ByTom Chapman, writer at
tweet: tomtomchap Warden of the North - bearded, tattooed and square eyed 'til the end
Tom Chapman

Stoke the fire, take out your revolver, and let's take a shot at the wall; it is time to open the casebook on BBC's Sherlock to unravel the mystery of "Benedict Cumberbatch and the Dwindling Desire"? What started as a bold new show that reimagined the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's hat-wearing detective has since muddled into your standard crime drama. The big twists, the well-cast villains, and the "so that's how they did it," has ebbed away thanks to long waits and thin plots.

Creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss teased that Season 4 could have been the last, but then retracted it to say that it was probably just the end of the first chapter, but could be the end if they wanted it to be. So, if this really is the end, would that be so bad? Here are all the reasons why Sherlock should call it a day and sit down with a nice cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit.

Warning: Spoilers for Sherlock Seasons 1–4

Am I Losing My Memory?

It may be that my mind palace is a little full of late, but Season 4 and its usual crop of just three episodes didn't exactly stick out as "great" Sherlock. The one with the guy and the dodgy teeth, the one where the wife is the plot twist, and the one with the sister. Compare this to some of the show's previous highs, and you can see the arguments. "A Study in Pink" started off (literally) with a bang and a superb cab driver twist; Irene Adler's introduction in "A Scandal in Belgravia," and of course, "The Reichenbach Fall" were all compelling masterpieces.

Sherlock did so well at weaving a complex web of stories and characters over the past three seasons that it has all become a bit convoluted regarding who is where and doing what. Season 4 had so much promise, with the usual interviews with the cast and producers stating that it was the best one yet, but Sherlock has become a victim of its own hype — thanks in part to the longer and longer wait between seasons.

Sure there was the odd Easter Egg, and I loved the subtle hints at Lara Pulver's Adler still being around — but where the hell was she? If there was one character who is actually matched with Sherlock and gave the show any promise it is Pulver's seductive and conniving Adler. More annoyingly still was the inclusion *sorry, lack of* Moriarty, but more on him later.

Mary Queen Of Nots

'Sherlock' [Credit: BBC]
'Sherlock' [Credit: BBC]

Then there is the whole "three's a crowd" mantra, which definitely formed the crux of what made Season 4 fall down. I don't know about anyone else, but I always found Amanda Abbington's Mary even harder to warm to than Sherlock himself. From her introduction at the start of Season 3, Mary was only there to mess with the Sherlock/Watson dynamic, but it never quite worked, particularly when she became "one of the boys" to help them solve their cases. Mary's "big reveal" as a secret agent only three episodes after we met her felt like a misstep and a pretty lazy way to start of the fourth season. Mary's dramatically thrown together backstory would be like casting Mrs. Hudson (Una Stubbs) as a Bond Girl.

Abbington's clever housewife routine worked well, but waving her off as a wanted woman who sought redemption jarred against the believability of the plot. In fact, the entirety of "The Six Thatchers" was only there to serve as one long Mary death scene, pulling Sherlock and Watson apart for an episode only to have them inevitably team up for a finale. To make matters worse, they just couldn't leave Mary alone. The next two episodes had Abbington popping up in flashbacks, visions, and even DVDs. Sherlock's biggest problem is that it can't leave its characters where they belong: in the afterlife.

Eurus - Who Gives A Toss?

'Sherlock' [Credit: BBC]
'Sherlock' [Credit: BBC]

As for the other big twist of Season 4, Sherlock's sister was another idea that probably looked good on paper but worked out about as well as the Watson's marriage. Sian Brookes actually did an OK job as the forgotten Holmes, John's therapist, and the woman he starting sexting with. He may have only glimpsed her briefly on a bus, but how did Watson not notice that his therapist was the spitting image of the woman he was considering extra-marital relations with? Also, there we have Sherlock Holmes, the world's smartest detective, rewiring his mind to forget the horrific demise of his childhood friend. Both were plot points that were stretched to the point of ludicrousness; meanwhile, his homicidal sister is conveniently imprisoned until the need for a "shocking" finale.

Viewers had long expected the inclusion of the actual other sibling, Sherrinford Holmes. Sherrinford was one of the first names Doyle thought of before settling on Sherlock, and then went it on to become the name of the eldest brother in William S. Baring-Gould's Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street. To have the character unceremoniously turned into the name of a prison complex in favor of a "brand new" addition to the story seemed like a bit of a middle finger to Conan Doyle's source, but Eurus served her purpose to humanize Cumberbatch's Holmes if nothing else.

See also:

A 'Marvel'ous Villain Problem

'Sherlock' [Credit: BBC]
'Sherlock' [Credit: BBC]

However, Sherlock's villain problem has been there since we introduced Lars Mikkelsen as Charles Augustus Magnussen in Season 3. Promised as Sherlock's most dangerous adversary, Magnussen was quickly dispatched by a bullet to the temple. It may have been a turnaround of sorts for Sherlock as a man, and we hoped for some ramifications, but all was quickly swept under the carpet in favor of a quick resolution.

Again, Toby Jones's part as Culverton Smith in Season 4 was dubbed as Sherlock's ultimate foe — really? It seems that since Moriarty, Moffat has been scrambling around in the pages of Conan Doyle's work, desperately searching for someone else to join the fray. Undoubtedly, the lack of a great villain is emphasized by the fact that we continue to include Moriarty (or at least his voice) in every episode. Fans hoped that the "miss me?" mystery, for which we waited three years for a resolution, would involve more than a flashback and Andrew Scott singing to Queen. Admittedly, that was the best part of the season, but ask yourself, "was it really worth it?"

Whether it was a stroke of genius or a blundering error, Moriarty was always going to be the peak of Sherlock's rogue's gallery and of the show, but there is a sense it has gone downhill from there. Looking at the show as a whole, the dual episode of "The Reichenbach Fall" and "The Empty Hearse," which tied together Seasons 2 and 3 are pretty unbeatable. Whether Moffat and Gatiss should have saved Moriarty for a later date is up for debate, but a word of advice, boys: As wonderful as Andrew Scott is, let him go!

For Ritchie For Poorer

'Sherlock Holmes' [Credit: Warner Bros.]
'Sherlock Holmes' [Credit: Warner Bros.]

Personally, I loathed the 's cheap cash-in on Sherlock by taking Cumberbatch and Freeman back to the Victorian era. What made Sherlock so imaginative was reinventing it for modern times — it was the USP. So, when you stick Shirley in his deerstalker and have him battle abominable brides, what separates it from Guy Ritchie's big ol' americanized films? When you put the two side by side like that, Ritchie undoubtedly does it better as a period piece. It is thanks in no small part to the ambiguous romance between Robert Downey Jr.'s Sherlock and Jude Law's Watson.

Now, I'm not saying that Sherlock and Watson need to start sharing a bed to save the show, but the rumored lack of chemistry off-screen between Cumberbatch and Freeman is almost painfully obvious at times on the screen. The stoic and awkward nature of Cumberbatch was endearing to start, but seven years later, he is like the angsty teen you are lumbered with who hasn't grown out of that phase. A dynamic duo they are not, and now with Mary out of the picture, Mycroft softening, and Molly declaring her love for Sherlock, no relationship on the show sparks any form of interest moving forward.

'Sherlock' [Credit: BBC]
'Sherlock' [Credit: BBC]

It is a depressing thought when you realize that there have actually only been 13 episodes of Sherlock. Admittedly, they have all been an extended 90 minutes long, but it isn't exactly a bumper crop of TV episodes. The worry is that Sherlock has gotten too clever for its own good and audiences have grown to expect the twists: An argument with Watson, Cumberbatch feigning stupidity, then some final mind mapping where he outsmarts the villain. It is a bit like Dr. House's incorrect first two diagnoses, followed by the third correct answer. Perhaps it is the absence of Scott's playful villainy, but Sherlock is taking itself too seriously with its British stiff-upper lip.

It is no surprise then that Moffat wrote "The Final Problem" as a possible ending to the show. Undoubtedly Sherlock will return, but I say leave it be. Bury the deerstalker, knock down 221b Baker Street, and return Cumberbatch and Freeman to their respective MCU roles to roll in the Hollywood big bucks. Just as the two lead actors have grown into much bigger stars, some of us may just have outgrown Sherlock. I'm not saying that I won't watch another series, but let's just say that the inevitable three-year wait doesn't seem as excruciating this time around!

Check out the superb Moriarty scene from Season 4, and don't forget our poll below!


Do you think 'Sherlock' has run its course?


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