Not (just) about johnlock: why Sherlock s4 was its downfall
I have seen so many criticisms these days about how those of us who disliked the fourth series - and especially the last episode - of Sherlock feel that way only because johnlock didn’t become canon. While that is certainly one of the reasons that this seasons and, in particular, The Final Problem, was a steaming pile of garbage, it certainly isn’t the only one.
The problem with s4 actually began in s3, when Mary fell pregnant and then Mofftiss decided to make her into an ex-assassin who shoots the main and titular character. None of this is problematic in and of itself. However, it becomes so when there’s absolutely no payoff for these things. Imagine, for example, if Mary had become a central villain in s4 - that would mean that her backstory and reveal as having a dark past would make sense within the course of the narrative. Instead, what we got was a boring redemption arc that culminated in her trading her life for Sherlock’s and then apologising to him for shooting him in the first place. All in the name of Mofftiss’ credo of only having female characters in order to serve the progression of the male ones. Take the baby now. Firstly, whenever a baby is introduced on a show, it always screams “we’ve run out of ideas”, but this time especially, the baby provided absolutely nothing. If the entirety of the season could have worked just as well without a baby, why have one in the first place? It only serves to put the characters in a more difficult place, narratively speaking. Many have suggested that the baby was only created in order to provide further queerbaiting by giving johnlockers something without compromising their central audience, and I tend to agree, because it makes no other sense.
Which leads me to the queerbaiting. We didn’t imagine all the johnlock evidence. Yes, some of the metas can be viewed as reaching, but when the actual text repeatedly refers back to it, it isn’t something that a portion of fans just imagined out of thin air. The irony is that the only way s4 could have been salvaged in the end is probably by abandoning their queerbaiting ways and by actually making johnlock happen. I know many casuals who share the same sentiments, so it’s not just tjlcers who agree on this.
One of the worst things that s4 did, however, was butcher the characters to a point of no return. These characters, who were expertly crafted, characterised and developed throughout the course of the show, were destroyed within a matter of episodes. Sherlock Holmes - instead of becoming the antithesis of his dfp state (which is where the writers have always been heading) - just became a pushover for John Watson to abuse and ignore and disregard. John Watson, who, in past seasons, has been shown to be willing to do anything for Sherlock. That’s not progression, that’s regression. By and in The Final Problem, the characters were unrecognisable and way worse for wear. All of this was done to them in order to have cheap twists and revelations in the form of Eurus (who I won’t even get into at this point) and her ridiculous murder island plotline. The thing that made Sherlock special was the characters - specifically the two men at the heart of it all. They deserved better writing and better payoff than this. It’s as though the writers decided to develop them up until s4, at which point they went, “Ah, they get the picture, just let them do whatever now.” None of it made any sense and, worse than that, served any real purpose. The season was full of problems which presented no reward in the end. Empty redemptions, empty narratives and empty textual and subtextual promises left a sour taste in many a mouth, and johnlock is by far not the only reason for that. I actually left a lot of points out of this for the sake of brevity. So stop saying that we’re only upset because johnlock didn’t happen.