Monday, January 9, 2017

BBC Sherlock S4E1 "The Six Thatchers" - Recap and Review

mary watson morstan baby rosamund the six thatchers image picture screensaver wallpaper poster

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

At the end of His Last Vow”, Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) shot Charles Magnussen (Lars Mikkelsen) at point blank range in order to protect Mary Watson (Amanda Abbington). Mycroft Holmes (Mark Gatiss) had arranged for Sherlock to leave the country on a MI6 mission, but the mission lasts only a few minutes thanks to a widely telecast video indicating the return of the allegedly dead criminal mastermind Jim Moriarty (Andrew Scott).

With the help of technical experts, the footage showing Sherlock shooting Magnussen has been doctored to ensure Sherlock's continued free existence. John Watson (Martin Freeman) and Mary soon have a baby daughter, Rosamund Mary.

Sherlock is meanwhile awaiting Moriarty to make his presence known and is looking for patterns in seemingly trivial cases. DI Lestrade (Rupert Graves) and DI Hopkins (Eleanor Matsuura) try to help Sherlock in his quest. In a murder case, Sherlock notices that a bust of the late Margaret Thatcher has been broken to pieces.

Sherlock's instincts are proven right when four more incidents are reported, wherein a bust has been the target. Sherlock comes face-to-face with the criminal when he tries to break the sixth one. He is Ajay (Sacha Dhawan) and used to be on the same special ops team as Mary.

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Ajay believes that Mary betrayed him and three other members (their names are collectively referred to as A.G.R.A) during their last mission together. Readers might remember that, Mary had a flash drive (with the initials A.G.R.A. inscribed on it) containing details about her past life.

Ajay makes his exit and promises to go after Mary, despite Sherlock warning him that Mary is under his protection. Sherlock finds Mary and informs her about Ajay's intentions. Mary drugs him unconscious and flees.

Mary has a set of hiding spots that she chooses with a roll of the dice. She is in Morocco and is confident that she has thrown everyone off her tail. Of course, Sherlock knows where she is and is very much at home welcoming her to her own safe place. He has placed a tracker on Mary. But they are in for a nasty surprise, as Ajay turns up with vengeance in mind. He has been following Sherlock (!).

A shootout ensues and Mary tries to convince Ajay that she is not the traitor. Ajay has heard whispers of an Englishwoman who goes by the codename Ammo” as being responsible for the death of his ex-teammates.

Ajay is killed by the local police before he completes his self-appointed mission. Sherlock figures out that Ammo” is in fact Amo” which means I Love in Latin. This makes Lady Smallwood the primary suspect as her codeword is Love.

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Smallwood however protests her innocence. Sherlock then deduces that it is her secretary, Vivian Norbury (Marcia Warren) who is the mastermind.

Sherlock arranges a meeting with Vivian at the aquarium and also invites Mary, Mycroft, Lestrade among others. He proceeds to insult Vivian who shoots the arrogant detective. Mary jumps in front of Sherlock and takes the bullet.

Neither John's medical knowledge nor anybody else can save Mary from meeting her maker. Mary has left a final note for Sherlock via a DVD. She asks him to take care of John Watson.

This was an uneven episode that was boring at the beginning, picked up steam during the middle and fizzled out in the end.  The only case that Sherlock solved happened within the first 15 minutes and was strangely uninvolving. It was weird to see Sherlock suddenly having premonitions. On top of that, Sherlock solving cases without leaving 221 B Baker Street was a bit like Mycroft Holmes. As Holmes himself said about his elder brother in The Greek Interpreter“If the art of the detective began and ended in reasoning from an armchair, my brother would be the greatest criminal agent that ever lived. But he has no ambition and no energy. He will not even go out of his way to verify his own solutions, and would rather be considered wrong than take the trouble to prove himself right.

The lesser said about the opening scene where Sherlock is briefed by Mycroft, Lady Smallwood and Sir Edwin, the better. Sherlock just acts like a spoilt brat and is a far cry from the man described by Dr Watson in The Final Problem as “the best and the wisest man whom I have ever known. ”

It did not help that the chemistry among the ensemble cast was almost non-existent. In the previous seasons (including the much criticized Season 3), the cast seemed to be having a great time working together. But this time, it is a different story.

sherlock cast season 4 image poster picture wallpaper screensaver

Most of the cast members appear to have lost interest and there is a distinct sense of boredom in the proceedings.This point is best reflected by the non-human member of the cast: Toby. As Holmes himself said about dogs in The Adventure of the Creeping Man“A dog reflects the family life. Whoever saw a frisky dog in a gloomy family, or a sad dog in a happy one?”

Another interesting thing that struck me was the obvious cut in budget. Most of the scenes were clearly shot inside a studio. Compare this with any other episode and readers will appreciate the jarring difference.

Finally, I have to mention the number of shots showcasing bodies of water (aquarium, swimming pool etc.). I am sure there is a good point to all this, but it went right over my head. Perhaps, some reader who has understood this can enlighten me.

The best part of the episode was the standout performance by Amanda Abbington as Mary Watson in Jane Bond mode. She has amazing onscreen presence and it is a pity that her character had to go. Perhaps, Moffat and Gatiss can make a spin-off show based on her adventures. Since the show is called Sherlock”, this level of screen-time allocated to Mary (no matter how good Amanda is in the role) takes away the focus from the titular character and this is never a good idea.

Other performance worth mentioning is by Sacha Dhawan as the vengeful Ajay. He brings equal parts of pathos and determination to his role.

In a scene towards the end, Mycroft Holmes (Mark Gatiss) is seen placing a call to one Sherrinford Holmes. The character of Sherrinford Holmes was not created by Arthur Conan Doyle. William S. Baring-Gould created this character in his fictional biography “Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street”.

benedict cumberbatch sherlock holmes the six thatchers image picture screensaver wallpaper poster

But the most significant aspect of The Six Thatchers is the surprisingly dull performance of Benedict Cumberbatch. For the first time in the show's history, I saw him being bored with the role.

Personally speaking, Cumberbatch has been the # 1 reason for me enjoying the show so much. While the BBC version is quite different from the Canonical Holmes, still I like it for the sheer passion and dedication the actor brings to the table every time he is onscreen.

When a show's lead actor becomes tired of the character, it is not a good omen. We have to wait and see if Cumberbatch regains his enthusiasm failing which it would be best that the show wraps up with the third episode The Final Problem.

Click here to read all the Canonical references in the episode.  Click here to read all my posts about BBC Sherlock.

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Image Sources: Hartswood Films, BBC Wales, Masterpiece theater

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  1. I agree with much of this and the fact the shows now seem to think they don't even need a central mystery anymore means this is Sherlock Holmes in (half) name only. The Lying Detective is better but this is still a show way past its best.

    1. A very sad development for a show that started with so much promise in the first season. I think Gatiss and Moffat let the show's success with a very specific section of the audience go to their head.

      Gatiss once said that this is a show about a detective and not a detective show. Recently, he penned a verse as a reply to a Guardian critic who wrote that Sherlock is changing to a Bond with this episode.

      I can only hope that they end the show before they further damage their brand/reputation.