The Sherlock Series 4 Premiere is a Thrilling, Gutting Return to Baker Street

Photo Courtesy of PBS

Sherlock Series 4 Premiere, ‘The Six Thatchers’ Plot Summary:

Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch) quickly solves the mysterious death of a rich couple’s son, but notices a bigger pattern which could be the work of his arch nemesis, the now-deceased Moriarity. The only clue is a smashed bust of Margaret Thatcher — a pattern that ends up happening at various locations throughout London. He soon learns this statue smashing has international implications and way harm the people he loves.

SPOILERS AHEAD

Sherlock is a series that people absolutely adore, and absolutely give a pass too.

The series’ third season was a really messy, convoluted amalgam of episodes that benefitted from a really thrilling finale, and of course the dynamite chemistry between the two leading actors.  People tend to forget that the third season really didn’t click.

Then there was the Christmas special, which was extremely creative and entertaining, but didn’t really do much outside of satiate the appetites of fans ravenous for more adventures from Baker Street.

So, the fourth series premiere needed to do two things — it needed to present a “classic” Sherlock-style episode that deftly wove humor, suspense, and intrigue into one verbose and visually dazzling package, and most importantly, it needed to show an emotional evolution in the Sherlock character.

Both of these benchmarks were achieved brilliantly.

This episode was a huge step forward for the series as it was both a “classic” Sherlock-style episode, but also a highly emotional episode. It showed us a new side of both John Watson (one we didn’t like) and a new side of Sherlock (one we really can get behind). It’s definitely a bit of a rubbing off onto each other, and it’s done in ways both subtle and grand…classic Sherlock.

Cumberbatch is brilliant as always in the titular role. However, the call to expose Sherlock’s emotions, particularly his fierce love and loyalty to the entire Watson family, called for more than just his trademark motor-mouthing. There was a mother bear-like ferocity and passion behind Cumberbatch’s performance, and when the series called for Sherlock to shatter into a million pieces, the actor knocked it out of the park.

Then came the scene. SPOILER REMINDER. The decision to kill off Mary was not only shocking, but absolutely gutting. While she hasn’t been a Day One regular, she’s been an intrinsic part of the series since Series 3. The episode foreshadowed this perfectly with Sherlock’s narration of a classic folktale about outrunning death. Of course no one saw this as the foreshadowing of Mary’s death, but rather that of Moriarity or even Sherlock himself. Seeing Mary take the bullet the way she did, and then her finale speech to Watson was heartbreaking. It was a bold move by the series, and it really sets a new tone for the show, and a new dynamic for our heroes.

Like any good Sherlock episode, there’s a self-contained story, and an over-arching “big bad” plot line. However, this may be Sherlock’s best “big bad arc” because we really don’t know who this villain is. Is it Moriarity’s posthumous plot to destroy Holmes, or is it someone new and even more evil pulling the strings (we’re looking at you Toby Jones and your yet-to-be-identified character)? Either way, this new villain, whomever they may be, is super intriguing.

If the last season or so of Sherlock has disappointed you, this is the salvation you’ve been looking for.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Bill Bodkin is the gray bearded owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, he is lucky husband, and proud father to a beautiful daughter named Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site’s podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites