Sherlock – Series 4, Episode 1 – “The Six Thatchers” – Of Secrets, Betrayal and a Needless Death

the-six-thatchers

     “Sherlock” is a show I greatly enjoy but have a complicated relationship with at this point, and this episode does a great job capturing everything I like and hate about this show. Oh it is still a favorite, I still like “Doctor Who” for all the crappy stories that have come out of that show (the good still carries) and the same rules apply to “Sherlock,” and as it both so happens both are current Moffat projects and his writing problems become more apparent the longer I’m in both enjoying and critiquing his worlds he is showrunning or involved in.

      “The Six Thatchers” was directed by Rachel Talalay, written by Mark Gatiss and produced by Sue Vertue.

   The story involves Sherlock being pulled from exile to solve the Moriarity hack. Issues soon become more complicated though as Sherlock gets back into being a detective expecting Moriarty’s game to be revealed in time as a destroyed Margaret Thatcher bust ties him into conspiracies tied to Mary, Mycroft and British intelligence as a whole.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The World – The world of “Sherlock” is a fascinating one. You have sociopaths, spies, geniuses, serial killers, governments and countless other players all with agendas and games that it is up for John and Sherlock to solve. It more often than not makes for a fascinating journey.

The Cinematography – The cinematography is beautiful as always and I enjoyed the use of blue to show drowning as that is a major theme of the episode. Our characters are isolated, each in their owns ways and it is in their isolation that the drama plays out.

The Characters – The characters are compelling and usually the best part of the show. All of them are flawed and it makes for good drama.

Greg Lestrade – Lestrade has become a bit of Sherlock fanboy at this point, though I like that he is still a member of the team, even if it just to bring cases and to remind Sherlock at least a little of his humanity. Rupert Graves is fantastic as always.

Vivian – Vivian is the one who is responsible for the death of Mary’s mercenary team and in the process of that one of them blaming Mary. She’s a secretary who is always listening and even outsmarts Mycroft. I have respect for her for that and even though I hate the writing choice, she does kill Mary which is more than any other villain has done up to this point. Marcia Warren does a good job.

Ajay – Ajay was a member of Mary’s mercenary team who blamed her for them all dying. He is a tragic figure as it was him keeping his mouth shut that lead to him being tortured into insanity. I felt bad for the guy as he wasn’t a bad person to begin with, just flawed like Mary.

Mycroft – Mark Gatiss is the best version of this character thus far and it is wonderful seeing him in over his head and his organization being compromised. This was an episode where we see brilliant Mycroft does not know anything and that he was played just as much as everyone else by Vivian’s manipulations.

Mary – Mary being a secret agent was made to finally work in this and it is dealt with in a respectful way, we also see that she is a great mom and a wonderful partner to Sherlock. I could have watched many more episodes of her team ups as even if her relationship with John is falling apart, she keeps Sherlock human in many ways. Her death by Vivian was a tragedy in more ways than one that I don’t know if the show could ever recover from fully. Amanda Abbington in the end made this show better.

John Watson – Martin Freeman is such a charming actor, even though this episode does a lot to show he can be just as awful as Sherlock. We see him cheating on Mary even as he’s doing a great job raising the kid and we see him feeling inadequate to her, which is stupid given he is good at what he does. In the end his arc returns to the stupid status quo it was at the end of last season. John hates Sherlock for not saving Mary. We’ve been here before and I hope Gatiss can write himself out of this hole. He never should have killed her character.

Sherlock – Sherlock is his usual sociopathic self with many more moments of humanity now though…from his conversations with Mary and Lestrade or his awareness when he’s being a jerk. Cumberbatch of course is wonderful in the role and that there isn’t much more I can say on that. The one thing that is different is how the episode was filmed makes Sherlock much more of an alien and isolated…and it works.

The Reveal – The real that Vivian had did everything to cover up her selling state secrets was beautiful. She was humanized even as a villain and in the end it is Sherlock’s stubbornness that helps lead to Mary’s death. The episode is a tragedy and the reveal works towards that.

Okay/Con: John and Sherlock Hating Again – We were here in Series 3 and we’ve been there before even before that. This is a tired trope and it loses power each time it happens. Unless we are doing their own individual stories, we know this isn’t going to last, so it cheapens the drama.

The Cons: The Death of Mary and an Overall Problem – “Sherlock” is not very good in how it handles it’s protagonists who are women. This article goes into a whole of a lot better.( https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2017/01/sherlocks-women/512141/ ) and in the end it serves no purpose but to bring us back to the needless drama of the two. Mary’s death was pointless and she didn’t even get to get her own justice against the one who had wronged her. Mary was a plot device for Sherlock and John’s drama just like Adler was and that is a problem with this show that could be easily fixed by simply writing these protagonists as players rather than pawns of the plot.

     I really like that “Sherlock” is back and I appreciate the fact that it was good rather than sucking like the beginning of Series 3. I don’t know if Moffat and Gatiss’s problem with writing women who can be part of the team or at least not objectified in some way will ever happen, but until it does I will critique it when I see it and enjoy it for the art that does come out of it. Moffat and Gatiss are extremely talented men and I know just how much they are capable of in this show and their other projects like “Doctor Who.”

Final Score: 8.5 / 10

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Sherlock – Special – “The Abominable Bride” – Confusing at Times but a Powerful Message

Sherlock The Abominable Bride

      “The Abominable Bride” is an episode that is a bit unfocused but comes together at the end and never stops being fun. It more than makes up for the end of Season 3 and even the overall message of the internal mystery is powerful too and is timeless, which is something Moffat usually doesn’t cover in his episodes. I’ll get into more of the details later but this episode was a trip (in more than one way) and for non-spoiler thoughts, is well worth checking out.

      The episode was directed by Douglas Mackinnon and written by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss.

Spoilers ahead

       The episode takes place in Victorian England where Sherlock is seeking to solve the case of the Abominable Bride who killed herself but has come back from the dead and is hunted down her husband and other evil men. All is not as it appears to be though as even the story is meta.

The Pros: Cinematography – The cinematography is beautiful per usual, which one thing that has been true of even the weakest episodes of “Sherlock.” There is great use of freezing the frame and using the London fog to cast mystery and shadow and with it an element of horror which lended strength to the narrative both main and meta. Suzie Lavelle did a great job.

Soundtrack – The music continues to be one of the strongest parts of this series and plays into the mystery, horror and self reflection that really defines this episode and the series at it’s best when it is at it’s strongest. David Arnold and Michael Price did a wonderful job.

Dialogue – The dialogue is snappy, sharp and natural and fit the characters beautifully. This was an episode that didn’t drag because the writing kept things moving, especially in how the different characters interacted.

Characters – Characters have always been the strongest part of the show and the Special is a shining example of this. Though there are some glorified cameos I won’t really mention since I don’t really feel the cameos got exploration.

Mary – Mary is fighting for equality in England and she is the one who discovers the organization that created the Abominable Bride. It is wonderful seeing her front and center and I hope she becomes part of John and Sherlock and that they become a trio. Amanda Abbington once again does a fantastic job.

Moriarty – Andrew Scott is back, though it is only in Sherlock’s mind palace as we learn part of his plan was to trap Sherlock inside his head as he really did die and wanted to bring Sherlock down with him, like he did in the story of the Reichenbach Fall. In the end he fails to account for Watson though and it is his downfall as within his mind Sherlock is able to realize that Moriarty is not alive and that all of this was a ploy to trap him so that his final attack on the world could go forward.

Mycroft – Mark Gatiss is my favorite Mycroft and in this we see the tender side of his relationship to Sherlock as he was there to pull Sherlock out of his addiction and cared for him. We also see a fat Mycroft in the past (and how he looks in the stories and novels) which is a treat. He never stops being Mycroft though and we see him team up with Mary to help and protect John and Sherlock. Gatiss truly owns this role and he gets great character development this episode.

Watson – Martin Freeman’s Watson gets some wonderful character development in this as in the past we see that Sherlock uses how Watson sees him in order to solve cases and build himself up and that Watson truly is smart and has learned a lot from Sherlock. He saves Sherlock from his mind Moriarty and helps him wake up as well as solving the Abominable Bride case with him and his wife Mary. He is a great character as always.

Sherlock – Benedict Cumberbatch really owns this role and is a natural Sherlock Holmes. I really liked seeing his Victorian self solving the case and them actually dealing with the dangers of his addiction as it takes him going under to solve the case of the Abominable Bride and realize that Moriarty is dead but he put things in place in case that ever did happen. His arc is learning to accept help and letting go of his addiction to needing a case or drugs to feel alive. It’s very well done and Sherlock actually grows over the course of the episode.

Equality and Justice – The suffragette movement is addressed and the fact that some of them are using the Abominable Bride for justice against evil men. It’s really cool as it uses the sexism of Victorian society to show how far we’ve come and how far there is to go.

Letting Go and No Longer Alone – Sherlock’s arc is letting go of Moriarty in his mind and accepting his death and accepting the love from his friends….that his brother, John and Mary are there for him and that is how he can defeat and has defeated whatever has come his way. No longer the superhuman, he is now human.

Okay/Pro: The Ending – We know now that Moriarty truly is dead but he put something in place for when he does die and now it is up to Sherlock and John to solve it. I liked them talking in the past, it was some of the best John and Sherlock moments…and Sherlock did get some great monologues. I’m doing it as okay since it took Sherlock overdosing to get there.

Okay: The Bride – The organization the Bride is a part of is wonderful, but the bride is a plot device and never fully grows beyond it. She isn’t a bad plot device but a plot device is not a character. Lestrade had the same problem.

Lestrade – Graves does a good job with what he’s given but he’s just kind of there to give Sherlock the plot to solve. I would have liked to see more with him as he’s never given the chance to fully be his own character.

    This was a favorite episode and clearly showed that Gatiss and Moffat are back in their game when it comes to this show. I was disappointed with Series 3, especially in it’s treatment of Mary in the finale and how the kill was handled, as well as the villain being one note…but this got back on track. Sherlock has always been about the characters and this episode showed once more why we keep coming back to this show and what drew us to the stories of Sherlock Holmes in the first place.

Final Score: 9.4 / 10