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Emotional inquiry

(BBC)

Television

Emotional inquiry

Fourth Sherlock season explores a cold detective’s need for love and friendship

The highly anticipated BBC television series Sherlock returned for a fourth season in January, filled with the deductions, witty humor, and plot twists viewers have come to expect from the world’s most famous sleuth and doctor sidekick.

This latest iteration of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s iconic character lives in 221B Baker Street in modern-day London, where he solves mysteries (many taken directly from Doyle’s books) aided by smartphones and high-tech laboratories. Sherlock Holmes (an unflappable Benedict Cumberbatch) is a “high-functioning sociopath” with a drug habit, flanked by his trusty friend Dr. John Watson (Martin Freedman), who logs Holmes’ exploits in a blog.

Fans waited three years since the cliffhanger at the end of season 3 to see what becomes of Holmes and his motley crew: Watson; Watson’s wife, Mary; and Holmes’ brother, Mycroft. In the final scene of season 3, Sherlock’s archnemesis Jim Moriarty (the terrifying Andrew Scott) appears on television screens across London crooning, “Did you miss me?” One problem: Moriarty is dead. 

While Sherlock aired a one-off special episode in 2016 seemingly set in Victorian England, season 4 picks up where season 3 left off. This time it’s Mary who is in trouble as her past life as a trained assassin catches up with her current life as a stay-at-home mom. The show excels as it explores the dynamics of the friendship between Holmes and the Watsons, as the logical detective takes the illogical step of loving others and grows in his emotional capacity.

The season consists of three episodes clocking in at 90 minutes each, making it feel more like watching a trilogy of movies than a television series. The last two episodes increase in suspense and intensity as Holmes begins to discover his archnemesis may not be who he seems. The last episode, “The Final Problem,” explores Holmes’ own past, and forces the detective to make difficult ethical decisions as he, Mycroft, and Watson are trapped inside a lunatic’s “experiment,” akin to psychological thrillers like Saw.

Many criticized the final episode for a neatly packaged conclusion that disregards the consequences of the characters’ previous actions. Yet the ending ultimately reaffirmed the ongoing theme that all humans, even the most coldly intellectual and logical, need love and friendship. With all the loose ends tied, this episode will likely be the last of the series. 

The fourth season of Sherlock, which viewers can stream online at the PBS Masterpiece website, continues the stellar acting, production value, and storylines of the series. At one point, the show takes an honest look at the detrimental consequences of emotional cheating within a marriage. Yet the season is even darker than its predecessors, with moments that make you jump (especially if you’re not a fan of clowns) as well as some disturbing content centered around a high-security asylum.