By Drew Parton
Despite being hurt, I still love Sherlock. The first season is great, and the second season was even better. But after “The Reichenbach Fall,” the series quickly went downhill. The third season was just a let-down, and I’m not quite sure what to blame it on. It might be the loss of Moriarty- the best villain the show has had. Between the writing, and the acting of Andrew Scott, he’s definitely one of the more memorable TV characters in recent times. It also might be due to the addition of Mary, John Watson’s wife. It’s nothing to do with her character, per se, or the actress. She doesn’t have any memorable features in the books- so they had to flesh her out more, but the show didn’t quite know what to do with her. And so they make up this stupid plot where she’s secretly an assassin. It was a very desperate twist to try and make something of the character.
The second season was really the climax of the series. Moriarty had been built up to since the first episode- a mastermind criminal who outplayed the great Sherlock Holmes- and so after that climax, the show sharply lost momentum and purpose. They tried to inject another Moriarty-type character, Magnussen, in the third season. But he was ultimately just such a flat and boring character that I honestly forgot he even existed. Season 3 also changed Sherlock from an eccentric (and possibly autistic) detective to a goddamn superspy. Throughout the series, he hated and despised what Mycroft did with the government and intelligence. He was this odd ball sleuth who solved crimes because they were fun puzzles- not bloody James Bond! In the third series, not only had he faked his death- but spent the time taking down secret organized crime syndicates. I recently re-watched the whole series in prep for the fourth season, and I forgot just how mediocre the whole third season was. Every moment in the first two seasons is unique and memorable. Even the weakest episode, “The Hounds of Baskerville,” still has its great moments. But season three is just so blasé, and “The Abominable Bride” even more so. The special really has no point, the ending is so baffling- and quite frankly, stupid- that I actually felt sort of cheated by it. After waiting so long and building it up so much, the episode really did nothing.
Which brings me to season 4. Despite my trepidations, I was still pretty excited. Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman have great chemistry onscreen, and they’re a joy to watch. But the plot just got weaker and weaker as it progressed, and Sherlock season 4 is the most disappointing thing in my life (until my future children), and mainly for the same reasons as the third season. The plot doesn’t go anywhere. They try to shoe-horn in another pseudo-Moriarty character, and don’t know what to do with the characters.
At this point, I’m going to issue a SPOILER WARNING from here on out because there are some major events in the season.
Season 3 ends with Sherlock killing Magnussen in cold blood- it’s depicted as this big event, and Sherlock boards a plane with his brother Mycroft to flee the country, then all the TV’s in England are hijacked by a video of Moriarty. But Sherlock’s murder of Magnussen really doesn’t have many repercussions. True, Sherlock and Watson have killed a few people before in the series- but this one was treated with weight. Sherlock didn’t kill in self-defense, he executed someone. But that’s okay it didn’t really matter anyway, literally, that get’s cleaned up in the first few minutes of the episode and has no bearing at all for the rest of the season. But hey! Moriarty’s back. Sherlock faked his death, maybe Moriarty did too! Maybe this is going to get exciting again- NOPE. He’s not back. Furthermore it gets awfully stupid. Stupid enough that it undermines the entirety of season 2.
Firstly, John Watson has an affair with another woman at the start of the series. John Watson, the moral compass to Sherlock. It’s just so out of character that it bothered me. The first episode, “The Six Thatchers” involves the plot of Mary Watson trying to track down former members of her secret assassin squad, and ultimately dies at the end of the episode. Which I was partially glad for. This causes a massive rift between Sherlock and John that might have been promising. It meant that we could be done with John and Mary’s stagnant character development and her idiot subplots. However, this merely removed any of the positive chemistry between Sherlock and Watson (which is arguably the best part of the series). And, alas, the episodes continued to go downhill.
In the second episode, John starts to have hallucinations of Mary, Sherlock becomes a complete drug addict, and there is a complicated plot involving a serial killer who works at a hospital. But the biggest, most stupid, and most irritating moment comes at the very end of the episode. It turns out that the John’s new therapist- and also the woman he had an affair with- is Sherlock’s and Mycroft’s secret sister, Eurus, who burned down their family house and was sent away to a maximum-security prison.
So, now to the third episode. Which is indescribably terrible. So let’s break down every plot twist and just how awful it is.
- For starters, John eventually reconciles with Sherlock, saying that he no longer blames him for Mary’s death. But they never really have a moment for that. They don’t ever discuss it or really work through it. He just forgives him at the end of the episode.
- Here is the biggest thing in the history of the series that ruins the first two seasons: Eurus can DO MIND CONTROL. And it’s also revealed that FOR SOME REASON, Mycroft let Moriarty in to visit Eurus WITHOUT SUPERVISION OF ANY SORT. And she mind-tricked him in to executing the whole plot. So Moriarty wasn’t a mastermind at all, he was just a brainwashed lackey. All the great moments of season 1 and 2? All that suspense, and tension, and mystery, and intrigue- nope. Fuck you.
- Thirdly, remember Redbeard? Sherlock’s beloved dog? That dog that was in Sherlock’s memory palace that helped calm him down when he was going into shock after Mary shot him in season 3? Oh, yeah. It wasn’t a dog, it was Sherlock’s friend that he forgot was a human and thought was a dog.
- So Eurus has been putting Sherlock through a series of taunting games where he has to solve puzzles to save lives- NO THIS ISN’T JUST A REPEAT OF “THE GREAT GAME” FROM SEASON 1 I DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT. But apparently, the whole plot has just been Eurus’ cry for help. A game that endangered Sherlock, John, Mycroft, and countless others. And what did she need help with? And why? It’s never really explained.
This is actually the reason that I’m glad Firefly only lasted one season. We never had to see it decay. Watching Sherlock is like watching a loved one with a terminal disease: at some point you just want them to pass on peacefully with their dignity still intact. I can only hope that Sherlock can bring it back together, or at least let itself end.