It has been three years since the previous season debut of the globally popular BBC’s Sherlock. This time around, the producers were able to take pity on the Colonies, as there was no split in release dates between Great Britain and the United States. Americans could now watch their favorite high-functioning sociopath alongside their English brethren, avoiding spoilers on social media platforms and articles such as this one.
Fans of the show have been waiting with baited breath, snatching up any gossip, rumors or tidbits that they can find since they witnessed a potential return of Moriarty. When the cast and producers revealed that the table read (a first look at a script) for season four had occurred, no qualms were made that the cast was left in tears.
“The Six Thatchers”, based loosely on Doyle’s short story, “The Adventure of the Six Napoleons”, began to deliver on what is likely the first of many tears shed throughout this season. The death of a major character felt inevitable but was shockingly delivered in the first episode. Mark Gatiss, seemed to shy away from foreshadowing and blatantly told the viewer someone was going to perish in the opening moments. The game all began with a fable narrated by Cumberbatch called, “An Appointment in Samarra”. The tale is about the inability to escape Death, centralized on a merchant as he attempts to evade him. This theme would be employed throughout the episode, as Sherlock sees himself as the merchant in the case Moriarty’s ‘return’.
Believing his arch-nemesis to be truly dead, Holmes sees a posthumous plan unfolding, and that only by playing ‘the game’ will Moriarty’s plot be revealed. However, this could not be done before Sherlock’s murder of the revolting Augustus Magnussen is covered up. Free and clear to deduce to his heart’s content Sherlock monitors the criminal underworld, cracking baffling case after case with a steady stream of texts and hashtags. This leads Sherlock to the first Thatcher, a broken bust of the former Prime Minister belonging to a client who had lost their son to a mysterious death. Solving the case with relative ease, the broken bust becomes an obsession. As more destroyed busts of Margaret Thatcher pop up all over England, Sherlock is convinced it is Moriarty behind it all.
This leads us into what the episode is all about: Mary. It’s all about consequence. The thought-to-be destroyed USB drive reappears in a broken bust, baffling Holmes, and the origins of the initials are revealed.
Here is where I’ll mostly end describing the finer points of the episode. I ask you, like Sherlock, pay attention to the details. Over and again, Sherlock states the vow he made, and how he shall “protect the three of them.” While Sherlock’s heroism begins to take deeper root, he finally faces his hubris. Much like the old tragedies of Greek drama, it may cause a break that will never truly heal. I have painted a picture that the episode is dark, grim and heart-breaking, and it is. But it does have strong laughs, entertaining quips and deductive monologues by Cumberbatch, along with a call being made to the third Holmes brother, Sherrinford.
To put the episode and it’s ending in perspective, as mentioned, Sherlock sees himself as the merchant of “An Appointment in Samarra”. In truth, he may actually be the unwitting Death in this tale.