The Final Problem Review
I know, I said this wouldn’t be up for Monday. But then my weekend plans got spoiled by a stomach bug and I ended up home and watching Sherlock anyway. So it’s entirely possible that I’ve got a sour mood to match my stomach. Nevertheless, what a complete and utter disappointment this season of Sherlock has been.
The crux of the problem is one that plenty of franchises have fallen afoul of, which is thinking that you can introduce a character like Eurus and have her matter to the audience purely on the mythic weight of who she is instead of having to develop her. But it doesn’t work. She’s a distressingly one-note character whose characterization consists entirely of Mycroft asserting things about her. More to the point, her supposed powers are all bizarrely undersold: we’re told that she can effectively enslave someone by talking to them, but nothing about her comes off as particularly persuasive or charismatic. Mostly she sits around talking like a Markov bot fed on mediocre nihilist philosophy. And this is a real problem – the episode depends on her being the unholy fusion of Sherlock and Hannibal, but instead she’s just a generic megalomaniac. Which makes the resolution of her just needing a hug painfully unearned.
Making this worse is the way in which the episode is haunted by Moriarty. It’s not that it would have been better to actually bring him back, but having him popping up on video screens for dramatic effect and to have been the secret co-architect of all of this only serves to highlight how much weaker Eurus is as a villain. I’m not sure even Magnussen could have been effective with Andrew Scott popping up all over his episode, but Eurus doesn’t stand a chance, and the overall effect is to constantly remind the audience of a time when the show hadn’t used up its best ideas yet.
It’s not that there aren’t good bits. The relatively bottle-episode nature of it such that the majority of it is just Sherlock, John, and Mycroft is good, and all of them get some lovely character moments throughout. Mycroft, in particular, shines, getting a wealth of small emotional moments of the sort that he hadn’t really had before in the series. But John’s incredibly well-used as well, even if I don’t entirely buy him backing down from shooting the warden. And of course Molly’s scene was incredible.
But none of that masks the fact that this is just The Great Game done over with the melodrama pushed past the breaking point. The reveals just don’t work. The big one – that Redbeard was actually a person that we’ve never met before and aren’t particularly invested in – is a complete flop. We’ve already seen five people get murdered this episode. Finding out some kid from Sherlock’s past got killed instead of his dog doesn’t carry any particular weight. If anything, it was easier to be upset when it was a dog, which at least felt like a fairly fleshed out dog.
And then we get the ridiculously sentimental ending, complete with meticulously reconstructed Baker Street and final voiceover from Mary. Which, fine. But like Moriarty, Mary’s appearance mostly serves as a reminder of the fact that Sherlock, John, and Mary continuing to have adventures would have been vastly fresher and more interesting than either of the last two episodes. Apparently there’s no immediate plans for Sherlock’s return, and frankly, that’s for the best. Maybe given a few years Moffat and Gatiss can actually come up with a decent idea again.
- I really do want to harp on the stupidity of killing Mary a bit more. The biggest problem with this episode was that it was a tired rehash of past glories with contrived stakes. And as good as the John/Sherlock/Mycroft team was, you know what would have freshened up this episode nicely? The new dynamic that Mary introduced to proceedings instead of reverting to the Season One setup. At the end of the day, that’s where this season went wrong: after moving excitingly forward in Season Three, it moved backwards and unsurprisingly found nothing there.
- What was served by having Sherlock have no memory of Eurus? I mean, that’s a hell of a big premise, but other than explaining how we made it this far without ever mentioning Eurus it doesn’t really do anything save for make it harder to invest much in her as a character. I certainly don’t think realism is a big part of Sherlock, but “pushing it” is a fucking understatement here.
- I did like the opening sequence in which Mycroft’s sword umbrella turns out to also have a gun in it. That, along with Sherlock’s gloriously deadpan entrance to proceedings, might have been the best part of the episode. Which largely highlights another problem: for the most part, they forgot to be funny here.
- There’s obviously an element of “well it was kinda crap so presumably it was mostly Gatiss,” but other than some of the bigger concepts (most notably the “girl on the plane” motif) it’s difficult to identify much of this that really felt like Moffat. Trying to disentangle a collaboration is a mug’s game, and I’m sure it’ll turn out he had a bigger hand in it than it looks, but I struggle to find much.
- On a similar note, I have to admit I’m somewhat less than enthused about Doctor Who this year. This season gave the strong impression of a writer facing burnout, and the fact that Moffat blatantly wanted to leave after Series 9 doesn’t give much hope that he’s going to turn in something akin to Series 5, 8, or 9 as opposed to 6 and 7. I find myself hoping Capaldi is leaving this year, just because it seems like the sort of thing that might push Moffat to turn in a bravado final episode. And hey, at least Series 10 has a hell of a supporting card in terms of writers. (And, you know, Gatiss and Whithouse.)
- Benjamin Caron at least acquitted himself fairly well, although the tightly constrained location did him a lot of favors and helps explain why this was the episode that didn’t go to the veteran – it didn’t need Talalay or Hurran.
- Honestly, I think The Six Thatchers may have been a better-constructed and more interesting episode than this, but killing Mary still dooms it in the rankings.
- The Lying Detective
- The Final Problem
- The Six Thatchers
January 16, 2017 @ 4:08 am
the secret co-architect of all of this
Hmm. My reading was that he was just a tool in all this, and presumably during his earlier activity on the show as well.
January 16, 2017 @ 4:44 am
You definitely need to watch it again, as the revelation to me seemed clear that Euros had programmed and played Moriarty, making her the villain of the whole show.
January 16, 2017 @ 5:35 am
Nah. Moriarty was already a master criminal engaged in his scheme of manipulation when he arrived at Sherrinford, as Mycroft notes his interest in Sherlock. He may have been the junior partner in whatever Eurus’s plan was (and it’s not particularly clear to me he actually did anything more than record a bunch of videos for that scheme), but “Eurus played Moriarty” doesn’t seem supported at all. (And indeed, the fact that it’s said Eurus hasn’t been the same since Moriarty’s visit suggests he pushed her towards the edge as well.)
January 16, 2017 @ 11:20 am
Indeed. Beforehand I expected, and feared, that it was going to be declared that Moriarty was just Euros’s agent all along (since they were clearly going to resolve the Moriarty mystery in an episode with Euros as the big new adversary, plus it was already clear from the trailer that they were going with the tawdry “the protagonist’s entire personality is derivative of this rather schlocky character we’ve just randomly introduced” idea, so Moffat’s scent-marking tendencies were clearly in full effect), and when the characters started reviewing the tapes it seemed obvious that a young and innocent Moriarty would turn up on one of them, but thankfully they dodged that particular bullet.
Mind you, crap though that would have been overall, within the bounds of this episode it would have been more coherent than what they ended up with. Clearly Moffat and Gatiss had intended to do a (probably posthumous) Moriarty thing this series, but then abandoned that and came up with Euros instead, which meant that they had painted themselves into a corner by setting up the Moriarty thing which they now had to pay off somehow. Probably the most painless solution would have been simply to have Euros cooking up the “Moriarty’s posthumous revenge scheme” idea as a hoax to mess with Sherlock’s head in some way, with no actual connection between Euros and the living Moriarty. But they ended up with “they sort of teamed up in some way, but it’s really not clear where that fits it, and please don’t look too closely because it doesn’t actually hang together at all”.
And yes, that glimpse of his camply villainous charisma breezing through did mostly just draw attention to what we were missing.
January 16, 2017 @ 1:03 pm
I got the same impression as James, and I don’t see how it’s avoidable given what happened in the episode. It’s emphasised more than once that Euros “re-programmed” everybody she spoke to, and when it’s revealed that she spoke to Moriarty Sherlock is appalled. Not sure what possible interpretation of that moment there is except “Mycroft fucked up by letting Euros re-program the most powerful criminal in the world”.
At one point Sherlock says something like “she did all this to us in five minutes”, which strongly implies that her conversation with Moriarty was part of a grand strategic play (on her part, not his) that must have involved not only M.’s tormenting of Sherlock but also his (M.’s) death. This would fit in with Euros’s ability to predict how people will behave in complex situations ridiculously far in advance (becoming John’s therapist etc.).
You say it seems like all Moriarty did was record some videos. Well, exactly! That’s an argument against your interpretation, not an argument in favour of it. It would make no sense for the Euros/Moriarty meeting to be revealed as a big twist if that were all that happened between them. The meeting is important because of the implication that Euros was M.’s puppet-master all along.
I don’t think Mycroft’s reference to Moriarty already being “interested in” Sherlock before the meeting is all that relevant. Him wanting to take down Sherlock is consistent with him not being able to do it prior to Euros’s “help”.
January 16, 2017 @ 2:15 pm
Apologies for the line-by-line…
It’s emphasised more than once that Euros “re-programmed” everybody she spoke to
But not Mycroft, it seems. He’s clearly been manipulated (as he was by Moriarty, for that matter), but not controlled, despite interactions with Euros over many years. She only gets little presents out of him as a quid pro quo – her more drastic interventions require access to ordinary people further down the hierarchy. Sherlock doesn’t get reprogrammed either, despite all the elaborate effort expended on him, which goes far beyond five minute’s conversation. So there does seem to be a limit on that super-power where the designated super-brains are concerned, and Moriarty’s one of those.
when it’s revealed that she spoke to Moriarty Sherlock is appalled. Not sure what possible interpretation of that moment there is except “Mycroft fucked up by letting Euros re-program the most powerful criminal in the world”
Why does there need to be more to it than “when these two crazy kids get together, there’s laughs aplenty!”? Neither of them needs to be running the other for collaboraction between them to sound like extremely bad news. “All this” refers to their present situation and the events leading up to it. Moriarty’s known machinations against the Holmeses in the past are ancient thwarted history at this point, not something that did any lasting damage impinging on them now – they’re a “that”, not a “this”..
And I’d say the mismatch between the portentous treatment of their association and its lack of any apparent actual consequences is simply a product of the mess Moffat and Gatiss had got themselves into by setting up the “Moriarty’s revenge” scenario and then changing their minds about where to go with the series, and of their doing a poor job of getting out of it. They had to fit him in somewhere, but did not find any meaningful role for him to play in the story. It’s a bug, not a feature.
The way Euros talks about Moriarty also doesn’t seem to back up the idea that he was acting on any agenda but his own. If she had been running him, wouldn’t you expect her to mention it at some point?
January 16, 2017 @ 4:48 pm
I think one of the characters brings up the “how come Mycroft’s allowed to talk to her” issue at one point and his response is something like “I grew up with her, I know what I’m dealing with”. I’m sure being a supergenius helps a little, but it seems like knowing Euros intimately is a prerequisite for resisting her powers of persuasion–or at least, Mycroft believes it’s a prerequisite.
Could Sherlock resist her powers? The question doesn’t really come up, because she doesn’t try to persuade him to do anything specfic at any point in the episode. Unless you count “put your hand on the glass”, and she succeeds there. Her goal with Sherlock isn’t to control him, it’s to watch him suffer through her “experiments”. If anything, mind-control powers would be counter-productive for that. She wants to see his genuine reactions, not ones that she’s programmed into him.
I understand that “all this” refers to the situation at Sherrinford, my point was that that situation–including Moriarty’s posthumous recordings–only make sense if Euros knew (and knew BEFORE the events of TRF) that M. would a] put Sherlock through hell and b] fail to defeat him and end up dead. She had to have known both M.’s plan and that M.’s plan would fail. I think the simplest explanation of that is that she put the whole thing in motion in those five minutes. Okay, yes, it’s also possible that the two of them had a non-mind-controlly conversation about the plan, in which M. either agreed to kill himself in order to better torment Sherlock after death (not impossible given his personality) or recorded the messages as part of a back-up plan in case the TRF plan failed. But personally I think that’s the more convoluted explanation given that we know Euros has super-persuasion powers.
I should say at this point that I’ve only seen the episode once so far and it’s totally possible that I’ve missed or misremembered something that makes nonsense of what I’m saying here. I don’t remember what Euros said about Moriarty so I can’t respond to that. But my feeling while watching it was that Euros had been established as being behind Moriarty’s actions in TRF and this comment thread was the first time it crossed my mind to me that that wouldn’t be obvious.
I’ll also say that, whichever one of us is right, I agree with you that the way Moriarty was involved in the plot was kind of dumb. Bringing him back from the dead just to essentially shout “boo!” at Sherlock while Euros does all the actual villainy stuff is definitely an anti-climax. (Although, if you absolutely need to have someone shout “boo!” really, really, really well, Andrew Scott is the guy to go for.)
January 16, 2017 @ 6:30 pm
It’s not just experimentation, it’s re-education – a series of quite explicit lessons. Morality is a senseless obstruction. Think about people in terms of how they can be useful to you. It makes no difference whether those you punish are guilty or innocent. Don’t get emotionally attached to other people. Be like me, so we can be together, two of a kind, the way we always should have been. (I take this to be what Phil’s getting at with “the episode depends on her being the unholy fusion of Sherlock and Hannibal”.)
In terms of Sherlock‘s wider programme of character development and ideological argument within the Holmesian tradition, it’s about “high-functioning sociopath” Sherlock reaching out from the past and trying to claim him back.
January 16, 2017 @ 9:22 pm
Hi Philip – sorry for the contextually unrelated comment. I’m a big fan of all your writing, specifically the Tardis Eruditorum. I am hoping to get in touch with James Taylor to enquire about a project. Do you know the best / most appropriate way to get in touch with him?
January 17, 2017 @ 3:06 am
E-mail me at snowspinner at gmail and I’ll pass your message along.
January 16, 2017 @ 6:19 am
I enjoyed it quite a bit, although I can’t exactly disagree with much of what you wrote. It was clearly going for style and excitement more than plot; I mean, the entire concept of “the bad seed” is rather cliched, as were many of the “which one will you kill” types of choices.
I was somewhat surprised that they didn’t make more of the fact that John had had an “accidental” texting affair with Eurus. Given that she is meant to be a master manipulator, one would have thought she would have used that bit of emotional blackmail to some sort of advantage. Come to think of it, if she has managed to “reprogram” everyone who talks to her, something could have been made of her being John’s therapist and therefore having had a fair opportunity to plant some suggestions, etc.
Which actually brings me to wonder what was the point of Eurus going on a field trip from prison just to feed Sherlock information on Culverton Smith, flirt with John on the bus, and pretend to be his therapist? Was it all a very overcomplicated scheme to lure Sherlock into danger? Was she expecting/hoping Smith would succeed in killing Sherlock? Seems unlikely given her need to have him remember her. Was it all just one of those overcomplicated “greeting cards” that archvillains like to leave?
January 16, 2017 @ 7:27 am
Well, after normally being the most positive voice I have to say I was terribly disappointed by this. And I don’t think the direction was especially good either.
Last week was miles better.
Random thought: would Season 4 have been better and more interesting/different if they’d killed off John in Ep 1 and had it be “the continuing adventures of Sherlock and Mary”? She’s still a Watson, so the iconic mythos – such as it is – would remain intact.
January 16, 2017 @ 7:36 am
I agree – the direction this week did a real disservice to what I think was actually a pretty good script.
Certainly it’s got all the right emotional beats, and some of them are quite effective. But this could have been a lot more powerful with Hurran or Talalay at the helm.
January 16, 2017 @ 9:41 am
Absolutely agreed on that last point – it’s the version of this series I would have preferred, and to be honest, the one I was hoping for. Holmes and Watson… but not the one you were expecting.
Sherlock and Mary had great chemistry, too. It really could have worked. But I guess Moffatiss had to stay loyal to the overwhelming majority of fans and their more conservative preferences.
January 16, 2017 @ 7:35 am
Also, Phil, though it’s all to play for at the moment, the word on the grapevine is that Chibnall is mostly using up-and-coming young writers rather than all our old favourites.
We know Harness has spoken to him about Series 11, but I wouldn’t get your hopes up regarding Mathieson and Dollard – which is depressing, since they are so obviously two people it is self-evidently right to keep around DW as long as possible.
January 16, 2017 @ 8:05 am
Oops, this reads as a terrible non-sequitur now, given that you’re talking about Series 10’s writers rather than Series 11’s. Ah well.
January 16, 2017 @ 3:49 pm
Well, I can help tie it in by disagreeing with Phil’s hope that this is Capaldi’s last year. I really want to see Capaldi have one year (at least) with Chibnall to see what Capaldi can do with a different producer for the show. Unfortunately I don’t think that’s going to happen, given comments from unnamed sources in the BBC last year about wanting a younger Doctor to get the teen women back watching and to help move more product. I have doubts about Moffat being able to deliver a great season even if it’s Capaldi’s last – remember what he did for Matt Smith’s last story (some good bits here and there, but overall it didn’t quite work). That was after delivering season 7 and Day of the Doctor. I suspect we might be at the same level of burnout this series as Moffat was then – might get a good story out but probably won’t be consistently good and I suspect Heaven Sent/Hell Bent will have been the best we see for a Capaldi story from him.
January 16, 2017 @ 9:52 am
Well I thought it was fantastic. Thrilling from start to finish and it served as a great reminder of why Sherlock is one of the most entertaining programmes on TV. If this really is the end (which I doubt) then it went out on a high.
But I also thought that last week’s was truly exceptional so I’m not surprised we don’t agree here. However I am surprised that you didn’t see more Moffat in this. The structure flowed properly for a start, with each piece of story clearly and neatly leading onto the next (which is really what The Six Thatchers and The Great Game struggled with). And then there’s the fact that after Skyfall and The Sea Devils, surely its biggest influence has to be Heaven Sent?
January 16, 2017 @ 12:26 pm
Which makes series 3 the best, series 2 and 4 on a par with each other, and series 1 the worst. I might be the only person who thinks this, but sounds about right to me.
January 16, 2017 @ 9:57 am
Well, I must be in the minority here, because I thought that was rather wonderful. Not quite my favourite episode of Sherlock – nothing can top an episode which both features Mary Watson at her height and advocates for the murder of Rupert Murdoch – but this was a very, very close second.
Probably the opposite to what you’re experiencing, Phil. I saw this one at the cinema with my other half, which was a highly enjoyable and atmospheric experience. It probably won’t re-watch that well, but I found myself having a lot of fun here.
I really liked Eurus – as did, as far as I’m aware, the majority of viewers – so I can’t help but wonder whether your inability to connect with her is more of a personal issue. I thought the flashbacks were superb, probably Caron’s best bits (other parts were shaky, but nothing awful – though I would have preferred Talalay), and in the end they managed to handle the mental health issues with a surprising amount of sensitivity. As far as I’m aware, Eurus was never once stigmatised or called “evil”. It was very touching in its own slightly warped way.
God, the Redbeard reveal hit me like a ton of bricks. I think it works so well in the context (haha!) of Sherlock as a character – we assumed Redbeard was a dog because Sherlock struggles to connect with humans, but in reality it was Victor’s death that cut Sherlock off from other people. Everything makes so much sense when you think about it, and the skull reveal was perfect.
And yes, it’s a blow to lose Mary, and it’s why I’m honestly not all that interested in the prospect of a fifth series. But at least this was an episode which largely benefited from her absence – would any of the moral dilemmas have worked with such a trigger-happy character as a key player?
Other little touches I liked: the crashing plane serving as Eurus’s mind palace, music being treated as a medium to express the inexpressible (Hell Bent, anyone?), the way the (non-existent) glass was used more as a mirror between Sherlock and Eurus, the opening eye motif at the start (Jane will have a field day with this one), Mycroft being generally brilliant, and the implication that Eurus once tortured Sherlock all night with the death of his best friend. Dark, powerful stuff.
January 16, 2017 @ 10:02 am
Also, as this could be the last one (though in all likelihood probably won’t), complete rankings:
January 17, 2017 @ 4:28 pm
Same wavelengths! I’ve been calling this a deconstruction of The Great Game myself. I think it’s to emphasise how much Sherlock has changed. He’s not giddy at these puzzles anymore, he cares about life, and that makes it a more horrific but interesting process leading to his choice to shoot himself and then comfort Eurus, finally earning Greg’s speech by being properly good. It’s a sort of jog backwards through the series to show growth.
And Mary signing it off was perfect. I want it to end here so she gets the last word.
January 16, 2017 @ 10:04 am
I thought the introduction of the idea that Sherlock can rewrite his own memories was fine, given all that we’ve seen him do before. And once you’ve accepted that, the idea that his sister can rewrite other people’s behaviour wasn’t that big a leap.
For me it led to the assumption “Maybe she programmed Sherlock to kill his dog, and that was the memory he’d repressed?” I had that in mind throughout much of the episode, but it turned out to be a distraction for “people always stop counting at three [siblings]”. I suppose they could have then had the further revelation that she’d programmed him to kill his brother, but that would’ve been a little too grim.
I think the biggest suspension of disbelief in all that is in the idea that the Holmes parents never mentioned siblings three and four in front of Sherlock. Maybe Eurus hypnotised them not to!
January 16, 2017 @ 10:06 am
… bah, apparently blockquote tags don’t work in these comments.
January 16, 2017 @ 10:23 am
… and I’ve just discovered that I’d missed that Victor was a best friend rather than a sibling (“Trevor” a surname not a middle name). I’d assumed that he was his brother, because of speculation I read last week that “people always stop counting at three” might refer to the Holmes family too. The idea was there in my head, like an earworm I couldn’t get rid of!
January 16, 2017 @ 5:56 pm
Given I have a Brother that remembers nothing from the age of 12 and a half, until he was almost 14, due to a family tragedy (and it’s a little creepy for both of us, since I recall the same time quite well), I don’t find sherlock having reconfigured his memories of that time any sort of stretch.
That his parents would never have mentioned his sibling is more of a stretch, but not beyond comprehension. My other brother died when he was extremely young, and he does get mentioned occasionally (usually on his birthday, as my mother buys flowers and so on), but it’s not as common as you might think. I dare say is conceivable that some family’s ways of dealing with such loss is to completely internalize it, or to not mention it in front of the sibling who found it exceptionally distressing.
January 16, 2017 @ 10:09 am
The idea that Eurus was a kind of aspirational figure for Sherlock – the actual, diagnosable high-functioning sociopath he once liked to think he was – was the best thing this episode had going for it, and I wish they’d put that a bit higher in the mix.
There were things I liked in each of the three episodes – there might be a lower limit to how bad a show with this kind of talent behind it can possibly be – but, yeah, god, what a mess of a season. I’ve seen a lot of moaning about how there’s no more “detecting” in this “detective show” anymore, which is a slight misdiagnosis: Sherlock has always been pulpy, but here it comes close to being fluff.
January 16, 2017 @ 11:55 am
Kind of mixed feelings on this one. Looking at it rationally, it was mostly awful – the whole “the villain’s your long-lost mad genius sister who you’ve, um, forgotten” idea remains all kinds of cheesy, Euros was very unremarkable, there was no attempt to make sense of her prior appearances in the series, a lot of the “surprises” were predictable, the “blowing up Baker Street” bit was crass, silly and cheap in a hundred and one different ways, Moriarty was haplessly bolted on, the resolution was feebly perfunctory, and I could go on…but in spite of myself, I enjoyed a lot of it. The tension and the interplay between the regular characters gripped me, and I got more out of it than either of the previous episodes this series, though I suspect it would not stand up well to repeat viewing.
And yes, the gun in the swordstick was a nice touch. Though Sherlock and John would have had some serious explaining to do if Mycroft had stuck with the sword and run the clown through.
January 16, 2017 @ 1:27 pm
Since we’re diong this (and allowing for the imperfections of memory, as I haven’t rewatched a lot of them):
January 16, 2017 @ 5:02 pm
Time to go for Sherlock I’m afraid.
Not only was this story poor, but the show’s been eating up it’s capital fpr a while now. Sherlock is so human he’s no longer Sherlock, and as i now know more about his fmaily than my own, he’s no longer a mystery either.
I would suggest a quick regeneration, but it’s the wrong show.
January 16, 2017 @ 5:57 pm
Is mystery really necessary for Sherlock, though? I think he’s the kind of character who WANTS his past to remain mysterious, but giving him a full, open and coherent backstory isn’t damaging to him in the same way it is to a character like the Doctor.
January 16, 2017 @ 8:02 pm
Actually he had a coherent backstory until last night: two feuding genius brothers who never grew up, and Mr and Mrs Nice And Normal as parents. The psycho sister and disappearing best friend are what unbalanced it.
Still, it could have been worse. At least Moriarty wasn’t a relation.
January 16, 2017 @ 5:18 pm
A tragic death you weren’t present for isn’t the sort of thing that creates suppressed memories. A violent death you were personally present for or even involved in, sexual abuse, chemical abuse, these things create suppressed memories. They also account for a lot of Sherlock’s modern symptoms.
January 16, 2017 @ 5:55 pm
That’s a very good point. Victor is able to explain things, just by existing, that Redbeard would never have been able to.
Did all those things need explaining? Perhaps not. But I think it’s a really fascinating re-imagining of the character which supports, rather than contradicts, what we’ve been given so far.
January 16, 2017 @ 7:37 pm
There were some fun, interesting bits in this episode, but yes, it did frustrate me to bits, especially with Eurus.
My rankings, for now:
The Lying Detective
His Last Vow
The Sign of Three
The Empty Hearse
The Great Game
The Reichenbach Fall
A Scandal in Belgravia
The Six Thatchers
A Study in Pink
The Abominable Bride
The Final Problem
The Hounds of Baskerville
The Blind Banker
January 16, 2017 @ 7:52 pm
Well if we’re doing overall rankings
January 16, 2017 @ 7:53 pm
This was a strange episode to watch for your first Sherlock episode, that’s for sure (though my wife loved it, she’s been a fan since the beginning). I basically found myself wanting to see more Moriarty and not interested in much else.
But I’ve not seen the rest of Sherlock, so take a huge grain of salt for the above.
January 16, 2017 @ 7:57 pm
Pretty rubbish TBH. A close runner to ‘These are the voyages…’ from Enterprise as worst series ending ever.
Redbeard’s revelation as a child was incredibly stupid: So, we are expected to believe that a child goes missing in the early/mid eighties (Using Cumberbatch’s 1976 DOB) when on holiday with his best friend called Sherlock and his body is never found. Fast forward to the 2010s and Sherlock Holmes becomes a major celebrity and yet Victor’s parents or other family members never surface at all. No contact from any family member to check whether this world renowned detective called Sherlock is in fact the same Sherlock who was their child’s best friend, because ‘Sherlock’ is not a popular name, and even if he isn’t couldn’t he look into the decades long mystery of his disappearance?
Like Trip’s death, it serves no purpose.
The only rationale would be that Sherlock is actually set in the world of the unconcerned parents in Jam…
January 16, 2017 @ 8:04 pm
And of course we Brits were always rooting for the dog.
Maybe Moffatt just couldn’t bring himself to put a dead dog on TV – we’d never have bought the ‘Eurus just needs a cuddle’ ending then.
January 16, 2017 @ 8:11 pm
Oh, and the box-ticking-ness of the Molly Hooper scene: get them to say the magic 3 words to each other but no examination of the consequences.
Given the mention of Irene Adler last week was this put in just because Lara Pulver was not available?
January 16, 2017 @ 7:57 pm
Although I agree with much of what has been (quite on-point) called stupid here, I think I ultimately enjoyed the episode, mainly for the performances and emotional beats.
I did get the feeling, however, that this was the grand finale for a show other than Sherlock, starting from how the first two scenes (up until Sherlock and John appear) both felt like monster reveal pre-title sequences from Doctor Who than anything that would fit in this show. (although all episodes since The Abominable Bride, barring The Lying Detective, have “jumped out of genre” at some point during their run, and in my opinion, gotten worse for it. Sherlock excels when it is does things you would not see on any other show, especially a Sherlock Holmes one. That is the opposite of Doctor Who style genre-hopping, dammit!) And then we have the main characters arriving in what seems to be the final location for the story… with seventy minutes to go? It doesn’t feel right for a series known for its labyrinthine plots. And what followed was very much in line with that forboding feeling: Due to the nature of Eurus’s “experiments”, each scene followed the last in an incredibly straightfoward manner, and it was far too easy to be ahead of the writing. This was an episode, in which you certainly do not need a second viewing to connect all the dots. Also, (And I remember thinking the exact same thing about the “How did Moriarty survive?” -portion of The Abominable Bride) the puzzle, to the extent that there was one, did not allure in any way that would have made the conclusion more satisfying. Watching it unfold simply felt like waiting for the writers to get their heads out of thier asses and ending the damn sentence.
Ultimately, even though I ended up actually enjoying the episode, the best elements of Sherlock’s writing were simply not there. I agree with Phil’s burn-out diagnosis, and I can’t blame Moffat; he’s been doing the same thing for eight years! Hell, I’ve been thinking “I still like his writing, but I’d love to see somebody (even if they do turn out to be slightly worse) else try soon” since about 2014! Unfortunately I think it might be time to remove the first part of that sentence.
And yes, this did feel like a final episode to me, if simply because it reminded me so strongly of what Phil said about narrative collapse, way back in his post about The Chase. (I think) Not only did Baker Street get blown up, we also uncovered a Secret Sibling. Essentially being born out of fan interpretations of Doyle’s text rather than from the man himself definitively added a layer of mythic to Eurus, which contributed to this problem “feeling” truly final in a way that the last finales simply didn’t. And futhermore, Mrs. Holmes calling Sherlock “The mature one”, most certainly preventing the brothers’ relationship from continuing like it had. The fundamental aspects of this Sherlock have all been deconstructed by the end, and what is being rebuilt is the legend of Sherlock Holmes, in the form that survives all its interpretations. This was, of course, what Mary’s final monologue was about.
1. Scandal in Belgravia
2. His Last Vow
3. A Study in Pink
4. The Lying Detective
5. The Reichenbach Fall
6. The Signs of Three
7. The Empty Hearse
8. The Final Problem
9. The Six Thatchers
10. The Hounds of Baskerville
11. The Great Game
12. The Abominable Bride
13. The Blind Banker
The two newest episodes might both move a bit down after rewatch. I don’t think that will happen anytime soon, however.
January 16, 2017 @ 8:21 pm
Yes it’s over, all done, and no bad thing.
Those thirteen episodes are all wonderful television, even the Blind Banker, which I really enjoyed at the time.
Quitting whilst they’re ahead.
January 16, 2017 @ 8:11 pm
Analysis aside, i just didn’t really enjoy it. The island prison looked much better than it should have done on a BBC budget, but removing Sherlock from the real world took all the interest away.
I think Doctor Who did the ‘prisoners take over the prison’ thing much better. At least Mailer’s crew looked like they might have committed the odd crime.
And the Crystal Maze bit? Done much, much better by The Prisoner with The Girl Who Was Death.
January 16, 2017 @ 8:41 pm
Taking Sherlock away from the real world! Arrgh! You just put a finger on the exact reason why arriving at the island at 20 minutes and staying there felt so wrong go me! (Another example of Moffat/Moffat & Gatiss not confusing Sherlock and Doctor Who!)
January 16, 2017 @ 8:43 pm
Ignore that not in the last sentence. I’m tired.
January 16, 2017 @ 10:09 pm
Even the aeroplane wasn’t real.
January 16, 2017 @ 9:20 pm
So what have Moffat and Gatiss been watching recently?
Ex Machina? Skyfall?
January 16, 2017 @ 10:37 pm
I can’t help but feel that they’re getting ‘ideas’ from “The C*******l Toymaker”. Something about the emotional sterility and sub-Fort-Boyard nonsense.
January 17, 2017 @ 10:59 pm
With its focus less on the ancestral home than the broken family that lived there and its obsession with siblings and less-than-siblings and not-quite siblings who have authored all the hero’s pain, it’s a lot more Spectre than Skyfall.
January 16, 2017 @ 9:27 pm
I’d just like to say what’s probably not said often around here, which is that it’s been a genuine pleasure discussing the series with you all, reading all your opinions, and enjoying all Phil’s reviews.
I haven’t had a huge amount of time in my life recently, so somewhere which only takes an hour or so of my time per week but where I can debate with open-minded people is something I’ve appreciated a lot… especially when your moderator is Phil Sandifer, who runs this site in exactly the right way.
And thank you to everyone for putting up with my stream of consciousness ramblings. You’re all free now 🙂
January 17, 2017 @ 6:05 am
Moffat and Gatiss quickly chatting about writing the series:
The Flan in the High Castle
January 17, 2017 @ 3:20 pm
As someone who’ll always prefer a polarising and ambitious mess to bland perfection, I was quite happy with the way this series panned out. Euros didn’t make sense, but the ways in which she didn’t make sense were fascinating. In one episode she’s a slick master of disguise bent on seducing Watson, and in the next these traits are completely discarded in favour of making her Idris with Missy’s morality. The cliffhanger with Eurus shooting John in the office seemed to promise an epic cross-London caper, but instead of a traditional finale, we get a bottle episode set in Azkaban, where she’s apparently spent her entire life and has now sneaked back without anyone noticing? This is too surreal to be straightforwardly disappointing.
Come to think of it, if she can really make a formerly stable man murder his family just by chatting to him, the widowed Watson must have been at her mercy to a ridiculous degree while he trusted her as his psychiatrist. I wouldn’t be shocked if it turned out that the entire episode was an elaborate sham, part of some unimaginably complex Virgin New Adventures-style master plan by Eurus to make a deal with Roko’s basilisk or something.
Actually, I would have liked it more if they’d gone further and played up the story’s supernatural elements. It’s probably just meant to illustrate his fear of her, but the moment the child Eurus perceives the adult Mycroft during his reverie could still be read as some kind of precognition or astral projection. It’s a lot like Bran Stark’s time-travelling encounters with the younger Ned and Hodor, and I wouldn’t be surprised if last year’s Game of Thrones was an influence there.
January 17, 2017 @ 8:17 pm
…thinking that you can introduce a character like Eurus and have her matter to the audience purely on the mythic weight of who she is instead of having to develop her. But it doesn’t work. She’s a distressingly one-note character whose characterization consists entirely of Mycroft asserting things about her.”
I see Clara wasn’t a one-off.
January 17, 2017 @ 8:33 pm
This may be the stupidest comment made on this site in 2017, and we’ve had pro-Trump trolls.
January 18, 2017 @ 8:35 am
January 17, 2017 @ 11:02 pm
Agree this episode was disappointing, although I did enjoy the tension in the middle third.
I think we’re trying the Rani back next season in doctor who….
January 20, 2017 @ 5:22 pm
The main problem I have with Eurus is that she is part of Sherlock’s characterization, but is not really characterized on her own.
What was her mental illness? What diagnosis would get a four year old child locked up for life, in isolation, without treatment? Who is “Uncle Rudy” and what made him qualified to decide on this course of action?
How do we know she actually killed Victor? No body was found at the time, and she never confessed. People can only guess.
An alternative theory that fits with what we know:
“Uncle Rudy” whom we know to be abusive towards Eurus due to the way he treated her with isolation and institutionalization, was actually abusive towards both Eurus and Victor. He accidentally killed Victor, with Eurus as a witness. This story was a way to silence and discredit Eurus as a witness to his crime, as abusers often gaslight and discredit their victims.
Mycroft – who is good at deductions, but lousy at judging people – believed “Uncle Rudy”‘s story, and continued his abusive treatment, a decade or more after Eurus was initially taken.
The truth of who killed Victor is unknown. Until John found his remains, even the fact that he was killed was unknown, a speculation or story from “Uncle Rudy” and Mycroft, but without physical evidence or a confession.
Eurus, as we see her, is as much or more a result of decades of abuse and isolation, rather than reflecting difficulties she had as a four year old child.
January 20, 2017 @ 8:45 pm
Now firmly in headcanon. Thankyou.
January 21, 2017 @ 10:23 pm
Don’t hit me, please, but I’m going to say something that might drive some fans crazy: I liked this episode for the same reason I enjoyed watching 3 years of Hannibal, because it’s so surreal, so utter “No way that would be do-able in real life” that it becomes captivating. Forgetting they’re supposed to be human beings in the real world, Eurus, Sherlock and Mycroft become extremely fascinating characters.
Sure, Eurus’ personality could’ve been expanded, but making her this weird, one-dimensional monster in a world that is supposed to be our own is what made the episode enjoyable to me.
Damn, my writing is terrible, by the way.