Sherlock S4 Episode 2: The Lying Detective doesn't pull BBC's show out of its nosedive

Deven Kanal

Jan,15 2017 08:45:07 IST

After the disaster that was The Six Thatchers,  die-hard fans of Sherlock were hoping that second episode, entitled The Lying Detective, would pull the show out of its nose-dive. Well, not quite.

[Spoilers ahead.]

The show opens with the image of a smoking gun. Hmmm. Perhaps the last thing Mary saw before she was gunned down? No matter, the scene shifts to John, at the home of his new therapist. Confession might be good for the soul, but John isn't quite ready to share everything that's going on in his head — namely that he's having hallucinations of his dead wife.

Still from 'Sherlock'

Still from 'Sherlock'

The conversation, as always, drifts back to Sherlock (because it must) when the scene shifts to a helicopter in a high speed chase with a sports car, lending even more credence to the Sherlock is now basically James Bond theory.  Unsurprisingly, the car pulls up in front of the therapists' home. And the game begins. Again. So far, no good.

With that out of the way, we get our first glimpse of the villain of the week: Culverton Smith, a rich philanthrophist-type who bears a faint resemblance to a certain president-elect that shall not be named. Anyway, Smith has assembled his friends and family to make a confession: He wants to kill someone and feels the need to share. But he's also provided them with a special drug that will let them forget his confession immediately.  Understandably, his creeped out daughter Faith (save us Ivanka!) tries her best to remember and even scribbles something down. But sadly, her father snatches away the piece of paper and we're left wondering who he's planning to kill.

Cut to three years later: Faith is visiting a drug-addled Sherlock, who's clearly replaced one addiction with another and is dismissive of anyone who comes to him for help. Cumberbatch does some fine work here, chewing the scenery by reciting lines from Henry V and shooting up the apartment like a man possessed. But something about Faith's demeanour and her story move Sherlock so he decides to accompany her on a moonlight stroll through London.

Mycroft is duly informed that Sherlock has left the building, so Big Brother neatly dispatches a drone to keep an eye on his sibling, a fact that does not go unnoticed and which leads to a rather amusing sight gag. Mycroft reaches out to John, who, understandaby, doesn't really feel like reaching out to his former best friend. Freeman is really good here as John, playing up his loneliness and despair. Lady Smallwood returns to once again, bring up the third Holmes sibling, but Mycroft assures her that he receives regular updates from 'Sherrinford'. Okay then. Nothing to worry about, I'm sure. Just the heavy, heavy hands of the writers.

Faith tells Sherlock her father uttered one word which destroyed her life. Intrigued, Sherlock takes the case and demands the gun in her handbag as payment, which he then dramatically tosses into the Thames. Suddenly, Sherlock begins shaking and collapses. You see, the drugs are wearing off and he's in dire need of a hit. We see a memory of young Sherlock running with a dog at a beach and humming an unfamiliar theme. When he comes to, Faith is gone. And we're left to wonder if she was ever really there. In a nifty bit of deduction, Sherlock realises that the word her father told her is anyone. And that Culverton is, in fact, a serial killer. This is by far, Cumberbatch's strongest work this season. It's just a shame that the show doesn't really seem to use Sherlock's drug problem as anything more than an annoyance to be overcome by his genius and not a real problem.

Cut to another three weeks later: Sportscar at John's therapist's home. And out steps.....Mrs Hudson. Who pleads with John to meet Sherlock, if only in his capacity as a physician. John promises to stop by 221B Baker Street, but Mrs Hudson pops open the trunk of the car, to reveal Sherlock Holmes. All tied up.  A little silly, considering Sherlock can dispatch hired mercenaries, but can't resist one old housekeeper, sorry landlady. John suspects that Sherlock is faking his addiction to gain John's sympathy, but those doubts are put to rest by Molly Hooper turning up with an ambulance in tow to examine Sherlock, who, has declared that Culverton a serial killer on Twitter.

How did she turn up? Well, Sherlock told her she'd be needed. Two weeks ago. And how did Sherlock manage that? John doesn't want to know. The calculations are left to Mary's ghost, which is really just John's brain working it out. Anyway, Sherlock managed to convince John to accompany him to meet Culverton, a real slimeball who openly intimidates his employees and raises Sherlock's ire by openly declaring himself a 'cereal killer' in an ad campaign. Urgh.

Sherlock, John and Culverton head to Culverton's hospital, where he opines on how rich and powerful people are untouchable, and can get away with anything. Again, not subtle. This is Bond villain monologuing, and it feels out of place. Then, he takes them to his favourite room. The morgue. What a guy. Then Faith turns up. But she's not the woman Sherlock spent the evening with and claims never to have met Sherlock. Holmes has a complete breakdown and he ends up trying to stab Culverton. Cumerbatch's sells Sherlock's shock and terror at having completely got it wrong really well here. John ends up restraining Sherlock and giving him a brutal beating, ending with accusing Sherlock of killing his wife. Sherlock is admitted to the hospital and John says goodbye to Sherlock by leaving his cane behind at his bedside.

John gets back to Baker Street, where Mycroft is waiting for him. John works out that Sherlock and Mycroft have a secret brother from a previous conversation he had with Mycroft. They discover Mary's message from beyond the grave to Sherlock: She instructs Sherlock to 'go to hell' and pick a fight with the biggest, baddest criminal he knows and put his own life in danger so that John can save him and thus, save himself.  Sherlock is heavily sedated in the hospital and Culverton pays him a visit, admitting to him that his suspicions were right and that Culverton is exactly what he thinks he is. Culverton is in the middle of strangling Sherlock when John breaks down the door. Culverton says Sherlock is delusional, but Sherlock reveals that the entire ordeal was a ruse to get Culverton to confess, taping him with a recording device hidden in the cane. Clever, but anyone familiar with the original text would have seen this coming a mile away.

Back at Baker Street, John and Sherlock reconcile, with John confessing he cheated on Mary by exchanging text messages with a woman he met on a bus. Although we know that John is talking to a figment of his imagination, it is a little disturbing that ghost Mary does little but smile and nod as John tells her he betrayed their marriage vows. It's almost like this show doesn't know what to do with female characters. Oh and Sherlock gets a text message from Irene Adler. Hopefully she'll return in the season finale and be treated a lot better than Mary.

The episode ends like it began, with John on the therapists couch. Things are back to normal. Until Sherlock discovers the piece of paper 'Faith' brought with her. And John catches his therapist asking about the 'secret' Holmes brother that no one ever told her about. Uh oh. A spooked John attempts to leave, but she pulls a gun on him. You see, this woman not only pretending to be the therapist and 'Faith', but  also the woman John met on the bus. She asks him if never considered that the secret Holmes brother could actually be a sister. It's a clever little callback all the way to episode 1 of season 1, where Sherlock mistakes John's sister for a brother.  Clearly, the writers are planning to bring things full circle by next episode. John is spooked and attempts to leave, but she pulls a gun on him and then fires it at him. Bravo to the actress for making the reveal creepy, when it so easily could have come off as something straight out of Scooby Doo.

It was an interesting episode. The villain Culverton did nothing for me. The John-Sherlock dynamic was, as always, the heart of the show. The show creators may have let everything spin out of control, but at least they know where the money is. Next week is probably the last episode of Sherlock ever, what with Cumberbatch being well on his way to becoming a global superstar. One can only hope they top it off with an all-time classic that redeems the season.

Published Date: Jan 15, 2017 08:45 AM | Updated Date: Jan 15, 2017 08:45 AM