When a show has been absent from our screens for three years and then returns with just three episodes, there’s no room for error. Luckily, the fourth series of BBC’s Sherlock did not disappoint.
When we left consulting detective Sherlock Holmes and his loyal blogger and his pregnant wife John and Mary Watson, they were saying their goodbyes, Sherlock having been exiled after murdering villain Charles Magnuson to prevent the exposure of Mary’s ex-assassin lifestyle. As if that wasn’t dramatic enough and before the series could end on this devastating note, the beginning of the credits was interrupted by an automated voice asking “did you miss me?”; none other than Sherlock’s arch-enemy and everyone’s favourite good-old-fashioned villain, Jim Moriarty, seemingly risen from the grave.
“We’re back to basics of Holmes and Watson, except this time the former is much more humble and the latter much more bitter”
However, the highly-anticipated beginning of the first episode set aside Moriarty’s return for a more domesticated problem, yet one just as frightening for Sherlock; the birth of Rosie Watson. Life continued in this way for a short while: Sherlock solving crimes as arrogantly as ever from the armchair of 221B while John and Mary juggled their new-born baby with their old one of Sherlock; but this simple life could not continue forever. The destruction of several Margaret Thatcher busts, while in itself possibly seen as more celebration than crime, leads to the discovery of Mary’s ex-comrade who now wants her dead. At the end of the episode, after the first of many heart-breaking scenes of the series, he succeeds, meaning we’re back to basics of Holmes and Watson, except this time the former is much more humble and the latter much more bitter.
The second episode seemed to be a fan-favourite, with the introduction of Toby Jones in a skin-crawling performance as the sickening and perverted serial-killer Culverton Smith, an enemy that Sherlock makes his life mission to destroy. In doing so he wins back the loyalty and love of John, who’s rejection of Sherlock following the death of his wife led to a deep and open look at the more human side of Holmes: someone who takes drugs to deal with guilt and boredom and who goes to outlandish lengths to talk someone out of a suicide that reminds him so much of a John Watson he met back in Series 1. The directing by Nick Hurran of episode 2 is close to perfection and genius, so many of his shots seemingly coming from a Christopher Nolan blockbuster and not Sunday night TV.
“These final 90 minutes are handled tragically and beautifully”
The third episode was unlike anything Sherlock has done before, the staggering introduction of an incarcerated third Holmes sibling, Euros, causing the finale to culminate in a crescendo of tense and emotional viewing as Sherlock, John and Mycroft were forced to partake in what seemed like her sadistic game where murder and emotional turmoil was simply part of the rules. The only light-hearted relief was a flashback of epic proportions, Queen’s I Want To Break Free ringing out before Jim Moriarty, suit, sunglasses and earphones included, danced off a helicopter.
These final 90 minutes are handled tragically and beautifully, Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman giving heart-wrenching performances that portray the pinnacle of their extraordinary character arcs, Sherlock developing from the unattached, cold robot of Series 1 to the most human of human beings, a man that cares for what is right, and deeply values his profound love for John Watson.