Well, I thought that I’d take a look at yesterday’s episode of “Sherlock”. Although I don’t know if I’ll review all of this season (if I do, then the reviews will probably be at least slightly late, like this one), I thought that I’d take a look at the first episode at least. So, without any further ado, let’s take a look at “The Six Thatchers”.
I’ll try to avoid major SPOILERS here, but there might be some smaller ones.
“The Six Thatchers” quite obviously gets it’s name from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Six Napoleons”. The episode begins with a re-cap of the ending of series three, before showing how Mycroft managed to get Sherlock off of the criminal charges he was facing. Since MI5 or MI6 (?) is worried about Moriarty returning, they want Sherlock on the case. But, since there has been no further word from Moriarty, Sherlock decides that the only thing to do is to wait.
Whilst he is waiting, John and Mary have a baby and Sherlock is occupied by a few mundane cases. However, he soon gets drawn into a very strange case where the son of a prominent man is found dead after a car accident… several thousand miles away from where he was supposed to be. After this death, there is a break-in at the house and nothing is taken except for a bust of Margaret Thatcher. Needless to say, this is the kind of case for Sherlock…
…And it should be, except for the fact that it’s merely the beginning of something a lot larger and more
First of all, let me start by saying that this episode is infinitely better than the abomination that aired last year. But, at the same time, I can’t exactly say that I preferred it to the earlier seasons of the show. Whilst most TV shows change with time, this episode seemed to drift away from what set Sherlock apart from many other thriller and detective shows.
Yes, there are thankfully still quite a few elements of “classic” Sherlock here – including a clever reference to Conan Doyle’s “The Lion’s Mane” and a few small deductions. It’s still great to see Sherlock doing what he does best. Making deductions and solving mysteries.
However, he doesn’t really get too much of a chance to do this in this episode. The main murder mystery is nothing more than a small sub-plot which he solves in a rather perfunctory manner, with relatively little explanation of how he came to his conclusions (by “Sherlock” standards at least). The rest of the episode is more of a conventional spy thriller story, with a lot of heavy emotional drama thrown in for good measure.
Yes, I know that TV shows evolve and that characters have to evolve. But, Sherlock is at his best when he is focused on a case. When he spends an entire episode carefully unravelling one tightly-plotted mystery, with lots of intricate well-explained deductions and lots of subtle clues and hints scattered around the episode.
On the other hand, this episode has lots of international travel and other spy thriller type stuff that seems slightly out of place in “Sherlock”. Yes, some of this is quite thrilling – but Sherlock isn’t James Bond. Even the final resolution to the main plot of the episode felt just a little bit random and contrived (eg: why would the culprit want to meet Sherlock to confess/boast, when such an intelligent criminal could have easily done nothing and possibly got away with it?).
[Edit: Yes, there’s some dialogue (and a deduction) about the culprit feeling jealous. But, even so, the conclusion still seems at least slightly at odds with the rest of that character’s actions.]
Plus, at one point, Sherlock uses “intuition”. Sure, he tries to explain it as his subconscious mind noticing something out of place. But, nonetheless, it still seems a little bit too contrived for such a carefully-plotted series like “Sherlock”.
Likewise, the heavy emotional drama in the episode detracts somewhat from the core of the series (eg: Sherlock solving mysteries). Likewise, the animosity between Sherlock and Watson was one of the more annoying parts of season three, so it’s depressing to see that it might be returning. Even though the characters are a major part of the show, the case always used to be the focal point of an episode of “Sherlock”.
The thrill of watching an episode of “Sherlock” (or reading Conan Doyle’s original stories) comes from watching Holmes use his intellect to solve an array of bizarre cases through logic and deduction. Yes, characterisation and drama adds flavour to this, but – like with Conan Doyle’s original stories – it shouldn’t be the focal point. This emphasis on case-solving is why the original stories can be so easily transposed to the modern day. But, this episode seemed to drift a bit further away from that.
All in all, despite my criticisms, this episode wasn’t too much of a disappointment (it’s miles better than last year’s solitary episode!). But, on the other hand, it didn’t really seem as gripping, detailed or complex as the first 2-3 seasons of “Sherlock” did. As a spy thriller or a drama show, the episode isn’t exactly “bad” but there are so many other shows that do this these days. “Sherlock”, on the other hand, had something a bit more unique. And it seems to be drifting away from that slightly..
If I had to give this episode a rating out of five, it would probably get somewhere between three and a half and four.