This review contains spoilers.
The latest episode of BBC One’s Sherlock may well be it’s last. Much like Arthur Conan Doyle’s attempt to finish his series of novels, it’s entitled The Final Problem – and it’s a finale which honestly couldn’t have come soon enough. A series which, from this reviewer, would once upon a time have received five stars for each and every episode has dramatically fallen from grace. Sherlock’s tumble off of St. Bart’s Hospital back in 2012 is starting to feel representative of the downward dive of the quality of the show from that moment onwards.
It’s not the acting – the performances from the cast in The Final Problem were as impressive as always. It’s not the cinematography or the editing either – the set design for the asylum Eurus has lived in since childhood is fantastic, a chilling maze of stoney grey walls, claustrophobic and suffocating. It’s the plot. The storyline has become ridiculous. It’s clear how much love goes into the production of this show, from every member of the cast and crew, but a flat screenplay is a flat screenplay. Managing to be simultaneously confusing and predictable, moving yet laughably cliched, nobody could possibly have saved this episode from itself.
From the extended metaphor with the girl on the plane, to the big reveal about Sherlock’s childhood pet Redbeard, to Eurus’ apparently supernatural mind control abilities, the episode feels like a cheap trick. In one of the opening scenes, a bomb is deployed in 221b – Sherlock and John are forced to leap out of the front windows and down onto the street below, a two story drop, to avoid being blown apart. They may have narrowly escaped death, but serious injury feels inevitable – except, nope, we see them minutes later without a scratch. I guess Sherlock with a broken leg and thus impaired mobility might also be a weight on the plot, but come on.
Other plot holes include: how Eurus and Moriarty orchestrated the events of the entire episode with only five minutes in one another’s company, how she repeatedly broke out of a top security facility for the criminally insane without someone somewhere down the line noticing, and how the best consulting detective in London, a character whose key trait is that he notices anything and everything, managed to not clock that an entire wall of glass was missing.
The show has trapezed from heightened realism, plotlines fantastical but ultimately feasible, into what feels like a poorly written fanfiction. The Final Problem is like a censored edition of the Saw franchise-cum-trolley problem meme. As Sherlock, John, and Mycroft wander around Sherrinford, seemingly helpless to do anything but take part in Eurus’ sadistic Jigsaw-esque puzzles, it’s all too easy to guess what the outcome of each will be. No one can bring themselves to shoot the Governor to save his wife, so he ends up taking his own life – only for Eurus to murder the widow regardless. In the trial of the three brothers, no one can even feign surprise as she drops the two innocents to their death and, briefly, spares the guilty. When the she attempts to goad Sherlock into killing one of his companions, it is obvious from the get go that he will turn the gun on himself before hurting one of the two people he loves the most.
Still, there are some moments which shine out separate from the rest. Sherlock being forced to bait Molly into telling him she loves him by lying to her is heartbreaking. The poor girl’s relentless one sided crush on Sherlock has always felt like the series at it’s most human. Everyone has known – or been – someone like Molly, hopelessly moony eyed over someone who at best will never reciprocate, and at worse is actively unpleasant to her. The guilt in Sherlock’s eyes as the call ends is devastating. He’s hurt Molly so many times, and just had his hand forced into doing it again. It’s unknown quite what this means for their friendship after the credits roll, but a cringeworthy montage at the end of the episode briefly shows our favourite mortified mortician show up on the reconstructed doorstep of 221b, so it appears it’ll just be more water under the bridge.
Ah yes. The montage. After Eurus gets over not being hugged enough as a child and makes a safe return to Sherrinford, John gets a DVD through the door. It’s another posthumous message from Mary, where she assures her “Baker street boys” that they are the dead centre of the universe, while clips play of them back hard at work solving apparently inexplicable mysteries. It rounds off the series with absolutely no finesse, no subtlety. It feels like a scene which would be more at home on a cheesier, more lighthearted show. It’s a very un-Sherlock way to tug at the heartstrings, and it sticks out like a sore thumb.
It’s a disappointing end to a disappointing series. Sherlock always used to feel like a show that’d go out with an explosive bang, but this feels more like a caveman rubbing rain-dampened sticks together, failing to generate even a spark.