The greatly anticipated return of Sherlock has come and gone. It was entertaining. It was brilliant! But it was also, honestly, disappointing. Here’s why.
1) From intense to silly. This episode is lighthearted, even silly. Sherlock waltzes in as a French waiter with a ridiculous fake mustache (and fabulous accent to boot) and presents himself to his best friend, expecting love and joy in return. Instead, John tries to kill him. It’s cute, and this cuteness pervades the entire episode. But this is Sherlock! We don’t watch it for cuteness. More than that, this episode directly follows the most intense and serious episode yet: you know, the one where Sherlock commits suicide, his reputation is completely destroyed, John is devastated, and so are fans across the globe. Season 3 surprisingly and randomly swaps out intensity for silliness. It’s a bit hard to swallow.
2) From laser-locked sociopath to more socially aware jokester. Then there’s the inconsistency in Sherlock himself. He’s suddenly got better social skills (he kindly tells Molly thank you and gives her a little kiss) and he’s also become a jokester. While sociopaths can learn and become more socially acceptable, we’ve never seen Sherlock particularly playful before. Playfulness wouldn’t be part of his worldview because the only things that matter to him are what helps solve cases. And yet, he pranks John by not telling him that he’s actually deactivated the bomb that’s about to kill them both. He cruelly deceives his best friend. When he was a sociopath before, he was consistently a sociopath (mean to everyone and unable to care about anything except solving cases). Now, he’s inconsistently a sociopath (mean sometimes and finds pranks worth pulling).
3) No case? And can you really have a Sherlock episode without a case to solve, and his “massive intellect” to display? The episode technically has a case, but it’s such a secondary part of the story that it feels a bit lame.
4) No resolution of the big question. Most importantly, we don’t actually learn how Sherlock faked his death. Everything else in previous episodes has been explained. It’s why we keep coming back for more: he can see things we can’t, and when it gets explained, you mutter “oh, of course.” But not in this episode, the one time it matters most. Unfortunately for my mini rant against this episode, there’s a good argument against this. There are actually many things that aren’t explained. But they are usually small things. So, is it fair for the writers of this episode to play with us? It’s certainly consistent with the lightheartedness of this episode. In fact, it’s perfect. We get fanciful, entirely entertaining, and comedic explanations for his “death”. And just when we think we’re getting the real explanation, the rug gets pulled out from under our feet as Anderson notes the obvious: why would Sherlock ever tell him the truth?
Ultimately does it work? Yes. It is fantastic and fantastical! It’s just not what I wanted. I wanted intensity and not silliness. Instead the writers gave us a highly entertaining and yet intelligent ride where, thank God, the most important thing is established: Sherlock and Watson are back.