This is the year of Sherlock. After a very long two-year break, Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss’s hyper-intelligent and super thrilling detective series is returning for another brief but undoubtedly explosive season.
Completely ignoring 2016’s special New Year episode, The Abominable Bride, which included a dream-like sequence of Sherlock in Arthur Conan Doyle’s original Victorian Era, the new season takes off where season 3 left us. The first 90-minute episode, The Six Thatchers, will be aired on AXN India on January 7 at 8pm.
With Moriarty’s face flashing on every screen in London, Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch) is very conveniently forgiven for murdering a man, so as to help uncover what the long-dead Moriarty wants, from beyond his grave.
To the surprise of the MI6 agents involved, Sherlock decides to wait, for he claims that is what victims do. Meanwhile life goes on, John (Martin Freeman) and Mary (Amanda Abbington) have a baby girl, Rosie. Sherlock is a reluctant godfather, but he babysits nonetheless.
There is a generous helping of the bumbling Inspector Lestrade, dropping in to get help on a case or two. Sherlock constantly tweets and takes up cases about missing wives, amnesiac assassins and murderous jellyfish. None of these cases challenges or tests his intelligence or patience, until he gets intrigued by an attack on the busts of Margaret Thatcher, all made by the same artist.
This is where the episode gets its name, loosely based on Arthur Conan Doyle’s story The Adventure of the Six Napoleons. There is a recurring mention of a missing Black Pearl of the Borgias, the artifact hidden inside a statue of Napoleon in the original story, but unlike the detective of the original written work, Sherlock is not interested in trying to find it. A shift from this point is where the episode takes a very different turn.
The plot thickens, and pasts unravel. An anecdote about a man who escapes death, only to find it waiting for him somewhere else – a derivative of the ancient fable Appointment in Samarra, keeps making its appearance in the episode. Here, it gets qualified. As we found out in the last season, Mary used to be a special agent before she met Watson and is now trying to live an ordinary life. But her job came with consequences, and as much as she has tried to avoid, ignore or escape them, these now come back to haunt her.
The episode is as much about Sherlock’s proven deductive genius as it is about monumental emotional strides and character development. Sherlock shows a surprising amount of emotional vulnerability – a comfort in which he has never allowed himself to indulge. By the end of the episode, he is aware of the injury that can be caused by his arrogance and hubris, and that is a big step forward – and in the first episode of the season already! Sherlock shares a lovely friendship with Mary, who often accompanies him to his cases. Their banter makes for some of the most endearing moments in the episode.
But if all this is already too much drama, there is also a beautifully shot James Bond-like action sequence to look forward to, a rare treat in Cumberbatch’s version of the sleuth. The Six Thatchers is worthy of all the hype, and a powerful comeback. Steer clear of Twitter for a while – as promised, the plot twists are brutal, and anything but elementary.