After a three year hiatus, the 221B Baker Street boys are back in action. The fourth season of Sherlock took a darker turn. Way darker. But instead of the widespread critical acclaim it usually received, season four generated mixed reviews.
The season’s first episode, “The Six Thatchers,” was not received well from viewers. The plot was overcrowded—not only did the episode deal with crime-solving and Mary’s confusing past, it depicted moments between Sherlock and John Watson, John and his wife Mary, Sherlock and John and Mary, Sherlock and John and Mary and their baby Rosie, and suddenly there’s Watson with a random woman he met on the bus. Simply too much was sandwiched into one episode. While Mary’s sudden death at the end of the episode managed to shock the Sherlock fanbase, it was not enough to save the episode from its sheer amount of plot. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle must had been rolling in his grave. Despite the mediocre ratings received from critics, Sherlock returned to UK television on New Year’s Day with a bang: overnight ratings showed that 8.1 million viewers tuned in to watch the anticipated return.
Fortunately, the second episode, “The Lying Detective,” upped the season’s game, and reinvigorated fans into asserting that the long wait for season four was worth it after all. Forget Charles Magnussen from season three. Forget him, the “Napoleon of Blackmail,” who peed into Sherlock’s fireplace. Toby Jones, known for playing Truman Capote in Infamous and voicing Dobby the house-elf in the Harry Potter film series, absolutely slayed his performance as billionaire philanthropist and serial killer, Culverton Smith. Critics praised his powerhouse performance of a stomach-churning villain, and his character certainly brought chills right up people’s spines. Not only that, Mrs. Hudson, played by the 79-year-old Una Stubbs, did some scene-stealing of her own in this second episode. The sweet, elderly landlady usually comes and goes in the background of every episode. However, in this episode, Mrs. Hudson became the polar opposite of her usual self, and fans were not complaining. She loaded Sherlock into the trunk of her red sports car, drove the car at 90 miles per hour, got chased by two police cars AND a helicopter, then sent John Watson’s garbage can flying into the distance as she skidded her car into John’s driveway. Mrs. Hudson’s fanbase exploded overnight. Memes created in her honor went viral, and fans urged the producers to create a spinoff show for her. Ratings for this episode shot up, and viewers obsessed over the insane plot twist at the end of the episode (major spoiler alert: we meet Sherlock’s secret sibling!). Not to mention the hug between Sherlock and John that broke the internet. #Johnlock is real.
Just when we thought everything is rainbows and unicorns from there on, the series finale, “The Final Problem,” shattered that illusion. It created some controversy, and many critics voiced opinions of the episode on complete opposite sides of the spectrum. Like the first episode, the series finale struggled with puzzling plot elements. The entire episode was a convoluted web; it dealt with memories of the Holmes’ childhood, the little girl trapped on a plane, Sherrinford prison, and the interaction between Eurus and the Holmes brothers. The connection between Eurus, Sherlock’s secret sister, and the little girl on the plane was confusing. Although the scene between Sherlock and doctor Molly Hooper was both heart wrenching and intense, the scene merely depicted a female character under the mercy of a man, as Molly was forced to say the words “I love you” to Sherlock. On the bright side, fans were delighted when one of our favorite on-screen villains, Moriarty, finally made his dramatic return, as he swaggered out of a helicopter. Turns out, he’s still dead from the previous season, and the scene of him in the episode was just a flashback. Sad. Sian Brooke, the actress who played Sherlock’s psychotic sister Eurus, received widespread acclaim for her acting chops. Brooke proved to us that she was a chameleon actress who could play a wide range of roles.
Season four focused more on startling plot twists and Sherlock and John’s emotional journey, rather than their usual sleuthing escapades. If this season concludes Sherlock and John’s journey, it certainly failed to uphold the show’s high standards.