Sherlock Review: The Lying Detective

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Well, this was a mind-trip. Sherlock Season 4 Episode 2 made my head spin, and I loved it. The uncertainties, twists and turns made for a packed and intriguing episode.

The writing was fascinating, in the way that it made every single thing questionable. One of the repeated motifs in this episode was, "it is what it is," but really, nothing was what it was.

John faces Sherlock Season 4 Episode 2

It's amazing how much misdirection there was leading us to the twist that was Euros, the secret Holmes sibling. I certainly didn't expect there to be a Holmes sister, especially after all the references to Sherrinford, the name of the eldest Holmes brother in an adaptation of the Arthur Conan Doyle stories.

I watched the episode twice back-to-back. Even on re-watch, it was really easy to miss that Sherlock's visitor was the same person as John's therapist, who was the same person as John's transit admirer. It was also quite easy to miss the fact that the woman who visited Sherlock was not the real Faith Smith.

The scene prior to her visit, where she's struggling to write the words down before she forgets, was deliberately blurry and unfocused. That gave us enough time to forget the finer details of her face, and accept the prominent round glasses, brown hair and cane as belonging to the same person.

Even when we had reason to pay attention, we were easily misdirected. Sherlock noticed that the woman in his living room was different from the pictures of Faith Walker, noted the difference in her hair, her weight. However, he casually dismissed it as "letting herself go" due to her trauma, and as such, we dismissed it too.

There were hints, though. Like this quote:

"Faith": Big brother is watching you.
Sherlock: Literally.

There's also the fact that during his conversation with her on the bridge, during his withdrawal attack, he had a flash of a child running through water with a dog that looked suspiciously like Redbeard. Was that a memory?

Euros said that her name was Greek for "the East wind." So really, we've had hints of this happening since Sherlock Season 3, as this brings to mind a story that Mycroft used to scare Sherlock as a child.

In Sherlock Season 3 Episode 3, "His Last Vow", during Sherlock's goodbye to John, he recounts to John the story of the east wind, a "terrifying force that lays waste to all in its path, that seeks out the unworthy and plucks them from the earth."

So who is Euros? Why is she so terrifying? Is Euros actually their sister? Will Sherrinford turn out to be a place or someone else, or is that her first name and Euros her middle name? Heck, is she another misdirection?

Nothing was what it was. Nothing is what it is. I'm amazed that the writers continue to surprise me, especially in a show where I know every detail matters.

The uncertainty of everything also applied to the mystery that Sherlock had to solve, that of the serial killer Culverton Smith.

From the beginning, we knew that Culverton Smith was the villain, that he was a killer. We saw him confess to a room full of people that he drugged. The man was creepy beyond words. 

Culverton: How do you catch a serial killer?
Sherlock: Same way you catch any killer.

Culverton was a magnificent villain. He was positively chilling, as he vacillated so easily between normal and terrifying. I can't put my finger on why "How long have you worked here?" was so intimidating, but my skin crawled every time he asked that.

Toby Jones delivered a fantastic performance as Culverton Smith. He went from unassuming to intimidating in the blink of an eye. His every move, every word, dared us to doubt that he was a killer.

However, through Sherlock's eyes and behavior, there was still room to doubt what we knew to be certain. There was just that sliver of uncertainty, that nagging suspicion that Sherlock's drug-addled mind created this case.

While he lost a bit of control over the situation through his self-doubt about his encounter with "Faith," it turned out that the whole thing was Sherlock's attempt to save John, by giving John someone to save.

In my review of Sherlock Season 4 Episode 1, I mentioned that I anticipated a role reversal of Sherlock and John, that Sherlock would be the one to save John. I never imagined it would be quite like this.

Sherlock's Batman Gambit anticipated every move that everyone would make, from Mrs. Hudson's freak-out to John finding a new therapist. He even knew John would say goodbye and leave his cane, a memento symbolizing the beginning of their friendship .

It worked. The entire event forced John and Sherlock to talk about Mary, talk about her death. It allowed Sherlock to talk about how unworthy he felt of Mary's sacrifice, it allowed John to talk about his guilt.

John: You did not kill Mary. She made a choice to save your life. You didn't make her do it, nobody could make Mary do anything. You didn't kill her.
Sherlock: In saving my life she conferred a value on it. It is a currency I do not know how to spend.

Most of all, it allowed the friends to comfort each other. And it allowed Johnlock shippers an image of a hug that will forever make the rounds on tumblr.

The theme of life and mortality rang through the episode, as Sherlock adopted a death wish without a wish for death. He flippantly dismissed Molly when she worried about his mortality, but he didn't want to die.

He also had to face the value of one's life. He struggled with being worth Mary's sacrifice. However, he also understood that death is only a finality for the person who dies, as he steered "Faith" away from suicide.

Again, on this episode, we see Sherlock's growth as a person. The Sherlock of old would have never spent the evening with a strange woman to save her from suicide. He also wouldn't have been comfortable offering John (or anyone) a hug as they cried.

This is getting long, I know, but I just have one more thing that I need to discuss. That would be the MVP of this episode: Mrs. Hudson.

Mrs. Hudson OWNED everyone. I mean, she just owned everyone. First of all, she owns an Aston Martin. She pulled a gun on Sherlock and locked him in the trunk of her Aston Martin. She even evaded a police chase driving her shiny red Aston Martin. I think we were all John in this quote:

John: Whose car is that?
Mrs. Hudson: That's my car?
John: How can that be your car?
Mrs: Hudson: Oh for God's sake. I was married to a drug dealer, I own property in Central London, and for the last bloody time John Watson, I'm not your housekeeper!

However, my favorite Mrs. Hudson moment was the epic, curb-stomp, this-is-why-you-suck dressing-down she gave to Mycroft. Not only did she point out how little Mycroft actually knows about his brother, she called him an idiot and a cold-blooded reptile.

I cheered. Twice.

I'm not sure how I feel about Mycroft and Smallwood. I am quite comfortable with Mycroft as the apathetic, asocial counterpart to Sherlock's emotional and (growing) empathetic nature. I don't particularly feel like Mycroft also has to have an eventual emotional catharsis.

Speaking of love interests, I'm also not sure how I feel about how we revisited Irene Adler. I highly doubt that her text was simply a plot device to catalyze John's catharsis. We'll see if she has any relevance to the rest of the season.

OTHER NOTES:

  • Sherlock walking London to spell cuss words to Mycroft -- I could not stop laughing.
  • John told Lestrade that they should have anticipated Sherlock's breakdown, given that he shot Magnusson. Was Lestrade even in on that secret, though?
  • Sherlock's drug-addled tirade at 221B was Shakespeare's Henry V: "I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips, Straining upon the start. The game’s afoot."
  • Perhaps my favourite quote other than everything Mrs. Hudson said was this parting gift from Culverton. Poor Robbie Williams tried so hard, if only he knew.

Culverton: I'm gonna be so famous.
Lestrade: You're already famous.
Culverton: Yeah, but with this I could break America!

I thought this was one heck of an interesting episode, with fantastic performances all around. Special mention goes to Una Stubbs and Toby Jones, as Mrs. Hudson and Culverton Smith stole every scene they were in.

What do you all think?  Were you surprised by the revelation of the Holmes sister? Did you ever doubt that Culverton was a killer? Do you agree that Mrs. Hudson was awesome?

Let me know in the comments, I'd love to hear from you! You can always relive the best moments and watch Sherlock online.

The Lying Detective Review

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Sherlock Season 4 Episode 2 Quotes

Taking your own life. Interesting expression, taking it from who? Once it's over, it's not you who'll miss it. Your own death is something that happens to everyone else. Your life is not your own, keep your hands off it.

Sherlock

John: You did not kill Mary. She made a choice to save your life. You didn't make her do it, nobody could make Mary do anything. You didn't kill her.
Sherlock: In saving my life she conferred a value on it. It is a currency I do not know how to spend.