Article By: Alice-Ginevra Micheli
To say that this season of Sherlock was polarizing is an understatement that might be considered blasphemous by some, and kind by others.
After waiting four years, bar the Christmas Special that adorned our screens in 2016, the air was electric with the anticipation from people all over the world. What was delivered, however, was a complete 180, taking leave of the tried and true format that we all knew and going in a very different, and very dark direction.
When we return to the regular cast, John and Mary have had their baby, Sherlock is restless, Mycroft is huffy and everything is pretty much the same. This is when it takes a turn, instead of delving into the case-of-the-day, as was expected, the story becomes an in-depth exploration into the pasts and flaws of our characters, and the consequences that erupt as a result of that.
I’ll be honest, upon my first viewing of this I needed a day – or five – in order to completely wrap my head around what I’d experienced. The internet was rife with theories, some saying there would be a fourth episode, others saying this was the end of the series as we know it, and others just screaming about their anger and disappointment. It was almost an assault from both the screen and the web, leading to a very disoriented feeling for all.
It was only upon a second viewing, whereby I was able to sit back and take in the small details, that the true genius of the change emerged. The creators, Mark Gatiss and Steve Moffat, are infamous for playing with the Sherlock legend, and audiences’ emotions, to achieve ultimate satisfaction. They twist and change assured certainties and then twist those round again, in fact it’s almost expected at this point that there be one shocking moment per episode. However, this time around it’s clear that they were fed up being safe with their storytelling and allowing the audience a safety net of contentment no matter what happens at the end of each episode. They subverted the characters, played with their minds and ours and altered situations that had become concrete in the lore before now.
In fact, I would as far as to say that this is not so much a three-episode season, but a three part film that has been separated and now put back together. I felt more satisfied at the end of my four and a half hour binge than I had in my week to week anticipatory wait. It flowed a lot better and connected some details that had been too confusing to comprehend in the first viewing. Gatiss and Moffat had experimented with their previous presentation, choosing to alter reality instead of provide closure, and as a result of that ended up with some very unhappy customers.
Besides this tumultuous storied affair, the acting has never been stronger. Cumberbatch delivers some nuanced and heart-breaking scenes that, if this weren’t a TV show, I would say would deserve an Oscar. Martin Freeman also has a great season, depicting a very different, and at time unlikeable, side of John that highlights his humanity, his faults, and the pure emotion that resides at his center. The one I want to feature, however, is that of newcomer Sian Brooke. Unable to properly delve into the extent of her character due to spoilers, all I’ll say is that her ethereal and passionate performance is one for the history books, depicting what is at times a character of darkness and at others a one of pure innocence. If (and when) the series returns I hope to see more of her in it.
This season asks you to suspend your disbelief a bit higher than normal, and allow for some unexpected an uninvited issues to be tackled. It’s a season of polishing up the loose ends, whereby Holmes and Watson emerge fully formed as the men from the Conan Doyle stories that are still legends to this day. It’s a season of growth, a series of discovery and a journey of destruction that will elicit a sense of dread and disturbance that has heretofore been relatively absent from the previous episodes.These three episodes are definitely not for everyone, and will leave some fans behind with an angry heart. On the other hand it’s almost like a breath of fresh air, completely changing how these people act and interact and really delving into their psyche in order to reach an explosive and unexpected ending.
If you haven’t seen it yet then I suggest you try and get rid of your expectations and open your mind for some new interpretations. If you have, I suggest you go back and watch them again all in one go, taking in the small changes and developments that surround the characters this time around.
Will there be another season? I certainly hope so. I don’t think I could ever get enough of Sherlock and Dr. Watson in this manifestation, and if we do I have a feeling it may be another three or four years before they grace our screens again. For now sit back, enjoy and let yourself be taken down the rabbit hole for an adventure that is completely new and wonderfully eclectic.