[Spoilers follow for Season 4, Episode 2, “The Lying Detective.”]
After last week’s damp squib, “Sherlock” is back on form in a genuinely terrifying episode with a shocking conclusion.
The villain of the week is Toby Jones as Culverton Smith, a wealthy and influential public figure beloved by the nation who may or may not have a secret life as a serial killer. While John is back in therapy, Sherlock is back on drugs and publicly accusing Smith of crimes he can’t prove, on account of being…well…off his tits for nearly the entire episode. It’s not until the very end that we know for sure that the great detective is right– Oh, and did we mention that Sherlock has a sister?
“I am a bit creepy, but that’s just my USP.”
If at times this episode veered dangerously close to horror movie territory, it’s thanks to the brilliant Jones and his turn as the billionaire philanthropist whose folksy charm and Northern accent can’t quite hide the fact that something’s not quite right about him. From the secret meeting complete with masked nurses who hook people up with IV drips full of memory drugs so that he can confess his darkest secrets to them without them ever remembering to the secret room he’s had built into the wing of a hospital so he can murder people, this is straight up terrifying.
His motivation is perfectly summed up – “I’m not a dark person. Killing human beings – it just makes me incredibly happy… Dead people look like things. I like to make people into things. Then you can own them.”
“I’m not sweet, I’m just high.”
Strip away the mental gymnastics and the dastardly criminals, forget the mind palaces and even the bromance. At its heart, “Sherlock” is a show about a mentally ill drug addict with a meteoric IQ. And although Sherlock put every step in place before descending into his own private hell — predicting John’s choice of therapist, placing the recording device into the walking stick, calling Molly Hooper — he isn’t faking his downward spiral. He really does turn his kitchen into a meth lab, he is weeks away from death and hallucinating. It’s the flip side of the genius that carries the show. Like John says, “We did see it coming. We always saw it coming. It was fun.”
It’s not just John who’s been getting amorous over text: Irene texts Sherlock to wish him a happy birthday.
As far as John is concerned, Irene is interested and alive, so why wouldn’t Sherlock go for it? There’s a certain level of emotional blackmail thanks to the whole “dead wife” thing, which is a pretty crappy thing to do to your a-romantic, probably asexual best friend, but John has the emotional maturity of Sherlock’s deerstalker. Still, Sherlock admits that he’s texting her back. Will we see more of the woman with a whip before the season is over? She could definitely give a certain female villain a run for her money…
An Affair to Remember
Although we were all hoping it was a fakeout, John admits he cheated on Mary. Although he insists it was only over text and therefore doesn’t really count, it does. Confessing to Sherlock leads him into a spiel about how she always saw the best in him, but that really he’s just human and is going to try and live up to the man she believed he was. Except that Mary didn’t assume John would be faithful because she put him on a pedestal, she assumed he’d be faithful because they were married and had a child together. That’s not some unreachable standard of goodness, that’s basic human decency. When his sexting buddy is revealed to be the psychotic secret sister of his best friend (who has a gun and has been posing as his therapist), it feels a bit like karma.
“Mrs Hudson, You’re Amazing”
“I’m the widow of a drug dealer, I own property in central London, and, for the last time, John Watson, I’m not your bloody housekeeper!”
Mrs Hudson is #lifegoals in this episode. She has a fancy sports car in which she breaks the speed limit, is followed by helicopters and has a handcuffed Sherlock Holmes stuffed in the trunk. And when it comes to her tenant’s spiral into drug addiction, she’s remarkably sanguine. As she reminds Sherlock, “You’re not my first smackhead*”.
*Smack = British slang for heroin.
Big Brother is Watching You
That shattering sound you hear? That’s the sound of a thousand Mystrade shippers’ hearts breaking. While Sherlock and John are the most popular romantic pairing for many viewers, the idea of a Mycroft and Lestrade romance has its own following (full disclosure: including this reviewer). Lindsay Duncan’s chilly turn as Lady Alicia Smallwood, the elegant thorn in the Holmes’ brothers side, got a bit steamy this week as she propositioned Mycroft, and the two were later seen getting dressed in Mycroft’s underground office. If she’s hoping to be wined and dined, however, she might be out of luck. Something tells us he’s not the romantic type.
Of course, there’s another woman in Mycroft’s life: Who guessed that the secret third Holmes brother was actually a sister? Euros Holmes — her name means “the east wind,” a phrase that has cropped up a few times before — disguised herself both as John’s therapist and his would-be mistress, and as Culverton Smith’s daughter when she visited Sherlock. Since he didn’t show a glimmer of recognition towards his sister, it looks like he hasn’t seen her in quite some time.
Sian Brookes is an excellent addition to the cast, and if the gun she pulls on her sort-of patient is anything to go by, “Sherlock’s” fourth season is going to end with a bang…
Mary Watson – Still Dead, Still Brilliant
She may have only been John’s hallucination, but Mary Watson was on top form. Here’s a few of her best lines:
“The posh boy loves the dominatrix. Never knowingly under-cliched.”
“You are done with the world being explained to you by a man. Who isn’t?”
“[T]he man we both love.” Mary hardcore ships Watson/Sherlock/Watson, and she’s not afraid to show it.
Stranger Than Fiction
For British viewers, Culverton Smith is especially horrible — he’s loosely based on a real person. Jimmy Saville was a children’s entertainer and charity fundraiser who, despite an unsettling public persona, was beloved enough by the British public that during his many visits to hospitals and children’s homes, he would be given free run of the place — with keys to every room in the building, including the mortuary. Although allegations were made during his lifetime, it wasn’t until after his death that the extent of his predatory sexual abuse of vulnerable children and young people was revealed.
- Who or what is Sherrinford? In non-Arthur Conan Doyle Sherlock novels, it was the name given to the third Holmes brother, hence the fakeout here. Could it be an institution that Euros has escaped from, or does she have a sidekick?
- Mycroft has been coded as queer at various points throughout the series – Sherlock refers to him as a ‘queen’ in A Scandal in Belgravia – so the rendezvous with Lady Smallwood seems slightly out of left field. But then again, this is “Sherlock.” Out of left field is what they do best.
- We still don’t have a concrete reason as to why John was cheating on Mary. Their marriage seemed strong, certainly not strained enough to make John pick up the first psychotic genius in disguise who smiled at him.
- What’s with the water? We’ve seen flashbacks in both episodes to date, and in one of the promo pictures, the Baker Street flat was shown flooded, with objects linked to the new series floating around. Did Euros try to drown Sherlock as a child? Worse, did she try to drown his dog Redbeard?