BBC Sherlock: The Final Problem – review

**final_problem_*Spoiler Alert***

The problem with The Final Problem was trying to follow what the hell was going on. I scratched my head so much during the ninety minutes my scalp felt like I’d had an attack of nits.

Crime/mystery solving was put on the back-burner for lots of emotional Holmes family stuff, Sherlock-John bromance, more dialogue than Shakespeare, lots of shots of Sherlock looking emotional, Mycroft trying not to look emotional, and John somewhere in between. We had a plot that made little sense, and a mish-mash of genres, (horror, action, melodrama, Kafkaesque nightmare.)

Turns out there’s another Holmes sibling and, yes, you’ve guessed it, she’s also an extraordinary genius. Mr and Mrs Holmes were kicking out some incredible genes. And she’s not just any old extraordinary genius, oh no that would be too simple – she’s an ‘Era defining genius’ with what appears to be supernatural powers, the ability to influence people’s behaviour within minutes of talking to them. She can predict the dates of major terrorist attacks after just five minutes on Twitter, even though she’s spent most of her life in a high-security prison.

Why does everything have to be so extreme? Like Mary being a super-spy/assassin? Isn’t this a rookie mistake, like when A level media students are let loose with a camera for the first time and make a dramatic piece filmed in the school bogs full of swearing, fighting and smoking, a sort-of Tarantino meets Grange Hill? The Final Problem just felt like one big adolescent, over-excited, student film – except for one key difference, the BBC had given them millions – not the school camcorder which had a crack in the lens and had to be returned to the drama cupboard by 3.30pm.

It’s a mistake many new writers make, you get too excited, too carried away with your own characters and loose critical distance – I know, I’ve done it myself. But, over the years you learn to take those all-important steps back, to be critical and rein yourself in before unleashing your work on the world. Why didn’t Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss do this here? Are they just surrounded by too many infatuated ‘yes’ people and a BBC too terrified of losing the show to another channel that all the usual checks have been removed, no one dares to say, ‘But it doesn’t make any sense, it’s too implausible, too extreme…’

I wanted to enjoy this episode, I had enjoyed the previous two. But, I can’t enjoy something I don’t understand, something so implausible, nonsensical, that it made me feel stupid and frustrated because I couldn’t follow it. And all that melodramatic, high-angst emotion, it was too much.

Could Sherlock really have forgotten he had a sister? Forgotten his best mate Trevor and how she threw him down a well? Was it really that easy for Eurus to escape her high security prison island and cause all this mayhem? Why did Mycroft take her back there as she had found it so easy to escape before? How did Mycroft arrange for her to be there in the first place when he would have only been a child himself at the time?

Who’s been looking after John’s baby while he’s away helping his mate (who he’s obviously now forgiven for causing the death of the child’s mother) defeat evil-genius sister? Why doesn’t he even mention the poor child, even when facing his own death? How did he survive Eurus shooting him at the end of the last episode? (Oh, I do know that one, it was a tranquiliser dart.) How did they survive the blast at Baker Street? And what about all that stuff with the little girl on the plane? It was a metaphor for Eurus’ loneliness – Really? Sherlock hugged her and now she’s fine? No longer an evil-genius just a plain old violin playing genius? ARGGGGGGG! Brain-freeze!

Perhaps we are just meant to look at it as a beautiful work of art and not understand it. That’s not really what I pay my TV licence to the BBC for though.

The canon got put on the backburner completely, names were thrown in but their use bared no resemblance to the original at all. Musgrave Hall has now become Sherlock’s ancestral home (a bit like Skyfall in Bond – more Bond references), The three Garridebs popped up but as three brothers suspected of murder and then killed by Eurus Holmes. Poor Victor Trevor became a childhood friend of Sherlock’s who Eurus pushed down a well. And the episode itself, though bearing the name The Final Problem, bore absolutely no resemblance whatsoever to the Final Problem in the original canon. Don’t just throw the names in, that’s not enough.

As always, the acting was great – Sian Brooke did her very best to make Eurus as believable as she could. Benedict Cumberbatch had to do so much non-stop emotion that the poor lamb must have been exhausted by the end and in need of therapy. Art Malik did a great job of playing everything straight while all around him was chaos. It was beautifully shot, great cinematography, very dramatic with explosions, murders, scary clowns, a concrete prison on an island in a stormy grey sea. It wasn’t devoid of positives and I do want to try and write a balanced review but honestly, I’m struggling.

Perhaps this will be the last-ever series. The ‘everything-is-back-to-normal-now’ ending would suggest otherwise but perhaps they are just leaving their options open. If this is the end, I do think that despite all the criticism, we must acknowledge what a fantastic achievement the show has been.

The first two series were, in my opinion, some of the best television I have ever seen. The show has won massive critical acclaim, many awards, achieved consistently high viewing figures, been sold to 240 different territories, generated thousands of press articles, blogs, online reviews, the excellent fan site Sherlockology, inspired thousands of works of fanfiction, fan art, a devoted following. It’s boosted sales of the original cannon and re-invigorated interest in all things Sherlock Holmes.

It’s been a phenomenon, divided opinion but certainly got everyone talking. Moffat and Gatiss are clearly highly creative individuals with a genuine love of the canon, they have assembled a fantastic cast who have gone on to become huge stars. I salute their vision, their creativity and thank them for Sherlock, particularly those first two series – A Scandal in Belgravia being as close to perfection as I think any episode of a TV show has ever been. If Sherlock ever comes back, please let it come back to that.

And finally, the big question – did Husband stay awake? No, lasted about ten minutes. So, that’s two out of three for series four on the Tim sleep-o-metre. So close guys, so very close…  

Agree with my thoughts? I thought not. Post your review and comments below.

About barefootonbakerstreet

Author from Shropshire
This entry was posted in BBC Sherlock, Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to BBC Sherlock: The Final Problem – review

  1. Robert Ryan says:

    Didn’t Conan Doyle say something about the more you added to the Holmes character, the more you diminished it. In the end this came off as a mash up of The Man With The Golden Gun and thet Scottish mansion ending in Skyfall. Ironic it should end with a paean to what we love – two blokes in 212b solving puzzling crimes – having wilfully ignored that for this series (apart from those quick fire throwaway scenes). Still, much to enjoy and make you smile at the references – The Three Garridebs for example – but for me it strayed too far from what made the first two series so good.

    • The first two series were brilliant, why have they not been able to re capture that magic ever since? I think they have made it too personal and too extreme, making Mary a spy/assassin and giving Mycroft such a big role – all this government intervention and international espionage took it away from it’s heart which is two blokes in a London flat-share solving unusual crimes/mysteries with or without the police. It became less London, more international, more planes and helicopters instead of cabs and underground tubes.

  2. David Parker says:

    The Jeremy Brett Holmes series strayed further from the Canon as it went along and so did Brett’s portrayal (for which he’s forgiven as he wasn’t well for some of it).

    Basil Rathbone’s Holmes stayed closer to the original but the plots of the films served a different purpose (war propaganda partly) and so strayed further away from the Canon.

    Even Conan Doyle’s later stories were, many would say, not as good as the earlier ones.

    Adaptations that mess with the (true) character of the originals, such as trying to give Holmes emotions (he has them but doesn’t allow them to get in the way) for example just corrupts the whole thing.

    Moffat’s and Gatiss’s throwing bits of the original stories into a blender and then wrapping them in another plot does grate a bit if you’re a true Sherlockian. It must be doubly puzzling if you’ve never read the stories.

    I did smile at the “nod” to Basil Rathbone in the final scene!

    • The reason I liked the first two episodes of series four was because they stuck to one story from the canon and followed the essence of it, updating it to modern scenarios. But in the final episode it was back to ‘throwing bits of the original stories into a blender,’ as you so rightly put it. This was a shame, and I think calling it ‘The Final Problem’ was misleading – I was expecting more elements of the original.

  3. Sabrina says:

    Spot on review!

  4. Martin Millman says:

    I have a PhD in theoretical physics from New York University, yet I could not decipher a single episode of the Cumberbatch series.

    • Ha ha, I’m not alone then! It’s almost as if that wasn’t supposed to matter, the plot was incidental to watching the characters interact with each other, seeing their emotions and character development. Personally, I need a good combination of both.

  5. Shawna says:

    Yes, I agree — I’m tempted to watch again but feel my confusion wouldn’t be abated.

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