Wednesday 20 September 2017

Sherlock: The Final Problem - 'What a shame it had to end this way'

Sherlock: The Final Problem. Credit: BBC
Sherlock: The Final Problem. Credit: BBC
Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock
Moriarty's return
Credit: BBC
Ed Power

Ed Power

Baffling and then some, the concluding episode of Sherlock season four was a greatest hits revisiting of everything good, bad and ridiculous about Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat’s mind-twisting take on Arthur Conan Doyle

The central performances of Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as Holmes and Watson were reliably gripping, the production values Hollywood-grade, yet the convoluted plot had all the grace and flow of a rollercoaster in a lighting storm while the storyline in the end proved comprehensively barking.

As news broke yesterday that the finale had leaked in Russia, the show’s producer went on social media urging fans not to spoil the surprise ending for viewers yet to enjoy the episode.

But what exactly could be spoilt? That the little girl onboard a stricken airplane to whom we were introduced pre-credits was actually the detective’s mad sister having a breakdown?

That Holmes’ childhood pooch, Redbeard, was, in fact, his slain best friend (whose existence he’d managed to utterly forget)? That the dastardly Moriarty was back, reincarnated digitally as a crazed game-show host?

These didn’t sound like spoilers – more the sputterings of a random Sherlock plot generator.The story took up after last week’s bombshell that Sherlock had a sister, Eurus (an overcooked Sian Brooke), whose existence his elder brother Mycroft (Gatiss) had assiduously concealed.

Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock
Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock

Eurus was banged up in an Arkham Asylum-style facility for the pathologically bonkers – yet somehow was free to come and go at will from her island prison (she had made her grand entrance last week disguised as a therapist).

Into Eurus’ lair ventured the brainy triple threat of Sherlock, Watson and Mycroft with the vaguely articulated goal of neutralising the third Holmes sibling.

Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock
Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock

Here, the criticism that the new season was closer in spirit to James Bond than Conan Doyle was finally knocked on the head.

Instead the series resembled a glossy remake of the Crystal Maze as our heroes were confronted by puzzles of escalating inanity.

Credit: BBC
Credit: BBC

The big reveals ranked among Sherlock’s silliest yet – quite a boast, considering the loopiness of last year’s New Year special .

Returning uber-villain Moriarty had cheated death only in the narrowest sense: his voice overs and rants to camera were pre-recorded, the fruit a brief confab five years earlier with Euros (Andrew Scott, previously pitch perfect as the hysterical Moriarty, was completely absurd, not so much chewing the scenery as devouring it whole ).

Martin Freeman
Martin Freeman

Then came the unlikely shift from the island prison to the Holmes’ burned down family seat of Musgrave, where the arch-sleuth rushed to save a stuck-down-a-well Watson and talk Euros out of her breakdown.

Does any of that make sense?

Not written down – and certainly not on the screen.

Cleverness has always been one of the series’ winning attributes. Here, alas, writers Gatiss and Moffatt were keen to out do themselves, without feeling the need to explain anything to the audience.

Moriarty's return
Moriarty's return

If this is Sherlock’s final fade out – and it appears Cumberbatch and Freeman are simply too busy in Hollywood to return for the foreseeable future – then we said our adieus with a baffled shrug.

What a shame it had to end this way.

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