So who is Eurus? We may think we know the answer, but as this week’s episode delved into Sherlock’s murky childhood and even murkier psychology, we suspected that the truth will be even stranger than we had been led to imagine.
NB: Spoilers inside
Throughout the history of the BBC’s Sherlock, the writers have combined the meat of the Conan Doyle canon with an exotic sauce of modern twists and interpretations. The expansion of older brother Mycroft into a much more significant character has been one major development, as has the introduction of Sherlock’s parents (played by Benedict Cumberbatch’s real parents), who were barely referred to in the originals.
But now, the Moffat and Gatiss really went into uncharted territory – because the childhood of Sherlock Holmes is a historical blank.
True, Conan Doyle had toyed with the name ‘Sherrinford’ for Holmes, and some biographers have postulated a third Holmes brother. If the parents were minor rural landowners, they argue, and Sherlock and Mycroft had decamped to London, there must have been a third brother left to take charge at the stately home. This, it’s theorised, was Sherrinford, who has been co-opted as a character in some third-party fiction.
Mycroft has dropped a couple of hints about Sherrinford, including that something ghastly happened to him, but last week we were led to believe that a) he was alive, and b), he was a she.
The self-named Eurus, the East Wind, manipulated both Sherlock and John in The Four Thatchers, and ended up tranquilising John after a particularly unsatisfying therapy session.
Of course, we have also been teased about the possible return of the (supposedly dead) Moriarty – so could both be the coming East Wind? Could they even be one and the same?
Moriarty announced his return by making a phone call to a plane full of sleeping passengers, while Sherlock scared Mycroft’s pants off with a doctored home movie (did we notice a chubby Mycroft?) and a killer clown. Mycroft neither confirmed nor denied the existence of a third, female Holmes, let alone a demented one, but that’s what we were left to assume.
Mycroft’s revelations about the enormously talented and dangerous Eurus, and the prison island of Sherrinford where she has been incarcerated, answered a lot of questions (if true), but don’t explain how she got out and sent an explosive drone to blast Baker Street.
The trio survived through a Die Hard-style window leap (while Mrs Hudson is saved by the power of Iron Maiden), and they penetrated the high-tech maximum security fortress of Sherrinford Island through a combination of piracy and stage make-up. But Sherlock’s confrontation with Eurus was not what anyone expected.
Eurus seemed to be a mixture between Carrie, Magneto, Hannibal Lecter and The Master, and using her almost psychic powers of persuasion she had suborned the entire garrison of Sherrinford; there was no great mystery to how she escaped, as she was never being kept prisoner. But how had Sherlock’s memories of his childhood and the disappearance of the dog Redbeard been manipulated?
And how was Jim Moriarty involved? He was all over the monitor screens as the alarm system went berserk in a scene reminiscent of The Prisoner. We kept expecting to see a big white balloon floating into shot, but instead it was Jim Noriarty in a black helicopter – apparently Eurus seduced him five years previously, when Mycroft presented him to her as a Christmas present.
So if Jim was indeed dead, who arranged for a little girl to be the only one awake on a plummeting plane full of sleeping passengers? Connected by phone to solve the puzzle, Sherlock, John and Mycroft were put through a series of perverse emotional experiments in which the innocent (or the guilty), including sad little Molly Hooper, were the victims.
Finally released only when Sherlock threatened to kill himself, they found themselves back in the ruins of the family home Musgrave Hall. Once Sherlock discovered that the little girl and the crashing plane were a fantasy (well, we did wonder how they were staying in the air so long), it was just a matter of saving John from drowning (though how did Sherlock manage that without climbing down the well and cutting the chain?), decoding the Redbeard mystery (it was a boy, not a dog) and recapturing the now almost catatonic Eurus.
Good to see Wanda Ventham and Timothy Carlton back in their roles of Sherlock’s parents, understandably shocked to find that Eurus is alive but too dangerous to be free.
In an episode so packed with twists, Holmesian references (such as the Three Garridebs and Musgrave Hall) and over-the-top situations, it was hard to keep sight of the fact that this was actually Holmes at his best; solving problems and encountering moral dilemmas with the support of his friends and, perhaps grudgingly, his brother. In those terms it was the most successful episode of this season, and with its Butch Cassidy-style valedictory ending, could well mark an end to the series – a pity, when there are so many more Holmes plots to be adapted.
But in the end, the actors have become more important than their roles, and their inability to commit to TV means that Sherlock will remain a rare treat rather than a regular event. Dare we suggest a turn to CBS’s Elementary as an alternative? Though it’ s now in its fifth season, and perhaps past its best, in its own interpretation of a modern-day Sherlock Holmes it retains perhaps more of the investigative and procedural flavour than did Sherlock.
If this is the end of the BBC’s version, though it may infuriate purists, it’s not a bad point to end on. But until Sherlock takes up bee-keeping, we live in hope of more.