Very rarely does a television show premiere three 90-minute episodes per season every few years, yet British television show “Sherlock” continues to be a huge success among both critics and fans with this strategy. Even with an unconventional three-year hiatus from the small screen, the show returned with the Jan. 1 premiere of series four, which picked up right where the series three finale left off. Despite a dry first episode that was necessary to provide background for later events, series four culminated in a darker storyline that put less emphasis on solving cases and more on the eponymous sleuth’s mysterious childhood, hidden vulnerabilities, and dynamic relationship with sidekick, Dr. John Watson.
Following series three’s ominous ending and the 2016 teaser of the one-off holiday special, “The Abominable Bride,” fans were left with many questions. “Sherlock” regulars Dr. John Watson (Martin Freeman), landlady Mrs. Hudson (Una Stubbs), Inspector Greg Lestrade (Rupert Graves), Dr. Molly Hooper (Louise Brealey), Mary Morstan (Amanda Abbington) and Mycroft Holmes (Mark Gatiss) reprised their roles for the series alongside the iconic detective (Benedict Cumberbatch). Through the three episodes,“The Six Thatchers,” “The Lying Detective” and “The Final Problem,” viewers were given more insight into the show’s most enigmatic characters. Fans finally discovered more of the guarded, secretive and dangerous past of Watson’s wife, Mary Morstan. The show also delved deeper into the complex friendship between Sherlock and Watson after it was greatly tested, and observed as Sherlock was forced to confront his own cloudy childhood in the most emotionally trying circumstance of his entire life.
But amidst the excitement of the show’s return and the long-awaited answers to pressing questions that came with it, the one point of controversy was its lackluster series premiere. Some viewers found that the first episode’s focus on Mary, rather than the case-solving duo, fell short of fans’ high expectations. This lack of plot progression in the series premiere was much more prevalent as the show only films three episodes per series. However, given the subtle clues in “The Six Thatchers” that allude to significant future developments, the much-anticipated first episode had to be sacrificed in order to set the scene for the subsequent two episodes. The intricate and action-packed storyline of the second and third episodes ultimately lived up to what writers Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat are known to create.
Moreover, as “Sherlock” experimented with darker undertones, there was an overall transition from the lighthearted nature of past series to a more serious one. Nonetheless, there were still moments of cheeky humor that the show is traditionally known and praised for. From Sherlock and Mycroft’s amusing sibling clashes to elderly Mrs. Hudson’s unexpected love for sports cars, “Sherlock,” tethers viewers to familiar ground, garnering laughs all around even during nail-biting scenes.
With its focus on the characters and their inner strife, “Sherlock” delivers a series that sends viewers on an emotional rollercoaster, to say the least. The creation of series five is still up in the air due to the busy filming schedules of the two main leads, Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, but fans will surely be clamoring for more “Sherlock” as soon as possible. Series four, as with each preceding series, leaves viewers eager to find out what is in store for Sherlock and Watson next.