It’s January 15th, 2017. Clean Bandit have been knocked off of number one by the dawn of the Sheeraning, as Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” and “Castle on the Hill” debut at number one and two respectively, heralds of his forthcoming album that will, on its release in mid-March, lead to Sheeran occupying 14 of the top 15 slots in an absolutely unprecedented (and before the streaming era impossible ) turn of events. JP Cooper, Starley, and Jax Jones featuring Raye also chart.
In news, the Justice Department concludes its lengthy investigation of the Chicago Police Department and concludes that, yeah, they’re really bad. Trump gives his first post-election press conference and mostly attacks the press. Much of the London Underground is shut down due to a strike. Martin McGuinness, the Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, resigns, sparking the collapse of the power-sharing government. And the Playboy Mansion goes up for sale.
On television, meanwhile, Sherlock reaches its presumptive end with The Final Problem. The central and defining mechanic of Sherlock is as it has always been: a sense of unrelenting, propulsive motion. It’s just that with The Final Problem this motion is not aimed anywhere. The result is like a rocket pointed sideways—undoubtedly spectacular, but still just an exploded mess. Nothing follows from this. How could it? The manic enthusiasm and gusto with which The Final Problem runs in circles does not change the fact that it remains essentially stationary. The sheer quantity of nothing that happens here does not magically transmute into something.
And so one is left with little to do but that laziest of cheap thrills in criticism: the brutal inventory of faults and failures in a crappy piece of media. Call it a craven attempt to someday get Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez to call me while I’m playing video games, but The Final Problem is garbage and here’s why.
The first and biggest problem, from which most though by no means all of the others extend, is Eurus. Or, rather, it’s the degree to which all of the emotional weight that Eurus supposed to conjure is unearned, existing more as an assertion of importance than as anything substantive. Eurus is one of the most over the top premises the show has ever tried to sell—that Sherlock Holmes not only has a previously unmentioned sibling, but that he completely blocked her out of his memory. And yet the effort that’s put into that sales job is frightfully minimal.
More to the point, however, the premise undermines what the story is trying to do. The script requires that the Sherlock/Eurus confrontations at the top of act two and the climax of act three carry emphatic emotional weight. But by loudly insisting on the total lack of existing emotional connection with Eurus that Sherlock can draw upon, Moffat and Gatiss keep her at arm’s length, creating a sense of distance at the precise moment when the story needs intimacy. It’s supposed to feel big and important, but the only thing the script can figure out to do to make it feel that way is to tell us how big and important it is.…