TV Review: Sherlock: The Six Thatchers


S4, E1: ‘The Six Thatchers’

Benedict Cumberbatch auditions for James Bond. Failing which, are you looking for a nanny?

Grade: C-


Well, Sherlock’s given mystery a try. It’s given adventure stories a try. It’s given High Production Values Fanfiction of Itself a try. What else, what else, what else? Oo, how about James Bond? And also domestic drama? And also situation comedy? Let’s put all of them together in a blender and give it a whirl, yeah? What could possibly go wrong?

‘Give the people what they want.’ ‘No, never do that. People are stupid.’

Wiser words were never spoken. Or more utterly ignored. I must assume someone’s clamouring for Adorable Babysitter Sherlock Holmes. Or for Wacky (though mercifully brief) Pregnancy Hi-Jinks. Or for the continual reminders that Sherlock Does Not Know Lestrade’s First Name, Yes, Even After All These Years, Ha Ha. Or for Mycroft to remind us that he (and also maybe Sherlock?) Don’t Do Humans. Or for Sherlock to bond with an Adorable Literal Bloodhound. But is anyone clamouring for all of those things? At the same time? Well, whoever you are, I hope you got some kick-ass .gifs out of it.

‘Is that sentiment talking?’ ‘It’s me.’ ‘Difficult to tell the difference these days.’

It is difficult to tell the difference these days, isn’t it? Let’s even put aside Sherlock-As-Godfather (no, I mean actual godfather to Baby Watson) for a moment. So yes, one of Mary’s former Superspy colleagues thinks she betrayed him in a previous gig down Georgia way, and now he’s after her. Sherlock declares that she is under his protection, and tells Mary as much as well. He made a vow at their wedding to protect John, Mary and the baby. And he will keep that vow. He says this as he stares earnestly into her eyes and the music swells. And oh sweet, sweet Cumberbatch, I love you and you’re doing your very best. But I cannot stop myself from saying ‘…..why?’ Literally all we know about this woman is that she has lied, and killed, and maybe possibly fucked over one of her colleagues. Moffat and Gatiss have fairly conspicuously failed to come up with even the most half-baked justification of her past actions, and barely anything she has done so far suggests that she can be trusted with anything except maybe loving John Watson. Is that enough? Is that all you need to throw that magnificent Belstaff mantle over her? Because the music wants us to believe that Sherlock loves Mary for herself.

Does anyone actually buy Sherlock’s immediate and violent attachment to Mary Watson? I had rumblings before, but was willing to set them aside out of sheer blinding relief at the relative sweetness of The Sign of Three, or the implication in His Last Vow that John was the one he needed to protect. And look, yes, I get that Sherlock and John had an immediate and violent attachment, too. But the writing and the actors’ chemistry sold the connection – at least to me. Mary and Sherlock haven’t actually interacted substantially enough for me to believe either that they like each other all that much, or why they like each other. Let alone that Sherlock likes Mary so much that he wants to park John at home with the Watson baby while he takes Mary on a case.

Oh, but she’s a superspy with a terrifying skillset, you say? Well, yes, Moffat and Gatiss. So you say. But it’s not enough to tell me that Mary is James Bond, Lara Croft and Mata Hari rolled into one, if you only let her manifest those abilities in meaningless ways at the margins of the story. In fact, so far the only meaningful consequence of Mary’s past is that it haunts her and puts her in danger. Danger that Sherlock needs to get her out of. Again. Oh no, but it’s all right, because Mary legs it for the great open spaces with new identities stashed under rocks in seaside towns, and Vespas in Italy, and camels in Tehran, all overlaid on a map, so you know we’re getting all James Bond now….and then she discovers that Sherlock and John are waiting patiently for her, waiting to fish her out of the soup once their feisty little Mary stops running about trying to handle things herself.

Moffat? Gatiss? I beg you, stop trying to write Strong Female Characters. You do not seem to understand what any of those terms mean.

‘I think we’re even now.’

Oh but it’s all right, because Mary does save Sherlock in the end! The baddie shoots Sherlock, and Mary heroically flings herself in the path of the bullet! You know, Mary, if you’re fast enough to outrace a speeding bullet that has already left the gun, you could maybe have just shoved Sherlock out of the way instead? Just a thought to ponder as you die, gasping out that John was your whole world and that you liked Sherlock (just in case you at home were wondering) and telling John to look after the child who has, by the way, had more on-screen interaction with Sherlock than with either of her parents.

And John lets out the howl of a wounded animal and snarls at Sherlock that he swore to protect them all. And I want so badly to take a moment to appreciate the wonderful and undersung Martin Freeman, but I am fighting my way clear of the thicket of implausibility and unearned melodrama and Sawing Violin Strings of this bloody episode. Wait for me, Martin! I’m coming!

And so is Sherlock – if John will have him. He refuses to see him, and once again the sodding music and the overwrought overlay over the sodding aquarium will not let me appreciate Cumberbatch’s fine work as Sherlock’s face crumples and his frame shrinks.

Deerstalking: Holmes canon nods

  • The Six Napoleons gets a shout-out in the form of the busts of a leader being smashed up, as well as the name of Barnicot and Harker. The hacker points out that Thatcher’s like Napoleon nowadays.

Odds and Sods

  • Charles Edwards shows up! Eeeeeee, my other British Public Schooly Actor Crush!
  • Okay, so I don’t actually mind the idea of the baddie being the mousy secretary. But if a meeting is classified ‘beyond top secret’, whatever that means, and is not being minuted, why even have the secretary there?
  • John has apparently begun and ended a text flirtation with a random redhead on a bus. So, you know. No marriage is perfect? Actually I’m being flippant. It is true that Mary’s given no signs of marital infidelity, and she really does seem to love John. I am deeply disappointed in John, though, and I assume that woman on the bus will be Important Later?
  • Sherlock keeps gravely intoning the tale of the Appointment in Samarra. Mary, Mycroft and Sherlock keep repeating the same point about outrunning destiny. And….is that really all that Moffat and Gatiss could do with that story? Did they miss the point that it was the merchant’s very attempt to avoid his fate that precipitated it? Could they really not have tried to work in a leetle bit of dramatic irony about Mary’s attempts at normality being what catalyse her eventual sticky end? No? Just ‘well, if you live by the sword, expect to die by the sword’?
  • Mycroft puts a call through to ‘Sherrinford’. All very hush hush.
  • Sherlock has a twitter account. I accept that it makes sense for him to move on from his blog, but (however unfairly) between Sherlock and Trump I am now firmly convinced that Twitter is the preserve of narcissistic dipshits.

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