The new episode of Sherlock, ‘The Six Thatchers’ aired on New Year’s Day, and left viewers stunned. A year on from the Christmas special ‘The Abominable Bride’, set in Victorian London, my hopes for the new series of Sherlock were not high. However, this new episode was a pleasant surprise!
Sherlock was back on terra firma, cleared from killing Magnussen in ‘His Last Vow’, tweeting, and joking with the secretary, Mrs Norbury, in a government meeting. The mood was good, the new cases were intriguing – a boy found dead for a week in his own car in his parents’ driveway, despite having been skyping them from Tibet? How? – and watching Sherlock attempting to babysit John and Mary’s child was a treat in itself.
‘The Six Thatchers’ wasn’t without its issues, of course. Although exhilarating to watch (especially with some of that cinematography), the episode was dangerously close to Doctor Who levels of trickiness and convolution. While the cleverness of the storylines is what viewers appreciate about this show when they get it right, it is also easy for the writers to overdo it and be too self-consciously smug about their jokes.
The episode was dangerously close to Doctor Who levels of trickiness and convolution
This episode began tamely enough. It was based on “The Adventure of the Six Napoleons”, in which plaster busts of Napoleon are being smashed all around London. In this episode, it was Thatcher’s plaster face being repeated destroyed, but this wasn’t treated as politically inflammatorily as I was expecting it to be.
In the Conan Doyle story, the last bust is found to contain the black pearl of the Borgias, the disappearance of which Sherlock is repeatedly asked to assist with in this episode. As such, the episode was all set up to smash open the last plaster bust and reveal a pearl. But it didn’t!
Instead, a memory stick with A.G.R.A written on it is revealed – just like the one containing Mary’s past secrets, which John destroyed in Series 3. It transpires that it was the memory stick of another person in her assassin team – AJ – who also survived and believed she betrayed him.
Thatcher’s plaster face was repeatedly destroyed, but this wasn’t treated as politically inflammatorily as I was expecting it to be
It is at this point that the plot all became a little fanciful for me. Mary drugs Sherlock and goes on the run from AJ to protect John and the baby, choosing locations based on rolling dice. But of course, Sherlock is one step ahead as he and John have put a tracking device in the memory stick.
It turns out it is the secretary, Mrs Norbury, who betrayed Mary and AJ years before. The climactic scene of this episode is set in an aquarium, which is fittingly eerie. Sherlock goads Mrs Norbury, and suitably riled, she tries to shoot him.
Mary jumps in the way in the most clichéd way possible, and John arrives for a last few moments of angsty conversation. This is all made even more difficult and painful by the fact that John was shown potentially conducting an affair with a woman that he met on the bus earlier in the episode in a weird subplot.
All in all, the episode was a thrilling watch, especially after such a long wait
John ends up blaming Sherlock for not keeping Mary safe, and the episode ends heartbreakingly, with Sherlock essentially banished from John’s life, in therapy, and telling Mrs Hudson that if he ever gets too cocky again, to say the word ‘Norbury’ to him to remind him of the consequences.
All in all, the episode was a thrilling watch, especially after such a long wait. References to a third Holmes brother are intriguing, and it will be interesting to see where the relationship between Sherlock and John goes from here. Who knows what will happen to the woman that John is supposedly texting, whether Mary will even stay dead (I trust no one anymore!) and who the new villain is! Mark your calendars for the next episode.