BBC's Sherlock Season 4 Review

Season 4 photo
Spoiler Alert!

When did a show about the world’s most famous detective become more about his personal life than his cases?

Sherlock Holmes has been a phenomena for so long and inspired countless adaptations and rip-offs because of his amazing detective work.

What made the BBC's adaptation so enjoyable was Sherlock’s interaction with the modern world and the bumbling way he connected with the normal world through his unique relationship with Watson. As the show’s producers and writers purse these elements, we see the original draw of the detective story get left behind.

BBC’s Sherlock is beginning to look like a soap opera. This may be entertaining to some fans, but I am growing tired of the stunts and the emotional roller coaster.

Ep. 1: The Six Thatchers (written 1/6/17)

When Mary was added in Season 3, I wondered how she would affect the relationship between Sherlock and Watson, which was so integral an aspect of the BBC adaptation. I was looking forward to watching Sherlock and his lifestyle interacting with the Watson family life.

When they made her into a super spy, I rolled my eyes, but wondered how the show would continue to develop her as a character.

Instead, she dies in the most cliche way possible at the end of the first episode in Season 4.

In addition to being an unimaginative ploy for “feels” and a clumsy way for the writers to hack themselves out of a corner, this move destroys the depiction of a healthy, happy relationship between husband and wife, obliterates the mother figure from the family, and keeps Watson and Sherlock off balance in their otherwise unshakable friendship.

I consider all of these things sub-optimal.

Furthermore, Sherlock did not solve the mystery. He had it wrong at first, and ultimately it monologued at him.

This episode also continues to undermine Sherlock as a great mind, proposing that he is too arrogant and sociopathic to function well as a detective, even though those very traits have been present (and enjoyed by fans) since the beginning of the show. Why are they suddenly a problem?

Ep. 2: The Lying Detective (written 1/11/17)

I finally got around to watching the next episode (no longer high in my priorities) and nearly cried I was so bored.

Once again, the mystery takes a back seat as Sherlock and John struggle with their problems.

The audience knows who the bad guy is from the beginning of the episode. The stakes are low, since we don't know if he has killed anyone at all and we never find out who his victims were. Despite the episode's title, we know Sherlock is neither lying nor mistaken, we just have to wait for the killer to explain everything.

However, the episode is chalk-full of personal drama for the characters. John is riddled with guilt over text-cheating on his wife Mary (an assassin) before her death. He even talks to his hallucinations of her.

Sherlock is also dealing with guilt because he believes Mary's death is his fault. At the end of the last episode, he received a message from her after her death which encouraged him to put himself in harm's way so that John could save him, thereby pulling himself out of his grief funk. This Sherlock does by taking drugs--making him crazier than usual--and taking on the most boring serial killer ever.

Meanwhile, even Mycroft is debating beginning a new relationship with his co-worker.

Oh, and the Holmes boys have a secret sister! Tune in next week to find out how that affects their emotions!

Ep. 3: The Final Problem (written 1/16/17)

Sherlock, John, and Mycroft go up against the secret sister Eurus revealed in the previous episode. Apparently Eurus is cleverer than both Sherlock and Mycroft, while understanding emotional context and morality even less.

This episode is flawed on a number of levels. Eurus' goal is vague, and even at the end it is unclear what she accomplished by putting Sherlock through these emotionally grueling experiments. The episode further degraded Sherlock's claim to fame as a great detective, casting him in the role of the "slow" sibling. The story again lacked a mystery, and a crisis--especially one taking place in someone's head--is a poor substitute.

My belief that this season in particular replaced the detective show with a soap opera holds true for this episode as well, however, my biggest problem with it is the assumption that if the Holmes boys had a sister, she would be the same as them. Boring!

Furthermore, using Moriarty as a sound effects library is an insult to Andrew Scott's acting and a poor excuse to include him in the trailers.


Steven Moffat and the other writers of BBC's Sherlock are less interested in giving their audience exciting mysteries solved by the world's greatest detective than they are in creating scenarios that give ample opportunity to wallow in emotional turmoil and allow fans of soap opera shenanigans to undergo their beloved mental torment.

As for me, this season will be my last. I think I'll go re-watch the first two seasons.

What do you think?

Am I being too hard on our beloved show? Or have you also noticed a falling standard and over-reliance on emotional provocation?


  1. The Final Problem is what to do with a show that had great success to keep it fresh. My advice to Moffat and Co. is to quit while you're ahead. Perhaps a bit late for that.


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