Friday, 6 January 2017

REVIEW: Sherlock 4-1 - The Six Thatchers


Loosely based upon "The Adventure of the Six Napoleons" (1904)

And so, after another long break, Sherlock is back and, more or less, on form. The episode chugs along nicely, with plenty of action and derring-do. A very exciting, cinematic opening for the latest run, with some excellent character moments for all the principle players. It's all very disjointed though, never quite cohering into more than a series of vignettes. For every element that is added early and picked up in the climax, there is an element that never ties into the main storyline. Which is fine, I guess, but after three series we've come to expect everything to be a clue, or a plot point, or a running gag. I'm not sure if this is Gatiss losing track of the series' style, or playing with the audience.

The six Thatchers is a clever updating of the six Napoleons, and naturally prevents us from sympathising with the victims too much. I mean, it's terribly sad that the rich couple's son has died in a desperately grim and arbitrary way, but they had a fucking shrine to Thatcher in their house. That's a straightforward way of telling that someone is an appalling person. Watson is too polite to say anything, and Sherlock genuinely doesn't care, but no one would blame them for just walking out as soon as they saw that collection of dragon portraits.

Sherlock's behaviour is baffling at the outset, and it's not clear if he is head-spinningly high, or just pretending to be to take the piss. I don't think we've ever seen Cumberbatch play him so giddily and, well, Doctorishly before. It's tremendous fun, but not what we've come to expect from the character. I like that the exile plot has been so quickly written off. It's not as if the British government can't just doctor footage and wipe someone's record clean with a few choice instructions.

As much as we focus on Sherlock during the episode, it's really all about the Watsons. It's easy to feel desperately sorry for John, upstaged by Mary as the ultimate sidekick. The script plays cleverly with this though, both making John into a more flawed, less sympathetic character by having him tempted to be unfaithful, and by keeping Mary resolutely the star of her own show, albeit one that happens almost entirely off screen, only occasionally intersecting with Sherlock.

So, John. Given the quieter, less exciting material, Martin Freeman nonetheless excels. So far, it appears that John has merely been texting the woman on the bus, a pretty minor indiscretion, but it's entirely possible there's more to it than we've seen. Even so, with a wife and a baby, John's behaviour plays with our sympathies, Of course, by the end, we're desperately sorry for him, even as he (quite understandably) shuts Sherlock out.

Mary, on the other hand, is more of a question. As always. The episode has great fun exploring Mary's superspy skills, only to happily skewer it by having Sherlock simply slap a tracer on her. Making her background the key to the mystery of the week is effective, even as it shows Sherlock at its most contrived. Until, finally, Mary is killed off, seemingly to drive a wedge between Sherlock and John. Presumably, the status quo will eventually be restored, with Holmes and Watson back as they started, albeit with added baby. This is assuming, of course, that Mary is really dead. It would hardly be the first time this series has played that game, and this is a Moffat show we're talking about. No one seems able to stay dead in these things. Not forgetting the fact that the London Aquarium is just up the road from one of the capital's largest hospitals.

Stray thoughts:

I hope they don't involve Moriarty in this season at all, and he just remains Sherlock's personal obsession.

Whatever the provenance, "ammo" is a poor choice of code word in a combat situation.

This episode includes the best ever use of the classic "As always Watson, you see but you do not observe" line.

The best bit, however, is the part with the dog.

Waiting on Sherrinford here.

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