Entertainment | TV Review: BBC Sherlock - Series 4 (with spoilers!)

The recent series of BBC Sherlock left me very much inclined to disagree with the popular saying "no sh*t, Sherlock" because there was, quite frankly, a fair bit of sh*t. This post will probably end up focusing most on The Final Problem as that's freshest in my memory as I write, and is the episode where many of my issues with this series lie. Sadly, it seems, gone are the days of grippingly mysterious cases and the cleverly faked suicide that kept the nation guessing for 2 years - as Sherlock has declined into a bit of a mess.
I apologise for the explicit language but the opportunity was too good to pass up!

The Six Thatchers started well, with Sherlock going back to his usual case-solving, reminiscent of episodes such as A Study in Pink and The Blind Banker (a simpler and better-written time). However, it soon became over-complicated in an attempt to be 'clever' and I frankly found it difficult to keep track of the multiple story-lines all smashing together like a car crash on Spaghetti Junction. Mary rolls a dice and goes to Tehran (because that makes sense), whilst John turns into Carly Rae Jepsen giving his number to someone he's barely met and begins an affair, despite a distinct lack of indication that Mary and John were having any marital issues.
A big issue I had in series 3 was the backstory given to Mary as an assassin, it never felt convincing to me, and more like a plot twist for the sake of a plot twist. Thus, although Mary's death in episode 1 of this series was upsetting for the surrounding characters, I was hopeful that the show-runners had realised that writing her implausible character out was probably a good idea.

But sadly, the Mary problem only got worse. Suddenly, she begins to channel Gerard Butler in P. S. I Love You. Except in P. S. I Love You, he knew he was going to die and had plenty of time to plausibly plan it all. Mary's death was enough of a plot twist that she didn't know it was coming, yet everything she says infers some kind of clairvoyant ability. With the content of the DVDs so conveniently fitting with and guiding the plot, it's almost as if the writers have given her a god-like omniscience. Mary's constant presence throughout a series in which she died one-third of the way through also seems highly non-committal. Killing a character is a bold move, but if you're going to do it - have the guts to stick with it. For me, it really takes away the narrative significance of her death and makes John's grief all the less powerful

The Lying Detective's problem for me was its desperate attempt to up the show's already high stakes. After Moriarty's death in series 2, it certainly seemed no one could top Andrew Scott's brilliant performances and impeccable style. An attempt was made with Magnussen in series 3, who we were told through dialogue was the worst person ever. Surprise, surprise, it happened again this series. Culverton Smith is the worst person ever. Or so we are told by a frantic Sherlock - as the writers tell rather than show (another example of telling-not-showing is in The Final Problem when Lestrade shows up and says Sherlock is a 'good man', telling us Sherlock has undergone character development rather than letting us figure that out ourselves).

A good friend of mine pointed out that whilst many would criticise this series for 'trying to be too clever', it was actually very rarely clever: whilst series one and two managed to be clever because they worked within a clearly established world (our world) with clearly established "rules", series four decided to make up its rules. A drug makes people forget exactly what you want it to. Mycroft is basically in charge of the entire government and can have security all over Sherlock, who is a security threat for no apparent reason (because he killed a man? Because he's really smart? Because the writers said so, that's why).
But despite glaring faults, this was probably the best episode of the series. Toby Jones provided us with a Culverton Smith chilling enough to salvage much of it, and the rules weren't completely out of the window... yet.

Which brings me to The Final Problem. And what a problem it was. There are no rules and nothing is clever anymore. Sherlock's sister 'reprograms people by talking to them' and can predict terrorist activity from a quick scroll down Twitter despite the fact she's just a regular, albeit very clever, human. Yet, even despite her apparently superhuman qualities, she (after blowing up 221B Baker Street) draws the line at blowing up Molly's home and berates Sherlock for "stupidly" not knowing this newly-invented, not-at-all-obvious rule. Speaking of weird rules, apparently now you can tell whether someone's had sex based on their violin-playing alone. Wow, who'd have thought it? In fact, I really don't understand why the writers have this obsession with whether or not Sherlock has had sex.

Ultimately, I feel series 4 smacked of a show that has already dealt its hand and is desperately trying to be bigger and bolder but is instead getting more and more far-fetched - presenting us with questionable plot twists for the sake of drama, villains that we're assured through dialogue are utterly monstrous, and a complete disregard for the rules.

What did you think of this series of Sherlock? I'd love to see your thoughts in the comments, whether you agree with me or not! Thanks for bearing with me on quite a long post :)


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