Sherlock season 4 is off to a rough start. Is this season compelling or has the sharp detective lost his touch?
Sherlock season 4, episode 1, “The Six Thatchers” is a bait and switch episode. Give Sherlock a mystery and he will solve it with his hands literally behind his back. Yet something, some minor detail, will always get in his way. More often than not, that detail becomes the catalyst for his undoing.
That is, after all, the classic Holmes formula.
Sherlock season 4 set off some alarms in the fandom with the premiere episode. Would John Watson actually do that? What exactly does that post-credits scene mean? And is it possible to actually hate Sherlock for being Sherlock?
Let’s unpack the premiere and look at the darker world it is about to bring upon the crime solving duo.
Spoilers ahead for Sherlock season 4, episode 1, “The Six Thatchers.”
The curious case of Sherlock Holmes
Holmes is not inhuman. He feels love, hatred, jealousy, and understands the basic principals of manipulating each of those emotions. For an episode meant to portray the lighter side of a Sherlock season, “The Six Thatchers” did one bang up job of dismantling all the character work done to Holmes over the last three seasons.
Watching Holmes show off is not a new concept for Sherlock. At John and Mary’s wedding his deductions were rapid, insulting, and yet humorous. He often solves cases in a montage fashion while he awaits bigger game to enter his crosshairs. But even in that moment he is a world away from the petulant child shooting his wall and retreating into his dressing robes.
Sherlock may not see the progression of his life, but he is making extraordinary strides to accommodate other people in his life. He needs cases as much as he needs the familial support of John, Mary, and Mrs. Hudson.
The threat of Moriarty’s return lingered in season 3. Yet he somehow managed to go back to London, find his friends, mend relationships, and keep his head on straight. Why did one soundbite from the past ruin everything?
For someone who does not accept credit, he is certainly looking for adoration from a dead man. The type of validation he seems to require from Moriarty is not only off-putting but makes little to no sense in the narrative.
It is a means to an end to get Mary Watson and A.G.R.A. out of the Moffatt-Gatiss canon. His preoccupation with reducing someone’s worth down to being bored, a quality of life he loathes, ruins the only good thing in his life — his relationship with Mary and John.
Taking everything we know and accept about Holmes as a character into consideration, something felt off about “The Six Thatchers.” Perhaps the culprit in this scenario is the long delay between seasons. However, I believe it boils down to poor characterization and trying to fast-track plot development.
The lack of appreciation for John Watson
Holmes is not the only character I have a bit of a hard time sympathizing with in “The Six Thatchers.” Presenting John Hamish Watson, army vet, doctor, father and adulterer.
Is John under-appreciated? When it comes to an outpouring of affection from his best friend, sure, you could say that. In his home? Well that’s one place where we don’t exactly have access to his daily life with Mary Watson.
I’m not even sure time together without Holmes’ incessant text alerts exists. Mary and John have not had an easy go of things in the past few appearances.
Once Sherlock discovers Mary’s secret identity, the two form a professional bond that John and Sherlock never quite reach. It is one of mutual admiration for a developed skill set that sets them apart from the rest of the world.
John gets the short end of the stick so often that he uses a balloon to replace himself in 221B as a test. Sherlock does not notice until well after midday.
Sherlock even undercuts John’s worth in his texts. If it were up to Sherlock he would probably say “221B now.” In that final text, “Mary says it’s fine,” John is reduced to someone Sherlock must sign out before they can have a play date.
And he certainly feels that way as he tags along for a chase that Mary and Sherlock would have otherwise completed alone.
‘Go to hell, Sherlock’
Is it fair to say John Watson is at fault for cheating? Absolutely. But Mary’s death is not on his hands for being a bad husband. It is also not on Sherlock’s hands for failing to protect Mary in that moment.
If John is mad at Sherlock it is because throwing hatred and anger at his friend is easier than dealing with his own guilt in the matter.
It is truly unfortunate that in order to make the show revolve around the Holmes Watson relationship, one must kill the third party and pit the two against one another.
There is a brief moment where Sherlock and John are talking about arresting a jellyfish before either realizes that their 59 missed calls mean Mary is in labor. In that scene, the Holmes and Watson relationship is fine. What happened in those two months?
So is it baby Rosie’s fault then? As soon as she appears Sherlock loses both John and Mary to sleepless nights. From that moment on, it is all about making a logical choice for the cases. Call Mary or call John? He can only have one. Mary, unfortunately, wins out off screen, making her out to be the obstacle keeping Holmes and Watson from being Holmes and Watson.
As the dust settles around “The Six Thatchers” what are you looking forward to the most in episodes 2 and 3? I personally hope that this does not turn into a show where the two leads sit in therapy and air their grievances.
We see Sherlock making the effort (better late than never) but John is going to be harder nut to crack. It’s not an overnight solution and so I hope this is not a one episode fix.
There are deep wounds left in both John and Sherlock. I hope the series uses some antiseptic that burns, but eventually scabs over and heals.
What did you think of ‘Sherlock’ season 4 premiere?
Sherlock season 4, episode 2, “The Lying Detective,” airs Sunday, January 8 at 9:00 p.m. on BBC One in the U.K. and PBS in the U.S.