Two years ago, Sherlock Holmes swan-dived off the edge of a hospital and was found on the pavement below with a head wound. Oh, and dead. Ever since then, the internet has been overflowing with theories about how exactly he might have survived.
Basically, the above paragraph describes the events both within the TV world of Sherlock and our external reality – only difference being the viewers at home got a clear shot of our hero alive post-fall. So, how meta will writer Mark Gatiss go with this? Spoilers below, including the whole survival answer, watch on iPlayer if needed.
Tumblring down the self-referential arsehole?
This has been a polarising episode of Sherlock – some saying it was good character-driven fun, others that the show had disappeared up its own self-referential arsehole and forgotten it used to be a detective series about mysteries.
On the one hand, yes, there was a lot of referencing here – from Tumblr fan-theories re-enacted as possible explanations to Benedict Cumberbatch’s real life parents cameoing as Mr and Mrs Holmes – but I don’t think it was presented in an obtuse way. Basically, if you didn’t notice any of the above, the episode was still understandable and the character emotions believable. As long as you knew Sherlock had faked his own death – I’m not sure it really even mattered why – the narrative was pretty clear.
But to swing back the other way – considering this show is only producing three episodes every two years, is it self-indulgent to spend a whole one reacting to Sherlock’s survival, with crimefighting as a sideshow? Part of me would’ve liked a bigger mystery, but I can’t point to anything in the episode I’d want to cut. Could’ve shoved a huge mystery in anyway, but then you hit the same problems as last week’s over-stuffed Doctor Who special.
Ultimately, I think the solution here is more episodes.
The Roll Call
Nonetheless, if you’re happy with an entire episode about the characters with a low-level mystery ultimately cliffhangered off to a later showdown, this was good. Fortunately, after two strong series and with good actors, the characters are pretty involving: Cumberbatch and Freeman are great together by now, Mycroft is always fun, new addition Mary got a decent introduction and wasn’t played as the funspoiling girlfriend here to ruin the heroes’ good time.
Thanks to the magic of scheduling, we only have to wait a few days for Sunday’s new episode, so if we can fit a mysterious mystery into that, I’ll have everything I want. Well, it’d also be pretty sweet if the fourth series could be with us next year, but can’t get too grabby.