Friday, January 20, 2017

Sherlock - Series 4

Spoiler-free.

The dynamic duo, Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, and the notorious duo Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss are back for a fourth and possibly final season. After being an adoring and happy fan of the series for a few lovely years, I gave favorable reviews to the third season in 2014, but lost my obsession. Two more years brought actual disappointment with a gimmicky and unmemorable Christmas special. Now another year has passed, and, a fourth season. This I went into willing, but not determined, to enjoy. And these are my resulting impressions:

This is the season cast? Lestrade barely got a cameo and Molly was a puppet. I miss Lestrade...

The Six Thatchers: Not a great start. What I wanted more than anything was to see the boys get back to their regular crime-solving ways; which they did, and which was portrayed on screen via screen text and montage giving us glimpses of wacky and intriguing cases, but never giving us enough information to actually understand what happened, or how it was solved. Things looked up as Sherlock takes up investigating a body found in an exploded car that had no right being there. This is the stuff I love and for a few minutes I felt the thrill that the first two seasons had in excess. Then Sherlock is distracted by the Six Thatchers case, and that turns promptly into drama for the rest of the episode.

The episode ends up having a ton of reveals, but none that satisfy the curiosity we had. It's less, "Oh that makes sense now!" and more, "Oh they tricked me." It's cheap misdirection instead of taking great pains to set up a hard problem with a clever solution and include enough clues to solve it. The villain was revealed out of nowhere, and then the necessary was done. Because it was necessary. But everything felt wrong; the whole episode felt like it was plodding through the motions, yet if it had actually been going through the motions, rehashing the formula, I probably would've enjoyed it more.

Three guesses as to who's gotten in the way of Sherlock's crime-solving. Hint: It's not the baby.

The Lying Detective: I had more hope for this episode, thinking that after the last one, the Case of the Week formula would be picked back up. Happily, I was right, mostly. This episode featured Toby Jones as a chilling villain who comes up against a washed-up Sherlock, who throws himself recklessly into the case. This one hit all the checkpoints; observations and deductions, Sherlock being an amusing sociopath, (on that note I loved Cumberbatch's performance in this ep, and the wide range of Sherlock's complexities displayed) and reveals that, if not as cleverly projected as the best have been, were also not insultingly impossible.

Actually, this episode had a truly great reveal at its end. Disguises so rarely work on me in shows and films, but this one I bought from the start and never questioned. It was all out in the open, undeniably possible to notice, yet I never did. Well done indeed. This episode even managed to pack a heftier emotional punch than the previous, simply because the drama and emotions were contained to their proper place as an enhancer of the plot instead of its driving force. It was used to increase urgency and reward in the end, and was welcome.

The Lying Detective was written by Moffat. The first ep was writ by Gatiss and the last was a combined effort. By that evidence it is clear that this isn't all Moffat's fault.

The Final Problem: Technically, I would say this episode is better than the first of the season, but personally it offended me so much more. It ignored established aspects of characters for the sake of The Mighty Moffat Twist; it established facts only to turn around and throw them in our faces later, and it put its characters through so much far-fetched mental torture in completely strange and unexplained ways and locations, that it all felt like fanfiction with a genre twist of demented sci-fi horror.

At this point it's not inaccurate to call it fanfiction, actually. Yes, Moffat and Gatiss created this show, but it was based on an existing character and existing stories. They were adapting; great, clever adapting too, with all those little twists and nods so well-calculated and fit into the plot. But the Sherlock stories have now veered away from the original Sherlock Holmes into this ignorantly pompous fabricated soap opera. It's their right as show-runners and writers, but this is not what I'm here for. I'm here for Sherlock Holmes; deductions, crime-solving, stunning intellect; fun! This episode was not fun. It was manipulative, brazen and haughty, smugly feeding its starved audience spam that's been grilled up like a steak, and basking in the contrived glory of how smart it is.

This show is in danger of having created some seriously sad irony with the episode title choice here. It could be the Last Mistake the show makes.

Maybe this will be the end of Sherlock. They end the season without the typical cliffhanger to torture fans with for the next few years (in case it's not renewed I guess) and scraped together some kind of open-ended resolution, but loose ends and plot holes abound. So little was actually wrapped up. What a mess. I feel as though I've been insulted for my loyalty. I was never unconditionally loyal to the show, only to the aspects of it that I loved and thought were good, but I have been more forgiving. Now the infractions are intentional and impossible to ignore, and I'm done picking through grimy rubble to enjoy what I can. There's barely anything left to be loyal to. The spell is broken. Goodnight, Sherlock Holmes.

8 comments:

  1. Oh my God! This is so accurate and true. I'm tired of my intelligence being insulted in such a way. It was not worth the wait, it was not worth watching everything that was before this disastrous season only for it to come to such a ridiculous ending.

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    1. I feel you. It seems like almost a total waste at this point! I hope I can forget this season and occasionally still enjoy seasons one and two. Thanks for reading!

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  2. I've never been a fan of Sherlock, finding it all too smug & self-important. I'm more Elementary: a series that has good character development and crimes, if in a CBS format.

    The reaction for Series/Season 4 has been almost uniformly negative & hostile, and I think it is due to how often Moffat/Gatiss were praised for weak, even nonsensical stories both w/Sherlock & Doctor Who.

    Now, the fans/critics have found that Moffat/Gatiss have gone so overboard that the jig is up & they aren't getting a pass. What was once considered 'brilliant' is now seen as convoluted & self-indulgent.

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    1. It has always been pretty smug hasn't it? I did love the first two seasons even so... it's high opinion of itself was more justified then. I wound up getting tired of Elementary because of the CBS crime format.

      Yeah, after they ruined Doctor Who so terribly, I think I became more wary of their writing in general and not blindly accepting of everything they do. I'm guilty of having given them passes on plot holes in the past just because the shows were fun, but they took advantage of that and took it way too far!

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  3. Your review is not the only negative one I´ve read, in fact, I´ve read by far more outraged reviews of this Sherlock series than positive ones. Which makes me feel rather relieved I gave up on it after season 3 tbh ;-)

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    1. Yeah, I've seen a lot of negative reactions too, but really, considering how bad it is, I'm more surprised at people who still adore it! You did good -- at this point I wish I'd quit after season 2.

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  4. I love Sherlock, and Martin Freeman and Benedict are awesome. But this season was just.... There was less of everything I loved about the show and more of everything I didn't. And your description of the last episode -- "it put its characters through so much far-fetched mental torture in completely strange and unexplained ways and locations, that it all felt like fanfiction with a genre twist of demented sci-fi horror" -- yes. I kinda want to forget season 4.

    Nice review Sarah. :)

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    1. Yes, exactly, and it was sad to see it change from so great to so bad but still be so similar on the surface! We'll always have the first two seasons at least! I'm still absolutely a fan of what the show originally was. :) Thanks!

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