CYNICISM AT THE CINEMA: Lack of originality in season’s opening episode of ‘Sherlock’ proves the real mystery

(Photo used by permission of Creative Commons)
John Watson (Martin Freeman) and Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) in front of their apartment at 221B Baker Street.

Movie aficionado sophomore Chardonnay Needler reviews films biweekly in “Cynicism at the Cinema.” Needler will review each of  the three episodes in season 4 of “Sherlock.” Check back for the second episode.

Coming into this season of “Sherlock,” I had very high hopes.

“Sherlock” is a BBC teledrama that features Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as the 21st-century versions of the famous detective Sherlock Holmes and his counterpart John Watson.

This year was its fourth, and potentially final, season.

Interviews with Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss (the show’s producers) revealed that they were planning something incredibly dark; a main character’s death was repeatedly referenced.

So the stage seemed set for another clever and heart-wrenching season.

And the opening moments from “The Six Thatchers,” the first episode in the season, were in classic Sherlockian fashion: an old fable about death in a marketplace plus mysterious cinematography and – sharks?!


But it didn’t stay like that for long.

Things quickly went downhill.

First, there wasn’t really much of a mystery for Holmes and his sidekick Watson to solve; the accidental murder that kicks off the theme for the episode was just part of a convoluted attempt to warn Mary (Amanda Abbington), Watson’s spouse, of her impending doom.

Moreover, they underdeveloped her, the Watsons’ marital life, her very unmemorable newborn child (what’s her name, again?) and everything revolving around that weak aspect of the show.

And after that they decided to do an entire episode on her.

Then came something that would be one of the series’s many (and consistent) flaws: unwarranted and under-clarified flashbacks.

In the first episode there was a scattered series of flashbacks explaining Mary’s involvement in a government operation in Morocco that accidentally killed hundreds of people, including all but one of her fellow operatives.

Oh, great. The stereotypical “ex-friend is left in the dust and seeks revenge” scenario.

But in an even cruder, more Hollywood action-movie fashion, that ex-colleague is killed just seconds before his attempt at Mary’s life, leaving the 30-40 minutes spent sculpting this mediocre plot as nothing but a tangent.

No deductions, no Holmes and Watson off to solve the case. Just confusing stories around Mary’s character, who plays a more major role this episode and who seems to me to be more clever and entertaining than the actual main characters, especially the returning ones at Scotland Yard.

Just as in series three, episode one became the Mary show. And, just as in series three, issues that had already been brought up were still unresolved.

But the worst was yet to come.

If you are a spoiler-phobe, consider this to be your broken bust of Margaret Thatcher, your warning.

I knew Mary was going to die this series, and I had even predicted how exactly they were going to kill her off.

Now either I should become a screenwriter or Moffat’s running out of ideas because they killed Mary off in the exact fashion that I had guessed: after someone shot at Sherlock, she jumped in front of him to take the bullet.

I’m all for being right, but with a show like “Sherlock,” where these original ideas and cop-outs continue to surprise me, being right is a bit of a letdown.

Also, if you couldn’t tell, I am not a huge Mary fan; I didn’t like her from the start.

But if I were a fan of hers, I might be even more outraged at the tremendous disservice they did to her character in killing her off in a boring and predictable fashion that makes her character develop in a stereotypical, Bechdel-test-failing way.

That, partnered with how they dedicated an entire episode to her as a type of swansong (which goes directly against what her character says), was irritating, to say the least.

But I kept my hopes up and waited another week for the second episode.

A boardroom confession with actor Toby Jones playing a sickening creep? Now the show’s back!

By Chardonnay Needler

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