Well, having watched the dramatic finale to the fourth series of “Sherlock” a while earlier, I thought that I’d write a quick review.
Although I’ll try to avoid major SPOILERS, there will probably be some for both this episode and the previous episode here.
“The Final Problem” continues the storyline that was introduced at the end of the previous episode. Luckily, Watson was only shot with a tranquilliser. But, Sherlock and Watson must find Eurus before something terrible happens. Fortunately, Mycroft knows where she could be. A secret government prison called Sherrinford that is located on a remote island.
Of course, when the intrepid trio arrive, they soon learn that things are not what they seem….
One of the first things that I will say about this episode is that it is probably the scariest episode of “Sherlock” that I’ve ever seen. The easiest way to describe it is that it’s kind of like a cross between one of the “Saw” movies, “Shutter Island”, “The Crystal Maze” and an old James Bond movie. There are also hints of “The Ring” and other psychological horror movies too. It is also a brilliantly chilling reinterpretation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Musgrave Ritual“.
Unlike the very first episode of series four, the move towards more thriller-style storytelling actually works here. The whole episode is crammed with suspense from the first minute until the dramatic, if somewhat bizarre, conclusion. Yes, despite the fact that it’s more of a 90 minute horror movie than an episode of a detective drama, “The Final Problem” does this well enough that the sudden genre change isn’t as glaringly annoying as the switch to the spy thriller genre was in “The Six Thatchers“.
However, despite this episode being significantly more gripping than earlier episodes in series four, the episode does have its flaws. The constant focus on suspenseful drama occasionally turns Eurus from being a chillingly complex and creepily mysterious character to being a two-dimensional “evil for the sake of evil” villain. This then makes it somewhat jarring when she begins to exhibit more emotional depth later in the episode.
Likewise, some parts of the episode drift slightly towards the kind of confusing “unreliable reality” stuff that ruined last year’s “Abominable Bride” episode [Edit: Whilst I normally enjoy “unreliable reality” stories, they aren’t really appropriate in stories about a logic-based character like Sherlock Holmes].
Whilst some of these parts help to add suspense and drama to the episode, there are a couple of major plot twists near the end of the episode that don’t seem to be foreshadowed properly. Plot twists of that magnitude need to be preceded by an appropriate amount of clues (so that they make sense in the context of the story) and, from what I could tell, they aren’t.
Yes, these plot twists are still dramatic and/or genuinely creepy. But, the lack of foreshadowing was somewhat annoying for plot twists of that size. Still, this aside, the story is both chilling and extremely compelling, even though it veers dangerously close to silliness occasionally.
Other cool things about this episode include the fact that Mrs Hudson is shown to be a fan of Iron Maiden (it’s rare to see characters with such good musical taste in TV shows), a 1980s horror movie style segment near the beginning of the episode and the brief return of a much-missed character during a flashback scene. Likewise, the montage scene near the end of the episode is surprisingly dramatic, if somewhat cheesy.
All in all, this is an excellent ending to a three-episode series that has varied somewhat in quality. Yes, this episode is about as far from traditional “Sherlock” as you can get. Yes, some parts of it can be somewhat contrived. But, as a 90 minute horror movie, “The Final Problem” works really well. It is one of the scariest and most unsettling films that I’ve seen for a while.
If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get four and a half.