Sherlock series 4’s second episode was once again an absolute joy to watch, with strong writing, flawless performances and a twist we really should have all seen coming for the past couple of years. Penned by co-creator Steven Moffat, famous for his dangerous and exciting female characters in Doctor Who, it really doesn’t seem to be of any surprise that a secret sister of Sherlock’s (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Mycroft (Mark Gatiss) has come out of the woodwork. It’s as intriguing as it is terrifying, and throws the entirety of the Sherlock universe into disarray.
But back to this episode, which really was a treat from start to finish. Following on from last week, we find both Sherlock and Watson (Martin Freeman) in a seriously dark place. Sherlock is back on the drugs, Watson has sought out a new psychiatrist and things look very bleak in general. However, a visit in the middle of the night puts Sherlock on the trial of the “most horrible human being he has ever met” – a serial killer millionaire named Culverton Smith (Toby Jones). Smith has amassed his fortune through a life of good deeds – yet has an inexplicable and unavoidable desire to kill. In a story that once again twists and turns more than a high Sherlock, our main characters are once again thrust back together to solve the case.
As far as complicated plots go, this one really does take the cake. Effortlessly making the audience feel as confused and disorientated as Sherlock, we not only jump forwards and backwards in time, but also go along with Sherlock as he hallucinates whilst tripping out of his head. His mind is just too busy to slow down, even if his conscious thought takes less time to catch up. It’s not the first time we’ve seen Sherlock be a little out of it whilst he solves a case, but it is always a pleasure to witness. Even when he is completely off the rails, he’s still the smartest guy in the room, and Moffat relishes diving into his mental processes, showing him imagining images in thin air or trampling all over the walls. And, of course, it comes as no surprise now to state that Cumberbatch owns every second.
It’s this week’s villain, however, that steals the show here. The ever dependable Toby Jones plays him to be utterly repulsive when he reveals his true nature, but charming and lovely when in front of his loving audience. Whilst unfortunate comparisons can be made to certain real life people in this regard, it’s always good to see Sherlock tackle a bit of a sensitive subject but boldly, and with its own spin. The idea that, every now and again, Smith drugged a couple of his closest confidants just to confess to his crimes was as genius as it was horrifying. This was a man who was always in control, who always was safe in the knowledge that he’d get away with it. Again, this is something we have seen with developing frequency in mainstream media, thus it makes it all more satisfying when Sherlock beats him at his own game.
This was also a much better week for Watson, after a rather strange affair plot from last time that they still haven’t really explained. Desperately pandering for his wife, and hallucinating her just to get through the day, Watson is heartbroken but still the tough army doctor we all know. The same man who would follow Sherlock to the ends of the Earth if he had to. Despite trying to move away from Sherlock, he is simply unable to, and it was touching to see just how much Sherlock knows and appreciates this. He anticipated what John would do and how he would do it, prepared to utterly destroy himself for him, which just acts to highlight how close these two people are. And you can’t help but feel sorry for the bloke, when the woman who he had been relying on for help turns out to be a lunatic.
With a plot that keeps us guessing right up until the end, and a confident and thoroughly entertaining cast that never lets up, Sherlock continues to be an absolute treat. Series 4 concludes next Sunday on BBC1.