It’s important you know that I was a massive Sherlock for its first two series. It looked like nothing else on television and the ninety minute allowed viewers to really lose themselves in its complex stories.
So where did I fall out of love with Holmes and co? I think it was probably at the very start of the third series. Creators Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat teased fans about how Sherlock could’ve possibly survived that brutal rooftop fall. I was even lucky enough to be invited to meet them by the BBC. I found the pair annoyingly coy it was as if they were suspicious that journalists would spoil the show. No lads, sadly you’ve done that yourself. When it did eventually arrive the third series was an utter mess. The fall wasn’t completely explained and instead of Holmes and Watson solving inexplicable crimes they decided to put the focus on the bizarre friendship between the pair. Moffat and Gatiss seem to have a fascination on putting their socially awkward character in social situations presumably just so the audience can marvel at how unlike the normals he is.
I came back for 2016’s The Abominable Bride, a special that had billed by the BBC as taking Sherlock out of its modern day setting. It worked quite well I thought until Moffat threw his usual annoying spanner into proceedings by revealing at the midway point that all we had witness had been going on in Sherlock’s ‘mind palace’ as he sat drugged up on a plane which was waiting to take off.
I was confused and frustrated and the whole thing smacked of Moffat smugly saying to his loyal audience. “you didn’t see that coming did you?”
That’s the main issue with Sherlock now is that Moffat and Gatiss are so bogged down in the backstories of their characters that despite there being four episodes since that wonderful rooftop fall the show has somehow never move forward.
Last night’s fourth series opener, The Six Thatchers started so promisingly. I had decided to put my preconceptions to one side in the hope that the show would return to its brilliant roots. I enjoyed the opening scenes that wrapped up that forgettable cliffhanger from 2015’s third series and it felt like a new page had been turned. When DI Lestrade appeared in Sherlock’s living room with a story of a boy on his gap year who turned up dead inside his car despite being away for a year really peaked my interest. This story was classic Sherlock, a proper headscratcher that only someone of Sherlock’s ability could tackle. A proper mystery at long last!
Sadly writer Mark Gatiss had other plans. When Sherlock and Watson went to speak with the boys parents Sherlock became fixated on the fact the family had a shrine to Margret Thatcher. The family had had a break-in and one of their busts of the late prime minister had been stolen. My heart sank as it dawned on me that the mystery I had hoped would take centre stage was solved in seconds and the focus shifted to who was stealing these Thatcher busts. Here we go again..
From here on I had a bit of a Sherlock style blackout. I’m not quite sure where the plot went but at some point Sherlock came across one of these busts which broke to reveal a memory stick inside. Those who were really paying attention will remember Mary Watson giving a memory stick to her husband John after it was revealed she was an agent/spy something or other. I had completely forgotten this apparently crucial piece of plotting and so the discovery of the memory stick didn’t have the desired impact I’m sure Gatiss was hoping for. The memory stick contained details of Mary’s life as a super spy/agent group. The only other surviving group member has wanted Mary dead for years believing she had dobbed him in. What had started with the intriguing discovery of a boys burnt body had quickly descended into yet another daft story about the silly past lives of one of the lead characters.
Don’t get me wrong Amanda Abbington is a wonderful actress but I’ve never been able to suspend my disbelief enough to buy her as this dangerous secret agent. The remainder of this quite frankly ludicrous opener saw Mary Watson leave her husband and newborn daughter to keep them safe as she jetted off randomly around the world, testing out the BBC’s wig budget as she went. Of course Sherlock had fitted the aforementioned memory stick with a tracker so Mary, Sherlock and John were quickly reunited. What was the point of all that then really? The man who wants Mary dead turns up just at that point. But how did he find them I hear you cry. Oh well he just followed Sherlock! That clears that up then doesn’t it?
I shan’t spoil the rest just in case this review has got you desperate to watch the overly long final moments. But for me this episode sums up for me everything that’s gone wrong with the show. The lead characters aren’t actually that interesting and Gatiss and Moffat seem intent on putting them centre stage. They get too bogged down in the minutiae of their world rather than telling interesting stories.
Next week sees the introduction of the wonderful Toby Jones as Sherlock’s new nemesis so fingers crossed that’ll stop our ‘hero’ from banging on about Moriarty every other scene. I’ll stick with it, not because I’m loving it but because I live in hope that at some point in the remaining two episodes it’ll recapture the magic that made those first two series so wonderful.
Sherlock Continues Sunday at 9.00pm on BBC One.