Sherlock: The Six Thatchers
January 1, 2017 7:25 PM - Season 4, Episode 1 - Subscribe

Sherlock waits to see where Moriarty will make his posthumous move. One mysterious case in particular baffles Scotland Yard, but Sherlock is more interested in a seemingly trivial detail.

Why is someone destroying images of the late Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher? Is there a madman on the loose? Or is there a much darker purpose at work? Something with its roots deep in Mary Watson's past…
posted by yellowbinder (100 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Yes! Thank you for posting this!

I have to admit there were moments when I had my doubts about how clever the episode would really be. It seemed like such an obvious clue that the Black Pearl would be inside the busts, but the surprise was so much better than I expected.

Mycroft was amazing and still my very favourite character. And while John's back to hating Sherlock is a bit annoying, I have to admit it completely works for me, especially given how Mary and Sherlock really do see John as a good person and can't see that he really isn't. The viewer though, has known about this side of John since episode 1 and I think we all needed to be reminded of the fact that he's not a loyal, harmless puppy.
posted by A hidden well at 7:54 PM on January 1, 2017 [3 favorites]


I'm going to need some time to digest, but first of all, I just have to say, I sort of called this. Sure, I thought this was where they were going to go with S3 E3, so I was an episode or two off, but...

Mary's spy life catching up with her? Check
Mary and Sherlock in lethal peril because of that spy life? Check
Mary dies, Sherlock lives? Check
John blames Sherlock? Check

I even sort of wrote it in a fanfic, which I'm not going to link to because I'm not particularly proud of it. I deleted the whole baby thing though, because I hate babies. Although I actually think they handled the whole kid thing pretty well.

I just hope this isn't going to turn into too much of a two men and a baby sitcom kind of thing, although based on the tone of this episode, there's little chance of that happening.

Also, is this like the first episode of the entire series where there was no John is gay/they're a couple joke? Does that mean they're done with queerbaiting? Does that mean Johnlock will be canon? I'm predicting the answer is no and no, but we'll see.
posted by litera scripta manet at 7:59 PM on January 1, 2017


The two minutes of Lestrade were great!

Someone should tell these superspy types that the best place to hide a USB is inside my bag. Drop one inside, and it will never be seen again, seriously, I've already lost two this year.
posted by betweenthebars at 8:01 PM on January 1, 2017 [19 favorites]


Hey remember when John and Sherlock used to share screen time and solve crimes and shit?

Yeah that was awesome.

(I actually do have deeper thoughts that those, but right now that's pretty much what's foremost in my mind. Also how brutal that death scene must have been to shoot when Martin and Amanda had split just two weeks prior after sixteen years together.)
posted by tzikeh at 8:06 PM on January 1, 2017 [23 favorites]


And much like Sherlock himself, I'm obnoxiously obsessed with proving I was right about things...guess that whole first part of my comment wasn't really relevant.

Anyway, I really enjoyed this episode! And I didn't realize how upset I would be when they offed Mary. I legit cried.

Oh, and yeah, I was afraid they were going to go super predictable with the 6 Thatchers/6 Napoleon thing, but man, they really went in a much better direction. This is the Sherlock I always wanted. There were real stakes*, and it wasn't predictable. There was some comedy, but it was much more in the background. And the mystery actually felt like it was truly a part of the episode. Sometimes it can just feel like the mystery is tacked on as an excuse for all the other stuff, which I don't necessarily mind, but still.

Although I enjoyed the first season, I feel like they didn't quite know how to transition from the first two seasons of the show to the series post Reichenbach. But this was good. I really enjoyed it. I look forward to re-watching it 10 more times in the next week.

Also, yes, more Mycroft! I love Mycroft, and I've really become quite fond of the Sherlock and Mycroft dynamic. They better not kill off Mycroft. Or John or Molly or Lestrade or Mrs. Hooper. Or Sherlock, of course.

Still, with the third episode being called "The Final Problem" well, I guess no one is really safe, are they? I'm really excited/scared to see where they go with this.

*I'll take this back if Mary turns out to be alive. But maybe people will actually stay dead on this show going forward.
posted by litera scripta manet at 8:06 PM on January 1, 2017 [1 favorite]


Hey remember when John and Sherlock used to share screen time and solve crimes and shit?

Yeah that was awesome.


It wasn't a good sign for the detecting business when Sherlock failed to solve the mystery in ASIP. It really doesn't count when the murderer shows up at your door and announces himself.

I'd prefer more detective work (with more Lestrade), but I'm already resigned to the fact that if I want Sherlock solving cases, I'm better off with AO3 than the actual show. It would be nice if the inevitable reconciliation in the next episode doesn't drag on for too long so they can do some detecting together, but Mofftiss is gonna Mofftiss.
posted by betweenthebars at 8:53 PM on January 1, 2017 [3 favorites]


Also, John really always has been a bit of a dick, especially where women are concerned. Remember pre-Mary, all those women he sort of kind of dated (most of them off screen), who he couldn't actually keep straight? And how he was incapable of being within spitting distance of an attractive woman without hitting on her/going completely brain dead? (Irene Adler in 2.01, Mycroft's assistant Anthea in 1.01, Irene's faux-Mycroft assistant in 2.01, that therapist of Henry's in 2.02), so it's not surprising, really, that he would have a wandering eye.

But the show never really examined it, or painted it as a character flaw, so I guess it's nice to see the show call back to that, and shine a light on it.

Also, to be fair, Mary did nearly kill Sherlock. I always thought John forgave Mary too easily for that, because come on, Sherlock's whole "It's surgery" thing never really held much water. And even if Sherlock showing off sort of precipitated the whole shooting incident in this episode, it was still Mary that got them into that mess in the first place. And it's not like Sherlock asked Mary to take a bullet for him.

But John also has a lot of pent up aggression. And again, he is a bit of a dick, it's just usually overshadowed by Sherlock's dickishness, except Sherlock was relatively less dick-ish in this episode, all things considered.

I hope we get more Lestrade and Molly in the next couple episodes. I'm also hoping John gets over himself enough so that the two of them can actually spend the next two episodes solving crimes together. I'm not saying I'm glad that Mary's dead, because I'm not, but it would have been pretty tedious if she had been tagging along with them the whole time. I like Mary as a character, but I'd like to see more time given to Lestrade, Molly, and Mycroft.

Oh, and I'm glad Lady Smallwood didn't turn out to be the traitor.
posted by litera scripta manet at 8:54 PM on January 1, 2017 [6 favorites]


It would be nice if the inevitable reconciliation in the next episode doesn't drag on for too long so they can do some detecting together, but Mofftiss is gonna Mofftiss.

Yeah, if this were a show that didn't have a mere 4.5 hours of screen time per season, then I could see dragging out the reconciliation. It could make for an interesting story line, I suppose. Maybe let Lestrade play a bit of the John role with Sherlock or something. But given the fact that there are only three episodes, and we waited three years, I'd hope they don't drag this out forever. But who knows.
posted by litera scripta manet at 8:58 PM on January 1, 2017 [1 favorite]


A couple of my favorite light hearted moments from this episode:

One of the lines from this episode that I really enjoyed for some reason was when Sherlock says, "What are you, wikipedia?" and Mycroft is just like "Yep." (paraphrasing of course). It was also kind of funny when John and Lestrade have that little convo about babies aka Sherlock, and it goes over Sherlock's head, although I feel like that point has already been a bit belabored.

It was also really sweet how happy Lestrade was when Sherlock remembered his name, even though he didn't actually remember his name.

Still, I feel like this show has gone too far into the self reverential thing. A bit of meta commentary and some callbacks/running jokes are good, but it starts to feel like every joke is a wink and a nod to the audience about the all the other times the joke was used. I guess that's just more of Moftiss being Moftiss, and I do like the fact that the show can be quite funny, but some more new material would be nice.

Also, I hope Sherrinford is just code for something and that they aren't actually going to pull out a third brother.
posted by litera scripta manet at 9:33 PM on January 1, 2017


Last thing for now, I swear, but I was browsing tumblr, and someone over there pointed out that Norbury, the code word Sherlock tells Mrs. Hudson to use, was the name of the woman who killed Mary which is pretty damn dark.

I will say one of my biggest problems with the show still is the portrayal of female characters. First of all, that there actions always seem to be dictated by their love for the men in their lives (Molly with Sherlock, Mary with John, Irene Adler with Sherlock, and hell, even Donovan is introduced by her affair with Anderson, Janine and Sherlock). And beyond that, this show seems incapable of portraying a woman character as a strong character without making her an assassin and/or someone whose strength is always subverted by the men they interact with, as with Irene Adler. I guess Mrs. Hudson is the only consistent exception, and Molly is breaking out of this mold a bit, but still, it's there. Yet again, I guess that's just Moftiss being Moftiss.
posted by litera scripta manet at 9:39 PM on January 1, 2017 [7 favorites]


Thanks for posting this, yellowbinder! FYI for those who might have missed it -- there's an additional two second scene after the credits that is definitely worth going back to watch.
posted by galaxy rise at 10:23 PM on January 1, 2017


Still, I feel like this show has gone too far into the self reverential thing.

I've always been afraid this would be the show's downfall, which is why I was so pleased at the twists and how well written the shows are. I also think what happened to Mary - and the pointed reference to Norbury - is a way to stop this path. Both for the show and Sherlock as a character.
posted by A hidden well at 10:31 PM on January 1, 2017


As for the episode itself: I mostly liked it, although it's not one of my favorites, at least not on first viewing.

I know it can annoy others but I really enjoy some of the meta touches and references the creators put in -- for instance, the way we start the episode with Sherlock, Mycroft, Lady Smallwood, etc literally watching footage from His Last Vow, and manipulating it to tell a different story. Moffatt and Gatiss do stuff like this a lot. In His Last Vow, Sherlock and John are shown footage from The Empty Hearse and told how to interpret it. In Many Happy Returns (the minisode) John watches a video of Sherlock talking about how to distinguish truth from lies. In The Reichenbach Fall you get Moriarty's prerecorded video spinning a false narrative about Sherlock. There's a theme here, is what I'm getting at, and the theme is that you can't always trust what you see, the storyteller or the story. I think this episode's going to read very differently once we get the other two.

Any other TJLCers on FanFare? (Gatiss Mycroft: "Oh good, I love an acronym. All the best secret societies have them.")
posted by galaxy rise at 10:36 PM on January 1, 2017 [3 favorites]


I guess I feel much more negatively than others. This show has gotten so bogged down with the involutions of character development that it can't offer the simple pleasure of a mystery being solved anymore. Mofftiss keep raising the stakes, tying more complicated knots they can't untie. We can't have a mystery that doesn't suck every major character into the black hole of plot complications.

And why the many, many iterations of Sherlock being so abrasive and weird? The Sherlock of the first two series was eccentric, and his eccentricities were woven into the fabric of the show. Now we get scene after scene with no intent except to show what a belligerent dick Sherlock is. Maybe it's supposed to set up Sherlock's growth or comeuppance or something. But it's not a pleasant focus for the show.

In other words, this show is a lot of work to watch and not much fun anymore.

And a few minor complaints that stuck with me:

-- Mary rolls dice, the dice spell out a postal code in Norway, she goes there ... and there's a passport waiting for her behind a loose stone. Has she stashed phony passports in every postal code on earth?
-- The bust of Margaret Thatcher was stolen from the home of the boy who died of a seizure. Calling this a coincidence is an understatement. We're talking Infinite Improbability Drive here.
-- Speaking of which: People are stealing busts and smashing them. Maybe they are looking for something hidden inside the bust? This bit of primitive reasoning should not elude Sherlock as long as it does.
-- Mary has time to see a bullet leave the chamber of the gun and leap into its path. We see clearly that she didn't anticipate: she reacted. No.
-- I cringed at Mary's acting out as the old woman on the plane. We're supposed to see her cunning way with disguises, but it's awful (and doesn't explain anything).
-- Are we supposed to believe that Sherlock doesn't know who Margaret Thatcher is (or what a prime minister is, for that matter)? Because his knowledge of Margaret Thatcher gets him a password in the Hounds of Baskerville. I got the feeling he was playing dumb — but why?

More generally, there are lots of character moments that feel weirdly off. Why is Sherlock grabbing cookies by the handful and raving in the opening scene (drugs? Not clear). The John Watson we've come to know would politely decline flirting — if not, why not? What's different?

I will say this, though. One thing has been consistent through all 4 seasons: Mycroft's nose is fascinating. I've never seen another one quite like it.
posted by argybarg at 11:29 PM on January 1, 2017 [29 favorites]


That was a really long way to go just to kill-off Mary. I'll hand it to Moffit and Gattiss, though, they really are the best when it comes to loading-down a show with manic dialogue and catchy eye-candy. That is to say, it was all very entertaining, but it mostly distracted from any serious Sherlock.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:32 AM on January 2, 2017 [6 favorites]


The Fridging of Mary was telegraphed pretty much the minute it was shown she was a capable adult and could outmatch/match both John and Sherlock in the intellectual stakes.

Moffat does this a lot.

The Multimedia overlays seemed to saturate this episode in a way that made them distracting rather than informative.

For the plot to work there needed to be universe shattering amounts of coincidence, and for Sherlock to be effectively carrying the 'idiot ball' for at least half the episode.

I'm going to watch the last two episodes of the season, but I suspect I will enjoy them even less. Alas I'm a TV completist.
posted by Faintdreams at 6:47 AM on January 2, 2017 [7 favorites]


I really hated this episode so much I am going to pretend it doesn't exist. If I wanted shitty over-effected editing and action-movie crapisms, a Sherlock with feelings, and no interesting mystery, I would watch other shows. I think it is made worse by the fact that we just watched the Abominable Bride, which was so good, but fuck this sucked. At least Mary is dead now so with luck it will get better.
posted by dame at 6:50 AM on January 2, 2017 [6 favorites]


Phew, I’m not the only person that thought the episode was completely terrible. Even if some stuff does pay off later in the series, each episode is supposed to work in and of itself & this simply didn’t.

Don’t think I’ll be bothering with the rest of the series, which is such a shame after the greatness of the early episodes.
posted by pharm at 6:53 AM on January 2, 2017 [4 favorites]


Also according to IMDB this was written by just Gatiss and not Moffat, I think, but the next two have Moffatt so I hold out some hope. (He's not unproblematic, Moffat, but he does manage to write some good stuff.)
posted by dame at 6:54 AM on January 2, 2017


Are we supposed to believe that Sherlock doesn't know who Margaret Thatcher is?

Doesn't John constantly call Sherlock on pretending not to know who thatcher is?
He's doing that thing that some people sometimes do to affect ignorance of a populist fact to paint himself as a intellectually aloof and different.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 6:54 AM on January 2, 2017 [5 favorites]


No need to thank me for posting, I just wanted to read comments about it so I set up the honeypot.

I was really turned off by the fanservice-y series three, so much so that I skipped the Bride last year. I enjoyed this on first watch but it doesn't sit well the morning after. I had grown to enjoy Mary as a disruptive factor in the teamup, and watching more of Sherlock trying to win John back might be a little much for me.

Sherlock's talk about The Game is definitely in character but the dialogue around it was very odd. "I'll know when the game begins" "Why?" "Because I love it!" smash to credits felt like a transplant from a much worse version of this show. Or maybe that's just the version we have now.

What is with Mycroft and concrete squares in his decor? That office! That kitchen!
posted by yellowbinder at 7:04 AM on January 2, 2017 [3 favorites]


Mary rolls dice, the dice spell out a postal code in Norway, she goes there ... and there's a passport waiting for her behind a loose stone. Has she stashed phony passports in every postal code on earth?

I assume that at some point between rolling the dice and actually getting there she used her skills to discover who locally could make fake passports and asked them to pick the drop off somewhere in the postal code. That part doesn't seem like much of a stretch to me.

Speaking of which: People are stealing busts and smashing them. Maybe they are looking for something hidden inside the bust? This bit of primitive reasoning should not elude Sherlock as long as it does.

Does it, though? I don't remember precisely what he reveals he knows when, but both this show's Sherlock and the original Arthur Conan Doyle Holmes have the character trait of keeping what they've figured out to themselves so they can reveal it at the most dramatic possible moment.

The bust of Margaret Thatcher was stolen from the home of the boy who died of a seizure. Calling this a coincidence is an understatement. We're talking Infinite Improbability Drive here.

Okay, I am with you here. But also: Sherlock seems to be with you. He immediately flashes to Moriarty, as if Moriarty had coordinated the whole thing as a game from beyond the grave. We never return to this moment, and it could just be lazy writing that'll never be resolved, but perhaps we'll find out what was up with this 'coincidence' when we find out what's up with Moriarty.
posted by galaxy rise at 7:08 AM on January 2, 2017 [1 favorite]


Of course, I am assuming Mary is, in fact, dead. We all know just how not-quite-dead people can be in this show. And, there was Mary's "Go to hell, Sherlock" after the credits, which appeared to be shot from the same location as the DVD.

I'm going with Mary really being dead. But, honestly, this show needs to get away from playing all cute with the action. Give us some goddamned drama and actual brain-crunching sleuthing.
................

Thinking on the hiding of the (rather enormous) thumb-drive inside the figurine...The head portion was, obviously, open and hollow, and I find it really implausible that the head would have been mounted to the base by a worker (it was pretty apparent this was not an automated assembly line) without either someone noticing the drive in the cavity (either directly or by its clinking-around inside), or all or part of it (like, the neck chain) falling out of the head.
................

I also find it implausible that Sherlock could have inserted a tracking device inside the big, metal thumb-drive without leaving some indication of tampering. On top of that, ultra-competent spy Mary doesn't ever think to check the drive for tampering once she gets it back from Sherlock?
posted by Thorzdad at 7:57 AM on January 2, 2017 [4 favorites]


I also found this episode terribly frustrating, in the same way that I find Moffitt-era Dr. Who frustrating - I wish we could just make with the solving of mysteries and less with the killing-off-of-major-characters, interpersonal-drama stuff. But I'm sure that's what a lot of people watch it for, so ... whatever. And definitely in agreement that the digital overlays and fancy camera shots, etc were way overplayed.
posted by jferg at 7:59 AM on January 2, 2017 [3 favorites]


On re-reading some of the comments, this, from argybarg:

In other words, this show is a lot of work to watch and not much fun anymore.

is exactly how I feel about this episode.
posted by jferg at 8:03 AM on January 2, 2017 [10 favorites]


Do all four of the super-elite Archer-type freelance mercenaries carry around a thumb drive with all their secret identities all the time, or just the one guy? Why on earth would they do this?
posted by Huffy Puffy at 8:42 AM on January 2, 2017 [11 favorites]


Huffy Puffy: That's covered (mostly) in the episode. Each of them has one of the thumb drives that contains information about all four of them. It's an "insurance policy" against each other. At least that's how it's explained. There seem to be a number of holes in this concept.
posted by jferg at 8:56 AM on January 2, 2017 [4 favorites]


The story wound around in a way that was initially satisfying and then really really not. Like the body in the car at the beginning. It started cute, kind of provocative, a good Sherlockian puzzle and then... or the line about knowing when 'the game' was afoot, "Because I love it!" He should have had a jazz-hands moment there, for punctuation.

Cumberbatch is a pretty satisfying Sherlock when the script is good which I didn't think this was, really, though it almost kind of was... My barometer for these things is my wife who, after about forty minutes, rolled over and went to sleep. Which tells me I'm enjoying it, but come on.

Also, Mary's storyline was fantastic - I mean, really great and I really liked her character and the notion that she was this wicked wild card was a real bright spot and then... That part is/was lame.
posted by From Bklyn at 9:02 AM on January 2, 2017 [3 favorites]


A Sherlock show without solving a substantive mystery is the TV equivalent of alcohol-free beer.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 9:13 AM on January 2, 2017 [4 favorites]


I'm going to throw out a theory that I'm sure will be completely off the mark, but hey, we've waited three years, so why not:

What if the whole Moriarty thing is a red herring? I mean, we already know it was a red herring in the Six Thatchers, when Sherlock thought he was on the scent of Moriarty's game when actually it was about Mary. But what if Mary was behind the Moriarty did you miss me thing the whole time? They've shown us her hacking skills are pretty great (Abominable Bride, when she breaks into the MI6 database in 5 seconds). What if none of this ties into Moriarty at all?

Why would she do this? I'm assuming she knew this would be enough to bring Sherlock back to London. Maybe she felt like she owed him one, after the whole shooting him thing and the fact that he shot Magnussen to protect her. Or maybe because she knew in all likelihood her past would come back to haunt her and that she might need to make a run for it or be killed, and she wanted Sherlock to be there for John and the baby.
posted by litera scripta manet at 12:42 PM on January 2, 2017


In other words, this show is a lot of work to watch and not much fun anymore.

Yes, this. I found this episode exhausting to watch: an endless barrage of quick edits, split shots, and graphic overlays. The graphics in particular: these were fun when Sherlock started and they were used to integrate the occasional text message into the plot, but here they were constant and very distracting.

And meh to the plot. Frustrating also that we get teased with Sherlock deducing and solving during the "waiting for the game to start" montage because damnit, that's what I'm watching the show for, don't skip over that stuff!
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 1:10 PM on January 2, 2017 [5 favorites]


Huh, the bit where the Scottish woman gives Watson her number is just round the corner from my flat. I thought it looked familiar. Outside Lambeth North tube station, so near by the Aquarium and not that far from Vauxhall Cross.

Personally I watch the series for the labyrinthine silliness and hallucinatory visuals, so I'm a perfectly happy customer. What with her Dr Who episodes and this, it seems that the working relationship between Moffat and Rachel Talalay is becoming very fruitful. I love the scenes bleeding into each other.
posted by Grangousier at 2:24 PM on January 2, 2017 [1 favorite]


Hallucinatory visuals is right, and they provided a little distraction from the plotlessness.

Many Tumblr theorists point out telltales that it's still Sherlock's hallucination, carrying on from the end of The Abominable Bride. For example, the physics of Mary-taking-the-bullet-for-Sherlock are more bogus than usual.

Cumberbatch didn't show any of the "lost in my own mind" ethereality that was so enjoyable in earlier eps. At this point, I'm keeping up to date so I can better enjoy the fixits the fans will write.
posted by Jesse the K at 2:39 PM on January 2, 2017 [3 favorites]


It reminded me of the second season of Dowton Abbey. It's just the hollowed out shell of what was a great drama.
posted by night_train at 3:29 PM on January 2, 2017 [3 favorites]


I only watched the first season of this, but I happened to catch this last night. I was curious about something, maybe y'all can tell me if it's always been this way or not --- I feel like the show's Implausibility Meter is broken. Every mystery has its red herring, the faulty theories and false clues that are meant to be plausible on first hearing but fall apart as soon as you stop to think about them. And this version of Sherlock relies a lot on quick, dry humour, where the only way you can tell what the jokes are meant to be is that they fall apart in that same way --- delivered straight, but the inherent implausibility reveals them to be ironic, ridiculous.

But the thing is, there's no gap, really, between the true and the false, in terms of how much sense they make. The show keeps trying to hustle you along so quickly that you don't notice, but the solutions that turn out to be correct rely just as much as on ridiculously nonsensical gibberish/million to one coincidences as the stuff that's fake. Which seems like a particular problem for a Sherlock show. It's like it's been infected by Carroll's Red Queen. Can't eliminate the impossible when you spent all morning practicing how to believe in it.
posted by Diablevert at 3:44 PM on January 2, 2017 [7 favorites]


Did they find that fight in the pool on the cutting room floor of a Bourne movie? Sure, I totally buy a layabout like Sherlock fighting a trained assassin to a draw.

It was unclear if John was in the house when Sherlock went to check on him at the end, but either way the idea of leaving Molly to look after his child when she has a full life and career of her own is just gross.

I have to wonder if they realized how bad a mistake Mary was and killed her off so they could back to actually solving mysteries. I guess we'll have to see, but the recent track record of the show doesn't make me optimistic.
posted by dry white toast at 7:26 PM on January 2, 2017 [6 favorites]


I wonder where the USB drives for the other A.G.R.A. members are. I'm going to assume they're hidden and not on the agents during the failed mission. But who knows, might surface in another episode.
posted by Seboshin at 9:10 PM on January 2, 2017


Any other TJLCers on FanFare?

Thank you, this is exactly the hole I need to fall down!
posted by beandip at 2:31 AM on January 3, 2017


Whatshisname put the USB stick in the bust, but it was just kind of...underneath it? And then, somehow, a person in the workshop later filled that hole and left the stick inside? ("Oh, what a mess in my workshop. Well, back to work I go. Hm, here's a strange USB stick. *shrug* Just gotta fill these holes in these otherwise finished busts. Guess I'll leave this inside.")

Also, is Sherlock faceblind? Would explain him not recognizing the bust of Thatcher, and then pretending he doesn't know who she is to cover for it. He also doesn't look at people's faces the way non-faceblind people do - he just analyses them.
posted by easternblot at 4:17 AM on January 3, 2017


Many Tumblr theorists point out telltales that it's still Sherlock's hallucination, carrying on from the end of The Abominable Bride.

As Moffat-ish timey-wimey as that sounds, I would welcome it with open arms and a big sloppy kiss. It would go a long way toward letting me swallow a lot of what has gone down since. Especially the ending of last series. I'm still not buying that Sherlock can cold-bloodily shoot a man in the head (on camera, no less) and then be let off free-as-a-bird because he's such a valuable asset to the gov't. I don't care who his brother is. Nope, nope, nope. None of that rings true to the character except as an ego-driven internal hallucination.

Unfortunately, I doubt the "continuing hallucination" theory will pan out.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:50 AM on January 3, 2017 [1 favorite]


Unfortunately, I doubt the "continuing hallucination" theory will pan out.

Yeah, I don't love it as a plot device either, but I'm pretty convinced it's what happening. Fans on tumblr (well, specifically TJLCers, come join me and beandip down in this hole) have pointed out a number of minor inconsistencies between the scenes that are shown twice. For instance we see Mary and John in bed, with Mary getting up to tend to Rosie, twice - the first time Mary says "Mommy's coming" and the second time she says "I'm coming". Why?

But the big evidence for me is Mary's death scene. It's so overdramatic, complete with someone defying physics to leap in front of a bullet, a big burst of blood, army doctor husbands not bothering to provide care, etc. You might say, "Well everyone does death scenes unrealistically what do you expect" except we see Mary shoo Sherlock from close range in His Last Vow and not only does it look nothing like this, we get a character actively commenting, "It’s not like it is in the movies. There’s not a great big spurt of blood and you go flying backwards."

The writers have been telling us 'don't trust the narrator' since The Reichenbach Fall at least, and thirty seconds into this episode there's a whole bit about doctoring footage and what you see not being the true story. So yeah, I think it's happening.
posted by galaxy rise at 8:11 AM on January 3, 2017 [6 favorites]


But the big evidence for me is Mary's death scene. It's so overdramatic, complete with someone defying physics to leap in front of a bullet, a big burst of blood, army doctor husbands not bothering to provide care, etc. You might say, "Well everyone does death scenes unrealistically what do you expect" except we see Mary shoo Sherlock from close range in His Last Vow and not only does it look nothing like this, we get a character actively commenting, "It’s not like it is in the movies. There’s not a great big spurt of blood and you go flying backwards."

This scene nearly ruined the episode for me for everything you've laid out here. I was ranting and raving to my wife about the improbability of it all for minutes afterward.

Overall, I generally liked the episode. I liked how Mary telegraphed the twist at the end, in the beginning, with her comment about receptionists hearing everything..
posted by Atreides at 8:24 AM on January 3, 2017


I liked how Mary telegraphed the twist at the end, in the beginning, with her comment about receptionists hearing everything..
In my opinion that "What did you say?" casual remark that triggers the sleuth's intuition is an overused cliché in detective shows. Sherlock should be above such contrivances.
posted by AndrewStephens at 9:15 AM on January 3, 2017 [3 favorites]


I am still trying to figure out why a good portion of the episode was spent on John the Adulterer. While I know that John has a rather unhealthy history with women, it seemed to be sort of shoved into the flow of the show. But why? There has to be a reason, and I will not be surprised if the other woman plays a part in the next episode somehow.
posted by ElleElle at 9:27 AM on January 3, 2017 [6 favorites]


There's a man standing very close to the door of the bus when John gets off that I was sure was going to play some sort of role, but didn't. He had a newspaper in his hands, or something similar, and most people give people leaving the bus more room than that.

Also, it maybe looked like John whispered to Mary just after she died. Did anyone else catch that, or was I imagining things?
posted by minsies at 9:50 AM on January 3, 2017 [1 favorite]


And yeah, I was sort of.. I mean OK John's wife died and he was angry with Sherlock, but John - Sherlock didn't pull the trigger, Sherlock didn't shove your wife in front of the bullet, Sherlock wasn't a hired assassin whose career trajectory usually ends by being shot, ugh. I thought they did a particularly poor job of showing John growing increasingly frustrated and annoyed by Sherlock this episode, he just went from "LET'S BOTH GO TO SHERLOCK'S SIDE" to "GRR DAMN YOU SHERLOCK" in zero seconds flat.

(And yeah, wait, you mean (at least one) assassin runs around with a USB drive full of incriminating evidence against the team? Did he _just_ fall off the turnip truck, or does this somehow make sense?)
posted by Kyol at 10:03 AM on January 3, 2017 [5 favorites]


In a more...robust...text, being shown two instances of faked footage within the first fifteen minutes (?) would certainly clue us in to be suspicious of what we were seeing. I just don't think Moffat is that sturdy a craftsman.

Or maybe it's more that I don't really care even if he is, because, when you control the camera, especially when you're operating in a genre with relatively low standards for internal coherence and realism, it's actually not that much of a trick to mislead your audience. Sitting through Versions A, B, C of the same events just for the sake of showing that each isn't the real story isn't thrilling, it's alienating. There was at least a specific extratextual motivation for the shenanigans in "The Abominable Bride" (getting the Victorian version of the characters while remaining in-universe), but there's a reason why "actually it was all a dream!!!" is a common way of referring to "bad, lazy storytelling."

I'll just be over here trying to figure out where the F Mycroft was at the end of the episode, as that kitchen was grubby and run-down in a way I can't imagine any of his homes being. And I have imagined quite a few of them.
posted by praemunire at 10:37 AM on January 3, 2017 [2 favorites]


I'll just be over here trying to figure out where the F Mycroft was at the end of the episode, as that kitchen was grubby and run-down in a way I can't imagine any of his homes being. And I have imagined quite a few of them.

Me: "Mycroft can afford an American-style fridge, but not decent wall tile?"

I had a number of thoughts about this episode, all massively unpleasant, none of which will be improved by the embarrassing equivalent of finding Bobby Ewing in the shower.
posted by thomas j wise at 11:21 AM on January 3, 2017 [4 favorites]


as that kitchen was grubby and run-down in a way I can't imagine any of his homes being

I assumed that was an office break room. It probably wasn't (no note declaring that everything will be thrown out on Friday), but the grimy wall and overabundance of take out menus reminded me of some office break rooms I have known, so that's what I'm telling myself.
posted by everybody had matching towels at 11:55 AM on January 3, 2017 [1 favorite]


Or maybe it's more that I don't really care even if he is, because, when you control the camera, especially when you're operating in a genre with relatively low standards for internal coherence and realism, it's actually not that much of a trick to mislead your audience.

Yeah, that summarizes succinctly my own problems with this move. Has there *ever* been a show that pulled off "it was just a dream" successfully?

I just don't think Moffat is that sturdy a craftsman.

I find it fascinating how much people's opinion of the show comes down to their trust in the writers, rather than a straightforward reading of the text. For instance, people who don't know much about Moffat and Gatiss tend to think the show is queerbaiting, while people who know Gatiss is gay and Moffat has written multiple LGBT versions of the Holmes/Watson pairing are more likely to believe the show has a queer endgame. I've also noticed older queer fans who've been burned by showrunners in the past are more likely to view the show as queerbaiting. We all bring so much history to our interpretations.

In this case, while I've bemoaned many a Moffat plotline over on Doctor Who, and while BBC Sherlock certainly has contained a clunker or three (I'm still annoyed about the ending to Scandal in Belgravia), I think I simply trust Gatiss and Moffat to be going somewhere interesting with this.
posted by galaxy rise at 12:00 PM on January 3, 2017 [1 favorite]


I'm familiar with the showrunners' identities, but I find the idea that we are building up to a gay climax that has been secretly telegraphed to the readers over four seasons of elaborate codes ridiculous. When there is a mainstream explicitly gay or bisexual Sherlock Holmes--and let it be soon--the show won't need cryptography. Cryptography is the substitute for queerness. Even if Sherlock and John were to get together in this version, which I consider low-probability but not impossible, there haven't been years of esoteric character mirrorings and telling costume color choices letting us in ahead of time. (I do know a lot of people play the Johnlock conspiracy game just for fun, which is totally fine, it's not like it's an insult to the dignity of the material or anything, but even then I could do without the nasty anti-Mary misogyny that the subculture has happily embraced. That stretch of tumblr feels like 1980s fandom up in there. Sunday evening post-show was pretty gross.)
posted by praemunire at 12:28 PM on January 3, 2017 [2 favorites]


I think I simply trust Gatiss and Moffat to be going somewhere interesting with this.

I have mixed feelings about this. I don't particularly trust Moffat when it comes to portrayal of women based on this show (*cough*Scandal in Belgravia*cough*), and I don't have a strong feeling one way or the other about LGBTQ issues, having not seen any of his other stuff.

The thing that gives me the most hope re:TJLC is Gatiss's own interpretation of The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, and the fact that Moftiss has explicitly stated the fact that this is a major inspiration for the current show.

Of course, they've repeatedly disavowed notions of Sherlock being gay or asexual, but then again, they admit to lying too, so it's hard to know. Still, I'd much rather have them say "we can't comment on this" then to outright lie.

And I will be so annoyed if they pull another "it was all a dream" thing. While watching this episode, I actually thought that was where they were going with this, and it sure wouldn't surprise me, but it would piss me off. I agree that it works okay in Abominable Bride, and at least in The Empty Hearse it was made clear very quickly that those "How he did it" sequences weren't real. However, if they did it in this case, not only would it be lazy storytelling, but I think it's needlessly cruel to the audience, and it basically robs the story of meaning, at least for me. How am I supposed to get invested in what goes on this show if there's a decent chance it will be shown to have been fake/a dream/etc?

With that being said, my hunch is that they wanted to leave themselves an opening so that if they choose, in the future they can be like, "Oh, Mary pulled a Sherlock and faked her death so that she could protect John and Rosie," but that won't necessarily be used this season. And maybe not at all, if the rumblings that I've heard about this being the final season turn out to be the case.
posted by litera scripta manet at 12:37 PM on January 3, 2017


Also, going back to the whole portrayal of women on this show thing, I have to say that I liked Mary a lot better before she was revealed to be an international assassin or whatever in HLV. Maybe this is irrational, and I'll probably do a bad job of explaining it, but I really liked Mary at first because she was an interesting, strong female character who didn't take shit from the boys and was willing and able to call the shots. Yes, she was introduced as John's love interest, but I didn't feel like she was solely defined by being John's love interest (like Sarah, for example).

And then it turns out she's a spy who shoots Sherlock and was apparently planning on killing Magnussen to prevent John from finding out the truth. I'll admit I had a hard time getting over the whole shooting Sherlock thing, but beyond that, I sort of feel like Moftiss can't let a woman be a strong independent character in her own right. There has to be something more. She has to be a dominatrix working with Moriarty or she has to be an international assassin. She can't just be someone who is a complex character who is interesting and competent and willing to stand up for herself. There has to be more.

Maybe I'm reading too much into this, and I think I'm probably in a minority of people who feel this way (I've gotten the impression that most fans either hate Mary because of the way she functions to break up the John/Sherlock dynamic or like her for being a badass assassin.) Still, this is something that has been bothering me ever since the reveal during HLV.
posted by litera scripta manet at 12:52 PM on January 3, 2017 [14 favorites]


It bugs me, too, LSM. Moffat has this genius way of producing uncanny-valley versions of plotlines for women/women characters that are offputting despite being the sort of thing I normally eat up. Mary here and River Song in DW are the chief examples. Making her an assassin has also pushed the show too far into Bourne territory--some "international intrigue" is certainly canonical, but the show doesn't really have the superstructure for hijinks like this week's.
posted by praemunire at 1:16 PM on January 3, 2017 [5 favorites]


I feel you, litera scripta manet. Do you read/follow PlaidAdder? She captures my feelings pretty well in her post The Client Chair: “His Last Vow,” Agency, And Me Being So Very Done With Moffat’s Women:
Why is it not enough that Mary was–as she was introduced in “Empty Hearse” and “His Last Vow”–a clever, funny, good-humored, brave woman who is devoted to John, likes his crazy friend Sherlock well enough to make room for him, and is curious and steadfast enough to make a good third member of the investigative team? Why does she ALSO have to be a psychopath who stole a dead woman’s identity, has never told John the truth about anything, kills people for a living, and shot Sherlock in the chest? Jesus, Moffat, do you find women THAT boring that you have to invent all this bullshit just to make it credible that BAMF!John would be willing to spend his life with her?

[...] Because this is the thing about Les Femmes Moffita. They can kill as many people as they want, as sexily as they know how; but their agency within the storylines we see is always fatally compromised by their love for the hero.
posted by galaxy rise at 1:16 PM on January 3, 2017 [16 favorites]


I'm not familiar with PlaidAdder and hadn't seen that post, galaxy rise, so thanks for sharing it. I just read through it and it definitely captures a lot of my own feelings about this. It's good to know that at least I'm not the only one who feels this way.
posted by litera scripta manet at 1:35 PM on January 3, 2017


I had a number of thoughts about this episode, all massively unpleasant, none of which will be improved by the embarrassing equivalent of finding Bobby Ewing in the shower.

What if it's literally Sherlock in the shower?
posted by ZeusHumms at 2:11 PM on January 3, 2017


~I'll just be over here trying to figure out where the F Mycroft was at the end of the episode, as that kitchen was grubby and run-down in a way I can't imagine any of his homes being. And I have imagined quite a few of them.

~"Mycroft can afford an American-style fridge, but not decent wall tile?"


Hell, what about his office? It was as claustrophobic as a jail cell, especially with the small squares of light hitting the wall, assumedly from some tiny windows in the ceiling. You got the feeling he was in some dark, dank dungeon somewhere. I know we've seen his office before, but I don't recall it being that...terrible.

Maybe that's how Sherlock views his brother's job, and the hallucination theory is correct after all?
posted by Thorzdad at 2:16 PM on January 3, 2017


I'll just be over here trying to figure out where the F Mycroft was at the end of the episode, as that kitchen was grubby and run-down in a way I can't imagine any of his homes being. And I have imagined quite a few of them.

I figured that kitchen and the office we see him in during this episode (the same one from HLV) are where he works not where he lives. I was thinking about this actually while I watched Six Thatchers, and I decided that he must be working in some kind of underground bunker.
posted by litera scripta manet at 3:42 PM on January 3, 2017


This is way up thread but:

Also, is Sherlock faceblind? Would explain him not recognizing the bust of Thatcher, and then pretending he doesn't know who she is to cover for it. He also doesn't look at people's faces the way non-faceblind people do - he just analyses them.

This would be super interesting, actually. I've read that people with prosopagnosia often use other tells to recognize people as a way to compensate for the facial blindness. Wouldn't it be interesting if part of Sherlock's deductive skills came about as a way to compensate for his facial blindness?

Okay, more likely this is just supposed to be one of those things he deleted. Although in Hounds of Baskerville, he definitely shows that he knows who Margaret Thatcher is (that whole silly guessing Major Barrymore's password thing).
posted by litera scripta manet at 3:46 PM on January 3, 2017 [2 favorites]


Also, going back to the whole portrayal of women on this show thing, I have to say that I liked Mary a lot better before she was revealed to be an international assassin or whatever in HLV. Maybe this is irrational, and I'll probably do a bad job of explaining it, but I really liked Mary at first because she was an interesting, strong female character who didn't take shit from the boys and was willing and able to call the shots. Yes, she was introduced as John's love interest, but I didn't feel like she was solely defined by being John's love interest (like Sarah, for example).

Mostly agreed, litera scripta manet. I am a little inclined to prefer just John and Sherlock because it entertains me the most, but normal Mary had potential to be an interesting addition. Assassin Mary is just boring. Action fight in a pool boring.
posted by dame at 3:59 PM on January 3, 2017


I'm a very casual watcher of this show but this episode really bothered me. I just don't understand Mary's motivations in any of this. Why did she think her life was now safe enough to have a baby? I was also surprised to find out last season that the actors playing John and Mary were married in real life as I really didn't detect any chemistry between them- especially if they're supposed to have the kind of intense love that makes them surmount all the various obstacles to bring together (i only half watch the show, but didn't Mary try to kill Sherlock?).

Count in me as one who hopes it's all one of Sherlock's drug-influenced fever dreams as the fact that there's a baby out there (being looked after by Molly, I guess?) means that I won't be able to listen to any Sherlock/Watson banter without thinking "John, go home to your baby!"

I hope the flirty Scottish woman turns out to be something more than just a someone for Watson to sleep with so that he can move on from the death of his wife. But Mary's final message telling Sherlock to look after John makes me think that is exactly what will happen.

Also, Molly, Mrs. Hooper, Sherlock are the godparents? Are these the only people they know?! Why not Mycroft or the police inspector then.

On preview: thanks fur the PlaidAdder link galaxy rise- that's what I suspected was going on and is also why I'm hesitant to watch Doctor Who.
posted by TheLateGreatAbrahamLincoln at 4:01 PM on January 3, 2017 [3 favorites]


Actually, now that i think about it, Sherlock, Mrs. Hooper, and Molly are the people Sherlock knows so maybe that is a sign it's all in Sherlock's head. I'm sure this is covered somewhere on Tumblr.
posted by TheLateGreatAbrahamLincoln at 4:17 PM on January 3, 2017


Why did she think her life was now safe enough to have a baby?

It's implied in Sign of Three (S3E2) that Mary getting pregnant was either an accident/unplanned or at least unexpected in some way, based on how surprised they seem when Sherlock deduces it. They don't seem unhappy about it, but they definitely seem surprised.

Did they find that fight in the pool on the cutting room floor of a Bourne movie? Sure, I totally buy a layabout like Sherlock fighting a trained assassin to a draw.

In the original ACD canon, Holmes is supposedly a very adept fighter, so even though it could seem a bit far fetched, it's not that surprising given the source material. (Although honestly, I feel like they just wanted to take advantage of all the training Cumberbatch presumably did for Dr. Strange.)
posted by litera scripta manet at 6:15 PM on January 3, 2017 [2 favorites]


It's funny how waiting a week for the next episode is more difficult than waiting three years between seasons. I'm dying to see what happens in the next two episodes.

In the meantime, I'm interested to read more meta/speculation/theories. In particular, does anyone know of any good posts analyzing the teasers/trailers or anything analyzing the possible meaning of Sherrinford? I know about the background of the name (in a non-ACD story Sherrinford was the oldest brother) but I just now came across a reference to Sherrinford showing up in a Dr Who/Holmes crossover novel.
posted by litera scripta manet at 7:39 PM on January 3, 2017


But the big evidence for me is Mary's death scene. It's so overdramatic, complete with someone defying physics to leap in front of a bullet, a big burst of blood, army doctor husbands not bothering to provide care, etc...we see Mary shoo Sherlock from close range in His Last Vow and not only does it look nothing like this, we get a character actively commenting, "It’s not like it is in the movies. There’s not a great big spurt of blood and you go flying backwards."

I don't love how the scene is shot, but I don't think it's necessarily incompatibly with the filming of HLV. Mary ends up on the ground because of the fact that she already threw herself to get in front of the bullet. Maybe Sherlock could have ducked, but I think Mrs. Norbury did catch him off guard, but I don't think she caught Mary off guard, since Mary tried to tell Sherlock to knock it off earlier. We do see John holding his hands over the entrance wound, although I admit that's not much in the way of doctoring. And upon rewatching the scene, I don't see that much blood.

I do agree that the way Mary throws herself in front of the bullet is not filmed very gracefully.

Who knows, though. Maybe this is just me reading in to it what I want to see, sinceI really hope this isn't some sort of fake out or hallucination or whatever.
posted by litera scripta manet at 8:07 PM on January 3, 2017


I figured that kitchen and the office we see him in during this episode (the same one from HLV) are where he works not where he lives.

I had that thought, too, but the action in the scene puzzles me: why would he take his umbrella and briefcase into the office kitchen, set them down, and then stretch awkwardly? That really says "just walked into the house" to me. Also, if he were stopping in the kitchen on the way out the door, which would explain the umbrella and briefcase, I'd expect him to have his coat on, but he doesn't.

And while I have opened up my home fridge only to sigh in disappointment many a time in my life, I've never done this with a work fridge--not even when I was in the office for such long hours that I sometimes ate three meals a day there. You can never persuade yourself there's secretly food you forgot all about in the work fridge. But maybe that's just me.

Clearly I'd rather think about Mycroft trivia than about much else in this episode.
posted by praemunire at 8:24 PM on January 3, 2017 [4 favorites]


For instance we see Mary and John in bed, with Mary getting up to tend to Rosie, twice - the first time Mary says "Mommy's coming" and the second time she says "I'm coming". Why?
Did anyone else read the second version of that scene as implying that Mary noticed the face-down lit-up phone, read the message(s) and sent one of her own? Because it screamed that to me, then didn't ever pay off (unless you count the reappearance of Bus Lady as indicative of Mary having given her secret imposter-texting encouragement/blessing to John's infidelity, which I could totally believe happening on this show).
posted by comealongpole at 8:30 PM on January 3, 2017


Oooh GalaxyRise- thanks for linking to Plaidder's Tumblr! I live for that sort of writing and thought process.

the fact that he obviously expects to be killed by Moriarty gives him the false sense of security that leads him to taunt Vivian even though she’s armed and he’s not and the last time he assumed a woman who’d pulled a gun on him wouldn’t shoot him that didn’t work out too well. He believes so strongly that Moriarty will be his killer that he can’t believe anyone else could possibly kill him. And this is why he winds up asking Mrs. Hudson to whisper “Norbury” in his ear.

By the time I read this, I had absorbed sufficient quantities of cray cray to wonder if the name itself is code for some element of "not really dead" outcome for Mary and.or Moriarty?

Norbury = No bury = not really dead

??????????????

Yes I need to step away from the post-show analysis postings but OMG I CAN'T
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 4:15 AM on January 4, 2017 [4 favorites]


Oh and she writes: Obviously, Charlie dressed up as his own car seat in order to surprise his dad and…WHO DOES THAT? WHO? WTF sense does that make?


It's A Thing, and there are lots of videos pranking people with it. A 9-year old made me aware, so clearly it's A New Thing of which my adulty self remained ignorant.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 4:17 AM on January 4, 2017 [4 favorites]


And this made me sad and added post-viewing weirdness to what I'd built up in my mind as a very lick-add husband & wife thing that was happening in the world.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 4:21 AM on January 4, 2017


I had that thought, too, but the action in the scene puzzles me: why would he take his umbrella and briefcase into the office kitchen, set them down, and then stretch awkwardly? That really says "just walked into the house" to me. Also, if he were stopping in the kitchen on the way out the door, which would explain the umbrella and briefcase, I'd expect him to have his coat on, but he doesn't.

Yeah, actually now that you point this out, I agree that his actions don't really correspond to this being his office, so yeah, I've got nothing. I always thought that the scene of Mycroft sitting at the long table in Scandal was his home (the scene after he gets the text from Moriarty), but that's a very different type of decor.

I'm with you though on being fixated on the detals of Mycroft's life. I'm hoping the next two episodes reveal more about him and about his relationship with Sherlock. Although I originally started out being invested in the Johnlock relationship, I've actually found the Mycroft/Sherlock relationship to be of more interest to me lately.
posted by litera scripta manet at 5:19 AM on January 4, 2017 [1 favorite]


Update: some kind/obsessive soul has identified the wall as a wallpaper pattern (really, people want their walls to look like decaying tiles). In which case, Jesus, Mycroft, I know you've been under a lot of pressure lately, but you don't have to live this way! I swear!

Official promo material suggests that the Sherlock/Mycroft relationship (well, Sherlock-Mycroft) will be a focus this season. And it won't go well. Perhaps someone will finally work out that there's no way Mycroft, AGRA's last handler, didn't know Mary's real identity the minute she surfaced in John's life. Assuming he didn't put her there.
posted by praemunire at 8:50 AM on January 4, 2017 [8 favorites]


"I guess I feel much more negatively than others. This show has gotten so bogged down with the involutions of character development that it can't offer the simple pleasure of a mystery being solved anymore. Mofftiss keep raising the stakes, tying more complicated knots they can't untie. We can't have a mystery that doesn't suck every major character into the black hole of plot complications."

I said to my wife, after this episode was over, "I'd really prefer it if they'd stuck to monster-of-the-week case solving. You know, like the X-Files of Sherlock. Or vice-versa, whichever."

I don't think of myself as a casual watcher, though I'm obviously not in the Hardcore Fan category. Still, I don't remember from season to season most of the big plot points or over-arching character whatevers. Other serialized shows I'm fine with keeping track, but on this one the whole "A-plot mystery is solved by the end of every episode" totally overwrites any "please remember some boring B-plot details for next time."

Because this episode revolved around Mary it felt like it was made of B-plot stuff and the real meat of the episode never came around. Perhaps I'm just unconsciously feeding on the writers' inability to write women goodly (as discussed in-depth) above or maybe ... well, whatever the reason I was literally bored about 3/4 of the way through this episode. By the time we got to Mary's Spy Travel Training Montage I told my wife I'd be fine if the episodes were cut down to an hour to avoid stretching like this.

[I get it, it's supposed to echo the merchant's journey away from death only to end up in the encounter at the end, blah blah blah, could have been handled much faster and better.]

"I cringed at Mary's acting out as the old woman on the plane. We're supposed to see her cunning way with disguises, but it's awful (and doesn't explain anything)."

Man, you and me both. Isn't part of the point of being a (real non-James Bondian) spy to be inconspicuous?

"It's so overdramatic, complete with someone defying physics to leap in front of a bullet, a big burst of blood, army doctor husbands not bothering to provide care, etc."

This was where I gave up on the episode. John Watson, Army doctor, does nothing to help his beloved wife. If there's any profession where I would expect your training to overcome the emotions of the situation and let you work through it, it's this.

I'm glad to read theories above that this might be another hallucination episode, because that would explain why it's a weird world of garbage.

oh hey I just remembered! What was with the accusation that Sherlock was still on uppers during the opening scene, and then never revisiting that?
posted by komara at 10:37 AM on January 4, 2017 [3 favorites]


Official promo material suggests that the Sherlock/Mycroft relationship (well, Sherlock-Mycroft) will be a focus this season. And it won't go well. Perhaps someone will finally work out that there's no way Mycroft, AGRA's last handler, didn't know Mary's real identity the minute she surfaced in John's life. Assuming he didn't put her there.

Oh yeah, I was going to comment on this, but I don't think I ever got around to it. I'll admit I didn't think about it much until this episode, but yes, Mycroft absolutely must have known about Mary being part of AGRA. Considering how much time and effort he puts into protecting his little brother, why would he let her get anywhere close to him? Even if he didn't think she would hurt Sherlock, surely there's the concern about what kind of "company" she might attract.

I do wonder if Mary working for Mycroft in TAB is a reference to Mycroft and Mary having some sort of underhanded connection, although maybe it's just foreshadowing the AGRA reveal. Although, thinking about this now, maybe Mycroft gave the incriminating info to Magnussen, hoping it would be enough to scare Mary away. Mycroft does refer to Magnussen as "occasionally useful."

But seriously, it seems like it would have been so easy for Mycroft to tell Mary, "Run away or I'll tell John everything and/or I'll throw you in a dark cell somewhere." I mean, I guess she could have tried to kill him in that case, although I don't imagine that would have been particularly easy.

While watching this episode I was also waiting for a reveal that Mary had been involved with Moriarty in some capacity. I remember seeing that proposed as a fan theory in the wake of HLV, and the more we learn about Mary's background, the more likely it seems. After all, in-universe, they're still in 2014, so the incident in Georgia would have been in 2008. Moriarty certainly was active then, so it would be surprising if he wasn't in some way involved with the elite team of assassins that were apparently at the top of their game. And remember, during Reichenbach, Moriarty put a bounty on Sherlock's head, and their were multiple assassins already hanging around him. Or course, this isn't ruled out completely yet.
posted by litera scripta manet at 11:00 AM on January 4, 2017 [1 favorite]


Although, thinking about this now, maybe Mycroft gave the incriminating info to Magnussen, hoping it would be enough to scare Mary away.

I don't think so, because in HLV Magnussen described Mary's identity as precisely the information that allowed him to blackmail Mycroft (Mary being John's pressure point being Sherlock's pressure point being Mycroft's). It would have been dumb to put that kind of weapon into Magnussen's hands, especially when Mycroft had plenty of alternatives.

Before this episode it was a reasonable inference that Mycroft would've at least run a check on anyone moving into Sherlock's orbit like Mary and thus uncovered her identity (and so it looked like a minor background plot hole that he appeared not to know), but after this episode it's blatant that he had to know who she was. Again, assuming he didn't set her up with John in the first place. It's a pretty ridiculously large coincidence that an ex-assassin Mycroft used should end up joining John's practice incognito as a nurse. He wouldn't have had to have had malicious motives; just figured it was as safe a place as anywhere for her to live quietly, he could keep an eye on her there, and John could probably be talked around if he found out her true identity. He might not have anticipated that John would be a big enough goof to fall in love with her.

(Truly random thought: the CAH telegram in TSOT mentioned that it was sad that Mary's family couldn't make it to the wedding, and the person we know who did not attend the wedding was Mycroft, but that ttakes the plot off in a dumb direction, so I trust I'm just BSing here.)
posted by praemunire at 12:14 PM on January 4, 2017 [3 favorites]


People have been speculating for a while that Mycroft's under Moriarty's thumb. It's called M Theory. I find it fairly plausible but there's an inevitable tension whenever you write a near omnipotent character. Does Mycroft fail to help his brother at various points because his hands are tied by villains, or because the plot needs him to make an uncharacteristic oversight so that Sherlock and John can solve things/get into trouble on their own?

I'd be pleased if Mycroft turns out to be a villain. Well, I say that, but what I mean is: Mycroft is already a villain, and in many ways a more dangerous one than Moriarty. When Sherlock jokes that Mycroft's the British government, what he's really saying is that Mycroft has secretly assumed a massive amount of power and undermined the British democracy, and it's suggested that Mycroft's done this with other governments as well. The first time we meet him he's the absolute personification of a corrupt surveillance state, using CCTV cameras to track and threaten John. No wonder the viewers think he might be Moriarty.

I'd love to see a plotline where it's clear that the massive power Mycroft has assumed is being turned against the people he claims he's trying to protect, leading to a dismantling of the in-universe shadow government, but I doubt that's what we'll get.

Guess we'll have to save the 'dismantle the surveillance state' plot twist happy ending for the real world.
posted by galaxy rise at 1:35 PM on January 4, 2017 [3 favorites]


So do they write those end-of-season cliffhangers with no clue or intention of resolving them?

How Sherlock survived the fall is basically handwaved over in season 3. And now, in Season 4, Moriarty somehow appearing on screens all over is practically ignored. They mention it but then everything seems back to normal and it's never addressed other than "he's planned something".
posted by I-baLL at 5:37 AM on January 5, 2017


Can someone please post a legend to all the episode acronyms being tossed-around here? I admit to watching the show, but not being hep to the show titles. CAH, TSOT, etc. Thanks!
posted by Thorzdad at 8:12 AM on January 5, 2017 [1 favorite]


Here you go, Thorzdad. In order of airing:

Season 1: ASIP = A Study In Pink, TBB = The Blind Banker, TGG = The Great Game
Season 2: ASIB = A Scandal in Belgravia, THOB = The Hound of Baskerville, TRF = The Reichenbach Fall
MHR = Many Happy Returns (a mini episode you may not have seen - if not, enjoy!)
Season 3: TEH = The Empty Hearse, TSOT = The Sign of Three, HLV = His Last Vow
TAB = The Abominable Bride
Season 4: TST = The Six Thatchers

CAH is not an episode title, it's a typo - praemunire is referring to the telegram Charles Augustus Magnussen sends to Mary in The Sign of Three, signed CAM.
posted by galaxy rise at 8:51 AM on January 5, 2017 [2 favorites]


So do they write those end-of-season cliffhangers with no clue or intention of resolving them?

Pretty much. They didn't resolve the S1 cliffhanger (Sherlock and Moriarty in armed standoff) in a meaningful way, either. It's an emblem of the writers' addiction to cheap thrills, if you ask me. S1 and S3's were primarily plot-driven cliffhangers so I care less, but S2's had, or should have had, serious character repercussions, and so treating it as primarily a disposable magic trick was a real mistake.
posted by praemunire at 9:07 AM on January 5, 2017


P.S. Yes, CAH was a typo on my part, please excuse the error.
posted by praemunire at 9:07 AM on January 5, 2017


" S1 and S3's were primarily plot-driven cliffhangers so I care less, but S2's had, or should have had, serious character repercussions, and so treating it as primarily a disposable magic trick was a real mistake."

S3's last episode was such a giant mess (like the rest of S3). The blackmailer kept his stuff in an inventory thingamagig so that nobody would try to kill him to prevent info from getting out. Only, it turns out, there was no inventory of blackmail info and it was all in his head which meant that, yes, killing the blackmailer would've prevented any blackmail info from getting out. Wtf was the point then?

And then Sherlock uncharacteristically kills the man and..... nope, nothing happens.
posted by I-baLL at 10:25 AM on January 5, 2017


Well, also, in blackmail it's actually generally true that "pics or it didn't happen!" No incriminating documents = no effective blackmail. So. Yeah.
posted by praemunire at 10:40 AM on January 5, 2017 [3 favorites]


Did the girl on the bus have a name? And I kinda wasn't paying attention at the part where she gives Watson her number. What does she say? Could it just be the appearance of an affair? Could it just be Clara? Harry's ex? Harry being Harriet, Watson's sister, mentioned in A Study in Pink?
posted by I-baLL at 11:37 AM on January 5, 2017 [1 favorite]


If the girl on the bus was Watson's sister, that kind of makes that whole scene just a weeeeeee bit creepy.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:48 PM on January 5, 2017 [1 favorite]


I said it could be Clara, the sister's ex. Not the sister herself.
posted by I-baLL at 5:17 PM on January 5, 2017 [1 favorite]


Another thing that is a little weird:

Does Mary just walk around with a chloroform (or whatever) piece of paper in her pocket? I'm assuming Sherlock didn't tell her much about the reason for their meeting, but it seems a little weird to just bring that along "just in case." Although maybe that's one of those things you pick up in the assassin biz...
posted by litera scripta manet at 7:58 PM on January 5, 2017


People have been speculating for a while that Mycroft's under Moriarty's thumb. It's called M Theory. I find it fairly plausible but there's an inevitable tension whenever you write a near omnipotent character. Does Mycroft fail to help his brother at various points because his hands are tied by villains, or because the plot needs him to make an uncharacteristic oversight so that Sherlock and John can solve things/get into trouble on their own?

I haven't finished reading through the M Theory yet, but I haven't come across it before, so thanks for pointing it out. From what I've read so far, there are definitely some interesting observations, and the analysis of the music is pretty impressive It seems a little too heavy on the intricate conspiracies, maybe.

With that being said, I definitely get the sense that either we'll find out that Moftiss has been exceptionally clever and calculating and has been seeding all these hints and innuendos and Easter eggs throughout the series or these are in fact massive plot holes and loose ends and unintentional implications.

Setting all that aside, I also have to admit I've become very fond of Mycroft. I find him as a character and his relationship with Sherlock to be very interesting. There is obviously a lot of history there, which I hope we see more of in the next two episodes. I would definitely buy that, if there is/was in fact an "other" sibling, the rift could be in part because of whatever happened to the other one. And I agree that Mycroft's role in the government is super sketchy and creepy. He's at the least a very morally grey character.
posted by litera scripta manet at 8:22 PM on January 5, 2017 [1 favorite]


Did the girl on the bus have a name?

Watson entered the number into his phone as simply "E." In the episode credits, there is the character "Elizabeth", played by Sian Brooke (definitely looks like her).
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 4:22 AM on January 6, 2017 [2 favorites]


Perhaps Moffat is borrowing from Dr. Who and killiing-off John's companion and introducing a new one?
posted by Thorzdad at 8:14 AM on January 6, 2017 [1 favorite]


I also have to admit I've become very fond of Mycroft

These days, Mycroft is the best thing about the show. I tend to think that he's not some big shock surprise villain simply because, if he were, it would be incompetent to make a trailer where Mrs. H calls him a "reptile," thereby giving it away. (Just as, sorry guys, they wouldn't put "I love you" in the trailer if Sherlock were addressing the phrase, meant literally, to any likely character.) But who knows.
posted by praemunire at 9:38 AM on January 6, 2017 [4 favorites]


Why would Mary even take the bullet for Sherlock? She's got a new baby, she's got posthumous messages lined up asking Sherlock to "save" John in the event of her death, so she's got a lot to loose. She gets along with Sherlock but I haven't seen evidence before that she'd sacrifice herself for him, and for-hire wetwork agent is not a line of work that's going to instill a strong self-sacrifice impulse.

The solution is to swap her out for John. He's much more motivated to take the bullet for Sherlock, and Mary's reaction to John's death would a better plotline to boot. John's going to mad at Sherlock for an episode and then it goes away because it's an impediment to solving crimes. Mary would blame herself, not Sherlock, and her guilt could drive her any number of places.

Also Sherlock's "She's under my protection": you're not the Doctor, dude.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 2:18 PM on January 6, 2017 [6 favorites]


Why would Mary even take the bullet for Sherlock?

(This is all assuming that this scene actually happened the way the show portrayed it, and that it's not a mind palace/dream/re-imagining of some other scenario, which is a pretty big starting assumption.)

Maybe Mary figures that John will be a great parent and her family is safer without her around. (She did already try to run away once.) Maybe she feels like it's only fair after shooting Sherlock and nearly killing him, and after he killed Magnussen.

The solution is to swap her out for John.

This solution would probably decrease the Sherlock viewership by at least 50%, not to mention all the hate mail and protests and the fact that this would be gutting the central relationship of the show.

More to the point, Moftiss does try to broadly stick to (some) major plot points of the original canon, and Mary doesn't survive the ACD stories, so it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that she would be gotten rid of at some point. (I think Moftiss has even said as much in interviews.) I think a lot of people assumed she wouldn't survive this season.
posted by litera scripta manet at 2:37 PM on January 6, 2017 [2 favorites]


Also Sherlock's "She's under my protection": you're not the Doctor, dude.

The "legend in his own mind" lines like this were maybe the most off-putting in the whole episode, a kind of unearned smugness that poisons the whole atmosphere. Sherlock's been arrogant since day one, of course, but previously about his actually established abilities. Now the show wants to chide the other characters (and hence the viewer) for not thinking of him as a superhero? Ugh.
posted by praemunire at 5:16 PM on January 6, 2017 [2 favorites]


Enjoyed every minute of it. The Black Pearl of the Borgias*, (The Giant Rat of) Sumatra, "It's never twins." "I delete any text that begins with the word "Hi"...

I'm just along for the ride. The denouement is inevitably a let down (the secretary, really? isn't that like saying the butler did it?) But the chase is the thing. It was truly shocking that Mary was killed, I enjoyed her unlikely career as a special operative, but that was in the cards, according to canon. I find Martin Freeman's acting quirks a bit tedious so if he'd stopped the bullet, it would've been even more shocking, and satisfying to boot and we'd be spared the dreary blaming and self-pitying in the next episode. The Sherlock/Mycroft relationship has always been more interesting (with less of the "I've sworn to protect you" histrionics). Not enough Lestrade but let's face it, when you have government agencies and spies and terrorists involved, it's tough to go back to The Murder of the Week.

*Why not recreate the original? the busts were still soft, he pressed it into the base and then smoothed it over.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 2:20 AM on January 8, 2017 [2 favorites]


> Huh, the bit where the Scottish woman gives Watson her number is just round the corner from my flat. I thought it looked familiar. Outside Lambeth North tube station, so near by the Aquarium and not that far from Vauxhall Cross.

Yeah, I catch a bus from that stop every day, so 'Watson's fucking some rando he met on the 159' is how I described this episode to a friend.
posted by EXISTENZ IS PAUSED at 6:00 PM on January 8, 2017 [6 favorites]


Another thing. The phone number from E. Is that the format of a real (cell) phone number in the UK? In the US, cell numbers still follow same format as land lines, (000-000-0000) but in other countries, I know they just add digits willy-nilly at the end. So I wondered if it was some kind of code because his picking up a woman on the bus seemed SO out of character to me. He's been pretty big on loyalty and dignity and a brittle kind of honor previously.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 8:02 PM on January 8, 2017


UK mobile numbers are (usually) 5 digits followed by 6 digits. The UK never went for the US system where you were given a local area code number and had to pay to receive calls - in the UK the caller pays a premium to call a mobile number and if you wanted calls to your mobile to be cheap you arranged that yourself via a suitable telco.
posted by pharm at 10:00 AM on January 9, 2017 [1 favorite]


Charlie dressed up as his own car seat in order to surprise his dad and…WHO DOES THAT? WHO? WTF sense does that make?

> clearly it's A New Thing

I remember that the Checkpoint Charlie museum in Berlin showed that someone got to the West Berlin side of the wall by hollowing out a car seat and going across like that, so not totally new.
posted by biffa at 2:21 AM on March 13, 2017


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