With last week’s episode seemingly dividing fans between those who hated it just a bit, or a lot, this week can we have a bit less slaughter and a bit more sleuthing? That was the question many were asking, and the sentiment many were pleading for.
NB: Spoilers ahoy
Well, the first episode certainly got a reaction, but probably not the one the producers were hoping for. What with the Mary camp – those who were in bits over the thoroughly predictable and completely unmoving death of Mary Watson – and the anti-Bond camp, those who thought the undercover secret ninja action overwhelmed the Holmesian elements – it seems no-one was pleased with The Four Thatchers.
Now, Holmes and Watson are seemingly both in therapy – Watson might need it more, since he’s imagining his dead wife, but Holmes is descending into a drug-addled guilt pit of his own devising, shouting quotes from Henry V and shooting holes in the wall.
In the original, The Dying Detective, Culverton Smith is a poisoner, exposed by Holmes through a dangerous ruse. Here, Culverton Smith (Toby Jones) is seemingly a bluff Alan Sugar-type Northern entrepreneur, driven by dark desires. Drugging his confidantes so he can confess his desire to kill, he leaves only his daughter Faith, semi-amnesic, isolated and suicidal with any memory of his confession.
Holmes’ deductions about Faith’s lifestyle, Smith’s murderous predilections and John’s choice of therapists are as astute as anything he’s demonstrated in the past, and there’s much fun to be had in Mrs Hudson’s high-speed drive in her Aston Martin with Sherlock handcuffed in the boot. The special effects are back in force, with slow-motion, bullet-time and split-screen aplenty.
But is Culverton Smith actually a methodical serial killer, like Holmes’s American namesake, HH Holmes? If he is, he’s hiding in plain sight, like the serial killers in Hitchcock’s Rope, by killing random people without any apparent motive.
Smith has arranged complete access to a selection of potential victims by funding a hospital – there are plenty of jabs at Jimmy Savile-style celebrity – so the drug-addled Sherlock is admitted when his accusations of Smith go awry. But, as in the original, it seems Holmes was one step ahead of Smith, duping him into a confession and counting on Watson to save him from being put to sleep.
So things seem to settle back to normal – Watson admits that Holmes was not responsible for Mary’s death, a degree or reconciliation is reached, and Holmes starts cleaning up his act.
In the original, Holmes’s relapse is more due to boredom than anything else, so if guilt is at the heart of it here, that’s a more satisfying angle. And the reconciliation between Holmes and Watson is a good deal more involving and convincing than last month’s blub-fest.
But what then of the Sherrinford mystery? In a last twist, we’re led to think that the fake Faith Smith, John’s analyst, and the girl on the bus with whom he was having a low-key text affair, are all one and the same (all played by Sian Brooke); apparently the third Holmes, not a brother but a sister.
But can that be true? Eurus, the name she gives, is the Greek god of the East Wind. Here’s a Holmesian quotation for you, from His Last Bow: “There’s an east wind coming all the same, such a wind as never blew on England yet. It will be cold and bitter, Watson, and a good many of us may wither before its blast.”
But a sister, rather than a brother? It makes little sense, unless there’s gender reassignment surgery involved. The answers all lie in Sherlock’s past, and that past comes to light next week.