The fourth season of Sherlock certainly didn’t pull any emotional punches with its first episode, ‘The Six Thatchers’.
The loss of Mary Watson is not only an important game-changer as far as the show’s central dynamic is concerned, but also delivers a kick to the gut with its poignancy.
Thing is, it’s only really effective because the whole episode shows us that Mary has become more than just John’s wife to Sherlock. She has become his best friend in her own right.
Sherlock respects her, sometimes far more than he respects John, it seems. It’s as if Mary and Sherlock have their own little club (with its special own creepy church clubhouse) and John’s not invited. This connection they have makes her death weigh on him far more than anything else. His request to Mrs Hudson to use the word “Norbury” as the check point where he needs to reel in his ego is too little, too late.
In the face of this, is it any wonder that John entertains an affair with the mysterious E from the bus? What isn’t shown is how far the affair went. just a few texts or was it more? Is she a benign auxiliary character, or is she part of something bigger and more sinister? It won’t be impossible to think that Moriarty sent her, even post humously.
The episode itself spends the first 40 minutes reminding us of everything we love about the show. Sherlock reading people, solving crimes for Lestrade, in his element to be doing what he does best.
The mystery of the Six Thatchers starts innocuously enough, with the mystery of the dead body in the car. The tragedy of the young man’s surprise gone wrong is overshadowed by Sherlock’s callous handling of the case. A busted bust is far more interesting than the accidental death of a boy.
The red herring ofthe Borgia’s Pearl kept us distracted, along with the amusing sequence featuring Toby the Bloodhound, so that the revelation of Mary’s past come to haunt her was truly surprising. Also, who knew Sherlock could handle himself so well in a fight with an assassin?
The journey that leads to the confrontation in Morocco is beautifully done ad again shows us the difference between her relationships with Sherlock and her husband.
This is the tipping point where the episode sprints through finding Mrs Norbury and her traitorous past actions. The icy blue tones of the aquarium reflect the cold, detached way Norbury gives her exposition, which frankly was just filler. One can’t really blame Norbury for shooting at Sherlock to stop him talking. Mary jumping in front of the bullet was not completely a surprise, but there’s still the question of why. She had far more to lose than Sherlock. Was it in her nature?
John’s grief is primal, his cries just stab you in the heart. His anger at Sherlock understandable.
And then Mary leaves Sherlock with a case: Save John Watson.
From what, exactly? Himself? What does she know? She mentions “if I’m gone” in her message. Another red herring?
Amanda Abbington’s brilliant performance in this episode only makes it disappointing that they didn’t use her better in previous stories. She will be missed.
Aired at 8.30pm on Sunday 1 January 2017 on BBC One.
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