Sherlock Recap: Life's Been So Boring Without Sherlock Holmes

Remember how Sherlock was on the ledge talking to John before he jumped?

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That’s where we start, only there’s mishigosh going on we didn’t see last time. Dead Moriarty is being fitted with a Sherlock-face mask, Sherlock on a rope crashes through a window and gives Molly a very unSherlock like kiss. Derren Brown, who is a real mentalist in Jolly Olde England, hypnotizes John so he’s out while masked-Moriarty’s corpse is laid on the ground. When John wakes up, of course he thinks the body is Sherlock’s.


Bollocks, you say? So does DI Lestrade who is listening to Anderson, who along with his occasional squeeze, Sally Donovan, was convinced that Sherlock was a fraud back in Season 2.  It’s two years later. Anderson now has a first name, which is Philip. He is a full time conspiracy nut convinced Sherlock lives, and the Moriarty substitution death scene is merely his fantasy.

Somewhere a soldier in what looks like a Soviet-era uniform appears to be listening to an iPad or other device. Behind him, a chained prisoner is being beaten by someone who gets a lot of satisfaction from his job. The prisoner deduces the torturer’s wife is screwing the coffin-maker, so the torturer leaves to kill them both. No surprise the prisoner is Sherlock. Surprise – the soldier standing by is big brother Mycroft, who frees his brother and tells him vacation is over. London’s calling. An “underground terrorist network” is planning something big.

John is in the tube ,or metro, or whatever they call the subway. (Pay attention. This will be on the test.) John is still a sad little thing and now he’s grown a sad little mustache.

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He goes to visit 221B Baker Street, where everything looks the same.  Mrs Hudson is upset he hasn’t stopped around since Sherlock’s death. He tells her he’s moved on and is getting married. Cue awkward assumption on Mrs. Hudson’s part. Lets hope they were just getting the gay joke out of the way, and we can skip this for the rest of the season. (Maybe John’s getting married will help. Wonder whether Conan Doyle married him off to stop all the talk.)

Mycroft and Sherlock are back in London. Mycroft still has the assistant whose dishiness he doesn’t notice. Looks like big brother is going to have a bigger role this season, as if Mark Gatiss doesn’t have enough to do writing the show. Those Brits, so versatile! It’s made clear that John has not been “prepared” and has no idea Sherlock is alive. That’ll make their reunion a bit of a sticky wicket, what!

John is in the process of proposing to Mary Morstan (played by the real life Mrs. Martin Freeman,  Amanda Abbington). Sherlock, disguised as a waiter surprises him. Why would Sherlock think this was a good idea? Because, as Mary says, he doesn’t know anything about human nature. John reacts with a combination of shock and extreme anger — as anyone would. It takes Sherlock a beat or two to realize his little prank has gone terribly wrong. Sherlock wants to tell John how he faked his death, but John doesn’t care. He’s hurt Sherlock didn’t tell him, and it doesn’t get better when Sherlock admits that in addition to Mycroft’s knowing the truth, so did Molly and “some of the homeless network.” Sherlock’s excuse is he had to dismantle Moriarty’s organization, and couldn’t take a chance on John’s giving it away. This only enrages John who punches Sherlock in the face.


Sherlock tells John he needs his help with the imminent attack. John head butts him and bloodies his nose, but Mary tells Sherlock she’ll bring John around. Of course she will. John is totes sexier when he’s adventuring with his platonic boyfriend. Besides, Mary owes Sherlock for deducing that she doesn’t like John’s horrible caterpillar mustache either.

The reunions continue. Lestrade hugs Sherlock, who seems a bit taken aback by the intimacy and then gets his first name wrong. Will Sherlock’s failure to remember whether it’s Greg or Graham, Gil or Gary be this season’s running gag/gay joke replacement? It was “G” Lestrade in the stories – just the kind of in-joke the writers love. After Lestrade, Sherlock surprises Mrs. Hudson who sees Sherlock’s silhouette through the frosted glass door.

Now it is time for a second fever dream of how Sherlock faked his death. This time, there’s a cardboard cut-out on the ledge, and Sherlock and Moriarty are both leaning against a chimney laughing as Sherlock tells John not to move. Then Sherlock and James look into each other’s eyes and kiss passionately. This tale is offered at a meeting of  The Empty Hearse, Philip Anderson’s club for those who believe Sherlock lives.

Meantime, Mary is in bed reading aloud from John’s blog, which is fab, but may contain spoilers for those of us LAW ABIDING US CITIZENS who waited to watch this on PBS. John pops out of the bathroom where he is shaving off his ‘stache, which was another shout-out to original brand Watson. Does Lucy Lui sport one on the American version of Sherlock that nobody watches?

The next day, Sherlock is pasting maps and photos on his wall, kind of a like a certain bi-polar CIA agent, as he explains to Mycroft how he’s watching people who are his “markers” aka long-term sleeper agents who will get out of town before the coming attack. Mrs Hudson, the friendliest landlady since Mrs. Roper, serves tea. Sherlock takes on Molly as a replacement for John, who still isn’t ready to come back. It’s a day of mostly silly cases, but one that might be interesting. A man gets on a carriage in a train in the London underground. He’s the only passenger. The train gets to the next step. The man has disappeared. Where did he go? It’s not a question Sherlock can immediately deduce an answer to, but the man is one of his markers.

When the day is done, Sherlock has deduced Molly’s met someone and won’t be playing Watson again, but we know she’d give her new guy up in a heartbeat if Sherlock would give her a chance. Poor Molly! John, meantime, goes through his day dealing with nothing but icky yet routine medical complaints. Finally there’s a bearded bookseller with a urine infection and ambiguous accent. John takes him for a disguised Sherlock, who he is not, though he only figures this out after trying to tear off the poor sap’s beard. It’s another reference to the source material, where a presumably dead Holmes comes to Watson disguised as a bookseller.


After this embarrassing incident, and maybe the realization that life without Sherlock is a lot less fun than life with him, John takes the metro to Baker Street, but before he goes in, he’s knocked out with a needle to the neck and taken away. Mary arrives at 221B a few moments later. She’s frantic as she’s been receiving strange text messages and has already figured out it’s a skip code — every third word means something and the rest is garbage. Smart girl. John is in trouble and they have only twenty minutes to get to St James’ Church to save his life. Sherlock commandeers a motorcycle and off they go. A crowd is gathered in front of a very large about to be lit bonfire.  It’s all part of the celebration for Guy Fawkes Eve. John is trapped beneath sticks and old furniture, barely conscious, and about to go up in smoke.

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Will Sherlock get there in time? Just barely! The fire has  been lit. Sherlock has to pick through the flames and pull John out. John’s ok, but we don’t know who did this or why, or whether John will forgive Sherlock now that he’s just saved his life or be even angrier because hanging with Sherlock is dangerous.

The next day, John stops by Baker Street as a boring old couple are leaving. “Clients?” John asks. Turns out these are Sherlock’s parents, who to John’s chagrin also knew Sherlock was not dead. Sherlock still hasn’t figured out the motive for John’s ambush. Sherlock shows John the tape of the man who disappeared from the train. He’s Lord Moran, the Minister of Overseas Development, who has been spying for North Korea for years.

Thinking about the attack on John, and realizing it happened the evening commemorating the aborted Gunpowder Plot, Sherlock realizes that “underground terrorist network” really means literally an UNDERGROUND terrorist network — as in the tube. His train-obsessed source now recalls there was a  station that was built but never used which one of the carriages could have been diverted to. It’s underneath the Palace of Westminster! The evil doers are planning to blow up Parliament during an all-night meeting on terrorism. The game’s afoot, or as they say in this version, the game is on.

Sherlock and John head into the underground and find the missing car, which is wired with explosives. The boys have two and half minutes. It’s too late to run. Neither knows how to defuse a bomb although John suspects Sherlock does and is just playing with him.

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Eventually, when John is convinced it’s all hopeless and Sherlock asks for his forgiveness, John tells him, “You are the best and wisest man I have ever known. Yes of course I forgive you.”  This didn’t sound like anything Conan Doyle would have had Watson telling Holmes. Saying it about him when he thought he was dead, sure. But telling him? Never. It didn’t feel like anything Freeman’s John Watson would say either. The scene felt forced. Too Wrath of Khan – they must admit what they mean to each other before parting for eternity. Given the unlikelihood of Sherlock or John actually dying, building suspense by placing either or both in mortal danger might not be something the writers want to do too regularly. Conan Doyle didn’t.


The timer is running down and then BOOM! Well, sort of. The continuity was odd. It looks like an explosion, but it’s a quick fade to white before yet another version of how Sherlock faked his death. This one involves a giant air-cushion, and the squash ball we saw Sherlock playing with in the season two finale. Sherlock is telling the story to Philip. Philip is disappointed. It’s not the way he would have done it. But somewhere on the Internets, ten thousand forumites who recognized the importance of the squash ball (place under arm, cut off pulse for a brief moment) are feeling vindicated.

After that experiment in non-linearity, we’re back in the subway car of doom, where Sherlock flips a switch which stops the timer, explaining to John that he doesn’t know how to defuse a bomb, but there’s always an off switch. Since when?  Really?

Maybe the next day, who knows, we’ve lost all sense of time, we’re back at Baker Street. Visiting 221 B — for what looks suspiciously like a party — are John, Mary, Lestrade and Mrs. Hudson.   Sherlock still doesn’t know what John’s kidnapping was all about. John and Sherlock indulge in their version of intimacy. John tells Sherlock that Sherlock loves being the hero, “being  Sherlock Holmes”. Sherlock says, “I don’t even know what that’s supposed to mean.” John tells him he went to Sherlock’s grave and asked him to stop being dead. Sherlock says, “I heard you.” Get a room boys!

Cue the theme music. Sherlock puts on his deerstalker, and with John by his side goes out the front door to meet the press. Suddenly, they are Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson – icons. Are there receptors in our brains for Holmes and Watson the way there are for chocolate and heroin, because I probably have those.

But wait there’s more! In some evil lair with a number of knickknacks, we see the back of a man’s head. The man is watching several different screens all playing Sherlock’s  rescue of John on Guy Fawkes Eve. We never see his face, just a close up of blue eyes behind spectacles. Have we just met our new Big Bad? I hope so, because we need to get past “He’s back.”

Marion Stein

Marion writes television recaps and reviews for the Agony Booth, and books you can find over at Amazon.

TV Show: Sherlock

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