Tag Archives: Season 4

“Sherlock” recap: Suddenly, death comes to 221B [SPOILERS]

Courtesy of Todd Antony/Hartswood Films 2016 for MASTERPIECE

“Sherlock” Season 4 | “The Six Thatchers” | Aired Jan. 1, 2017

When the Season 4 premiere of Sherlock, “The Six Thatchers,” finished, I tweeted that I thought it was a “solid episode.” But nearly 24 hours later, I’m rethinking what I saw and what some of the problems were that were forgotten in the midst of John’s surprising indiscretions and the emotional ending.

If you are here reading this and you don’t want any spoilers, first, why are you reading a recap? Second, you might want to leave and come back to this when you’ve watched the episode.

Mary’s death was something that I was hoping for since last season, if I’m being honest. It’s not so much that she’s a woman as to why I was hoping she’d die–I feel like I must point this out, because her death goes along with so many other fridged women in entertainment. Did I think she ruined the dynamic between John and Sherlock by marrying John? Yeah. But I wanted her to die for two reasons:

1) It was canonical, and if they kept her around to keep the show “Happy Fun Times,” then it wouldn’t be a Sherlock Holmes show. The amount of happy fun times in Season 3 was jarring and irritating enough as it was; I didn’t want happy fun times to be dragged into the next season.

2) Mary as a character was weirdly conceived, and that’s a real shame, since on some level, it seems like she was only built up the way she was only for her character’s death to have the most impact for John, and not so much for us the audience when looking back on her life.

I’ve never really liked Mary’s backstory—something about it has always felt false to me. I feel like as a relatively blank character, there was a lot Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss could have come up with. But they decide to make Mary a spy? An unrealistic one, at that? They also decide that John should have yet another person close to him to lie to his face?

Look, Mary didn’t have to be an agency-less person, but making the extreme jump from basically nothing to international spy is a quite a leap. Also, it’s a leap that could have been made successfully if there weren’t so many jarring aspects to her and John’s relationship. In effect, Mary lied throughout their entire courtship. That should have made John angry as f***! In fact, it did make him angry as f***, but the writing for the scene in which John forgives Mary is so…disturbing in how easily John decides to brush stuff under the rug.

I’m thinking to myself as I’m writing this if I would still feel this way about Mary’s double life if Mary were a man. I think I would, and I have proof of this—Moriarty himself. During the first season, he pretended to be Molly’s boyfriend just to get close to Sherlock. When I found out that was Moriarty, I was devastated for Molly, who only wants love in her life, and angry at Moriarty for breaking poor Molly’s heart. Similarly, I feel devastated for John, who only wants love and normalcy to balance out his wild ride with Sherlock.

What irks me is that John does deserve some normal moments in his life; he clearly gets overwhelmed by all the zaniness around him even though he does crave it sometimes. Mary could have been that. She could have been normal, but just off-kilter enough to mesh with Sherlock’s Sherlock-isms. The fact that John has no one in his inner circle willing to share their whole selves with him, including his own wife, is really disconcerting.

Equally disconcerting is when John randomly decides to cheat on Mary. We hadn’t seen them quarrel or anything, and you don’t have to have quarreled to cheat on someone, but what was the impetus for John’s decision? Was it because he felt like he really didn’t know his wife after all? Was it because she was spending too much time bonding with his best friend Sherlock? (Was it because he actually wants to be in a relationship with Sherlock but can’t handle outing himself so he acts out his lust on other women?) WHY DID THIS HAPPEN?! John has never acted so out-of-pocket before, so this woman has to mean something to the story further down the line. Otherwise, the writing room needs to check themselves before they wreck themselves like this again.

Onto the comedy. Or “comedy.” Was it comedy? Or was it just very annoying attempts at comedy that didn’t really gel well with the rest of the proceedings? I think what was supposed to be “comedy” became a lot of comedic-sounding padding to fill out a movie-length show. Did we need to see all of those mini-cases? Did we need to have the banter between John, Mary and Sherlock happening as much as it did? I don’t know what I’m saying here, but what I’m getting at is that the first season, as most first seasons of most shows are, was the most concise and succinct version of Sherlock we’ve seen. It knew what it wanted to do and it did it. Now that we’re three seasons in and in the fourth season, the writing has become relaxed to the point of a dramedy that leans too much on “sitcom” than it does “drama.” If the writing can get back to just focusing more on the cases, that’d be cool.

There were also a lot of weird transitions. Again, it seemed like a lot of padding for the time allotted. We didn’t need all of those weird wipes and artful transitions. All together, it made the episode seem even more disjointed, like it didn’t know where it wanted to go or what story it wanted to tell.

So now the real question: How much culpability does Sherlock have in Mary’s death? One might say, “none,” and indeed, that’s what I said to myself when the deed actually happened. But Mary’s death also informed Sherlock’s emotional growth, too (once again, the woman’s death helps only the men in the story). Sherlock finally learned that his braggadocios lifestyle could actually get someone he cared about hurt or, in this case, killed. He has thought himself to be in control of everything, and finally, just as the therapist said, his world is crashing around him. He didn’t have to take it that far with that old secretary; he and Mary already knew the old woman was the culprit. But Sherlock, being who he is, had to take it to that next deadly step.

So what did I think about this episode overall? Well, I thought that even though I didn’t like Mary, I feel really bad for her. She was always going to be a sacrificial lamb, unfortunately. But I wish Mary had been treated with a little more care throughout the last season and the beginning of this one. Mary always seemed like a character that was meant to be both an avatar for the most rabid of fangirls who love to Tumblr-squee over John and Sherlock (which is something Mary did to a certain extent), and a sketch of a woman who could be John’s wife and could be a second sidekick to Sherlock, but was never solidly thought out as either.

There was a level of authenticity to her that I just never got. Maybe it’s because we came in on her and John’s relationship right when they got engaged. We never really got to know Mary the way I would have liked to. I feel like there was a lost opportunity with her character on some level. Even more saddening is that her brief life and death aided in the emotional exploration of the men in the episode instead of us getting closer to Mary through her life and her experiences, which would have allowed us to truly mourn her when she died.

My thoughts are jumbled. I turn it over to you; what did you think? Give your comments below!

Sherlock’s obsession with queerbaiting is more frustrating than ever


Sherlock Season/Series 4 is upon us! I’m sure there are a ton of us excited for Sunday’s first episode of the new season on PBS Masterpiece, which I shall be livetweeting via my personal Twitter handle @moniqueblognet. But before we flip out as we watch the first movie-length episode, I need to flip out about some things I’m already annoyed with.

First, let’s watch the two teasers together.

Okay, so what am I flipping out about, you ask? First, Moriarty’s alive? Come on now. Now, I’m a beginner-to-intermediate fan of the Sherlock Holmes literature, but there are other villains aside from Moriarty, right? I know he’s the biggest big bad Sherlock’s ever faced, but since Sherlock diverges from the canon all the time, why not make some other lesser known villain a supreme big bad for the screen? I don’t know, just some thoughts. I just hate seeing story ideas/plot devices get repeated.

Also, isn’t the basic “Moriarty” character now typecasting Andrew Scott in the ultimate way? Almost every time I see or hear him lately, he’s playing a skeevy character. He’s been so typecast, that even when he was in Garrow’s Law as an actual victim, his character was still lying through his teeth. Sure, he was lying to protect his lover at the time, sure, since this show is set in the 1700s when same-sex relationships were outlawed, but still, the character still painted himself as a skeevy villain.

Anyways, this Moriarty thing isn’t even the biggest concern I have. My ultimate pet peeve right now is when shows decide to queerbait vulnerable audience members, and Sherlock is the British king of queerbaiting.

In the second trailer, you see Sherlock telling someone, “I love you.” Previous to that, you have Toby Jones’ Culverton Smith saying that Sherlock will have to reveal his deepest, darkest secret. For big fans of the show, and particularly big fans who are also well aware of Sherlock‘s gay subtext, the trailer wants you think that Sherlock’s biggest, deepest, darkest secret is that he’s in love with someone so meaningful to him, that if he tells this person his truest feelings, it could wreck their entire friendship and, indeed, Sherlock’s entire world. The only person who fits that description is John.

There was a time when I was quite heavy into exploring the subtextual story in both the original Sherlock Holmes literature and Sherlock the show. A lot of that scholarship (if you wish to call it such) is still available via the Wayback Machine. But the jist of it was discussing why the show indulges in queerbaiting when it doesn’t have to. With the UK being in the 21st century and with Mark Gatiss—a gay man who seems to understand the subtext of the subject matter—as 1/2 of the executive producing/writing duo, there’s no reason why Sherlock has to be coy about asserting the queerer aspects of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson.

The most queerbaitiest of Sherlock episodes ISN’T the first episode ever, in which Sherlock thinks John is asking him out over a candelit Italian dinner, although that’s a popular example. The most queerbaitiest episode is actually the first episode of Season 2, when Irene Adler comes to town.

Irene is used as both a beard for Sherlock (by the writers) and as confirmation for the audience’s belief about/confusion surrounding John’s amorphous feelings over his friend and flatmate. Irene’s purpose as truth-teller to the audience comes when Irene realizes John is obviously jealous over Sherlock’s surprising interest in her.

To quote myself from 2012:

Thanks to livejournal user bizarremain, we have the transcript of what exactly was said during this scene:

Irene: “You jealous?”
John: “We’re not a couple.”
Irene: “Yes, you are.”
John: “Who the hell knows about Sherlock Holmes? But, for the record, if anyone out there still cares, I’m not actually gay.”
Irene:”Well, I am. Look at the both of us.”

What she’s saying is that she and John are both two people who aren’t attracted to men. Yet, here they are, attracted to one man, not because he’s a man, because he’s this amazing being. What Irene was getting at is that it doesn’t matter what Sherlock is, it’s that he is who he is what’s so attractive and magnetic. It’s not so much that he’s the magical male that can change Irene into a heterosexual–the episode never says she’s changed to a heterosexual woman; it’s that she’s attracted to him, no matter what he is, and that’s what makes the whole thing interesting.

…By alluding to [sexual fluidity], Irene is also saying that John is in the same boat as she is. …Irene is saying to John that he needs to analyze what is going on with him and Sherlock and realize that even though he’s attracted to women (just like she is), he’s just as attracted to Sherlock. In fact, Irene is also intimating that Sherlock might be the one for John. Never once does she say that she’d actually like to have a relationship with Sherlock. She’s mostly just got a mixture of intrigue and lust when it comes to him. To me, Irene summed up John’s relationship with Sherlock in just a few words.

To piggy-back off that, John is getting a lot of hints from the universe that he is meant to be with Sherlock, whether as friends or as more-than-friends. Sherlock is naked in a sheet–John takes a look before even asking Sherlock if he’s naked under it. John’s new girlfriend breaks up with him–the umpteenth girlfriend to do so. She says to his face that he’s a better boyfriend to Sherlock than he is to her. The whole Irene scene I just blabbed on about. And, frankly, I think Irene herself is a big clue to John that there’s more to his relationship with Sherlock than he even realizes yet. By Irene constantly asking him if he’s jealous of her and telling him that he’s in a relationship with Sherlock, coupled with his string of bad relationships due to his dependence on Sherlock, John slowly seems to be mulling over how his relationship with his friend is perceived, which is interesting.

And yet, the season progresses without much mention of this illuminating moment again. After this, probably the most progressive moment in Sherlock, the writing seems to have swung towards a weird place where either the writers, the characters, or both are afraid of admitting that the subtext is more than likely text.

For instance, John’s wife Mary calls John out on treating Sherlock like his boyfriend all the time, such as when she clocks him for getting spruced up more often once Sherlock comes back from the dead. However, Mary is also unnervingly okay with this, which strikes me as a little disingenuous, particularly because her characterization was basically acting as an avatar for the Tumblrites who want to squee over John and Sherlock.

Also, Sherlock acts like he’s completely happy at John’s wedding, but later on, we see that he’s clearly not. That’s keeping with his own dependence on John as his soundboard and wingman-of-sorts, but then we later see him act wildly out of character, even for Sherlock, by “getting a girlfriend,” only to later use said girlfriend’s emotions to crack a case. Even Sherlock of Season 1 would think that was going a little too far. The writing in this season both provides Sherlock and John with beards, as if to say, “SEE, BBC VIEWERS!? THEY’RE TOTALLY NOT GAY!!” But when they are with their respective significant others, nothing about the relationships seem real (and in the case of Sherlock’s, it actually isn’t real).

(If I can go on a tangent—The writing for that season wasn’t particularly strong; it was more about filling out the character beats the Tumblr fans wanted, to me, than it was about properly building character and realistic character moments. Out of that season, the only person who came out looking sane was John, who was rightly frustrated with the fact that everyone around him has lied to him in some way. Talk about gaslighting! The mental abuse John suffered during the third season is another reason why I don’t like it.)

Now here we are with Season 4, with Sherlock telling someone that he loves them. Chances are it’s not John, and that’s not even because John is standing behind him when he says it. For all we know, “I love you” could be another “I am Sherlocked.” (Also: If Irene was worth her salt as a dominatrix hardcore woman, she would never use such teeny-bopper language as “I am Sherlocked” for a cell phone passcode.)

The show loves baiting its audience and has gotten good at raising expectations only to have them tied in knots later on. Gatiss has said that he likes playing with the latent homoeroticism in Sherlock, but there comes a point when playfully exploring a theme becomes hanging a dangling carrot over fans heads, only to yank it away each season. I say either the show decides Sherlock actually loves John, and not in a platonic brother-in-arms kind of way, or it quits using homoeroticism as a crutch to keep people tuned in. At this point in time, the media we ingest, including Sherlock, can no longer have it both ways.