Doc On The Box – Sherlock 4.3 – The Final Problem

mycroftThe East Wind has arrived, bringing with it a very familiar face. As Sherlock struggles with the problem of how somebody has committed all sorts of shenanigans when still locked inside a maximum security prison, he, John and Mycroft find themselves at the mercy of a deadly enemy. The only option – to play along with their games until they can face The Final Problem. And if that involves solving The Musgrave Ritual at the same time, then all the better…

Yes, I know that every other review might name names, but there’s a chance that people reading this might not have seen last week’s episode. So there’ll be more detail coming – but if you haven’t seen The Lying Detective, then why not pop off and see that first. And then see this one. And then read my review and have your say below.

Still here? Good. Off we go.

It does rather amuse me to see the various “can’t Sherlock and John just go and solve a normal crime” posts on Twitter and the like? Don’t get me wrong, I do understand where they’re coming from, but every television show worth its salt grows and develops the characters as it goes along and Sherlock is no different in that respect. The difference is that with only three episodes a series, that development has to take place in every episode and as Sherlock himself only seems to respond to trauma, that has made the episodes more and more personal as they have gone along. And they don’t get more personal than this.

Eurus is a great creation, someone even more Sherlock than Sherlock. It’s a bit of a shame that her main plan seems to be to relaunch The Crystal Maze (albeit a somewhat more lethal version) or maybe to remake episode four of Death To The Daleks (#stopdontmove – one for the Big Finish fans). Don’t get me wrong, the majority of the scenarios were stunningly effective – especially the one involving everyone’s favourite pathologist – but there was at least one too many of them. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love this show, but the game of Find The Murderer just felt like padding…

But there was so much to love in this episode. The opening sequence, although don’t ask me how he arranged that, the break-in, the fake-out – well, both of them… I can see from Twitter how gutted some people were when a certain three words appeared on the screen, but that’s the point of the show. Let’s face it, we know that it couldn’t really happen, just like we were all hoping it still might right at the end of the episode… The truth about Redbeard was delightful – it made perfect logical sense, in hindsight, but I doubt anyone could have seen it coming. And the overall theme of the story – of someone who just wanted someone to play with them – fitted beautifully, especially in the epilogue.

And the double act becoming, for a good while, a treble act. I always love Gatiss as Mycroft, but his performance in that scene – “I preferred your Lady Bracknell” – was magnificent. And as ever, full credit to the rest of the cast, who never fail to deliver, no matter how small their parts are.

And the epilogue – well, if this is the end, that that’s how I would want it to go out. With a closing sequence that had me punching the air and yelling “Hell, yeah!” (in my head – wouldn’t want Mrs Puzzle Doctor to think I’m strange). Roll on Series Five, I hope – I don’t mind how long I have to wake.

And she was smiling in that last sequence… looks like that bit didn’t work, Eurus.

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12 comments

  1. I remember seeing a horror movie where, after the spirit spent the better half of two hours terrorizing a group of people, the dark secret behind his motivations were finally revealed: he had short legs. I kind of found the ultimate reveal of Eurus’s motivations similarly banal. For me this episode, with its repetitive structure, implausibilities, and gruesome body count, was ‘Sherlock’ at its most unpleasant. It was like 80 minutes in the dentist’s chair, not redeemed by a wonderful closing epilogue.

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  2. It was a huge amount of fun, but bears virtually zero scrutiny. For this being the master plan all along, the holes left behind are so big that there’s almost no plot left to hold them together. But, in defence of the show, I wholeheartedly approve of how they’re working really hard to give us something genuinely new each time around — no cheesy “Sherlock talks the plane down” sequence, no easy, half-baked murder plots swollen well past their original 20 pages to bluff out a 90 minute show. It’s intelligent in the way that it didn’t start out as, even if sometimes you get the impression they think it’s a lot more clever than it is.

    Fine, it’s not ot everyone’s taste, and I can understand a general disfavouer at the lack of “crime of the week” stories, but for sheer hilarity and insanity of entertainment that’s always there to sweeo your feet out from under you, I think this takes a lot of beating. It’s no longer a must-watch for the detection element, but more for the “Holy cow, I can’t believe they did that” element that never stoops to lazy sensation and so remains all the more compelling.

    But, let’s be clear, this was frank nonsense from beginning to end; and rollicking fun with it.

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    • Great sincere review from an obvious fan. I hope it doesn’t prove to be the last one. People really love this show, and I’m glad there’s something which still manages to be event television in a way that shows with longer runs can’t manage. Still, I think if Moffat and Gatiss do choose to make more, they’re going to have to have a rethink of their approach. People are increasingly less dazzled by its inventiveness, and I think both the “stick to the formula” and “it’s all about the characters” camps are too dismissive of criticism from the other side.

      I think I dislike Moffat and Gatiss’ concept of the show and their disregard for internal consistency too much to work out how I would change it while preserving the essence of what they’re going for, but two things stand out:

      1) “Adherence to the case of the week formula” and “character development” are not opposing concepts. They’re two completely separate axes. Plenty of far less inventive and worse-written shows than Sherlock manage to preserve their formula while developing their characters. The fact that Sherlock only responds to trauma is well-observed, and certainly puts strain on the formula, but not all trauma has to be “overwrought backstory comes back to haunt us” trauma. In fact, if Sherlock was really growing as a person, he’d be able to care about something other than his immediate friends and family, which he’s done since early on.

      2) Moffatt and Gattiss usually have a strong sense of what’s at the heart of the original ACD stories, but here I think they let that escape them. Sherlock Holmes stories are about LONDON. Sure you can trot off to the moors or Sussex for a change of pace, but the (potentially) final episode of a show with London at its heart needed to be set mostly in London, not a brand new entirely implausible place with no significance beyond a meta-joke about its name than only fans will understand. Even that simple change might have given this episode a lot more heart. The Reichenbach Fall wasn’t any less unrealistic than this episode, but the fact that it was set it a recognisable place did a lot to hide that fact.

      (Bonus third thing that they can’t fix but should serve as a warning to other creators: Don’t introduce a baby if you don’t want a baby in your show! The way John’s daughter is forgotten and sidelined undoes a lot of the good work they did with that character, and got them basically nothing in return, except for a neat joke in The Sign of Three.)

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      • There is an argument — not that I essentially disagree with anything you’ve said — that if you’re going to make people wait two years then you’ve got to pull out all the stops. Like, if we waited two years and then got three episodes of Elementary people’d be equally fuming, I’m sure.

        The internal consistency is and issue, though, and you’re right to raise that. Precisely what was Eurus’ intent with the Moriarty plan at the end of series 3 that brought Sherlock back, for instance, and why did that require a months-long flirty texting relationship with Watson? If anything, I’d love to see what Moriarty’s expectations of this was, since he’s bvously out to bring Sherlock down and Eurus was out to, er, get a hug of of him? Imagine those planning sessions!

        Plus, y’know, any reason to get Andrew Scott back on screen in that role. By crikey, is he amazing.

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  3. I enjoyed it the same way I used to enjoy The Avengers: yes, it’s nonsense, but it’s surreal, imaginative, intellectually stimulating and highly entertaining nonsense.

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  4. realthog: I think that the comparison to The Avengers is very appropriate. So much TV nowadays is timidly trying to convince the viewer that it is ‘real’. Sherlock is unashamedly outrageous, and like The Avengers it ‘avoids the tyranny of common sense’. I’m interested in seeing where, if the show does come back, the show goes next. An awful lot of loose ends were tied up last night.

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    • I think that’s a good point, and there’s no reason why stories should be realistic or internally consistent. But I think Sherlock has to be, because a large part of the appeal of the character is in his deductions, and how the audience can relate to those deductions. With the show now basically entirely untethered from reality, those deductions become meaningless.

      Also it’s hard to empathise with characters if you don’t believe in the circumstances they find themselves in. The Avengers is fun (and holds up surprisingly well, especially the Diana Rigg years), but I never find myself frightened for the characters, or sad for the characters. Because it’s silly fun. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But that’s not what Sherlock is trying to do, and I don’t think you can have it both ways.

      “Case of the Week” episodes like A Study in Pink and The Banker were bizarre, certainly, but only about a quarter twist away from possible. This episode was so ridiculous from start to finish that I just didn’t care. I didn’t believe any of the character stuff, I didn’t believe any of the danger, and in the end I just found it very boring. It’s the only episode I’ve switched off halfway through and come back to later.

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  5. I’m with richmcd – “This episode was so ridiculous from start to finish that I just didn’t care. I didn’t believe any of the character stuff, I didn’t believe any of the danger, and in the end I just found it very boring.”

    I fluffed recording episode 2 and didn’t bother to rerecord it. And I turned episode 3 off a few minutes after starting to watch. I couldn’t be bothered to watch/record them again and that’s a pity because the series started out so well and went downhill from there. I couldn’t abide Moriarity and he tainted the other episodes.

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  6. Things I had issues with:

    1. Euros, in disguise, taking the same bus as John just so she can begin a flirtation with him – why?
    2. In The Abominable Bride, Sherlock said that he knows what Moriarty does next. Only … he doesn’t know at all.
    3. John being fired on with a tranquilizer dart instead of a real gun, despite it looking like a real gun and such darts don’t leave a hole like Euros said it would
    4. How did Euros become so educated without experiencing a conventional education?
    5. A young girl on an airplane where everyone else is asleep, which we the audience can see, and Moriarty’s voice we can hear, despite it being in her mind.
    6. Blood dripping from paintings
    7. What happened to the note from Sherlock that Molly gave John?
    8. Why did they introduce DI Hopkins in Episode 1 when we never see her again?
    9. A drone carrying a movement-sensitive grenade from Eurus – all the way from Sherinford?
    10. Why did Eurus send the drone and try to kill her brothers anyway when she wanted to meet them?
    11. 221b Baker Street blowing up, with Sherlock and John leaping from a second-floor window, without any injuries
    12. Mycroft said that Eurus was not incarcerated after the ‘dog incident’, but after Eurus burned down the house. But this was a lie because there was no dog, Eurus killed a little kid. So, was she incarcerated after the kid went missing? Because then, who put fire to the house? Was she incarcerated after the arson? Because if so, someone left a child-killer free.
    13. Mycroft dressing up in order to access Sherinford, despite being a government mandarin and being fully authorized to walk straight the front door and is even able to usurp the governor’s authority and take his office
    14. Sherlock writing ‘Tell My Sister I’m Here’ in the sand, despite the fact that his penetration of the facility depends upon the guards not being aware he is on the island
    15. Sherlock banking on the governor handing the a swipe card to the holding cell
    16. Sherlock – a man who can tell how big a kitchen is by a piece of paper which was pinned to the wall of one – does not notice that there was no glass, particularly when the glass is visible in the other scenes. While we’re at it, that piece of paper wasn’t tanned by sunlight as he said it was.
    17. Mycroft allowing Euros to meet Moriarity to avoid a couple of terrorist attacks, when they could easily have been plotting many more together in those minutes
    18. Euros’s supernatural voodoo powers of brainwashing – even hypnotising trained, experienced, formidably qualified psychologists.
    19. Moriarty recording video messages for Eurus’s plan, even though Sherlock will be likely dead from his own plans long before.
    20. They knew that ‘Redbeard’ had drowned but didn’t check the well?
    21. The isolated, heavily secure room has a secret door which leads to several other rooms
    22. John not realising he is at the bottom of a well, despite it being round, wet and with a sky above.
    23. There’s water, strangely, being hosed in
    24. The little girl’s voice really being Euros’, even though it was the voice of a child actor;
    25. Who is sending John Mary’s DVDs?
    26. The dog he couldn’t remember having turned out to be a friend he couldn’t remember having who was killed by the sister he couldn’t remember having!

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