Sherlock, S4 Ep2 – The Lying Detective

The Lying Detective was Sherlock somehow back in his element after the tragic ending of the first episode of the series. There was a thrilling case, Sherlock running around making deductions, John joining him in the game, and even Mrs. Hudson in a sports car. But nevertheless, a shadow continued to hang over the characters as they grieved the death of Mary Watson.

And it’s pretty much confirmed now that she’s dead. I cherished the hope for a moment that she had faked her death but when it turned out she was just a figment of John’s imagination, the event had a painful finality for me. Watching John struggle to come to terms with the loss was equally excruciating, as he continued to converse with her as the voice in his head and as he staunchly refused to see Sherlock Holmes.

But these two can never be apart for too long, and pretty soon, Mrs. Hudson drives by John’s therapist’s address, with a drug-addled Sherlock in the boot of her car. She pushes them together and off they go, working on another case just like the good old days.

Sherlock spends most of the episode in a drug-addled haze, which gave the episode a frenetic energy. The first half hour moved at such a frantic pace, apparently to give the audience a sense of the detective’s manic frame of mind. While effective to a certain extent, and an opportunity for the Sherlock team to showcase their talents with stage direction and special effects, most of these trappings distracted from the substance of the story. There were too many things flashing around, so it was difficult for us to focus and appreciate the show like we used to do. I know that this was supposed to be a glimpse of Sherlock’s own state of confusion, but it really doesn’t help that we were confused too.

One intriguing aspect this approach offered was the idea that Sherlock was an unreliable narrator. I pointed out in last week’s review that this series seems to be shown more from his point of view than John’s, as was the case with the previous series. And the trend continues here. There was an enjoyable bit of Benedict Cumberbatch showing off his Shakespearea chops (nice timing considering he appeared as Richard III in last year’s The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses.)

We also got to see more of Mary’s farewell video and the proper context for her telling Sherlock to “go to hell.” The people who love John the most know him so well as to be able to predict him accurately. (Though I was still disappointed that he admitted that he had cheated on Mary, albeit in secret texts with the random lady on the bus. More on her later.)

As the Guardian reviewer pointed out, Culverton Smith’s case had some chilling real-life parallels to the Jimmy Savile case. Both were dangerous men who used their wealth and influence to get away with heinous crimes. Culverton was a serial killer with a weird tendency of regularly confessing his crimes to people under the influence of an amnesia-inducing drug. This aspect of the character felt too far-fetched.

But Toby Jones was fantastic, as expected of an actor of his caliber. He played the character with both charisma and menace, but in the end his villainy and his case were not as complex as they were hyped to be and it all turned out to be an elaborate ruse to lure John into saving Sherlock’s life. (On a side note, if you’re a fan of Toby Jones, I would recommend another crime drama he starred in recently, BBC’s adaptation of Agatha Christie’s The Witness for the Prosecution. He has more to do and gives a moving, nuanced performance.)

The episode was strongest when it calmed down and focused on the character dynamics established over the years. John’s angry beating of Sherlock was painful and moving. as was the tearful hug they shared at the end of the episode. This series is really illustrating Sherlock’s character growth and ongoing “humanization.” He’s becoming more sympathetic and it’s not as out of character. The way he went out for chips with the suicidal client was something we never would have seen with series one Sherlock. He’s come a long way and it’s heartening to witness it. And which is why it will be all the more heartbreaking when next week’s finale rolls by.

Because now we need to talk about that huge twist at the end. John’s new therapist reveals herself as Euros Holmes, and this development provides solutions to several of the show’s ongoing mysteries: the identity/whereabouts of the third Holmes sibling, the “East Wind” Mycroft was warning Sherlock about, and possibly even Moriarty’s posthumous plans. Everything is tied to Euros Holmes, she the greatest adversary Sherlock will ever have to face.

Some aspects of the huge reveal were not as shocking as they could have been. Earlier in the episode I noticed a resemblance between the woman posing to be Faith Smith and John’s therapist. And I was sure that the woman on the bus from last week would not be a random stranger. Granted, the resemblance would have been lost on the hallucinating Sherlock and considering Euros is a Holmes, she would easily be able to trick her own brilliant brother.

But since Steven Moffat wrote this episode, I can’t help but compare this “twist” to one he pulled off for Doctor Who, when Missy was revealed to be the newest regeneration of the Master. So this is not that groundbreaking as a twist and a part of me feels it’s Moffat’s attempt to address the criticisms of his writing of female characters. We still don’t know much about Euros and I’m still intrigued by her so I’ll give the writing the benefit of the doubt. But the memory of the Missy twist still bothers me a bit.

Nevertheless, the second episode of this season was an improvement on the first, with powerful character moments, a well-acted villain, and a proper return to case-solving. So many elements have been set up for a truly thrilling series finale and it looks like Sherlock is going to end on a bang (literally and figuratively):

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