In this season’s second act, “Sherlock” did its absolute best to remind us of the dynamic that exists in Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) and John Watson’s (Martin Freeman) relationship. In Sunday’s (Jan. 8) “The Lying Detective,” Steven Moffat presents a very unhinged Holmes — drowning deeper in addiction than we’ve ever seen before — showcasing a fallen hero, who’s seemingly at the end of his rational (and analytical) rope.
While the ultimate point of the episode was to bring the partners back together again, mending their broken relationship through grief, therapy and closure, we couldn’t help but hone in on Toby Jones’ performance as Culverton Smith.
The tone and subject matter here keep Season 4 “Sherlock’s” darkest yet, but nothing truly defines a “Sherlock” episode like the villain of the hour. Going into the episode, there may have been hopes that Culverton would finally reach the levels of villainy we’ve been missing since Moriarty’s departure. Unfortunately, though, serial killer Smith barely scratched the surface of the depraved, intellectual insanity of Jim Moriarty (Andrew Scott).
That’s not to say that Culverton Smith wasn’t legitimately a bad dude — or that Jones’ performance should be looked down upon — but when the bar of evil is set so high, it’s nearly impossible to not compare every monster with, excuse the term here: The one that got away.
The false teeth Jones wore for the role may have been a bit distracting, and the H.H. Holmes lore may have been explored in a more fitting (and creepier) manner on “American Horror Story: Hotel,” but even if we didn’t have any bone to pick here, we’re beginning to wonder if “Sherlock’s” biggest challenge is to simply find its way out from Moriarty’s shadow for good.
With every new episode, it’s hard not to wonder how Sherlock’s greatest foe will strike from beyond the grave. Maybe it’s time to shed those expectations and move on? And it’s that notion that had us feeling like “Sherlock” may be one episode away from hanging up its proverbial hat. What if, dare we say, it’s time to end the story?
“The Lying Detective” did provide audiences with one of the better episodes of the series, thus far. And that’s probably due to the spark it found in its effort to reunite Holmes and Watson through a very difficult and trying time. Honestly, was this the first time we’ve ever seen Sherlock Holmes hug another person? That moment right there shows growth in the man’s character which is a surefire sign of great storytelling.
To continue this journey, the stakes must be raised. With the third and final episode of the season right around the corner, it’s possible we’ll see the posthumous return of Jim Moriarty in the form of Sherlock’s surprise secret sister. You can rest assured there were alarm bells going off in our heads when she revealed herself to John.
But, what if her role in the story has no involvement, whatsoever, in Moriarty’s final plan? What if audiences, much like Sherlock Holmes himself, have been obsessing for far too long over the resurgence of a threat that’s no longer, well, a threat?
To be clear, we’re not saying the show shouldn’t follow through on the seeds it planted in the “Abominable Bride” storyline — as they alluded to Moriarty’s posthumous plan taking shape. Here’s a suggestion, though: If “Sherlock” were to return for new episodes beyond the Season 4 finale, Jim Moriarty’s name should not be mention, his face should not be shown and details of his previous existence should not be uttered.
This, of course, leaves us expectantly looking forward. The final episode, titled “The Final Problem,” is sure to lead Sherlock once and for all into the trap that Moriarty had set before him. Will our heroes, and the show itself, produce the final solution? We believe so. But, how? That’s the real question.
“Sherlock” Season 4 will end Sunday, Jan. 15, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on PBS.