makes it interesting for fans of the original books to watch.

    Here, the Thatcher plot followed much too closely to the original story to be all that fun, it took half the episode for them to finally reach a resolution we already knew was coming, and the twist I could see coming a mile away. Then the story veered off into a Bond-like spy thriller that really didn’t feel like either a proper mystery or a proper take-the-main-villain-down story to me. I much preferred the wedding episode, which actually did have a proper mystery that I thought was tied in quite cleverly, or even The Abominable Bride, which did actually have a really intriguing murder mystery at the heart of it, over this half-carbon copy, half-Bond-esque tale.

    Still absolutely loved it for the character moments and the laughs, though.

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  6. It’s fair to say that the show underwent a bit of a change over the course of series 3 — people were expecting a bit more “problem of the week” and instead got little through-plots and references that built up to something more cohesive. I think your Midsomer Murders point is spot on: if this doesn’t move beyond that sort of setup, really the only difference between them is that it’s occasionally very clever (or at least thinks it is…) and has two leads who are just owning every single moment they’re on screen.

    I for one really liked this episode, but then I liked ‘The Abominable Bride’ and enjoyed series three a lot more when I rewatched it last year. The only bit that didn’t work for me with ‘The Six Thatchers’ — slight spoilers — is that it seems rather reckless for your death squad to go into battle each wearing a compromising flash drive round their necks. What if they get captured before a convenient hidey hole shows up? Curtains right there for the lot of them…

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  7. I finally watched it last night. I have to admit that my interest started to wane pretty quickly. I made it to the end and was rather unmoved by developments. I don’t think it helped that the producers went on and on about “no spoilers,” but they kept saying it’s going to be dark, dark!!! I can watch Benedict and Martin make toast, but this veering off into espionage seemed wrong and the whole “other woman” tease seemed too quick!

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  8. I don’t think it was as bad as everyone seems to be saying, just mediocre with the usual massive plot holes.
    ‘His Last Vow’, conversely, was unwatchable, in my view, so I’ve definitely seen worse.

    Why hide behind a vinyl seat cover when leaning sideways behind the dash board would be much quicker and easier?

    Would a team of mercenaries REALLY carry flash drives around with their own background information on, when it could – at the very least – potentially endanger their family and friends?.

    What happened to the other two agents’ memory sticks?

    A series of random dice throws sent Mary to … a hidden passport..

    The ‘English woman’ Ajay heard about could just as well be someone else the bad guys had met over the many months he was held captive.

    John – a doctor used to treating gun wounds – just sat and jabbered instead of offering aid?

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