Tori Brazier reviews the third and final episode of Sherlock series four…
Well, after the usual teasing references to it over previous episodes, Sherlock finally pulled on the deerstalker again – but you’d be forgiven for missing this detail in a series finale rammed with tests, puzzles and challenges galore, for the characters and audience alike. Again, spoilers ahead for this concluding episode (maybe forever?) of Sherlock: ‘The Final Problem’…
So the deerstalker appeared at the top of the episode, as Sherlock burst in on Mycroft’s meltdown, which he had cajoled from his older brother through an elaborate set-up in order to get him to admit to the existence of their sister – someone of whom Sherlock had zero memory. As usual this was a carefully calculated opening, with just enough glimpses and suggestions of Moriarty to convince Mycroft (plus hopeful – and hungry – fans) of Sherlock’s arch nemesis’ involvement.
With older brother suitably chastened, and around at 221B Baker Street the next morning, younger sister Eurus announces her ‘presence’ via a neat little drone rigged with explosives. What follows immediately are some of the best-written few moments of this series as Sherlock, Watson and Mycroft assess their limited options, work out when Mrs. Hudson will in the safest part of her flat (she’s hoovering to Iron Maiden, naturally) and say some stoic (but emotionally vulnerable) goodbyes. Moffat and Gatiss really do produce beautifully understated yet powerful dialogue when given half the chance, but it’s seemed this series that they’ve been more concerned with being clever and glib – perhaps they were saving all of the sincerity for this episode?
The subsequent blowing up of Baker Street seems very symbolic (as well as awesome) because it’s one of those simple(r) things you never considered happening, as daring as it is – what are Holmes and Watson without their iconic pad? Luckily there are no fatalities, but Eurus provokes the reaction she wants as soon these three musketeers are off to… Sherrinford! At last, we know that it is an island housing a maximum security facility – and the Holmes sister. Mycroft gets the three of them in with disguise and decoys (possibly in a rather more intricate way than necessary, considering his presumed security clearance thanks to his position and previous visits with Eurus?) and we finally meet Eurus as herself, alongside Sherlock.
Sîan Blake is really very good as Eurus, fascinating and complex without appearing to do much of anything or ‘act’ crazy (*shudder*). ‘The Final Problem’ is, in a nutshell, about Sherlock confronting his feelings and ability to feel and weighing them up against his scientific deduction and intelligence, in the face of his ostensibly cleverer older brother and totally unfeeling sister. She’s a worthy ‘adversary’ of Sherlock’s, intriguing him to the point of distraction, and particularly when the identity of her accomplice is revealed. Blake also does well in a setting that’s a little uncomfortably Victorian in premise – she’s a mad woman locked up in a high-security asylum while the men run around trying to save the day. How quaint. Perhaps the antidote to this can be sought in the knowledge that she quite possibly masterminded the entirety of Moriarty’s ‘revenge’ when Mycroft admits to allowing five unsupervised minutes between Eurus and Moriarty as her Christmas ‘treat’, five years ago.
Moriarty’s long-anticipated arrival back into Sherlock possibly outstrips even Mrs Hudson’s entrance in a sports car in ‘The Lying Detective’ for swag, as he disembarks from a helicopter, strutting and peacocking for his audience – in true Freddie Mercury style – to the strains of Queen’s ‘I Want To Break Free’. Prime footage for the BAFTA Television Awards 2016/2017 montage there. Despite only being ‘resurrected’ for a flashback and snippets of filming for Eurus’ grand scheme, Andrew Scott makes every second and smirk count: he truly is a revelation in the role. The only slight quibble is that Sherlock is very quickly becoming a show where death doesn’t really mean much when they can bring you back for extended flashback sequences and ‘hauntings’.
Back to Eurus and her grand plan for Sherlock: although finer details are slightly fudged, Eurus manages to overthrow the prison security and trap Sherlock, Watson and Mycroft together in a series of cells, forcing them to solve ‘cases’ and undertake challenges in order to save real human lives – ‘The Final Problem’ does get quite dark and sinister here as the dutiful prison governor shoots himself to save his wife from the clutches of Eurus, who has no qualms with ‘removing’ anyone from their current situation.
By far the most affecting of Sherlock’s ‘challenges’ is when he must ring Molly Hooper and get her to say “I love you” to him, in order to stop her flat from exploding (or so he thinks), and not tell her why. Louise Brealey is as heartfelt as ever – and finally gets her moment during this season – as you really feel her torment pouring down the line into Sherlock’s ear. What is also very moving is finally seeing Sherlock begin to engage with his emotions and recognise what he is doing to her in order to achieve his (or rather, Eurus’) aim. It would have been good, as always, to see more of Molly though, particularly when she begins their conversation by telling Sherlock that she is not having a great day – why? What happened? It’s a shame to not have seen her more in the series too, helping with the details of cracking a case in the morgue, as in the old days, instead of stuck at the other end of a phone line.
We get to see a nicely written more human side to the usually “reptilian” Moriarty again too, when Eurus next wants Sherlock to shoot either his friend or his brother, and so his brother tries to goad him into shooting him in anger, thereby absolving him of the guilt of making such a hard choice.
Eurus’ final bit of trickery is to somehow separate her prey and transport Sherlock to Musgrave, his family home (again, it’s a little sketchy on the detail her), so he can finally solve (her) Musgrave Ritual. Things remain pretty macabre when it’s revealed that Redbeard, the dog that Eurus killed, actually turned out to be Sherlock’s childhood best friend – and it’s his bones found at the bottom of the well. It’s also a little disappointing that the little girl on a plane that’s been crying for help since the opening of the episode, and applying pressure to Sherlock as he tries to console and help her alongside everything else, turns out to be Eurus herself – pretty predictable from the beginning. The return of the Cumberparents was good, however, and entirely fitting when it’s such a personal storyline.
Some possible loose ends that won’t satisfactorily tied up in this finale? It’s a shame that there wasn’t more of Mrs Hudson again, glorious as her cleaning was, or Lestrade, who had to make do with popping up at the episode’s end when Eurus was apprehended. Whatever happened to the mysterious Lady Smallwood, and her invitation for a drink for Mycroft? Irene Adler’s no-show was also disappointing, given the obvious tease of her texting Sherlock last week.
‘The Final Problem’ was another ambitious television episode, again sometimes getting wrapped up in its own cleverness, but still allowing room for some touching relationships to develop – and Moriarty. It’s a solid showing, but I hope it doesn’t prove to be the last we see of Sherlock.