With the exception of ‘The Abominable Bride’, which was released as a Christmas special last year, it has been three years since season 3 ended. It was a dramatic cliffhanger in which The Napoleon of Crime, the villainous Charles Augustus Magnussen was executed by Sherlock and he fled the country. The opening ten minutes of The Six Thatchers were spent in preventing the consequences of the excellent finale so that Sherlock could come back to the country. Thanks to Mycroft and the British government, the detective was absolved of his crime and was allowed to be part of the British society once again.
While this move definitely undercut the all the drama of the stellar episode of the previous season, it meant that Sherlock could once again reside at 221B Baker Street and resume his role of a consulting detective while he waited for Moriarty to make his next move (posthumously). Sherlock tackles some cases including The Canary Trainer and The Circus Torso while Mary and Watson are busy having a baby. However, this time, the show changed things a bit. Instead of Sherlock and Watson unraveling an intriguing case, the episode offered a short mystery. It was then followed by a rambling tangent of flashbacks, revelations and altercations that culminated in a dramatic climax.
The mystery had a very promising start as Lestrade snared Sherlock by telling him about the death of a young man outside his home and in his car when he was supposed to all the way in Tibet. While it does intriguing the detective, it takes him less than five minutes to rattle off a solution after he has met the parents. The whole thing takes about twenty minutes, but becomes the springboard for the next events, which are in a very different direction. There are a lot of things that happen rapidly after that and they involve the broken busts of Margaret Thatcher.
Flashbacks reveal a siege in an embassy in Tbilisi and the British government contact mercenaries to rescue the hostages. There is brainwashing, torture and memory sticks, but the entire plot actually revolves around former spy and John’s wife, Mary. The problem is that once Sherlock figures out why someone is breaking busts of Margaret Thatcher, his extraordinary powers of deduction and observation are rendered useless. This is due to the fact that he has to rely on Mary’s confessions about the involved parties and we are told the story through some very crude flashbacks. Yes, there is a cryptic keyword and an allusive acronym, but the situation is very convoluted.
Eventually, when the climax comes and we discover who was behind it all, the moment wasn’t really satisfying as Sherlock episodes usually are. Instead of seeing something in a new light, we actually found something new and that’s the same as any. This trip into Mary’s path didn’t do much in enriching the character and she doesn’t really seem like a former spy. In fact, the show didn’t focus on the dynamics established early in the episode i.e. when Mary and Watson have a baby. That should have been a major moment, but they didn’t really spend much time with the baby.
They show the christening, but it is less about John and Mary’s baby and more about how self-absorbed and restless Sherlock really is. Here and there, some moments between Sherlock and John, Sherlock and the baby as well as Mary and John are squeezed in, but there is so much going on in the episode that it is easy to feel overwhelmed. There is one scene that comes out right though and that’s the one where Mary, John, the baby and Sherlock are off chasing a lead together and that makes sense.
However, this moment is a little too brief and they go back to pushing in scenes together. In addition, the show has taken the spotlight away from one of its major components; the relationship between Sherlock and John. To be honest, it felt a little buried in and Sherlock is mostly doing his work solo, something he doesn’t enjoy doing. Watson comes off as an entirely different character all together. We know he is a very decent person and he has become a father recently, which is a pretty big deal to him.
Therefore, it comes off as really, really weird to see him texting some woman behind Mary’s back. That doesn’t make sense at all and we just hope it was setting things up for a future episode. Nonetheless, this interlude means that he feels guilty after Mary is shot and dies. He is probably feeling angry for doing what he did, especially when he got interrupted when he was about to come clean to his wife. He is taking out some of it on Sherlock, who he blames.
This is probably because Mary took the bullet that was meant for Sherlock. The scene only happened because our favorite detective couldn’t resist goading his opponent. This is a major blow for Sherlock and he feels responsible for what happened. Incidentally, he is partially to blame and he is feeling guilty because he was unable to protect Mary even though he had vowed to do so. John is also angry with Sherlock and doesn’t want to see him anymore and this is even more upsetting. But, the story is not over; Mary has left Sherlock a case and she tells him about it posthumously through a video.
What does she ask? She asks Sherlock to save John Watson. This means that even though the episode has failed to deliver in the usual terms, it did end in a manner that will once again put the focus back on John and Sherlock’s relationship, which is always fun to see. Most of the detective work in this episode was incidental, but we are still holding out hope that Lestrade might bright a really intriguing case that’s going to draw John and Sherlock together and we will get to see the real return of our best detective.