The Final Problem may be the last ever episode of Sherlock and, in a way, that’s a good thing, because the papers have suddenly got it in for old Sherlock. The Guardian and Mail, in particular, believe that Messrs Gatiss and Moffat have lost the plot and that Sunday night’s finale was pure, unadulterated drivel. Not so; it was just pure, unadulterated Sherlock; I mean, what did they expect?
Since it aired in 2010 Sherlock has been all about braininess and clever-clever mind games and Sunday night’s farewell upped the ante by turning the entire episode into an actual game, like one of those London escape games the sons are so fond of playing, the ones where they’re ‘locked’ in a room and must solve a puzzle to get to the next room, and so on and so on, with dire consequences should they fail – not as dire as being at the mercy of a genius psychopath obviously.
The psychopath was Sherlock’s previously invisible sister, doing a pretty good impression of Jane Eyre’s mad woman in the attic (further echoes of Jane Eyre were revealed when Eurus burned the family house down as a kid.) A la Silence of the Lambs, Eurus was incarcerated behind an impressively large glass panel, complete with warnings to stand exactly three feet away. Any closer and you’d be subjected to her miraculous mind bending powers, whereby she’d re-wire your grey cells so that you were basically a puppet dancing to her command. Held in a top secret, completely secure mental asylum, in the form of a gigantic concrete bunker on top of a tiny island, Eurus was deemed to no longer be a threat until it was revealed that Mycroft, in a spectacular lack of judgement, had allowed visitors to the asylum to provide ‘treats’ for the bored and lonely Eurus. One of those visitors being Moriarty – I mean, who’d have thought it? It seems that the all-knowing Mycroft is actually a bit of a sentimental dunce. It also transpires that Eurus was possibly behind every episode of Sherlock, orchestrating his every move.
We were required to suspend our disbelief in a spectacular fashion on Sunday, whilst clowns and ghost girls ran around the hallways of Mycroft’s suitably spooky old house; whilst a drone came flying through the door of 221b Baker Street, attached to some sort of hi-tech grenade, giving our heroes exactly 3 seconds to leg it through the windows (spectacular CGI fail here actually, John Watson’s head looked much too big for his body when he went crashing through the glass.) They were so close to the inferno that surely it would have left a few scorch marks? But no, Sherlock and Watson were suddenly aboard a boat seconds later, none the worse for wear, on their way to Sherrinford to meet loony Sis.
After realising that the lunatics had taken over the asylum, S M and J were subjected to various violent and cruel mind games, where three characters actually ended up dead. Serious stuff but, due to the game show (think Crystal Maze) quality of the goings-on, their deaths all seemed one step removed from reality, so we didn’t really care all that much that three strangers bit the bullet just so Sherlock could work out his final problem.
The final problem being twofold. Who exactly was Redbeard? As the mind maze continued, Sherlock’s repressed memories re-surfaced, telling him that his pet dog had actually been his best childhood friend, whom loony sis had chucked down the well, just like the cat in the nursery rhyme:
Ding Dong Bell
Redbeard’s in the well
Who put him in?
Little loony sis (couldn’t think of a rhyme.)
And then she put John down the well.
And, how was Sherlock to save the girl in the plane?
After being put further through the mental wringer, including a very weird moment with Molly, whereby both parties were forced into declaring their previously undeclared love (do we think Sherlock possibly really loves Molly? – no, I don’t, he loves John,who’s a grown up version of Redbeard), Sherlock suddenly found himself back at Musgrave, the family home, and John found himself (like the cat) down the well. But this didn’t stop the pair from communicating effortlessly – since neither was on a mobile phone, how was that done?
After working out clues from gravestones; which gave all the wrong dates; which somehow linked to the words of a song, Sherlock twigged that Eurus was the mad woman in the attic (and the girl on the plane) and saved her mad soul, before they carted her back to the rock in the middle of the Welsh sea.
And everyone seemed reasonably happy again (except Sherlock’s Mum and Dad who were understandably furious that their previously dead daughter was actually alive and not so well.) And all this, despite the fact that Eurus murdered three people and had put Sherlock through hell, since roughly the age of 5. But family’s family isnt’ it? And, more importantly, Sherlock actually called Lestrade by his first name (he’s getting more human by the minute.)
Yes it was psychological lunacy, yes it was all very implausible, yes it ‘stole’ from countless movies but, actually, it had all been done before because what Sherlock was/is, is Messrs Moffatt and Gatiss paying homage to all those sixties/seventies mind bending detective/mystery shows.
Think: The Avengers, The Prisoner, Randall and Hopkirk Deceased. Those shows were FULL of impossible scenarios and lunatic adversaries but they were also impossibly cool and wonderfully stylised – just like Sherlock.
So thanks Beeb for bringing all that telly madness back.
Was the Sherlock finale good? Like John said: “It’s not good, it’s not bad, it is what it is.”
Sherlock was definitely ‘what it is’ – take it or leave it.
I’m taking it and I hope The Final Problem isn’t the end.
(Finally, I challenge anyone not to hear the similarities between the Sherlock and Randall and Hopkirk Deceased themes. Go to YouTube and check them out (I tried uploading videos but access sadly denied.)