Sherlock trades sleuthing for spying in The Six Thatchers

Benedict Cumberbatch returns as Sherlock - Credit: BBC
Benedict Cumberbatch returns as Sherlock - Credit: BBC

Benedict Cumberbatch returns as Sherlock – Credit: BBC

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‘Sherlock’ is back… but things aren’t quite the same.

A lot has changed since ‘Sherlock’ first sleuthed his way onto our screens in 2010 with his first case – ‘A Study in Pink’. We’ve seen him solve murder after murder, with even the odd trifling with the sinister Moriarty thrown into the mix. But this time, his signature deduction takes a back seat.

Instead, Sherlock is involved in another mystery concerning Mary Watson.

And I’m not sure it entirely works out.

**Warning: Major ‘Sherlock’ Series 4 spoilers ahead**

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It’s no secret that Mrs John Watson has led a rather… ‘colourful’ life.

Back in ‘Sherlock’ Series 3, she was revealed to be an international assassin, and now ‘The Six Thatchers’ goes into much more detail about that. It looks as though Mary was actually part of a freelance task force – contracted by the likes of the British government to take on dangerous assignments.

The catch? Each member of the task force possesses a memory stick containing all of the names and aliases and operational details of all the other members. It’s essentially a means of ensuring no-one is betrayed.

But following an incident at the British Embassy in Georgia, it looks as though one of her former allies is out for revenge… and he has Mary firmly in his sights.

Sherlock struggles with family life - Credit: BBC
Sherlock struggles with family life – Credit: BBC

What’s all this got to do with Sherlock?

Well, obviously there’s a mystery involved – this time, a series of Margaret Thatcher busts have been desecrated in seemingly unconnected crimes across the city… and it all leads back to Mary and her would-be assassin. To be honest, the whole thing feels a little contrived and nowhere near as interesting as previous ‘Sherlock’ mysteries.

Sure, there’s a bigger emotional connection this time around with the intended victim being one of Sherlock’s closest friends, but the actual sleuthing in ‘The Six Thatchers’ just isn’t as convincing or interesting as earlier stories.

And let’s face it – it’s more of an action flick than a cerebral study.

The connections are fairly obvious – those Thatcher busts play a key part in the story, essentially as a plot device to link Mary’s potential killer to a variety of lesser crimes which Sherlock is taking on for reasons which seem to stem from pure boredom.

Is there really nothing else he could be doing with this time?

Sherlock and his classic hound, Toby - Credit: BBC
Sherlock and his classic hound, Toby – Credit: BBC

The real kicker comes with the final act’s twist.

For one thing, it’s not especially interesting and comes completely out of left field. The ‘mastermind’ orchestrating everything is revealed in unceremonious fashion and turns out to be the person you’d least suspect – mostly because there wasn’t so much as a hint of their involvement throughout the entire episode. And that feels like a bit of a cheat.

But most importantly – Sherlock never saw it coming, either.

Sure, he gets the gist of it right at the very end… but it’s not exactly the most taxing of mysteries. And any other day, it’s the kind of case that Sherlock would barely be bothered with. The showdown is odd, too and more than a little jarring. But one good thing does come of it all – Mary Watson’s death.

That’s right, she’s gone.

Now, don’t get me wrong – Amanda Abbington was a great Mary Watson. She’s strong, feisty and doesn’t let Sherlock ever get one over on her. In many ways, she’s a much better partner for Sherlock than Watson could ever be… and that’s the big problem. She just gets in-between the Baker Street boys. And frankly, it’s about time she buggered off.

Thankfully, she gets a rather fitting end.

Despite previously gunning for Sherlock herself, she dives in front of him to take a bullet and save his life… and thus, her tragic end also serves another purpose – creating an interesting rift between Sherlock and Watson. After all, Sherlock always promised to protect her.

It’s an intriguing end to a strange episode. Things will never be the same again – their relationship now at breaking point, with Watson unable to face Sherlock after he let him and his family down.

But a solid ending doesn’t make up for a lacklustre episode.

Let’s just hope Sherlock gets a proper mystery next week… and a really gruesome villain to boot. With Toby Jones entering the fray, I get the feeling that won’t be a problem at all.

‘Sherlock’ Series 4 continues 8 January 2017 on BBC One.

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What did you think of Sherlock’s return in The Six Thatchers? Did it live up to earlier episodes? Leave your comments below… and follow Ryan Leston on Twitter or Facebook for more on the latest TV shows.