Saturday, January 28, 2017

BBC Sherlock S4E3 "The Final Problem" - Recap and Review

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There will be spoilers throughout and the readers who are yet to watch the episode are recommended to skip this post.

As seen at the end of The Lying Detective”, there is one more Holmes lurking around and that is Eurus (Sian Brooke). Eurus is seen taking a shot at John Watson (Martin Freeman) and this is supposedly meant to indicate that either John is dead or at least injured.

The season finale starts off with Mycroft Holmes (Mark Gatiss) watching classic movie at his palatial home. Suddenly, horror movie cliches (creepy girl and creepy clown running around randomly) abound and Mycroft is scared out of his wits. Turns out that his brother dear Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) is behind this charade.

Sherlock wanted to get even with Mycroft for not revealing the existence of Eurus. And as an added bonus, John is still alive. What about getting shot by the scheming sister, you ask. Well, it was just a tranquilizer shot. No worries.

Mycroft then gives a quick rundown about Eurus (an era defining genius beyond Newton). If only she had not gone bad, the world would have benefited from her genius intellect or at the least Sherlock would not have had so much trouble from that pesky criminal mastermind, Jim Moriarty (Andrew Scott).

Click on the link below to order your copy of Season 4:

But as thing stand, Eurus has gone bonkers. As if she had predicted the exact time and day of this conversation, Eurus arranges a nice explosion at 221 B Baker Street by sending a remote controlled drone. Man, that Eurus is so smart.

Like any respectable action heroes would do in such a situation, Sherlock and John escape completely unscathed and decide to take the war right back to sister dear.

The next scene shifts to Sherlock, John and Mycroft arriving at Sherrinford and right at this moment, the show divorced itself from Arthur Conan Doyle's works (on which it is supposed to be based on).

The rest of the episode is busy doing an ill-advised and completely out of place imitation of the Saw horror movies rather than be a show about a bohemian detective. And yes, the resolution. The resolution comes and goes like the Miss Hudson cameo in the other equally inept adaptation that also claims to be based on one Mr Sherlock Holmes: the CBS show known as Elementary.

Coming back to this show,  Eurus has taken complete control of Sherrinford and subjects her dearest brothers and the ex army veteran to a series of psychological tests including making a phone call to Molly Hooper (Louise Brealey), one character choosing between shooting one of the other two etc. Yes, the episode is that bad.

A special mention must be made of the closing montage. With the departed Mary Morstan still making her presence felt through DVDs (come to think of it, so many characters make their appearances through clips after dying..), the show ends with a tribute to Basil Rathbone with the lead actors continuing the time honored tradition of Batman and Robin running towards the camera.

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Mrs Hudson (Una Stubbs), who stole the show in the previous episode, has the best line in this one too: her exchange with Mycroft about a cup of tea.

Surprisingly, the best performance is not given by either the Holmes brothers or their new found sister or even the cute as a button and always teary eyed John. It is Andrew Scott as the late Jim Moriarty with his very brief but very catchy and enjoyable contributions by imitating the sounds of time ticking away and train sounds.

I know this makes no sense when you read it, but it really translates well to screen. I have never been a fan of Andrew's over the top version of Moriarty, but this was just pure fun. Scott's performance remains the only redeeming feature of this shipwreck of what was once a widely acclaimed show. Here is an article that captures the unbelievable plot holes and gaps in the script.

Going forward, I can only hope for two things: that the BBC show never returns, and that Guy Ritchie and Robert Downey Jr. learn from this mistake and continue their great work with the third Sherlock Holmes movie.

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Click here to read the list of Canonical References in the episode. Click here to read all my posts about BBC Sherlock.

Image Sources: Hartswood Films, BBC Wales, Masterpiece theater


  1. I enjoyed this ep for what is was(a hokey, Bondian thriller) but like you I am stunned by how far Sherlock the show strayed from the real Sherlock Holmes. This is brought back to me every time I watch A Study in Pink which I use as a teacher to help get across the detective fiction genre. That opener is a master class in how to introduce character and to seed clues and the teenage girls I teach love it. The biggest problem with Sherlock was the instinct by Moffat and Gatiss (though I suspect more Moffat) that the show had to be constantly bigger, topping what went before. Moffat's past as a sitcom writer also meant too much ill-advised humour. These are indulgences that ruined Moffat's Doctor Who, with gimmicks replacing logical plot progression. In the end, Sherlock Holmes became James Bond, leaping from windows, having fights in swimming pools and even getting a Skyfall/Spectre like confrontation with a figure from his past. On the plus side, I liked how Sherlock developed as a character this season with him being much more the Conan Doyle version at the end. I too liked Andrew Scott (for the first time) as Moriarty. I really hope this is the end, however.

    1. At this point, the show's version shares very few things with ACD's character other than the name itself. I have heard similar complaints about how Moffat spoiled Dr Who through his writing. Now I know exactly how that could have happened.

      I always thought that ACD's version was always the coolest and the best. And he was like this right from the beginning, when he meets Dr Watson in A Study in Scarlet. Mofatt and Gatiss saying that this is the BBC Sherlock's journey to become the mature Canonical version sounds flimsy to me. If that was the original idea of making the series, they should have made the show about a much younger Holmes prior to meeting Dr Watson in A Study in Scarlet. Perhaps, during his college days with Victor Trevor as a stand in for Dr Watson.

      Instead, they filmed the most famous episodes in the Canon right from Holmes-Watson meeting to The Hound to The Woman to The Final Problem etc. By doing this, the writers have shown a lack of initiative to do something original with the character. This is of course in addition to the obvious "inspiration" the writers took from earlier Holmes adaptations (Basil Rathbone movies, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes being the most obvious ones). To me, it just looks like another instance of the writers/producers becoming spin doctors to cover up for their lack of vision for the show and/or the mistakes in their scripting.

      Still, Season 1 was outstanding. If only the writers had the guts (and lack of avarice) to wrap up the show with Season 2...

      Thanks GK for stopping by and the comment.


  2. THANK YOU for this brilliant review. I'm beyond annoyed at how the last two seasons of this show (with the final episode being the worst) have insulted my intelligence as an adult. I'm impressed by great plotting and careful character development, not by razzle-dazzle. In fact, the decline in "Sherlock" began right in Season 2. Irene Adler a sex-bomb, lesbian dominatrix who un-gays for love of Sherlock and who is rescued by him a la Lawrence of Arabia? And it was in season two that the show did the stupidest thing possible: kill off Jim Moriarty. Moffat obviously did this with the plan of moving on to bigger, badder villains, but in canon, the IS NO bigger bad than Moriarty. I'm convinced that they introduced him so early in their show's arc because they weren't sure a modern adaption of Sherlock Holmes would be accepted, so they kitchen-sinked season one. I agree that Andrew Scott's performance is over the top, but he clearly steals the show every time he's on screen. What Moffat SHOULD have done was to keep him alive as an occasionally recurring villain who lurks in the background. Once they discovered how popular Scott is, they tried keeping him in the show, but what we get is a weird hallucination; it isn't Moriarty. It's a case of having your cake and eating it, too. It just doesn't work, and the other villains still remain insignificant.

    Anyway, you nailed the problems with this final episode. It's a hybrid between poorly written detective fiction and even worse science fiction, rife with inconsistencies and plot holes. What a shame that they couldn't have continued to write quality television, the way they did in season one.

    Perhaps aliens from Arcturus invaded the minds of Moffat and Gatiss? It's the only explanation I can come up with.....

    1. Thank You for reading and the kind compliment.

      I think the phenomenal success of S1 emboldened the writers/producers to change the tone of the show to being very melodramatic. Both "A Scandal in Belgravia" and especially "The Reichenbach Fall" were very transparent in their efforts to emotionally manipulate the audience.

      Irene Adler got the worst deal of all the Canonical characters. Her characterization and the damsel-in-distress rescue by Sherlock is nothing short of brazen disrespect for Arthur Conan Doyle and his progressive views way back in 1891.

      As you said, they should have kept Moriarty as a background villain, instead of being directly involved so early in the series. With Moriarty dead in S2, they tries to make Charles Augustus Miverton/Charles Magnussen into a criminal mastermind type villain. And to Lars Mikkelsen's credit, his subtle performance as Magnussen with vast resources and cunning made him more of a believable Moriarty compared to Andrew's constantly gesticulating/shouting out of control Moriarty.

      Even Toby Jones was way better as creepy and often amusing Culverton Smith. Ditto for Sian Brooke as Eurus. She showed so much potential as Eurus in the closing minutes of "The Lying Detective". Of course, in the next episode, she became a cross between the ghostly girl from the Ring and Jigsaw from the Saw movies.

      Just curious, who is your favorite Holmes actor.


  3. Great review. Love your sarcasm. :) And I enjoyed the article you shared too -- all excellent points. My "favorite" was that he couldn't tell there wasn't glass. So, so ridiculous. I never thought that I would wish for this show to end, but at this point I wish it had ended after season 2. The sadness I would have felt over that would've been FAR more preferable to all this stupidity!

    1. Thanks Sarah :)

      I too wish that the show had stopped at S2. And it was extremely bad writing about Sherlock not seeing the absence of glass. My personal highlight was Mycroft's self-satisfied smile after fooling the Sherrinford governor into thinking that it was Sherlock in disguise. That was so out of character given the circumstances in which it was done.

      Such an disappointing end (hopefully) to what was once a very promising show.