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Read about the previous episode here.
Grief is a destructive force that often gets underestimated and is rarely well-depicted. Thankfully, “The Lying Detective” gives the emotion all the agency it deserves while managing to avoid turning it into a mockery. When we check back in with John we find him, unsurprisingly, consumed by Mary’s death. He has wrapped himself up in his grief and lost himself in anger to the point where he finds himself unfit to be a parent. It makes things both better and worse that he is able to acknowledge that. On one hand, you can’t fix a problem you don’t admit, but on the other this acknowledgment is only making him angrier at himself.
After series four’s shoddy first offering, Sherlock returned to its former glory with an exceptional episode that managed to hit all the right notes. John and Sherlock find themselves back together again to take on Culverton Smith. He’s a tiny, gross creature who’s made up of more Trump metaphors than you can shake a stick at. He measures just below Magnusson on the gross-o-meter, though some may find him worse, and proves himself to be a formidable foe thanks to some twists thrown in by a wild-card we’ll get to later.
After the predictability of “The Six Thatchers”, it was important that Gatiss and Moffat deliver something that keeps us on our toes throughout, and they did just that. From the end of series three to now, we have assumed that “Miss Me” was a game Moriarty was playing with Sherlock from the grave, but it was never him at all. Turns out Sherlock isn’t the only Holmes child who likes to play games, and that brings us to the aforementioned wild-card.
Eurus’ arrival raises more questions than it answers. Since Sherlock has assumed that it’s been Moriarty all this time, what’s the purpose behind him telling John that “there’s an East wind coming” in series three? Beyond that, what does “the East wind claims us all” indicate, if that’s the meaning behind his sister’s name? Why doesn’t he recognize her? Was she removed from his life too early for him to notice her as an adult? Are Sherrinford and Eurus the same person, or does Mycroft have a meeting with someone else who just so happens to share the name of the brother that the two are supposed to have? This is all great, because questions are what fans look for at the end of a Sherlock episode. Not so many that it’s annoying, of course, but just enough that that you’re left craving the follow-up. Where “The Six Thatchers” failed to deliver on this front, “The Lying Detective” made up for it in spades.
Mary’s death, though infuriating in its predictability, has led to something that we rarely see in anything depicting Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories: Sherlock’s humanity. He has to save John, and he has to be at his most vulnerable to do it. Mary’s sacrifice is a currency that Sherlock doesn’t know how to spend, and he finds himself lost amidst grief. Of course he’ll always say that he’s only got one friend, but the fact of the matter is he’s got several. Towards the top of that list was Mary Watson, and he has absolutely no idea how to cope with the emotions that he is flooded with.
In addition to some much needed twists and turns, we got some character moments that are both delightful and cut like a knife. Mrs. Hudson was given little to do previously, but, man, she’s returned with a hellfire. Lord help anyone who hurts John or Sherlock, and Mycroft found himself in that unfortunate position when he invaded her home and tried to remain during a painful moment with Mary’s recording. She’ll protect those two idiots from anyone that tries to harm them, and that includes themselves. Try to kill yourself? You get stuck in a trunk and go on a joy ride!
Coupled with Mrs. Hudson’s complete badassery were some truly intimate scenes that we’re not used to in Sherlock. John confessing that he cheated on Mary was so deeply emotional that it helped you forget how irritating it was that his inability to tell her previously made her death completely predictable. Sherlock is so very rarely apologetic. He calculates everything and thus never feels guilty, but he never calculated that someone else would pay for his hubris. It’s a shock when he tells the guards to let John keep beating him because he killed his wife, but not when John agrees. Then there’s the gutting moment when John finally breaks down at the end of the speech to Mary’s ‘ghost’ and Sherlock hugs him.
In a way, we all see Sherlock as Mycroft does (solely analytical) since we have John to look at in comparison, but Mrs. Hudson primes us for his surprising display of humanity by explaining all of the ways that he is deeply and painfully human. Sherlock’s humanity is usually loud and messy. It’s rare that we see him kind or compassionate, and never has it been on the level of the hug he and john share in the flat. It’s a short, fleeting moment between two friends feeling immeasurable grief, and it brings all of the pain, anger, fear, and loss crashing to the front of things. “It is what it is.”
“The Lying Detective” made a theme of Sherlock’s humanity, but in the end, it’s all about John’s. He cheated on Mary, he wasn’t there to protect her, he hasn’t been a good father to Rosie, he was never the man Mary thought he was and he’s blamed the death of his wife on his best friend, and that’s okay. It’s okay because we’re all human, even John Watson.
Unfortunately, humans die when you put bullets in them, and that’s where we leave the episode. Eurus has tied herself intricately into John and Sherlock’s lives. She’s John’s other woman and his therapist, while acting as the Faith stand-in for Sherlock, and now she’s shot at John, or at least in his direction. Knee jerk reaction is that there’s no way they’d kill off either main character, but with a show helmed by Moffat that’s nearing the end of its run it’s honestly hard to tell.
Though John’s fate is currently in question, “The Lying Detective” was an all-around exceptional episode that made up for “The Six Thatchers” in every way possible. If you avoided this week’s episode because of last week’s less than impressive fare, it’s time to hop back on the bandwagon and enjoy the rest of the ride. If rumors are correct, next week’s episode could be the last of an adventure we’ve all been on since 2010.