And three weeks later it’s gone off again.
Sherlock series 4 may not have been the strongest year of the show, a title that can arguably go to its first two outings depending on what mood I’m in, but it has still showcased everything there is to love about it and more. As it now disappears off our screens for an indiscernible amount of time, it delivers one last treat for its fans. An exhilarating, solidly entertaining hour and a half that once again shakes the show to its core, whilst also leaving us wanting more.
Following the revelation last week that Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Mycroft (Mark Gatiss) have a secret sister, something that had been hinted at for a while before, brothers Holmes and Watson (Martin Freeman) go on a mission to track her down. Mycroft is convinced that their sister Euros (Sian Brooke) has been incarcerated in a top secret prison for the past twenty odd years, but it will soon turn out this isn’t necessarily true. Whilst Mycroft and Sherlock are especially clever, Euros is apparently on another level altogether – so much so that even talking to her puts a person under her control. Forced to play her sadistic games, Sherlock must uncover a terrible truth from his childhood.
Penned by both series creators, Gatiss and Steven Moffat, this is the story that they have been building up to for some time. Straight away, they throw us a curve ball with the scared little girl on a doomed train, answering a call from the long presumed dead Jim Moriarty (Andrew Scott). His supposed return had been alluded to all series, with that lingering doubt that he really did survive shooting himself in the head back in 2012, and both writers are very good at making you believe he is about to make a triumphant entrance all the way through. Thankfully though, this does not happen. Moriarty may make a small flashback appearance here, in a very well placed scene to make us deliberately think he has returned, but this is a much more personal story.
There is definitely a bit of a horror movie vibe to this episode, what with Sherlock’s deliberate taunting of Mycroft with scary clowns and kids, just to make him admit to Euros’ existence, and the Saw like game of death she puts them all through. There are times when it is genuinely creepy, and it is once again a tribute to the artistic and masterful direction on this show. Euros’ existence isn’t just a fun new face about the history of the Holmes family – this is a very dangerous situation, one which all the main characters will have to face.
This is a deep and interesting episode for Sherlock. For a few episodes now, references have been made to the little dog he lost when he was a boy. There were always hints that there was more to this story, something that would play out horribly for him in the future. Here, we see it in its full glory. Sherlock’s beliefs are shaken to the very core, as he comes to the horrible conclusion that not only did he have a sister he deliberately forgot about, but that she killed not his dog, but his friend. Because none of them could solve her riddle, his friend drowned at the bottom of a well. Harrowing stuff, and all the more effecting for Sherlock. These repressed, awful memories have helped to shape who he is – a highly functioning sociopath who uses his superior intellect to solve crimes, in order to stop himself getting off his face on drugs. Something had to have tipped this bloke over the edge from the beginning, and it was Euros.
Does basically getting the origin of the Sherlock Holmes story affect his brilliance? One could make a case for this. After all – it would seem that most of the fun stemming from a mysterious, eccentric character such as him is wondering just what the hell made him the way he was. Arguably, part of the enjoyment in watching him is envisioning scenarios yourself. Now that this has been pretty much answered, does this make him not as interesting? Personally, I would vote an emphatic no. Sherlock Holmes is still Sherlock Holmes. We just now know he has a sister even more ingenious and terrifying than he is.
A great chunk of this episode, therefore, rests on one key factor – does Euros Holmes as an idea and character work? Well – yes and no. On one respect, her existence has been alluded to in the past. It definitely feels like something that was planned from the start, and not just pulled out of thin air. Euros herself is pretty damn scary, and it is a thrill seeing someone so successfully pull one over on both Sherlock and Mycroft. After all, one of the greatest things about having such a smart protagonist is seeing him go up against someone even smarter than him. As a foe to Sherlock, she’s absolutely great. But as a character herself – not so much.
For starters, she is able to take over an entire asylum simply by talking to people? How, exactly, does that work? Did Steven Moffat think he was writing for Doctor Who all of a sudden, and therefore introduced the idea of mind control into Sherlock? This is actually a big weakness of his as a writer. Moffat tends to have ideas that stick in his head and he will not let go, even if they don’t really make sense. Does it sound like a cool scenario that Euros was simply a scared little girl in her head, desperate for the love and attention of her family? Yes. Does it make any sense in light of what we are presented here? Not really. It feels just a little bit too perfect that Sherlock is so ready to forgive and try to help her at the end, especially when she is responsible for several brutal murders.
I haven’t mentioned John Watson yet, because he doesn’t really have too much to do here. This story is purely around the Holmes family, and he’s just comfortably along for the ride. It is nice to see that he has found a way to forgive Sherlock for Mary’s (Amanda Abbington) death, sticking by his side here with no complaints and even being prepared to die for him. After all they have been through, it’s nice to see this series end on a high, with Sherlock and Watson still open for business in Baker Street, ready for the next case. Indeed, series 4 doesn’t end with a dark, foreboding cliffhanger revolving around a Moriarty problem, like series 1-3, but actually concludes rather upbeat. If this is the final moment of Sherlock, at least it’s a good one.
Despite the Euros plot not really making much sense, I still had a really good time with this episode and series 4 as a whole. Entertaining, very well structured and masterfully acted, Sherlock remains something very special. A show made by people who clearly love it to its bones, and always a rare treat whenever its on the box. It may be a while before we get a series 5, but it’ll definitely be worth the wait.