Steven Moffat this week took to his Twitter to remind the Great British public to watch the third and final installment of Sherlock and tell us we “know NOTHING till you see how it ends”. So, now I have seen the last episode, what do I know?
I know that the second episode was, as suspected, something of a black sheep. This third chapter is not as precise or as mechanically complex as the first, but it’s definitely a cut above the typical mystery-come-procedural. There are some imaginative clues, nice twists, surprise solutions, charming pieces of character and humour and plenty of references, both subtle and not, to thosee works of Arthur Conan Doyle that gave us the genius consulting detective in the first place.
This time around, Holmes is given not one but several mysteries to solve, and it would probably be kindest to tell you nothing much about them. Indeed, it would verge on spoiler territory to even tell you how many there are. For the most part, though, they are arranged in a series, little vignettes pumped with clues that can be wrapped up in sequence. Even though some of those clues are a tad oblique or unconvincing and others a teensy bit obvious, the on-screen deductions are always amusing. Benedict Cumberbatch deliver Sherlock’s summations with the right urgency, and I can’t help but smile at his teasing, one-step-ahead deductions, leaping to what might seem like a non-sequitur before he rolls back to fill in the blanks.
Curiously, there’s a clue in this episode that very closely mirrors another in the last. More evidence, I suspect, that we’ve been sold a twin set with an intruder in the middle. Aesthetically, too, this is more of a piece with the first than the second episodes. Of the three, I think it’s the one with the camera direction and editing.
Each of the previous episodes made mention of Moriarty, at least superficially involving him in their plotlines, and we had been promised by Moffat and Gatiss that the character would turn up in person for the final episode. So it is, and a very unexpected Moriarty he is too. Despite being hidden in plain sight, even flaunted, I suspect most viewers will be a little surprised when he finally reveals himself. I’m very interested to see how Doyle purists react.
And now, I will enter a little into non-spoiler spoiler territory and ask some questions that Holmes fans might be able to derive some plot revelations from.
It’s not unknown of for preview discs for TV shows to cut out early or not feature the concluding revelation. As this episode cut to the end titles, I couldn’t help but think of Moffat’s comment again. “You know NOTHING till you see how it ends”. That promise didn’t fit, somehow, with what I’d just watched. I had been waiting for the last shot to up-end everything I thought I knew, or the closing moments to radically rewrite my understanding of the story line.
The last big surprise of the story did come in the final scene, but near the beginning of that scene. The end… the end was, for want of a better term, a cliffhanger. But isn’t this true to Doyle? Didn’t he bring Moriarty and Holmes into conflict and leave us unsure of the outcome? In a very different way, but one that still pays tribute to the original, aren’t Gatiss and director Paul McGuigan shooting for the same thing*?
I’m confident the BBC will be commissioning more Sherlock, though how soon Steven Moffat could be called upon to write another episode is not clear – he has that Doctor chap to take care of. Mark Gatiss, however, has acquitted himself rather well here and would, I think, be most welcome to deliver us many more episodes.
Sherlock airs this Sunday, August 8th at 9pm on BBC1. Over in the US, the PBS screenings start on October 14th, with The Great Game airing on November 7th.
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