Imagining himself back in the 1890s, Sherlock is visited by Inspector Lestrade after newlywed Emelia Ricoletti, having apparently killed herself in public, murders her husband Thomas in front of witnesses before vanishing. Some months later Holmes is approached by Lady Carmichael, who tells him that her husband Sir Eustace has been threatened by Emelia, who then seemingly does away with him. With an intrusive Moriarty crossing him, Holmes attempts to solve the enigma, with unexpected help from Watson's wife Mary and evidence of a conspiracy involving half the population of the country.Written by
don @ minifie-1
S4.0: Reasonably enjoyable even if indulgent, messy, and felt like getting the star names together was more important than the viewer's experience
Season 3 of this show already saw it confirmed as 'event television', and there is a greater feeling of that with this first episode to what IMDb calls 'season 4'; although it has been a year and a half since the last 'season' ended, and will reportedly be that again before we see another episode. I remember feeling that season 3 was a bit too pleased with itself for my tastes, and this is magnified here, where lots of increasingly famous and successful people are crowbarred into place to deliver this episode – and to be fair it must have taken a huge amount of schedule balancing to make it happen, so credit for that.
I guess there was also the risk that this amount of effort, and the fact that the stars no longer really 'need' Sherlock as a vehicle, means that there is a feeling of them doing the viewer a favor. As part of this as well, it must be tough for the writers, as they are trying to write an ongoing story without knowing when/if they will get the next episode. There is a sense of both these things with this episode, which occur in the few minutes that the plane takes to turn around and land so that the banished Sherlock can deal with the apparent return of Moriarty. In the jump back in time, we enter Sherlock's mind as he tries to solve a similar mystery he read about. This jump back in time allows the writers to not have to worry too much about where/how to advance the Moriarty plot, while at the same time appearing to advance it. It also gives them a chance for a bit of fun away from the modern settings.
And it is fun, in a way, although it is also heavy with flaws and weakness. The time-hopping doesn't help the actual mystery which is the focus of most of the time, nor does it really fit in the modern setting either. This sense of it not really working, and not really doing much for the viewer also means that, while it is funny and entertaining, it does feel like it is overly pleased with itself at the same time. That sense of indulgence and knowing it is a big deal does come through – not heavily perhaps, but I did find it hard to shake. It is all still an expensive and impressive production technically, but it is messy and the fun elements come almost by force of personality rather than wholly by design.
Sherlock is such a hot property for the BBC, and with the effort it must take to even get one episode made, you can see why they are happy with whatever. However, with this so-so episode coming on top of the equally below-expectations season 3, it does make you wonder realistically what the plans are for this. Hopefully they can work it out for a decent handful of episodes to be completed as part of bringing the series to a close in a meaningful way rather than limping ahead like rock stars playing half-assed gigs in small venues so they can 'keep in touch with their roots'.
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