Sherlock – The Six Thatchers (S4 E1) (Spoilers)

It’s the season four premiere of Sherlock!  See what some of the Gabbing Geeks thought of The Six Thatchers below.  Note, plenty of spoilers, so go watch if you haven’t and then come right back here.

Ready?  The game is on!

Tom says:  Speaking for myself, I thought season three was a minor let-down.  Adding Mary to the show was the sort of thing I expect Sherlock to do, but then we got her background, and it seemed a bit much.  I’m watching a detective show with a high-functioning sociopath and the normal guy Afghan war vet/doctor who solve complex mysteries together.  Why did Mary have to be some kind of super spy?  There was nothing wrong with the actress (Amanda Abbington, longtime girlfriend of Watson actor Martin Freeman), but the backstory seemed like something that somehow didn’t fit into the Sherlock universe, even with Mycroft hanging around in the background.

Then again, Mycroft is filling the same basic role that the character of the same name–described as overweight and intellectually careless in the source material–fulfilled for Arthur Conan Doyle.  Mary’s role in the old stories was she was Watson’s wife and that’s about it.  And, after a certain point since continuity didn’t matter much to Doyle, Mary just disappeared.  Where did she go?  Doyle never really said.  It was implied she died somehow in one story, and that was it.  But people didn’t read Doyle’s story for the ongoing soap opera that was John Watson’s love life.  They read them because they wanted Sherlock Holmes to solve challenging mysteries.  That was actually one of the reasons Doyle tried to kill Sherlock off–it became too hard to come up with mysteries only Sherlock Holmes could solve.

But this is 2017, and Sherlock is an updated version of Doyle’s work. Stylish, cool, and very much a product of the 21st century, Mary couldn’t just be a considerate housewife that appeared sporadically at best after her first the second Sherlock novel The Sign of the Four where she and Watson meet and hit it off.  Presumably, Doyle didn’t see the need to keep Mary since she muddied up the formula of the two guys sharing an apartment and solving crimes together if many cases had to start with Mary giving John her blessing to go help his old friend out.  Making Mary part of the mysteries for television works.  Why wouldn’t she help out?  And even with her seemingly surprising set of skills, Mary was deemed rather helpful by Sherlock a couple times in the season four opener.

But then around the halfway point, the tone for the episode changes.  After the usual sort of bright, humorous Sherlock that initially attracted me to the show, we meet AJ and the title mystery seems to be solved and it’s about Mary’s past again.  Again, not a problem.  Mary’s making a run for it was clever, and no one should have been surprised Sherlock was waiting for her in her final destination.  The episode had given us “classic” Sherlock for 45 minutes, so now more of Mary’s background.  I’d say getting Toby the bloodhound onto the show is a good trade-off there.

And then Mary dies, throwing herself in the path of a bullet fired by a woman with nothing to lose after Sherlock taunted and humiliated her just a little too much.  Yes, it does explain how Mary would not be a factor in future investigations, and it does probably reset the living arrangements for Sherlock and John by season’s end.  But Mary died so we could get reactions from Sherlock and John.  John’s grief and Sherlock’s disbelief at his own fallacy are fine things to look into, but Mary seems to be a woman stuffed in a refrigerator in order to do it.  That ending pushed my enjoyment for the episode down a bit, and while it shows the promise of focusing a little more on John and less on Sherlock, something that hasn’t been done as much as it could given the long histories of both characters, could lead to great drama as the two men are inevitably drawn together again, also seemed like it could have gone another way than a sudden death with less than ten minutes left on the episode, and then focusing on how this impacts mostly Sherlock.  Even if he is the title character for the show, it didn’t do any true service to Mary as a character.

And I do wonder how that conversation went in the Freeman home when they got that script…

Jimmy says: Well, they broke up, so it probably didn’t go over well at all.  Just kidding.  Maybe.

I knew while watching this episode that I had to write something here.  And as the show continued on for it’s 90 minutes my head continually switched gears as to what it would be.  Idea after idea fizzled out.  Would it be simply how great it was to have Sherlock back?  Would it include spoilers?  Would it talk about how fun Sherlock was to start the show with his continuous texting?  Perhaps it would be about how Sherlock actually seemed like he had gotten significantly dumber?  Noting the jokes of Giles/Greg, not knowing Margaret Thatcher, etc.  Though I suspect much of that was a ruse.  Or these things are so beneath Sherlock that if he isn’t figuring out that you had a previous Japanese girlfriend that you might still have a thing for, he doesn’t bother to take note of them.

But all of that was out the window when it became the John’s Wife Mary, Super Spy hour.

Many times while watching Sherlock I feel like I am missing something.  I’ve never read a Sherlock Holmes book, so I can’t enjoy it on that level.  I know many of the episodes have some basis on the original works, but which and to what degree I do not know.  I learned more about Mary reading what Tom wrote above then I ever knew.

I’ve never minded Mary’s character.  It was great that John found the love of his life.  But when she herself turns out to be a super spy, it was almost comic book-esque.  You know, like say how everyone in Peter Parker’s life (yes, I always have to bring Spider-Man into everything) either ends up super powered themselves or routinely kidnapped or put in life threatening situations?  From the point that Mary is revealed as more than meets the eye, her story seemed to overwhelm the show.  Much like it did here.

I was a bit surprised that she ended up dead, and agree with Tom that they are heading for a season finale where things at 221B Baker Street are mostly status quo.  No John balloon stand-ins or him having to ask for permission to go off with Sherlock to solve the big case.

One of my bigger takeaways from this episode was that it didn’t seem to do John’s character any favors.  We had John getting pushed into the background by his wife and Sherlock.  Essentially relegated to babysitter since Mary, being an ex-spy, was better at these things than him.  Then John’s “sexting” affair with the bus stranger.  I’m not sure how far they took things, but the whole situation just seemed to come completely out of left field.  And finally John’s anger at Sherlock.  Yes, Sherlock made a vow to keep them safe.  But you can hardly hold him to that.  Maybe he pushed the secretive secretary a little too much resulting in the bullet meant for him that ended Mary’s life.  But outside of letting her go, she seemed like she was going out with a bang either way.  To me, John’s anger just seemed over the top and misdirected…but I’ve never had my spouse shot and bleed out in front of me.  Grief can make people do some strange things.

Since I’ve typed as much as Tom, I guess I found the things I wanted to say after all.

A mixed bag of a start to season four, but they have three hours of viewing left to wow us.

And they completely ignored the Christmas special.  I wish I had known that in advance of watching it again…

Ryan says: Look, I’m a Sherlock fan.  Not just the character (although I still have fond memories of reading the collected works of Sir Doyle printed in a giant book I picked up at Costco when I was a teenager), but the numerous iterations of the character.  This recent series is, without question, my favorite take on him and it feels like the creators behind the series share that same passion for Sherlock.  They want him to be modern, yet classic.

So the nods to the old while moving on to the new have been so much fun to watch.  I really enjoyed that Mary was probably the best equipped of all of the main characters to do…well, anything.  That was fun and I’m sad that she died.  The episode certainly took some twists and turns but the bit at the end made it all click for me.

Because the Moriarty sword is dangling over everyone’s head.  Sherlock is brought back and given the official government cover-up job because a short video of him appeared on every video screen.  And then…nothing.  Sherlock is waiting for his archnemesis’ reach to be felt from beyond the grave.  The government is waiting for it too.  Everyone is waiting for the sword to fall.  Mary was waiting for her old life to catch up to her.  Watson (the TV one, not pimp daddy) is waiting for his own double-life to come to a head.  The sword must fall.

Mary was the warning shot.  Sometimes the past will kill you.  Or it may be your arrogance–Sherlock has, perhaps for the first time, learned a lesson.  But hanging over it all is Moriarity.  When and how will he return–will it be a plan he put into effect or will it be him?  We’re still waiting.  Even Mary makes a subtle joke about it with the DVD she left for Sherlock.  We’re all waiting and this season will be about the past being resolved for good or for bad.

3 thoughts on “Sherlock – The Six Thatchers (S4 E1) (Spoilers)

  1. I agree with each and every perspective, in part.

    I’m a long time Holmes disciple: from text, to the young gent climbing an underground pyramid, to RDJ, to today. I think this show is great fun.

    I had quite a ‘meh’ when Mary had such a complicated back story, but I enjoyed the adoption of her in to the mystery solving and the jokes about her abilities versus her husband’s landed well. I wondered how it would proceed with a third, but I thought it was an interesting dynamic as long as it wasn’t too drawn out. I like Watson, (both the pimp daddy and the TV one) and I thought relegating him to the back seat with the baby was funny if it didn’t diminish Martin Freeman’s screen time too much for an episode or two. I didn’t expect that problem to be resolved with time to go in the current episode.

    I like Holmes taunting the stenographer. I could tell immediately it was on purpose and hyperbolic to keep her focus on HIM. Clearly he wanted her to take action against him to preclude any harm to Mary. Every time her eyes looked around the room or away from him, he mocked her to refocus her desperation in his direction. Holmes was first to know there was a gun in the bag and cautioned Mary not to cause any flinching. It was Mary’s aggression that brought the gun out of the bag and pointed in Mary’s direction. It was Holmes that taunted Madame Secretary in to moving the gun toward him.

    And Holmes’ strategy worked.

    What he didn’t anticipate, and what I didn’t like because I didn’t think it made sense, was Mary darting sideways to cover Sherlock. Why is Mary taking a bullet for anyone but John or HER FREAKING BABY!! You know, the kid she left at home and clearly didn’t think about at all when she heroically sidestepped out of the child’s life?

    I’d be ferociously pissed at Misty if she’d took a bullet for Wil without thinking about Xander or Livi. (Of course, Misty would have caught the bullet with one hand, pushed Watson out of the line of fire with her other, and wilted the bad guy with a single shameful glare.)

    Wasn’t Mary’s backstory more “assassin” than “hero”? I know they were tapped to do hostage rescue, but they were talked about more as capable with killing than saving.

    Was this “not really diving, more of falling right” supposed to represent Mary becoming the loving person she hoped she would be? I’m not sure. I’m curious what you guys think.

    Either way, I thought John being furious was absolutely appropriate. He didn’t see what happened. He arrived and found her dying, the killer still alive, and Sherlock looking hopeless in his inability to save her.

    John is right to assume it had to have been Sherlock’s fault, then letting his grief take over. Anything else wouldn’t have made sense without John seeing Mary stumble stage left.

    I think it leaves John as a single dad, miserable and alone, with the Godmother there to help with child care. Where that takes him and how he comes back to the mystery team should be interesting and fun to see. (Misty thinks it’s not fun. He’s going to have to constantly care for the infant. Those responsibilities will either be glossed over, ala Walking Dead’s Judith or every mother watching the show will be wondering, who’s watching the baby / raising the baby / why aren’t you spending time with your kid? rather than having fun watching a mystery solving show.)

    The whole John texting thing was partially interesting to test the character of Watson, the smile and the flower, etc. was fun to see, but once he texts the bus woman, it becomes something else. Then Mary is up at night with the kid, and he’s texting his emotional mistress? What exactly is it that John thinks he can get from her that he doesn’t have with Mary? Is this just a trope that dads of infants have wandering eyes?

    All this does for John is set him up to hate himself for not being perfect and acting a fool just before his wife dies to add a depth to his anguish that isn’t necessary. He could have had any other kind of imperfection besides “begins to cheat on his wife” which runs counter to the first three seasons of his character, much less Watson of yore. I get that the modern show is trying to show layers of characters, but how could John possibly even begin “cheating on his super spy mistress” without Sherlock knowing it immediately?

    I’m excited to see where it goes, but there were parts that flinched with “meh”.

    If Mary were somehow harmed where she couldn’t go out a questing, then having the baby would add dimensions to the characters and interactions that wouldn’t happen otherwise. But with Mary killed, why have the baby right before hand other than to throw an emotion bomb in to a death scene that doesn’t require it.

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