Sherlock: ‘The Six Thatchers’ review – a comic start and a tragic ending

Warning: This post contains spoilers for series four, episode one of Sherlock. Please do not read this post until you have watched ‘The Six Thatchers’.

It’s funny how everything seems to come together once the episode airs. Tonight saw the long-awaited return of Sherlock to our TV screens and for weeks, there were hints that the series was dark, but with comical elements too. Well, the comedy came at the very start and continued with the introduction of baby Rosie (Sherlock’s reaction to the newborn was hilarious), before things became tragic. The ending was somewhat predictable, but tragic nonetheless.

Photo: BBC.
Photo: BBC.

The plot itself started with a very interesting death indeed. Once again, the show continues to have us kicking ourselves whenever the mystery is solved. The case with the man in the car was unique, and the exploding car no doubt hinted at an even bigger budget for this series, and what’s to come (probably more amazing stunts).

As soon as this was solved, the story moved on to another case. It was one which was a clever play on The Six Napoleons – an old Sherlock story referenced by Craig when he was telling Sherlock about the Margaret Thatcher ornaments. What started as a very comical episode revolving around the trio dealing with the birth of Rosie, soon descended into something far more concerning when it was revealed that it all had to do with Mary’s past.

This was hinted to those who read the synopsis for the episode, and so it came as no surprise to them. That being said, the backstory behind Mary Watson (or Mary Morstan, or ‘Rosamund Mary’, whatever) was intriguing, albeit a little bit hard to comprehend. In very basic terms, it could be described as a botched-up operation for A.G.R.A and the British government, caused by someone betraying them. Like many other points in the show, the revelation that ‘ammo’ was in fact ‘amo’ was very good, but it took a while – until the final stand-off – before I finally got a grip on what happened in Tbilisi. Also, we now know that Ajay and ‘Rosamund’ died in the episode, and that Alex was tortured to death, but what about Gabriel? It’s likely that he died, but then again, with this show, we can’t assume anything.

In amongst all of this, though, it was revealed that Watson had been talking to something else. On a bus ride, a lady caught John’s eye and passed him his number. We were all hoping that Watson’s good character would prevent him from entering the number into his phone, but alas, he started texting the lady known only as ‘E’. It was a conversation shown on-screen through clever graphics – something which has clearly upped its game in this series, but felt a little bit too much in tonight’s episode. Nevertheless, John’s decision to talk to someone else suggested that cracks were starting to show in the triangle that is him, Mary and Sherlock. It also became all the more poignant when Mary died later in the episode.

For fans of the original books, this was to be expected as it is cannon. However, brilliant acting, Sherlock’s broken vow and Mary’s final words were enough to bring a tear to every viewer’s eye, regardless of whether they saw her death coming.

Speaking of ‘the last vow’ (which was made in the last series of the show), it was this which truly hinted that this series is going to be much darker. John could just about put up with Sherlock being a pain in the backside, but a broken vow from a friend was enough to do it. In the last series, we feared that Mary’s past would break up the pair, but far more catastrophic is her death.

John no longer wants to see Sherlock and for Mr Holmes, it comes as a wake-up call. Towards the end of the episode, I couldn’t help but see comparisons to Doctor Who. A companion steps into the TARDIS with a bunch of excitement and a lust for adventure, and as much as the Doctor tries to keep them safe, sometimes that isn’t the case. It’s something we now see with Sherlock. His dangerous profession will never provide peace for John and once the consulting detective realised this, it prompted him to hold back on his confidence, because he can never be so sure of something ever again. The codeword he gave to Mrs Hudson to remind him when he is being arrogant was humbling and suggests that Sherlock is becoming a little less formulaic and robotic.

In the next episode, we see the introduction of the next villain in the series: Culverton Smith. Whilst ‘The Six Thatchers’ had some predictable elements, there’s no telling what will happen in the second episode. Yet, what we do know is that Mary’s death has killed the ‘one big happy family’ idea, and things can only get worse from that point on.

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