Here we are at last: the Final Problem, and (how I hate these words) quite possibly the last episode of SHERLOCK ever. So, did it live up to expectations? Was it everything we wanted from a Sherlock finale?
I think the answer to that can be found in defining the Final Problem. For the longest time, we thought it was Jim Moriarty versus Sherlock Holmes and who could ultimately outwit the other. In reality, it’s Sherlock’s intellect versus his heart. So, which one wins?
While I did really enjoy this episode, I think the problem lies in that it’s essentially a retread of “A Scandal in Belgravia.” Arguably the show’s best episode, it, too, shows a woman using Sherlock’s emotions to manipulate him and drive his intellect to the sharpest – and most destructive – it’s ever been. And, of course, Sherlock’s heart won in the end – though Irene Adler was meant to die, Sherlock saved her, with no other motivation other than sentiment.
Season 3 and, more effectively, Season 4 showed Sherlock becoming more human; it reaches its culmination in this episode, where Sherlock is forced to face the childhood memories that traumatized him and made him the isolated and supposedly heartless man he used to be. While well done, it’s not a surprise, considering the emotional growth Sherlock has shown up to this point, and I think that’s one of the (few) points where “The Final Problem” falls short.
After the opening teaser, we enter in on Mycroft watching a film in, apparently, his private theater. The film suddenly cuts to home videos of a younger (and overweight) Mycroft, a young Sherlock, and a little girl standing with them. A voice whispering from above rattles him, sending him out into the dark hallway. He comes face to face with a faceless doll and a clown that stalks him, grinning. Mycroft draws his sword from inside his cane (yes! I knew Mark Gatiss always wanted Mycroft to have gadgets inside his umbrella/cane, and he finally got his wish!), and produces a gun from inside that. But then the lights turn on – it’s Sherlock and John, who have hired these actors, and set this whole funhouse up, because they want answers.
It’s a bizarre moment, and would come across as silly in a lesser production, but great directing on Ben Caron’s part makes the whole interplay in the dark house very creepy, and the reveal quite humorous. Now it’s off on our journey to Sherrinford – not the Holmes brother we were expecting, but the island prison where Eurus is kept locked away.
Sherlock meeting Eurus is a beautifully done scene. I had missed the use of Sherlock’s violin in the show, as it’s always been a key part of his character and adds so much to the soundtrack. It turns out Eurus plays, too – in fact, she taught him to play – and she plays as she stands with her back to him, locked away behind glass.
The violin music has always been used to show Sherlock’s emotions – when he composed a haunting melody when mourning for Irene Adler, and when he composed a beautiful waltz for John and Mary’s wedding. Eurus uses music differently – like her Greek name, she is similar to another creature in Greek mythology: a siren.
Eurus is shown to be able to control people – at first entranced by her intelligence and then held hostage by her psychological manipulations, they perform her bidding, whether that’s allowing her in and out of Sherrinford whenever she pleases, sexual trysts, and even murder. Like the sirens in the Odyssey, she uses the violin music to draw Sherlock closer to the glass, until finally he discovers, in the best visual reveal of the episode, the truth – that there is no glass. Eurus is in control.
The rest of the episode is a game set by Eurus to shake Sherlock to his very core, as he is forced to watch the deaths of innocent people, to say an “I love you” that he had never realized before was true, and to choose between the lives of John and Mycroft. Sian Brooke does a remarkable job of playing the unhinged psychopath that is Eurus Holmes, and Benedict Cumberbatch does a brilliant job of displaying Sherlock’s harried emotions and frantic intellect at war. It’s just a pity that all the challenges that Eurus sets forth for Sherlock to solve really don’t matter in the end – it’s all just leading up to the final reveal. Eurus did kill Redbeard, but Redbeard was never a dog; “Redbeard” was the nickname for Sherlock’s childhood best friend. Overcome with jealousy, Eurus killed him, traumatizing Sherlock and making him into what he was – the cold, heartless machine – before John came into his life, and, along with Mrs. Hudson, Molly, Lestrade, and even Mycroft, changed him for the better.
As ever, Sherlock is well directed, well written, and well acted – it just trips itself up on its own themes, focusing more on the characters it’s created than the stories it’s trying to tell. If there is a Season 5, I hope there are more mysteries that don’t have to do with Sherlock’s past – it’s more enjoyable to have mysteries simply for the sake of solving them, and works much better within the show.
It’s sad to note that this episode felt incredibly, well, final. So many things come full circle: the solution of the Final Problem, Lestrade at last pronouncing Sherlock a “good man” – even Sherlock finally achieving his childhood dream of becoming a pirate. As Mary’s final message plays out, we see Sherlock and John reconstructing 221B, the characters and friends we’ve come to love walking in through the door, and Sherlock playing a violin duet with Eurus at Sherrinford. It’s sad, and moving. Every other season finale has ended on a cliffhanger, with the promise of more thrills and insanity to come. This one feels like a door closing for the last time.
This show has been on since 2010, and, even with some stumbles along the way, it’s some of the best television ever made. Its brilliance is the reason I became a screenwriter. Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss haven’t said definitively whether this is the last season, but if so, I’m going to miss it terribly. For all Sherlockians who have been on this wild ride since the beginning, 221B will always be there in our minds, and for us “it is always 1895″…or should I say, 2010.
Season 4, Episode 3 (S04E03)
Sherlock airs Sundays at 7PM on PBS
Cailin is a screenwriter and an aspiring TV writer. When not writing, she’s busy convincing random passersby that Firefly was the best show ever, converting her co-workers into Whovians, and waiting for the next season of Sherlock.
Follow Cailin on Twitter: @sherlocked1058
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Cailin Coane | Contributor