“Sherlock” is one of the BBC’s most popular shows of this decade. The first series aired in 2010 and the fourth, and likely final, series aired this past January. The future of the show is uncertain at this point: the BBC did green light a fifth series, yet the show runners have taken back every statement they said about there being a fifth series, and rather rudely. People loved” Sherlock”, even if they weren’t into the novels, because it was fresh, it was new, and it was stunningly beautiful to watch. Seriously, the cinematography is something else. Now, seven years into the show, it has lost its luster, and people aren’t so keen on it anymore.
Let me just start this off by saying I’m a huge Sherlock Holmes nerd. I’ve read the novels cover to cover dozens of times, I’ve seen the films (old and new), every couple of years I rewatch the Granada series (it stars Jeremy Brett who is considered to be the best Holmes ever), and I love “House M.D.” Naturally, when I saw gifs of this new British Sherlock Holmes show on the internet, I just had to check it out and I was hooked immediately. BBC’s “Sherlock” was everything I could ever hope and dream for in a modern day Sherlock Holmes adaptation. The show introduced me to Benedict Cumberbatch who is a marvelous actor, honestly one of my favorite actors of all time. Jokes about his name and alien-like appearance aside, he is a damn fine actor. Of course I can’t forget the other star of the show, Martin Freeman, who I adored on “The Office.” The casting of this show was on point. The fact that they are best friends in real life really shows when they are acting together, and it really helps solidify that close bond Holmes and Watson have. That is a big part of how “Sherlock” worked so well. “Sherlock” showed all the deductions and texts on screen which took you inside the mind of Sherlock Holmes. I loved that! So did everyone else apparently because the show took off and was a huge hit around the world. You’ll notice my past tense, there’s a reason for that. That was all 2010-2012. The first and second series of “Sherlock” aired then and it was a force to be reckoned with. Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman became household names and highly sought after actors. Now, before you continue reading, let me give you a spoiler warning. If you haven’t seen the fourth series of “Sherlock,” you will be spoiled in a moment. It’s on Netflix, it’s definitely… uh, interesting.
Let me start off with 2013 real quick. That’s when the show runners, Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, announced that Mary Morstan, John Watson’s wife, would be included in the show. I was dreading this moment because she’s really not a necessary character. I know that doesn’t sound very feminist of me, but if you have read the books, she’s very briefly mentioned and then she dies. She was not included in the Granada series as Watson’s wife so that her character wouldn’t upset the balance of the Holmes and Watson relationship. In Jeremy Brett’s own words, as quoted from “Starring Sherlock Holmes,” “'[s]he would have got in the way. Watson was more in love with Holmes – in a pure sense – than he could have been with a woman”.”” I agreed with this reasoning, and really didn’t want her included in “Sherlock.” I also made three predictions about her character. One, she would have some sort of dark past. Two, she would have met John Watson at work, either as a nurse or as a patient. Three, she would take a bullet for John or Sherlock. In “The Empty Hearse,” Mary is revealed to be a nurse who works with John. In “His Last Vow”, Mary is revealed to have previously been an assassin, real identity unknown, and she shoots Sherlock Holmes. In “The Six Thatchers,” Mary takes a bullet for Sherlock Holmes and dies. Moffat likes to pride himself on his convoluted plotlines, yet I predicted Mary Morstan’s entire plot years before? Come on, Steven! Steven Moffat is the main cause of problems in “Sherlock.”
Steven Moffat is the showrunner for “Sherlock” and “Doctor Who,” though this is his final season of running “Doctor Who.” (Thankfully.) Let’s save that discussion for another day, shall we. Mark Gatiss is the other show runner for “Sherlock.” They are both plotting more revolutionary television together, apparently, and I’m just terrified of what beloved fictional characters of mine they are going to taint next. I am truly thankful for “Sherlock,” don’t get me wrong. I met my fiance because of it. I love the first two series, but it’s downhill from there, and a lot of it is because of Moffat’s horrendous writing style. Moffat’s writing of women is misogynistic and shameful. There’s also a lot of queerbaiting in this show. You know, one “lol you guys look like a couple,” joke I can handle, there’s always been rumors of Holmes and Watson being a couple, one joke wouldn’t be scandalous. However, it’s constant. Mark Gatiss is an openly gay man, I simply don’t understand why he puts up with and contributes to all of the queerbaiting. A large portion of the online fandom of Sherlock are queer teens and young adults including myself. This alienates a lot of the fanbase, especially since they fervently deny doing it. Hello, are we watching the same show? Despite the sexist and homophobic undertones in the first two series, I still enjoyed the show. But then, enter Mary.
Mary, Mary, Mary. They should have renamed the show, Mary, because it stopped being about Sherlock Holmes once the camera panned to her. The third series was all about John’s relationship with Mary, and the cases that forced you to pay close attention to every minute detail took the backseat. To be honest, I barely even remember them, and I rewatched series three in January. In fact, my favorite Holmes villain, Charles Augustus Milverton (he’s renamed Magnussen for “Sherlock”), is in series three, and they absolutely botched it. How? It’s all because of Mary and her dark past. Magnussen’s episode probably would have been stellar if Mary had shot him instead of Sherlock. He was a fabulous villain and deserved more screen time, but when Mary shot Sherlock instead of Magnussen, the episode turned into a drama about John and Mary’s relationship, and not so much about one of the most twisted villains Sherlock has ever come across. He had so much potential, but Moffat had to try and be clever with his pet, Mary, so he ruined it. There was even an episode that focused completely on the wedding of John and Mary. There was a case, but it was barely there. Then, series four happened. That was a mess. As I mentioned, Mary died in the first episode, “The Six Thatchers,” taking a bullet for Sherlock Holmes. In the following episode, “The Lying Detective,” she haunts John, and that’s the only time her character is actually likable. The episode should have been about the big case Sherlock was working on and all of the issues in John and Sherlock’s friendship, but Mary the Ghost was hovering around in nearly every scene.
Since I’m talking about the fourth series, let me mention the final episode, “The Final Problem,” and I honestly don’t know where to begin. The big reveal, that Moffat probably wet himself in excitement over, is that we meet the mysterious third Holmes sibling that has been hinted at for a while. She “shoots” John at the end of “The Lying Detective,” leaving a cliffhanger to “The Final Problem” which only mentioned in passing that it was a tranquilizer gun and that John was totally fine. It was an anti-climactic cliffhanger and I was seriously disappointed. The third Holmes sibling, Eurus Holmes, is some psychotic, homicidal sister that Sherlock erased from his memory. This episode was honestly a ripoff of “Shutter Island” and “Saw” and I refuse to believe that Moffat and Gatiss actually spent more than an hour writing it because it’s absolutely pathetic. I could eat alphabet soup and shit out better screenplays. One of the big “twists” in the episode was the fact that Redbeard, Sherlock’s beloved childhood pet was actually a little kid who played pirates with Sherlock and Eurus killed him. However, they show a dog bowl with the name “Redbeard” on it in the episode. Was the kid eating out of a dog bowl? What? In the end, after Eurus murders a bunch of people, tries to force Sherlock to kill their brother, and tries to murder John Watson, everything is a-okay because Sherlock gave her a hug. Then it’s off to happy ending montage land where Sherlock and John happily rebuild the flat and the entire Holmes family has “family time” at the Shutter Island prison with Eurus, who is still very much a murderer who tried to kill both her brothers just a few minutes prior. What?
Series four was also incredibly lazy. The cliffhanger between “The Lying Detective” and “The Final Problem” is probably my biggest issue because it made it clear to me that Moffat and Gatiss had written themselves into a corner and just made something up at the last minute to resolve the issue and continue on with the insanity that was “The Final Problem.” Cinematography was not up to par, there was barely even a score in the “The Final Problem,” and there was a lot of cartoon physics going on. In “The Six Thatchers,” Mary jumped in front of a speeding bullet and saved Sherlock Holmes’ life. In “The Final Problem,” Sherlock’s flat was blown up by a grenade, Sherlock and John jumped out of the second story window completely unscathed, and Mycroft Holmes was able to simply walk downstairs to avoid injury from the grenade. Also in “The Final Problem,” John was chained to the bottom of a well by Eurus and when he was thrown a rope, he simply climbed out. Mark Gatiss said about them jumping out of the window, “…John and Sherlock pitch themselves through the window, onto the awning of Speedy’s. Boop! And they’re fine.” Really? That’s the best you can do?
Fans demanded an explanation for series four, since it was such tripe, and got little in return. Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss are known to have a sharp tongue when it comes to responding to their fans. When a lot of fans had nothing nice to say in response to the last series, Moffat and Gatiss turned on the defense and talked about how much they loved the episodes, how it was the story they have been wanting to tell, how the mysterious third Holmes sibling was planned from day one, and how much they loved Mary. Fans felt that they were scolded by the showrunners for looking too deeply into the details of the show, yet at the same time, they point to blink and you miss it details scattered throughout the show to hint at the third Holmes sibling. Of course, queerbaiting was a hot issue, as always, and I feel that the marketing for the fourth series made things even worse. The tagline “Sherlock’s back and he’s in love. But who with?” was used to describe series four, yet when the showrunners were confronted by fans about that tagline, they said “Sherlock is not a love story, it never was.”
Recently, there was an official “Sherlock” convention in Los Angeles, and tumblr user friskykatt attended the convention and posted on her tumblr this exchange between herself and Steven Moffat:
“Me: do you think Mary was redeemed in the end, or was she still morally dubious?
Steven, surprised: well I don’t think she was morally dubious at all!
Me: uhh she did shoot Sherlock…
S: but she did it nicely, it was surgical. She was stuck in a difficult situation. If Sherlock didn’t mind it, why should we?
Me: so you think she was redeemed by her ending?
S, slightly frustrated with me: she didn’t need redemption, it’s not a scorecard. She had such a tougher background, so her movement towards humanity means more than …Sherlock is also, but he’s getting there, and John is solidly (for humanity, something like that I forget the wording, he rambled a bit, Mary took a bullet for Sherlock etc. )But she’s dead now, and there’s not a scorecard for that. It’s not black and white.
Me: ok, thanks for your time.”
This tumblr user pointed out that Moffat was serious about his statement, but has an element of dark humor about it. The comment about shooting Sherlock Holmes nicely really got the fandom’s attention and people were shocked by it. I know I was. It was just fuel to the fire of an already irate fandom.
Quite frankly, I truly hope they decide not to do a fifth series of” Sherlock” because I’m tired of it. I waited three years for that fourth series only to be completely let down by lazy writing and another poorly written female character who could have been an excellent villain but somehow got redemption for unspeakable crimes. I will never rewatch the fourth series of “Sherlock,” once was enough. The only good thing to come from that series was what I would like to call a fandom renaissance. The fandom is so angry that they are creating more art, fan fiction, and actually creating new versions of the Sherlock Holmes stories to make up for how terrible that last season was. It’s beautiful to see people be inspired and create more, even if it’s at the expense of formerly beloved T.V. show. All of these people know they can do better, and I truly believe they will. Even if Moffat, Gatiss, and the BBC ignore the fandom’s ire, they can’t ignore the ratings. The ratings and reviews speak for themselves.