The series finale of Sherlock begins with an eerie ambiguous start, with the definite tones of political deception common in TV series’ such as Spooks. Following the credits, typical comedy and effortless drama are combined to create a great introduction to the story. Dr Watson (Martin Freeman) takes a sudden and welcome dominant role showing a well executed rescue of a neighbour’s son, with ample helpings of witty comments. Until, of course, Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) appears. Well, he is the star.
The episode continues and the antagonist, Charles Augustus Magnussen (Lars Mikkelson), captures our natural curiosity and seems to unnerve Sherlock’s normally seamless isolation from human emotion, by his pure menacing presence. Moments where he gets entirely too close for comfort to the other characters emphasises his cold calculating approach to interaction – when he samples a woman’s perfume, and calmly pronounces that “It never tastes the same as it smells” is chilling as he shows no respect for social boundaries. For him, he has absolute control, and can exert it.
The introduction of a girlfriend for the socially incapable Sherlock shocks the audience, but he still retains the cold hearted obsession with the case and his misunderstanding of human interaction. He never makes a ‘human error’ and this episode is no different. It was clear, as we are frequently reminded throughout the series, that Sherlock is a high functioning sociopath, and while the audience may have felt shock, much like Doctor Watson, when the idea is first dangled in front of them, it is clear that Sherlock hasn’t found a woman to replace ‘The Woman’ (Irene Adler) as his obsession. We can only hope that she will return next series, as their interactions were somewhat a highlight of ‘A Scandal in Belgravia’.
The episode exploits psychological themes and thrills from the start. The exploration of the Sherlock’s mindset is particularly detailed in this episode, and quite rightly for a finale which has been in anticipation for two years. This is achieved accurately with several clever cinematographic methods, which create great delivery of all aspects of the episode.
The detail in this episode is unsurpassed, the challenge of trying to unravel the complex web of twists and turns keeps you on the edge of your seat. In fact, even by the end of the show you have not found the end of the string. The closing of the show fails to satisfactorily tie up any loose ends, although themes portrayed in the first and second episodes finally fit into place. More is revealed about Sherlock’s family and the meaning of family, surely an unknown concept for the high functioning sociopath. The episode delivers tremendous sacrifice, surprise, complexity and double-triple-quadruple bluffs which maintains the level of entertainment. The end credits open up the web for the forthcoming fourth series, with the reappearance of an infamous foe. Apparently, the characters are very good at avoiding the grim reaper.
9/10 – A must see, the best episode yet