TV Surf Report: Sherlock — When Great Series Jump The Shark (Or Has It?)

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Santa Monica, CA — (Updated 18 January 2017)

Oh, Sherlock.  Or rather, Oy! Sherlock!  I fear my favorite television series of the last five years has succumbed to the inevitable:  Sherlock has Jumped. The. Shark.

PBS’ Masterpiece aired the Series 4 premiere episode on New Years Day…and I was there.  Appointment Television is not yet dead.

The Six Thatchers is not Sherlock at its best, I am sorry to report.

Sherlock: The Six Thatchers

It would be easy to blame the arrival of baby Rosie, however, that would be making a fictitious infant the scapegoat of what happens to all successful series in the latter years of exceptional storytelling:  They become aware of themselves.

So aware, that series co-creator Mark Gatiss’ former light touch at dropping the necessary red herrings becomes quite heavy handed.  And yet, the birth of a baby is never a good sign for a great series. (Looking at you, Once Upon A Time.)

Sherlock. Knows. What. It. Is.

The latest episode, which is the first of three airing as part of Series 4, feels like diluted Fan Fiction: Overly familiar. Annoyingly comedic. Unsatisfying.

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The latest incarnation of Mary Watson has been terrific…up until Now.  Amanda Abbington’s portrayal has been fantastic, but it’s not her fault that Mary’s new Past as a super spy catches up with her (and Dr. Watson and Sherlock) in The Six Thatchers.

As foretold in the Prologue, the grim figure of Death awaits.  But, for whom:  Mary? Sherlock? The Series?

The highly unsatisfying conclusion (involving an incredibly lame villain) sets up a darker tone for the next two episodes, which hopefully, pays off the central mystery of the promised return/resurrection of Moriarty who presumably killed himself in Series 3 and has planned a posthumous Game.

Something’s coming.  Maybe it’s Moriarty. Maybe, it’s not.

Now, the writers have saddled Martin Freeman’s John Watson with not only a baby (Murphy Brown flashback, anyone?) but also, a guilty conscience.  Poor Molly and Mrs. Hudson, now they have to make tea and look after a baby as Holmes and Watson head outdoors to investigate Sherlock’s personal demons, whom we are told are after him.

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This latest episode, which don’t get me wrong, is still Good TV, makes the time-bending The Abominable Bride now look like the high point in the Series.

I fear it’s all downhill from here for Sherlock. Death awaits.

Series star Benedict Cumberbatch has a new franchise in Marvel’s Dr. Strange following the phenomenal success of the character’s Origin Story feature release in 2016.  The character will next appear in Thor: Ragnorak (November) as well as Infinity Wars (2018).  Cumberbatch’s availability is a big problem for future episodes of Sherlock.

So perhaps, it’s for the for the best that Sherlock gets a much needed Rest for the next few years.  The writers can forward time jump, grow up baby Rosie and send her off to Boarding School, leaving Holmes and Watson to ponder their feelings about one another while chasing more red herrings.

Two more episodes to go. Fingers crossed they are worth this less than stellar set-up. Toby Jones (Captain America, The Hunger Games) shows up as a new foil of some sort in The Lying Detective.

Time to bring back Lara Pulver’s terrific Irene Adler.  She’s also on the big screen in Underworld: Blood Wars.

20 Easter Eggs Hidden in The Six Thatchers

With the very emotionally satisfying The Lying Detective, Sherlock has successfully avoided a Shark Jump.

Writer/Series co-creator Steven Moffat gives a terrific Six Feet Under-esque spin to Episode 2 of Series 4 by utilizing the ghost of Mary Watson to ground a terrific mystery that allows John Watson to regain the emotional heart of the series.

And, Mrs. Hudson!  Wonderful. Wonderful. Wonderful.

What a complete turnaround in both Tone and Storytelling from The Six Thatchers!

Here is the link to The Lying Detective:

http://www.pbs.org/video/2365925720/

Excellent work all around:  Martin Freeman soars.  Amanda Abbington has never been better and brings a wonderful coda to Mary’s sacrificial death from the previous episode.  Toby Jones is outstandingly sinister as the central villain.

However, the huge twist in the final moments of the episode brings the mystery of What Has Moriarty Done? to new heights.

I love Sherlock.  Bring on The Final Problem.

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I spoke (or blogged) too soon as The Final Problem is Sherlock at its manipulative worst:  Shark Jump re-instated.  Oh, well.  221B Baker Street was good, many times great, while it lasted.

Now is the time for Cumberbatch, Freeman & Co. to take a nice, long holiday.  I need a few years to forget this horrible finale.  And, I need to grow out my hair which was sorely tested during this story.

There is enjoyable head-scratching, to be sure.  However, there is a lot of hair-pulling throughout The Final Problem.  And. It. Is. Not. Enjoyable.

Here is the link to the episode:  http://www.pbs.org/video/2365931000/

As emotionally satisfying as I found The Lying Detective, the third and final episode of Series 4, co-written by Gatiss and Moffat, is exactly the opposite:  Infuriating.

Childhood backstories involving Sherlock’s dog, Redbeard. A ludicrous red herring of a little girl trapped on a doomed airplane flight headed towards London.  An inexplicable act of cruelty forced upon beloved Molly Hooper. And finally, the absurd super villainy of new character, Euros.

Why am I here? No one ever tells me.  Am I being punished?  Euros, I know how ya feel.

I miss the sanity of Moriarty.  I could at least follow his thoughts somewhat.  Thanks to a flashback involving Mycroft, viewers are treated to the possibility of his return and then, greatly disappointed.

Moriarty is not the only beloved character to be seemingly resurrected. So manipulative. So unsuccessful.  Shark Jump, indeed.

The resolutions of the many dilemmas in this story are absurd.  I could hardly believe it.  The writers wrote themselves into a corner they could not escape unless they betrayed the audience’s intelligence along with Sherlock’s. And, Dr. Watson’s. And, Mycroft’s.

And then, as a way of Apology, the regretful episode is tied up in a bright, happy, big-picture Bow.  I need a drink.

So long for now, Mr. Holmes.  It is what it is.

N E X T   U P:

Family Comedies and Dramas In Heavy Development.

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About Surfing Hollywood

Steve La Rue is an internationally recognized leader in Film & Television with 20+ years experience as a Development Executive championing such series as Buffy The Vampire Slayer, The X-Files, The Simpsons, King of the Hill, Battlestar Galactica, and Farscape. He writes, blogs, and consults on All Things TransMedia from his home at the beach in Santa Monica, CA, where he balances his life by surfing every damn day.
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