Last night I watched the first episode of season 4 of the Sherlock series starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. It seems to me that as the series progresses, the writers are becoming too clever by half, to the point where one can imagine them chuckling as they add one more improbable twist to the plot, saying gleefully, “This will blow people’s minds!”
This is not to say that the episode was bad. I was engrossed throughout the entire ninety minutes, especially since I am somewhat of a purist about the world Arthur Conan Doyle created and prefer the Holmes stories being set in the gothic period rather than in modern times. I think the best way I can describe my reaction is to say that it was highly entertaining but not satisfying. I would not blame audiences for feeling that they have been manipulated.
Its strengths are in the dialogue. There are plenty of funny lines, especially self-referential ones where the characters talk about their portrayal as characters in the stories Watson writes for the public. Its weakness is that no one seems to have stepped back at any point and asked the question: Does the overall story make any sense? For example, what was the point of Sherlock’s brother Mycroft’s strange portrayal back in the 19th century?
Another problem is that the episode does not stand alone. Although they have a rapid run through of clips of the previous episodes right at the beginning, I suspect that it would not be enough for those who haven’t seen the earlier stories to catch the allusions and figure out what was going on.
So my recommendation would be to watch it but just go with the flow and not try to make too much sense out of it. It will be re-broadcast on Sunday, January 10th on public television channels in the US. Here’s the trailer.