OK, so I wrote a complaint to the BBC. As I’m not from the uK, I wrote a real letter:
PO Box 1922
Hamburg, 29th January 2016
Sherlock Series 4
once, you were the beacon of truth and originality. Your shows were groundbreakingly brilliant. As I am a livelong fan of Sherlock Holmes, I was especially delighted by the new adaptation done by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss. I followed this series since 2010.
Therefore, can you imagine my shock when I just watched series 4? As I don’t live in the UK, I pre-ordered the DVD and just watched it over the weekend. I loved everything on this series up to The Abominable Bride. But series 4 was not only disappointing, it is, in my honest opinion, pure treachery in regard to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories. Please, let me explain:
Especially The Final Problem has nothing to do with how a Sherlock Holmes story works and it’s a right affront to say that it was adapted from the works of Conan Doyle. because it wasn’t.
No, this is not about canonical purity (like “Eurus wasn’t in the books!” whining). It’s about the structure of the narrative that makes a Holmes story.
Sherlock Holmes is not a magic wizard - he operates by logic. Therefore, his deductions are comprehensible and reasonable. When he explains them, people can follow through (even saying that it sounds easy when explained). The deductions follow logical rules to determine the truth.
Now, by introducing an omnipotent, superintelligent, crazy and therefore unpredictable previously unknown factor like Eurus into the above equation, who, because she’s mentally ill and a genius, is motivated by inexplicable and irrational impulses, the writers literally threw over the board. It’s not a game anymore, indeed, because this is not the Holmesian game as it has been played for decades. It broke the rules, it revoked the contract the writers had with the audience: that when a Holmes story is adapted, the viewer has a chance to solve the puzzle. The lost sister was never foreshadowed in any episode, not even hinted at, before suddenly taking centre stage in the penultimate episode. That, at least to me, is rather cheap storytelling, even cheating on your audience.
Because we didn’t have a chance to figure it out. The writers and the director reduced that beautifully crafted, exciting show to a pile of senseless rug pulls just for the sake of it. There is nothing to analyse, no motivation to look into, no making sense of it. And that is not only true for The Final Problem now, because by carelessly interlocking the Eurus factor with previous episodes, Moffat and Gatiss even destroyed the frame of reference I thought they had established.
Another point I want to complain about, that intelocks with Eurus, is the show’s dealing with its female protagonists. They either sacrifice themselves for the male hero(s) (Mary), are reduced to a sobbing, pining mess (Molly), used in a purely sexual way (Irene Adler) or have to be locked away because they are superintelligent and therefore crazy. Whereas Sherlock and Mycroft were shown to control their mental powers and reign them in to make use of them (Mycroft as a government official, Sherlock at least as a freelancer, albeit with a drugs problem), the sister wasn’t able to channel her extraordinary gift. She doesn’t seem to have got any help, but was just locked away. To me, as a female academic, that says that very intelligent women are also easily bound to go off the rocker because they are too emotional (Eurus apparently killed Sherlock’s childhood friend because she was jealous). I find that depiciton of female genius highly problematic.
And please tell me why the show was marketed with the catch phrases „Miss Me?“ - a hint to Moriarty – and „I love you“ or „Sherlock is in love“? Because Moriarty was only shown in a flashback and wasn’t that important after all, because he was only employed by Eurus; and with whom Sherlock might have been in love didn’t register with me. Certainly not with poor Molly Hooper, or Irene Adler (who’s a self-proclaimed lesbian). Was it the sister he didn’t even know he had? Well, you certainly love your siblings, but I hope you are not actually in love with them, as this indicates romantic interest…
In all, I feel rather let down and a bit cheated by Sherlock series 4. Sorry for throwing that at you, but as I said, I truly loved this show once.
This is the reply I got:
On the plus side, it’s not the general ‘NO JOHNLOCK’ response - on the down side, they simply say that you can’t please everybody (true), and, as the series is so hugely successful, it doesn’t really matter if a few people had issues with the series…
Yet I do think that the conclusion is the most vital part of a series, especially if the conclusion throws most of the previous series overboard and retcons large parts of its own narrative.
*shrugs* But what can you do?