TV Review: The new episode of Sherlock (no spoilers)

Series 4 of the BBC series Sherlock starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman aired the first of its three episodes on PBS stations last Sunday and it will be available for streaming online until January 14. After getting rave reviews early on, the series creators have come in for considerable criticism for going over the top in their plot twists in later episodes, and its Christmas special that aired in January 2016 episode was heavily panned, including by me.

Perhaps in response, this story was a little more grounded and a definite improvement. Like most of the stories, it gives a nod to the original in the title and in part of the plot. This first episode titled The Six Thatchers is based on the The Six Napoleons and involves the mysterious destruction of busts featuring the likeness of the title character. It begins with extricating Sherlock from the problem he got himself into in the way he dealt with the villain in the last episode of series 3 His Last Vow that required him to be sent out of the country. That episode also teased the tantalizing prospect of the re-emergence of Moriarty.

I have expressed before my distaste for the Moriarty character in both the original stories and in this series. The whole idea of a super-villain pulling so many strings behind the scenes strikes me as a cliché that we can do without. Fortunately in the original stories, he appears only in two stories (though he is mentioned in passing in five others), and his main purpose seemed to be to provide a villain who was worthy enough to be a killer of Holmes. But, alas, later adaptations of the Holmes stories have given him much greater prominence.

While most of this episode consists of a self-contained story, there is clearly a story arc that is going to be continued in the next two episodes of this season that will be broadcast on January 8th and 15th and will be online subsequently.

Here’s the trailer for series 4.


  1. Rob Grigjanis says

    I managed to watch a few minutes before deciding paint drying would be more interesting. The writers of this and the current Doctor Who have talent for snappy patter and ridiculous sentimentality, but little else. None of the major characters are believable as human beings, and they show no consistency in their behaviour. Utter dreck.

  2. hotshoe_ says

    I’m a serious academic BBC Sherlock fan so it’s always interesting to me to encounter reviews from “casual” viewers. Well, if I were friends with Rob in real life, I’d have to have words with that boy … but I’m glad to see that you enjoyed this and even think it’s an improvement over The Abominable Bride.

    (Although I think that TAB was the best 90-minute movie of 2016, that’s a discussion for another day.)

    Do remember that this show’s creators, Gatiss and Moffatt, have said this is not a detective show — it’s a show about a detective. We should expect plot and case-solving to serve the character arc, not the other way around. Here’s hoping that you find the developments in the next two episodes to be to your satisfaction.

  3. Rob Grigjanis says

    hotshoe_says @2:

    Do remember that this show’s creators, Gatiss and Moffatt, have said this is not a detective show — it’s a show about a detective.

    Gosh, where have I heard this before? Oh, yeah. From the writers and fans of shows like Battlestar Galactica, Lost, The Walking Dead, etc. “It’s not about the plot (or the zombies, or whatever), it’s the characters!”. From what I’ve seen, this is shorthand for “We don’t know where the fuck this is going, and we don’t care. Just keep up the “smart” dialogue, the “quirky” situations, and the crisis-a-minute pace”.

    “Character arc” my arse. There are no characters here. Just gimmicks to keep bums in seats. Yes, that’s what good shows do as well. But they do it with characters, situations and plots which are coherent. The average episode of I Love Lucy (which I never much cared for) had more good writing than any of this shit.

    But props to the writers. They’ve found a winning formula.

  4. Mano Singham says

    I went back and watched the very first episode from series 1 and it was superb. The story was focused and while the pace was fast, they had long scenes in which the characters spoke at a speed that you could follow. No wonder I was hooked.

    The writers might benefit from seeing what they did at the beginning and back off from the frenetic pace of the later episodes that weave too many story lines, some of them quite implausible, and everyone speaks too fast.

  5. hotshoe_ says

    Mano, good point. The writers are concerned that they have run out of time to finish their stories (real world problems with actors’ availability; BBC funding and program changes; worldwide change in acceptability of gay storylines … ) so I can easily believe that they have been tempted to rush to get everything said in these last 3 hours.
    But that could be an artistic mistake if it spoils the fun or comprehesibility of the story they are telling in the moment.

    Many fans say The 6 Thatchers feels crowded and rushed, so you’re certainly not alone in that.

    Marcus, well, you could answer your question by watching and finding out …

  6. fentex says

    I didn’t like it much. No real story, no interesting plot. The only interesting thing was the suggestion of Watson’s affair but all on it’s own that’s thin gruel and not why one watches a Sherlock Holmes story.

    I like Elementary, I like the character development integrated with the stories. It’s very well done. But Moffat seems a bit of a one trick pony to me who is riding his trick as far as it will take him.

    I quite liked most of the Dr Who special, it was amusing right up until it ran into, at it’s end, that insufferable Doctor As Messiah attitude it’s writers have had for some time now.

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