Monday, January 2, 2017

In Which I Review Sherlock (4x1)

The boys are back in town. After a year away, Sherlock and John (along with Mary, naturally) get back down to business. Much like with the other BBC imported phenomenon, Doctor Who, having a year away can be either a plus or a negative with a TV show. For the former, it's easy to pick back up on Christmas. Take the Doctor, some space travel, some conflict, add some heart and schmaltz and you've got a fairly standard Doctor Who episode. I think Sherlock's harder; there are more layers of plot to remind the audience of and the overall premise of the brilliant detective and his best friend/sidekick naturally involves a big labyrinthine case that has to be carefully constructed and expertly executed. This is likely why "The Six Thatchers" didn't quite work and gel for me. Yes, just seeing Sherlock and John is a big help, but this episode missed that decidedly delicious element that should always be present in a Sherlock Holmes story: an interesting case. This mixed bag of an episode leaves me feeling a bit underwhelmed and struggling to parse this particular episode. Grab your trusty bloodhound and let's go!

I don't mean to sound overly harsh, but did anyone else find this episode to be a titch boring? At least when you compare it to episodes of Sherlock from season one and two, this season four opener felt like it was missing a good case to sink our teeth (and for Sherlock to sink his teeth) into. It's not that the case of the smashed up Margaret Thatcher busts didn't have promise; it's something that is right up Sherlock's alley being both banal to us mere mortals and fascinating to Sherlock and him alone. But unlike in the past when Sherlock went out on the trail, hunting down various clues and astounding all lookers-on of his deductive prowess, Sherlock more or less sat in his apartment with various other potentially more interesting clients and waited for Lestrade to bring him news of more broken busts before managing to get a big break in the case and then switching tracks instantly. Even the lead-in case of the son who died in his car had significantly more promise than the case Sherlock settled on. The broken busts don't matter or have any serious weight and moreover, the criminal who was shattering all the plaster doesn't matter except in his relation to Mary Watson who, I suppose, is the real case of the week. Mary is, by and large, a fascinating character ever since it was revealed she was a mercenary agent who is as smart as Sherlock and ten times more deadly. My issue is more that the question of Mary was solved in season three; John did not care what her past was, he cared what their future could be. That, really, should have been the end of that. Her past is mostly explained but left in the shadows where she'd wish it to be. We, the audience, are more than capable of filling in some blanks (Mary did bad things and she did them well). It's as if the writers couldn't help but bring the mystery back to the forefront and tried to give it some unneeded heft. Mary, canonically, has to die but to make her death the entire point of a case and to neglect an essential part of any Doyle story feels cheap to both Mary and the Sherlock/John twosome.

The argument the episode is really trying to make, complete with a tortured fairy tale that is retold at least three times, is about predestination and whether or not any of us can really outrun our own personal destiny. Mary was a covert agent who fled her previous life and tried to set up a normal, everyday, ordinary one. To expect her to never run into problems about her past life would be absurd. There's almost an understood "of course" when the Thatcher-criminal turns out to be one of Mary's former cohorts. Her significant half, John, is an adrenaline junkie who missed the war so much he found solving crimes with Sherlock a suitable substitute; of course he ends up having some sort of emotional (maybe physical?) affair. The idea of living a second life, sneaking around, daring to be caught is John Watson's modus operandi to a "T" in his attempts to add some needed spice to his life. And then there's Sherlock who keeps escaping death. From his fake-out fall on the rooftop two years ago to his short-lived exile to his junkie habits, Sherlock has managed to survive when others would have died. He's the famous merchant in Baghdad, trying to outrun the specter of death. Does it catch up to him? Death catches the merchant and it catches Mary so it would follow that it can catch Sherlock too. Sherlock's final case, the most important case of his life, the case that matters more than Moriarty and Magnussen, that case that Sherlock really would die for is given to him by an unexpected client: Mary, from beyond the grave. Save John Watson. No matter what happens, save John. Mary and Sherlock lived/live their life with both ends burning but if any single one of them is destined to survive, it must be John who needs to find adrenaline in the ordinary. If I was in a betting mood, I would suggest that everyone get ready to say goodbye to our favorite consulting detective. This time for good.

Miscellaneous Notes on The Six Thatchers 

--This episode's "previously on" brought up the other Holmes brother. Anyone want to bet we'll meet him before the season is out?

--Toby the bloodhound is super cute.

--So am I the only one who wishes there was a bit more focus on the cases and the teamwork it takes to solve them?

--Mary's real name is Rosamund, the name she and John give to their new baby.

--Sherlock attempting to explain logic to a baby is precious: "if you want to keep the rattle, do not throw the rattle."

--You know what? I think Moriarty really is that boring--I think he left the "Miss Me" message just to mess with Sherlock.


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