I stumbled across Sherlock a few years ago, when I was desperate for something new in the world. Everything was boring, nothing was clever, and all that had started so well plummeted as time went on and it failed to hold up the massive, outrageous storyline it was now constructing. I was tired of cheap action gimmicks and important arcs sacrificed for shock value. I wanted a show that made me think.
And then, in the very first episode, you asked me “Why can’t people just think?” I knew that this show was going to turn everything I knew about TV and storytelling upside down, and I knew that this is the show that would have me running to catch up, and I would love the chase.
Every episode consumed me. I was completely in love, and I sat there attempting to play a game I knew I was never meant to beat. And then Sherlock’s telling me: “You see but you do not observe,” and on the second, third, forth watch I started to understand what he meant — that I saw the bigger picture but missed all the details. I wondered, isn’t that what it’s always about? The details. That’s how you separate the good from the great.
Soon the details started popping out, clear as day to me. They were all screaming the same thing: Sherlock and John are meant to be together. I thought perhaps everything I was seeing was mere coincidence and I was reading too much into it — and then came a line that would stick with me forever more, one that I find myself repeating in my daily life because it rings to true: “What do we say about coincidence?” “The universe is rarely so lazy.”
So with the conclusion of season 4, you can perhaps understand why I and so many others are upset. Not only does it appear that all of these things were coincidences (which in itself sounds ridiculous based on the sheer number of coincidences that would be), but also that we were told time and time again to think, and then in the end it was our thinking that destroyed us.
But I’m not just talking about John & Sherlock. While that is an age old story that has still yet to be told, I’m talking about the entirety of season 4 feeling just… off. We begin with Sherlock telling us that “intuition is not to be ignored,” and meanwhile our intuitions are telling us that this is wrong. The essential case in The Six Thatchers was essentially stumbled upon, Sherlock discovering it only after just happening upon the missing Thatcher bust. Never before has Sherlock stumbled upon the secret, because the universe is rarely so lazy. From there, the episode felt like a dream sequence. Sherlock was suddenly speaking in heavy-handed metaphors, and I took the episode as a whole to be a metaphor for Sherlock failing to escape from the validity of his feelings for John. And then not only does Mary die, but her death is like those in the movies, which Molly already told us just doesn’t happen. Nothing made sense to me, but this was Sherlock, and it wasn’t a trick — it was a plan.
The Lying Detective renewed my hope and then some. The visual spectacular that was The Lying Detective reminded me of the show I fell in love with, and I believe it is some of the best work to ever come out of Sherlock.
But what happened next shattered me, and I will feel the pain of it for years to come. The Final Problem aired and it was so Un-Sherlock I couldn’t even comprehend it. There were more plot holes in this one episode than the entire rest of the series combined (which has been notoriously and beautifully air-tight) and the characters were acting so outside themselves I didn’t even recognize them. This wasn’t just a bad episode of Sherlock, it was bad hour of television. So bad, in fact, that the fans jumped up to say “It’s a fake!” We first felt anger — how could this happen? Sherlock was the greatest show on TV, but this was far from brilliant. The episode was a parody of a Sherlock episode, and we could only hope that the groundbreaking truth was yet to be revealed. You told me that if you ever got to be too cocky, too clever for your own good, that I should just say to you the word “Norbury.”
Well I’m screaming it now, desperate for you to hear me, yelling it off the rooftop of St. Bartholomew’s hospital: “NORBURY! NORBURY! NORBURY!”
In the week following, I heard Morarity’s voice ringing out in my mind: “It’s not real, Sherlock, none of this is real.” And Sherlock speaking to me, “It’s a fake, it has to be.” I believed in my heart that this was a Reichenbach Fall, so to speak, and the show was faking a suicide, only to make a triumphant and historic return.
Time for deductions — a secret episode then, one that gave Sherlock and John the ending they deserved. I believed that this was a part of the game, despite the many people all around saying it was over, time to move on. But we became the Andersons, throwing up theories just to tear them down, the words I BELIEVE IN SHERLOCK HOLMES written all over our Twitter feeds and Tumblr dash boards. We wanted it so bad. The Final Problem was a fake and there’s going to be a secret episode that will fix everything! Don’t you see? It’s so obvious!
And then it didn’t come. And the more days nothing came, the more of a failure I felt. I was forced to admit that The Final Problem was in fact, real, and nothing was going to change it. But it couldn’t be, could it? And now you are looking at me, at all of us, shaking your heads.
“Nobody could be that clever.”