Spoiler Warning: Do not read further if you don't want to have Sherlock Season 4 Episode 1's secrets exposed to you.
After a nearly three-year wait, #Sherlock fans were practically chomping on their pipes in anticipation of the first episode of the fourth season of Sherlock, "The Six Thatchers," arriving boldly on the first of January, 2017.
The episode was laden with quite a few intriguing mysteries and one huge tragedy: Mary's death. Her untimely demise was an unexpected twist that left fans devastated, including the actress herself, Amanda Abbington:
But — this blow to the feels aside — how did the rest of the highly anticipated episode hold up? Overall, it was somewhat of a disappointment. There were some fun new action scenes episode director Rachel Talalay lovingly added in (hello Bourne-style swimming pool mega bash-up); and we were teased more Moriarty and the mysterious Sherrinford Holmes, but the script didn't seem as sharp this time around, and our beloved protagonists Sherlock and Watson sometimes veered into grossly out of character territory.
Let me explain why I was disappointed by "The Six Thatchers." Feel free to agree or disagree in the comments below!
Sherlock's Ego Problem
In past seasons, Sherlock's ego was always acknowledged, but it had never become a serious issue. "The Six Thatchers" brought his arrogance to the fore, making it an essential part of the plot as the motivation for that final deadly shot. However, Sherlock's incessant vanity became distracting and increasingly uncharacteristic as the episode went on.
One of Sherlock's most prominent characteristics is his detachment and disdain for human emotional life. However, from the start of "The Six Thatchers" to the very end, Sherlock appears emotional and reactionary. There were too many scenes exhibiting Sherlock's egotistical side, forcing it as problematic trait: Sherlock on his phone at Rosamund's baptism (can we also talk about how Mary decided to give her daughter her own real name?!), telling Lestrade to take credit for the case because "it gets boring if I just solve them all," repeatedly promising to protect Mary and keep her out of harm's way, etc.
Sherlock's ego comes front and center in this episode, but only because it provides sufficient motive for Mary's death (his egocentricity provokes him to tell Vivian she was able to "outsmart them all. All except Sherlock Holmes," unconsciously goading her into firing the gun), which in turn will be used to strain Sherlock and Watson's relationship in the coming episodes. A rupture in the relationship between Watson and Sherlock makes for good drama, of course, but it shouldn't have been used at the expense of character consistency.
Watson's Wandering Eye
Watson's "affair" also seemed uncharacteristic. I'm sure we've all had a case of the wandering eye before, and having a baby can no doubt be tough on a relationship, but Watson starting an illicit affair with some woman who eyed him up on the bus? C'mon. Would the Watson of previous seasons have gone so readily down that path? However, his guilt around this transgression, and the fact that he was probably about to confess to Mary before she headed to the aquarium will no doubt fuel his anger at Sherlock, upping the drama as well.
Loose Nuts And Bolts
The episode left me with questions regarding the plausibility of some key events. For example, how is it possible that AJ never questioned who "the English woman" was after six years of imprisonment? It seems to me that six years would give you plenty of time to go through every possibility in your mind, over and over again.
(Also, side-note, AJ was one of the episode's most interesting characters. Killing him off in such unceremonious fashion was just sad!)
Overall, my biggest beef with "The Six Thatchers" is that the overblowing of Sherlock's ego, his uncharacteristic attachment to Mary, and Watson's feelings for another woman all seem to have been used solely to create drama and spectacle, forcing a plot rather than arriving at it naturally.
Gearing Up For Episode 2, 'The Lying Detective'
"The Six Thatchers" did give us a solid setup going into the next episode of Sherlock. With the relationship between Sherlock and Watson at an all-time low, tensions between the two will be running high. Showrunner Steven Moffat has already said in an interview with EW that they will not be shying away from depicting the grieving process they both go through:
"We take that rift head-on in the remainder of the [season]. We don’t ignore it. We don’t have John come back and say, “Well I’ve thought about it and it’s all fine.” If anything, the rift gets worse. We decided if we were doing this we’re doing grief properly. We were doing the consequences properly. We tried to have people go through what they’d actually go through in this circumstance which, of course, is hellish. And as emotionally reticent as Sherlock Holmes is, it doesn’t take a 12-year-old to figure out he’s a profoundly emotional man. We don’t skirt around it. We don’t just get on with the story of the week — although there is a story of the week. There’s a big villain to fight. But front and center are the consequence of Mary’s death and Sherlock’s culpability. He could have done better, it’s his lifestyle that killed her in the end."
While Moriarty's posthumous plans were teased in the first episode, we're still no closer to knowing what they are. Will they be postponed again in "The Lying Detective"? It seems the villain of the episode will be Culverton Smith, described by Sherlock in the promo as "the most dangerous, the most despicable human being I have ever encountered." (Funny, didn't they say the same thing about Charles Augustus Magnussen?)
Episode 1 also set up Sherrinford, Sherlock and Mycroft's mysterious older brother who has yet to appear on the show. At the very end of the episode, Mycroft sees a Post-it stuck to his refrigerator with "13th" written on it. He then makes a call asking for a certain Sherrinford. This certainly gives us a clue about Episode 3, doesn't it? At the 2016 San Diego Comic-Con, the cast teased these names:
We now know Thatcher stands for "The Six Thatchers," Smith is presumably referring to Toby Jones's Culverton Smith, the villain of Episode 2, and Sherrinford is the never-before-seen Holmes brother. Whether he will be friend or foe still remains to be seen, but we'll likely find out in the as-yet untitled Episode 3.
While "The Six Thatchers" was an entertaining episode, I found the script lacked that usual sharp flare we know and love, instead giving the protagonists uncharacteristic and sometimes cliched lines. While I understand that any good show has character development, I didn't find the changes to our protagonists to be natural. However, we still have two more episodes left in the season and I certainly haven't given up hope yet!
Check out the promo for Sherlock Season 4, Episode 2, "The Lying Detective":
What did you think of "The Six Thatchers"?