Apr 30, 2020
Sherlock: A bumpy night
It’s fake-out on top of fake-out in the season and likely series finale of Sherlock, so fasten your seat belts, as Jim (Still Dead) Moriarty will say, and take a Valium if you have a fear of flying because we open with this nightmare flight scenario: A little girl wakes up on a plane. The oxygen masks have all descended. Everyone around her is asleep, and she can’t wake anyone up. There’s a phone ringing on the floor. She answers it and hears a message from our favorite deceased arch-villain welcoming her to the final problem.
Have you ever wondered what Mycroft Holmes does for porn? Apparently, he likes to watch cheesy black and white film noir with lots of double entendre, while chain smoking in his own private theater – and he prefers analog reels to digital. His good time is interrupted by a home movie of the family Holmes at play, which strangely makes him smile, not panic, until the reel suddenly ends and he hears a woman’s voice ask “Miss me?” and blood spouts out of the eyes of the hall portraits, and there’s a clown assassin because what could be scarier? Did we know Mycroft’s umbrella converts into both a sword AND a gun?
But not to worry! It’s just Sherlock and John dropping by with some news. John, was only shot with a tranquilizer (another fake-out) and apparently ran straight to Baker Street to tell his BFF that his sister was in town. The evening’s theatrics were designed to scare Mycroft into telling them the truth, some of which we should have figured out by now. The sister that Sherlock doesn’t remember has been locked away in Sherrinford, a secret facility on an island that no one ever noticed even though it’s not invisible and there are plenty of fisherman in the sea.
What did she do to get herself a life sentence? Mycroft explains when he drops by Baker Street the next morning. She drowned Redbeard, Sherlock’s dog that we’ve heard about (from Mycroft) since Season 1. They never found the body. She tortured Sherlock by singing a seemingly nonsensical song that she claimed provided hints to the dog’s whereabouts. It was the original unsolvable case. Then she torched the family home. Mycroft says she died in another fire she set years later, but Sherlock immediately spots this as a lie. Mycroft admits it is, but that’s what their parents’ believe. She’s so brilliant he occasionally has her “help out” by predicting terrorist attacks and the like, which she can do by spending five minutes on twitter.
But why doesn’t Sherlock remember her? Mycroft suggests Sherlock does, in the sense that who he is has been completely based on his memories of his sister, but he reordered events and eventually forgot about her actual existence. Sherlock is angry about all those “East wind” references, but Mycroft argues he was looking out for his bro, testing his memory with “trigger words,” and monitoring him.
Mycroft doesn’t believe the woman claiming to be Eurus could actually be her because he’s certain Sherrinford is secure, but then a drone with a grenade that has a motion sensor and is singing Eurus’s special song arrives, and that’s how we get the blatantly computer-generated soon-to-be-a-ubiquitous-GIF of the boys flying out the window of an exploding 221 B, as shown on coming attractions and trailers.
Did they make it? Need you ask?
Sherlock and John hijack a fishing boat because what little boy isn’t a pirate at heart? Also we’ve been seeing little Sherlock in a pirate hat in all his Redbeard flashbacks, so it’s a great way to begin to establish all the ways loyal John is a lot like his dog of blessed memory. They take the boat to the Mysterious Island that nobody ever notices or speaks of. Mycroft is along as well, and gets to wear a disguise, which seems to make him happy for a moment because usually he just gets to wear a suit. This is a top secret mission and no possible back up know they are there. But if the facility has been “compromised” as Mycroft suspects, wouldn’t it make sense to come in guns a blazing and find out what’s what? There’s a line of dialogue explaining why this seemed like a much better idea.
Sherlock goes to have a chat with his sister while Mycroft yells at the Governor, played by Art Malik – who for perhaps the first time since The Jewel in the Crown (another Masterpiece Theater production) is NOT playing a Muslim terrorist.
The Governor is playing a tape of a psychiatric evaluation he did of Eurus, against the explicit orders of Mycroft because Euros’ last psychiatrist wound up killing himself and his family. It seems Euros’ superpower is the ability to talk anyone into doing anything, and strangely it’s John, and not the allegedly brilliant Mycroft who realizes this means the Governor is her bitch, and that’s when we hear the voice of Jim Moriarty issuing an alert on the speakers, and the orderlies come in and knock John and Mycroft out.
Meantime, at the family reunion, Sherlock knows there’s something about Redbeard he’s blocked, and Eurus offers to tell him if only he’ll step closer to the glass. Fake out! There is no glass, and she starts to strangle her brother, but she tells the guards to stop her before he’s dead.
So what’s the deal with Moriarty? We get a flashback to explain, which we might not need since Mycroft explains it more clearly later with words. Five years before these events, on Christmas Day, Mycroft had Moriarty brought to Sherrinford as a treat for his sister who was a fan. Got to give her the occasional reward to get her assistance stopping the odd ticking-time bomb. He gave them five unsupervised minutes to talk. What could possibly go wrong?
Mycroft, Sherlock, John, and the Governor all wake up in a cell. Euros talks to them via video. Sherlock is introduced to the little girl on the plane whose voice comes through the speakers, but Euros won’t let him speak to her for more than a few seconds at a time. She’s using the plane and all its passengers as leverage. She wants to play a game, or rather a series of them. First, either John or Mycroft is going to have to kill the Governor in order to save his wife, who Euros has bound, gagged, and blindfolded in front of her. The Governor is good with making the ultimate sacrifice, and John is willing to shoot him in order to save his wife and all the people on the plane, but then he can’t bring himself to pull the trigger, so the governor grabs the gun and shoots himself, and Eurus kills the wife as well because she wants to demonstrate that John’s “moral code” was selfish. It led to the deaths of two people. Sherlock gets a few more seconds to talk to the girl. She can’t tell him anything about where she is, only that it’s dark, and she’s flying over the ocean.
It’s time for the next round. Three brothers are tied up and suspended above the water. This isn’t abstract. They are seen from a window. One of them is a murderer. The police couldn’t solve the crime. Eurus did, and now it’s Sherlock’s turn. He’s going to tell her which one is guilty and the one he picks will be dropped into the ocean. If he doesn’t play, he doesn’t get to help save the airplane, and all three will die.
With a little help from both John and Mycroft, Sherlock picks the guilty brother, but Euros drops the other two in the ocean just because. Then she drops his pick, and announces that guilty or innocent both felt the same to her. The short of it is: Nothing feels anything to her. She’s all brain with no heart.
Sherlock gets a few more seconds on the phone, enough time to learn that the girl can now see the lights of a city in the distance. Mycroft says they’ll have to get her to crash the plane in the ocean to save more people in the city, but John thinks they should be helping her to land the plane, and this really sounds like a scenario a bunch of philosophy majors would come up with after some bong hits. Are John and Mycroft meant to be the competing heart and brain of Sherlock? The lesson being that no one can survive without both?
They move to another cell for more fun, which involves Sherlock’s calling poor ol’ Molly Hooper and making her say “I love you,” or Euros will blow her and her house up real good. And of course Sherlock can’t tell Molly why. And he has three minutes to get it done. He does it, but at great damage to Molly and their friendship though I have a feeling she’ll forgive him because love has no pride, but this makes Sherlock feel so bad he can barely go on. John reminds him there’s a planeload of people to save, and they’ve got to be soldiers.
Sherlock asks the girl to go up to the cockpit, which only confirms that the pilots are knocked out. The next task is the one we probably saw coming. Sherlock has one bullet left in his gun and has to shoot either Mycroft or John. Mycroft says some terrible things about John to make Sherlock’s choice easier. That doesn’t help as much as when he confesses to giving Euros five minutes with Moriarty for Christmas, which makes all this totally his fault, and the way the music swells you almost think his death is inevitable, but then Euros says that this is the choice Moriarty predicted, and you can see Sherlock’s wheels spinning. He can’t give in to the manipulation.
Sherlock puts the gun to his own throat instead, and starts to count down. Not clear how that will save everyone on the plane, but they all get struck with tranquilizer bullets and pass out.
Sherlock wakes up alone in another locked room. He’s now equipped with an earpiece and the little girl is shouting at him. She’s starting to panic. It’s been “hours” since they last spoke. John is in another location and also now has an earpiece. If you miss the actors putting their hands up to their ears, you might just think it’s telepathy or shouting.
John realizes he’s in a well. His foot is chained to the bottom, and there’s water coming in. Just like what happened to Redbeard! Yikes. To drive the point home, he slips, hits bottom and notices he’s standing on top of some small bones.
Sherlock deduces that there wouldn’t be a well on Sherrinford. Therefore, John’s not on the island. Sherlock notices there’s a draft, and busts down a flimsy wall to discovers he’s at Musgrave – the family estate, and he was in some hastily constructed not very sturdy outbuilding. He runs into the house, where Euros is waiting on video screen, and when he asks about John, she teases him about drowning another of his pets. Then he sees the well on the screen and the water flooding in. John has some news: Those aren’t dog bones! Euros reminds him his dad was allergic to dogs. Sherlock remembers that Redbeard was his friend Victor Trevor what she killed.
Why’d she do it? Because he never included her in his pirate games. Somewhere a feminist scholar is preparing a syllabus for a course entitled, Girls Can’t Play — Misogyny and Its Discontents in Sherlock.
Sherlock realizes the song he could never figure out has to do with a fake graveyard that the kids used to play in because doesn’t every manor house have a fake graveyard with funny names and impossible dates? It’s a code! And the message is save his sister. Now it all makes sense! Sherlock runs inside to Euros’ old room where he finds her hunched over, and talking in a baby voice. She’s the girl on the plane – which is a metaphor, and all she needs is a hug from her brother.
Huh? That’s it? He talks her into letting John go and suddenly John is climbing up a rope that drops down, so he must have gotten out of those chains or maybe that was a metaphor too. Next there’s a shot of Euros being taken away by helicopter, and Greg LeStrade is telling Sherlock that Eurus left Mycroft locked in her cell, but he’s fine. Sherlock with no prompting gets Greg’s name right when he thanks him, which maybe signals that he’s now a better man, or as Greg tells a colleague — a “good” one. All’s well that ends well except for that poor schnook Governor and his wife, the three brothers, the therapist Euros repealed and replaced, and countless others that got in her way.
Next up is one of those confusing montages where events happen out of sequence. Mycroft, Sherlock, and the parents have gathered. Mycroft tells them that Euros is alive. Mummy is very angry, and tells Mycroft that Sherlock was always the adult. That’s got to hurt! They fuck you up your mum and dad, as one of their countrymen said. Eurus is no longer speaking, but Sherlock has a way to communicate with her beyond words. He brings his violin to a family reunion at Sherrinford, where it looks like his mother has forgiven Mycroft. Sherlock starts to play, and Euros picks up her strat. There’s a moment when she looks at him, and it’s clear she sees him. What’s the music? The theme of the earlier BBC Sherlock Holmes show with Jeremy Brett because even in the last five minutes, Sherlock will not miss an opportunity to reference.
John helps Sherlock sort through the damage at Baker Street, which still stands, and lets hope Mrs. H kept up her insurance payments. Back at his house, John gets a a DVD with no note, but this one says, “Miss You,” so naturally he calls Sherlock over to watch it. It’s Mary again. She might be dead, but she’s not gone. It’s her PS to both her Baker Street boys, and it’s all about the legend, the idea that they’ll always and forever be a Sherlock Holmes and a John Watson, two men in a “scruffy flat” — a “court of last resort” for the desperate. We see bits from earlier episodes. This is meta with a capital M, every bit as self-conscious as every reference to changing times on Downton Abbey. The show can’t resist a final homage, and wink at the idea of the eternal Sherlock Holmes, so the last shot feature the boys on some presumably future adventure running from a building with a plaque that reads Rathbone Place — a shout-out to the past.
The voice over, with the violin playing and the themes from both series blending, makes a neat coda, but it could also be a prologue, maybe for a feature film.
So if you rate finales on a one to ten scale, with Lost scoring minus five and Six Feet Under getting an eight, where would this stand? Feel free to opinionize away in the comments below.