Oh, my word, I have missed this show.
SHERLOCK is a phenomenal feat of television: the writing, acting, directing, editing – all of it distinctly its own, with a unique style and atmosphere that hasn’t been produced in any other show. It’s just that good.
Having said that – while Seasons 1 and 2 blew me away with their incredible craftsmanship, Season 3 wasn’t quite on par with the rest. It was still good – even Sherlock at its worst is a solid B or B+ in my book – but at points it felt like the show had lost its way, getting wrapped up inside its own “mind palace” antics and forgetting about the actual mysteries we were there to see.
So, I was understandably a little nervous about heading into Season 4. Would show runners Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss learn from their mistakes in Season 3? After a three-year gap between seasons, I have to say – Sherlock is back to being the show we loved in Seasons 1 and 2. What a fantastic way to start 2017!
The episode essentially starts off with the show backtracking what it established at the end of Season 3 – with some clever editing of security footage, Sherlock is absolved of the murder of Charles Augustus Magnussen. I’m perfectly fine with this development – in fact, I think it’s a good idea. I never understood why we were supposed to be so shocked that Sherlock would murder someone, especially if they were threatening someone he cared about – John murdered someone in the very first episode of the show, and, out of the two of them, he’s supposed to be the one with a conscience.
Sherlock is still driven by his obsession with Moriarty and his possible return, making him turn all his energy into manically solving case after case. We get a montage similar to that of “A Scandal in Belgravia” where Sherlock sees client after client, solving cases left and right. It was at this moment that I knew Sherlock was back to being the show we all love. With all its great one-liners and humor, all its outstanding characters and relationships that are wonderful to watch develop, Sherlock is nothing without its core – the mysteries. And we got a fascinating one right off the bat! Sherlock solves the Case of the Ghost Driver with some accompanying disturbing imagery – I’ll never look at those fake seats the same way again – but then almost immediately moves on to the next case: who is smashing all the plaster busts of Margaret Thatcher in London, and why?
I have to give kudos to the director of this episode, Rachel Talalay (the first female director on Sherlock!), also known for her work on Doctor Who, Supernatural, and all four of The CW’s DC shows. The directing choices are so well made, the cinematography is beautiful as always, and having scenes transition through visuals such as smashing plaster and rolling dice adds such style and elegance to every frame. I hope she returns for Season 5!
What’s also interesting is the domestic drama occurring in the midst of Sherlock’s mystery-solving frenzy. In a tragic turn, the cracks are beginning to show in the Watsons’ relationship as they welcome a baby, Rosie, into their life. It’s in little things, like not being able to agree on the baby’s name, that show the strain, and it’s a shame, especially considering how much John and Mary went through in Season 3 alone to stay together. John’s also feeling a bit inadequate, shown through the “John substitute” (a balloon with a face drawn on it tied to a book) John leaves in his chair while Sherlock is interrogating a client, made to show Sherlock he feels he has nothing left to contribute to solving cases, or really much of anything.
Which leads to an incredibly stupid mistake on John’s part, but we’ll talk about that later.
Mary’s secret past comes knocking, and it’s nothing good – apparently she was one in a team of four assassins, AGRA, and one of them has come seeking revenge in his belief that she betrayed them in their final mission. This sends Mary on a globe-trotting quest to make sure John and Rosie are out of harm’s way. Amanda Abbington’s acting is wonderful in this sequence; I especially loved her going undercover as an American tourist, which was hilarious.
Sherlock eventually convinces Mary to come back to London, as he is himself convinced he can protect her there. It turns out to be his worst mistake – Mary is shot down and killed by Amo, the real traitor of AGRA.
This choice floored me – I had had my suspicions that they might kill her off this season, but the first episode? If this is only the beginning, I can’t imagine what heartbreak the rest of the season holds!
Mary was a fun, intelligent, witty character that Amanda Abbington played to perfection, and I’ll miss her terribly. Then again, this is Sherlock, so they may yet find a way to bring her back. I only hope she never finds out about John’s affair. Yes, that was his stupid mistake – and she died never knowing what he’d done.
I suppose it was inevitable, given John’s reputation for being a bit of a ladies’ man, but that doesn’t make it any less horrible. Martin Freeman also did a fantastic job playing out John’s guilt and grief at Mary’s death. Seeing that rage and self-loathing come out, we can only hope Sherlock can take on Mary’s final request of him: save John Watson.
Season 4, Episode 1 (S04E01)
Sherlock airs Sundays at 9PM 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