After a three-year wait, Sherlock returns to BBC One on New Year’s Day for a fourth run of three episodes.
A new season of Sherlock is something to be celebrated, of course – but there are a few things of which it would be nice to see less of this time around…
The principal problem with the third season of Sherlock was the way it succumbed to trope-a-dope, the episodes so strangled by a need to include all the motifs which previously made the show a success that the stories suffered as a result. At its best, it came close to matching the standards set in previous years; at its worst, it was like watching a nightmare Tumblr remake of the programme that ticked all the worst fanwank boxes imaginable.
Fortunately, ‘The Abominable Bride’ was a vast improvement – despite the disappointment of the wholly credible, highly enjoyable Victorian incarnations of Holmes and Watson turning out to be figments of the modern Sherlock’s drug-addled imagination.
Rather than treading water in the smug end of the pool, flabby and contented, it felt like it was going somewhere, more butterfly than doggy paddle. The peril, the seriousness, the darkness that only briefly surfaced in ‘His Last Vow’ last time around was back with a vengeance – and best of all, the trailers for Season 4 seem even darker, as tense as tuned violin string and grittier than an American breakfast.
The Mind Palace, the in-jokes, the nods to other Conan Doyle adventures … these are all integral parts of Sherlock. But without any danger or devilry in the stories, they’re just side dishes without a main course.
Seriously, let the guy rest in pieces. A lot of people love Moriarty, and he was pivotal to the show at one point, but now he’s a millstone Sherlock would do well to be rid of. Literally a deadweight.
‘Did you miss me?’ has long since mutated into the Baker Street ‘Nevermore’, driving all but the most blinkered Moffatians to an advanced state of distress. Andrew Scott is a great actor, but Christ, his smirking mush has become a chore. ‘The Abominable Bride’ gave us a certain amount of closure: Moriarty really did cark it on the roof of St Barts Hospital. All that remains of him is a ghost in the Mind Palace, a cackling manifestation of the Great Detective’s doubts.
That’s just about acceptable. Keep him locked up there for cameos and leave life for the living. It simply must be someone else beaming the Moriarty meme around the world; for it to be the consulting criminal himself, back from the dead, would be unspeakably dull. The idea of Moriarty being any more than a post-mortem itch under Sherlock’s skin is as unedifying as a nicotine sandwich and as boring as a lecture on roof safety.
Stop. The. Puns. ‘The Empty Hearse’ aside, all of the best ones were used as throwaways in ‘A Scandal in Belgravia’ and they’ve grown progressively more desperate ever since. Even so, ‘The Six Thatchers’ is a new low.
Whether it’s baiting the Tories by comparing Big Margaret with Little Boney, referencing a session on the cider or something to do with straw-roofed houses, this is by a gaping chasm the worst Sherlock story title yet. It’ll take a colossally good story to justify such a ludicrous name.
Of more concern is the use of a Conan Doyle title for the concluding episode of the new season. As the actual story has already been adapted as ‘The Reichenbach Fall’, calling another (presumably completely different) episode ‘The Final Problem’ seems designed purely to tease fans into wondering if this will be the last ever instalment of Sherlock, as has been rumoured.
It’s possible that the episode will vindicate itself when broadcast, but right now it seems like a bit of a cheap trick. If Sherlock does carry on beyond 2017, it is to be hoped that the titles are more in the vein of ‘The Great Game’ than ‘The Lying Detective’.
What do you hope to see more or less of Season 4? Let us know below…