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TV Review: Sherlock - 'The Six Thatchers'

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Sherlock is finally back, but with this first episode, we're not sure it was worth the wait.

Indeed, the beginning of series four immersed the audience immediately into its peculiar post-modern atmosphere, cracking jokes and lulling us back into Baker Street with all it's usual charm. Unfortunately, this didn’t last long.

A weak investigation storyline added with a critical lack of fluency in the direction resulted irreparably in an episode way below what we usually expect from the show.

In the opening episode by Mark Gatiss entitled 'The Six Thatchers', Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch) helps Lestrade in a minor case, intrigued by the seemingly irrelevant destruction of a Margaret Thatcher bust. Sure of himself, the detective deduces that the game is back on with Moriarty (Andrew Scott), whose posthumous threat lurks throughout the episode. However, his investigation leads him further into Mary’s (Amanda Abbington) past, making his vow to protect John Watson’s (Martin Freeman) wife and baby daughter Rosamund all the more difficult.

Inspired mainly by Conan Doyle’s short story The Adventure of the Six Napoleons (1904), the narrative was slightly disappointing. There was no clear investigation at the heart of the story and the villains had weak motivations and little charisma on screen. Some moments even seemed to be lifted straight from a Bond movie. How could Sherlock Holmes possibly survive a fight with a super spy?

The plot was also not as expected. At the end of Series 3 and the Christmas Special, the audience was left with the dangerous mystery of Moriarty’s possible return. However, there was no substantial advancement in that storyline. After three years and an extensive promotion campaign comprising the now famous 'Miss me?' quote, everyone expected at least a hint to Moriarty's involvement this series. 

Moreover, the ending was predictable and entirely foreseeable because of the directing. The slow motion sequence, shared with the story of the Merchant in Samara, gave it all away, making us suspect that death was waiting for Mrs. Watson sooner or later.

Rachel Talalay's direction of the episode and its camera sequences felt too Hollywood for a Sherlock episode, usually characterised by microscopic detail and small action sequences. Indeed, this episode lost the heart of what the show was at the beginning and turned it into a light version of a Jason Bourne flick. Though the show has always had impressive visual effects, this seemed far too much.

Nevertheless, the jokes in the first third of 'The Six Thatchers' saved it from being a complete disaster, including Sherlock’s hilarious smartphone interruption during Rosamund's christening. Even if the character of Sherlock Holmes appeared a little too emotional here, it shows only an extrapolation of Conan Doyle’s works, changing the dynamic between the protagonists and potentially leading to some surprising character interactions.

All the characters end this episode disappointing each other: Mary leaves, Sherlock fails to live up to his vow and we suspect that a now guilt-ridden John cheated on Mary with the mysterious E. All of this gave a darker sense of their reality. My guess is that we will see more of this unknown woman and that she may even be linked to Toby Jones's forthcoming villain. There was a hint of Sherrinford, the supposed third Holmes brother, in this episode but more will follow, and hopefully be uncovered by the end of this season.

The lack of interaction between Sherlock and John also left a frustrating taste. It is normal to evolve relationships in the show, but the story is normally based entirely on Dr. Watson relating Holmes’ investigation. However, Sherlock’s self-assurance in the extreme when he is supposed to protect his friends works amazingly well in this episode’s plot. Lestrade was given a longer time on-screen whereas Molly (Louise Brealey) and Mrs. Hudson (Una Stubbs) were reduced to baby-holding cameos.

We can only hope that the remaining two episodes will be more constructed and follow a real investigation from beginning to end, instead of leaving us with a sense that something was off or missing.

As shown in the teaser for next week's episode, darker times are coming. Let’s just hope that these darker times prove better viewing.

 

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