Well, we asked for it. We got answers.
At best, the answers are an intricately woven series of events that explain what and who molded Sherlock into the man we saw in season one, episode one. At worst, it’s one more brilliant reason for me to never have children. Sherlock‘s season finale aired tonight, and the Twittersphere was imploding with #Sherlock, #TheFinalProblem, #StevenMoffatt and #MollyHooper trending worldwide. Viewers around the world have been left clutching pillows and exhaling lungfuls of held breath as the season came to a close. Tears have been shed tonight, profanities shouted at our plasma screens and hairs stood on end. It isn’t without its problems, but by God, it was a great ride. *slow clap* That’ll do, Moffat. That’ll do.
SPOILERS AHEAD. You’ve been warned, little ones.
“The Final Problem” plunges us headfirst into a three-minute horror film wherein we watch an uncharacteristically shaken Mycroft charge into battle — equipped with his awesome cane/sword — against a mysterious, murderous clown, all while the voice of a little girl sings an atmosphere-appropriate song, adding just the right amount of creepy spice to the scene. Of course, it’s Sherlock and John tricking Mycroft into revealing the truth about the secret Holmes’ sister, but for the few minutes that it plays out, we are able to see for the first time a much more vulnerable, human side to Sherlock’s far more emotionally demented brother. That’s essentially what this whole episode is about: humanity where it didn’t appear to be before.
The characters that, for centuries, have been depicted as having minds so advanced that there is barely use for “emotions” are re-written here. Much like the utterly insane Saw-esque mental torture maze Eurus has set up for her family, the audience is guided through the story by a cold and firm hand that reveals, room by room, ever-increasing emotional context for our beloved characters. Does this possibly over-explain and oversaturate a satisfyingly enigmatic set of characters? Most certainly, but Moffatt and Gatiss have never quite stuck to the source material, and when there’s heartstrings to be pulled and audience breakdowns to trigger, why not go big? The Holmes siblings’ family history is revealed through a series of haunting flashbacks that feel like a super villain origin story — and that’s pretty much what it is. Moffat and Gatiss succeed in slowly drip-feeding us pieces of the bigger puzzle as the episode races on, a much more familiar format harking back to the feeling of the first two series.
The emotional context and ever-deepening backstories are magnified and harmonized by the absolutely incredible performances from the cast. Benedict Cumberbatch’s tortured evolution of Sherlock as he regains the memories he rewrote as a child — “Redbeard.” Martin Freeman’s portrayal of Doctor Watson at his most trusting, even when his life is in danger — “There’s something you should know.” Mark Gatiss as an armourless Mycroft, free of his government protection and revealing the true love he has for his brother in one of the best scenes of the whole series — “Brother, mine.” Louise Brealey’s Molly Hooper wrenches our hearts out in the most empathetically real and relatable scene of unrequited love and the pain it causes — “Because it’s true.” And in the last few minutes of the episode, a final bittersweet sign off from Amanda Abbington’s Mary Morsten –“My Baker street boys.”
By far, though, the best scene is a scene the whole fandom has secretly been waiting for ALL SEASON. The fabulous and wickedly cheeky return of Sherlock’s archnemesis Jim Moriarty. I know I speak for everyone when I say that we were all secretly pleased to see him again in the flesh, even though it did turn out to be a flashback. My heart fluttered with glee, and I let out a little cheer of happiness on my Snapchat when Andrew Scott jumped out of that helicopter to the Moffatt-ly witty soundtrack of Queen’s classic “I Want to Break Free.” What an entrance, what a wonderful twist, what an exceptional plot device and choice. Yes, yes, yes. Scott’s wonderfully familiar and slightly pantomime portrayal of the devilish Moriarty was something I hadn’t realized was so sorely missed until he returned to the screen. His dialogue, as always, is deliciously nonchalant as his own role in the rich tapestry of Sherlock’s life and gets an even more juicy origin story, one closely interwoven with Eurus. Moriarty, you beautiful bastard, please grace our screens again. Oh, how I want to break free!
Next, Eurus and her evil plan. Stepping into the trousers of Hannibal Lecter a tiny bit, we get the answers to our burning questions from last week. Why didn’t Sherlock recognize his own sister? Because he didn’t remember her. He had rewritten his own memories in order to forget her dark and painful impact on his childhood. Why is she so evil? Because Sherlock didn’t play with her, so she drowned his best friend in a well. Why didn’t she kill John Watson in the therapist’s office? Because some part of her wanted to unlock Sherlock’s memories and emotions so that he could rescue her from her own mind. How smart is she? If Sherlock is clever, and if Mycroft is exceptional, then Eurus is an era-defining genius.
Many more questions are answered as the episode moves forward, as our characters shift from room to room, completing emotionally challenging tasks that slowly open Sherlock up again after all these years. The tension is high, lives are won and lost, hearts are broken (oh, Molly!) and moral compasses are cruelly tested. Although in the back of our heads we always know our main players are safe, this episode truly causes you to assess the value of the side characters. There are scenes that ignite fear you didn’t know existed and love you didn’t know you held for them. *cough* Mycroft and Molly *cough*
However, just like last week, certain scenes in this episode reek of unbelievability, and the twang of stretched logic can be heard echoing through the end of the episode. While I could totally get on board with the build up: a scary younger sister with the mind of a genius and a vengeful murderous streak plays with her brother like worthless lab mice in a game of death. I just could not get on board with the ending. The same scary sister stops said game of death that took literally years of careful planning and patience because she gets a hug from aforementioned brother. I mean… really? Luckily, the breathtaking performance by Sian Brooke never let me fall too far out of favor with this episode. Her chameleonic portrayals of four to five separate and equally believable female characters across this season were a joy to witness, and I believe her performance as Eurus saved this episode from being utter crap. We believed it because of her; she sold ice to Eskimos.
A lot happened in this finale, and I didn’t ride this emotional rollercoaster of confusion and fear alone. As always, viewers took to twitter to voice their opinions. Here are some of the best reactions to “The Final Problem”:
put on my grave 'MOLLY HOOPER DESERVED BETTER' #Sherlock
— parris ❄️ (@supernovalester) January 15, 2017
not to be dramatic but that was the most intense and confusing 90 minutes of my life #sherlock
— eva /semi hiatus/ (@stardustjongin) January 15, 2017
My heart has been racing for the past 90 minutes. #Sherlock
— Jack Howard (@JackHoward) January 15, 2017
— Han (@Hannah_Place13) January 15, 2017
S2:ep2 "He's a great man. One day, he might even be a good one".
S4:ep3 "He's not just a great man. He's a Good one".#Sherlock ❤
— Jessica Lynam 🙂 (@SherlockLayton) January 15, 2017
fucking fuck fuck FUCK fuck fuck #sherlock
— Daniel J. Layton (@DanielJLayton) January 15, 2017
If #Sherlock has taught me anything it's that I've not recorded nearly enough messages to be played to my enemies & loved ones once I'm dead
— Wade (@ThinkWade) January 15, 2017
Season four felt a bit like we had been watching and waiting simply for this finale. Last week, we trudged through the intricate set-up, and I called out Moffatt and Gatiss for their predictability and nonsensical choices. All was to be forgiven if this episode turned out to be a triumph. Was it a triumph? Well, yes and no. With some unforgivable and lazy plot choices, I can’t give this full marks no matter how much I desperately want to. However, there are some of the best scenes in the entire series to be found in this episode, and as the credits rolled I found myself satisfied, grinning from ear to ear.
For now, this is a good end. Or, rather, an end that may or may not be the end. Who knows? Thank you again to Moffat and Gatiss for taking us on another incredible journey. I hope we get to see the Baker Street Boys on our screens again soon.
What did you guys think of the finale? What about all three episodes of series four? Share your opinions with me by tweeting @mickeyralph; I could talk about this series endlessly! Check out my reviews for the other episodes of season four’s “The Six Thatchers” and “The Lying Detective” if you haven’t already!