Monday, January 23, 2017

Review: Sherlock--This is The End?

Sherlock: This is The End?
(Caution: Spoilers)

I thought I'd write a quick review of Sherlock: The Final Problem since my Doctor Who reviews get quite a few reads. I have enjoyed this mystery series loosely based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's stories over all, but this last (and it seems to be the very last) episode was quite a let down on many levels.

I realize that the leads, Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, are very busy actors and very much in demand these days, but it's not that fact which was a let down for me. It was the fact that, since this was probably the very last episode for the duo as Holmes and Watson, it should have been of higher quality to match their terrific performances over the years.

What to really say about The Final Problem? It was simply... a problem for me. It didn't come across as a mystery worthy of the great detective, but a gimmicky, cheap shot at trying to hook an audience with gratuitous violence and silliness. Previous episodes were based on the classic Sherlock Holmes short stories or novellas, and they seemed to work fine with their 21st century twists. This time, there was none of the charm of Conan Doyle's original characters coming through in the writing. 

Instead, we were presented with the portrait of an adult female with mental illness that was less than flattering. Somehow she is Sherlock's older sister that he never knew he had, which, of course, is not canon. Misogynistic portrayals of women characters is a problem area for producer/co-writer Steven Moffat.  It has been written about by yours truly (see my Doctor Who reviews from a year or so back) as well several other feminists. 

Why Mr. Moffat comes across as "tone deaf" when it comes to writing female characters is a mystery in itself, but it is a consistent problem he has in most of his scripts. He views women as objects to be used to further plots, but they have few, if any, positive characteristics. Psychopathic and sadistic Euros is the winner of  "The Universe's Worst Woman of All Times Award." She has absolutely no redeeming qualities whatsoever. (Correction: My husband reminded me Euros is an excellent violin player. She does have one redeeming quality.)

Other female characters aren't depicted much better in this script. Poor Molly, who has had a crush on Sherlock all these years, is shamed by Euros's trickery and made to feel bad about her love for Sherlock. He, in turn, is ashamed of his affection towards her. How "unromantic" and "un-gallant" is that?

Shooting and drowning unarmed and tied-up hostages is Euros's idea of fun. She's supposed to be related by blood to Sherlock, Mycroft and their seemingly very gentle parents? (I guess the violin playing ability demonstrates the shared genetics?)  If we had never met Sherlock's parents before in a Christmas story and seen them as "human," maybe we could have believed they spawned a she-demon in Euros. But we have seen their parents, and they came across as "normal." So, there's no real satisfactory explanation of how Euros's psychosis came about and why Sherlock and Mycroft are not also insane. 

Five year olds don't usually become "The Bad Seed" all on their own. It takes quite a lot to drive any person to those types of behaviors. Children who are physically, mentally and sexually abused over and over again can suffer a mental break down and act out violently. Are Moffat and Gatiss in their co-authored tale implying all three of the Holmes children had a horrific and abusive childhood?

Yes, it's a real let down of a story. To be fair, I'm looking at it as a professional writer and a person with a psychology degree and some knowledge of what abuse can do to the individual. But honestly, there was nothing particularly uplifting, redeeming or even accurate in any of the character portrayals as written. This lack of logic in the story wasn't enjoyable.

I really do enjoy Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock Holmes, Martin Freeman's Dr. Watson and Mark Gatiss's Mycroft Holmes. They are superb actors. I was  looking forward to a better send-off for all three characters. Let's hope they have the time and energy to make at least one more positive and hopeful Holmes-like mystery so I can forget this episode as easily as Sherlock can forget his young friend whom Euros chained to the bottom of a well. 

(However did a five year old girl  managed this physical task is beyond my comprehension. Perhaps Mr. and Mrs. Holmes helped her dispatch and chain up the little boy, and they truly are monsters? Ugh.)



A J said...

Great acting, high production values, the script... meh. It's not Sherlock Holmes for me. I know people say it's a 'darker, edgier Holmes for the modern world,' but I think the writers have strayed into James Bond/Jason Bourne territory.

Celine said...

Yeah, it's become sort of a mish-mash of genres in this last episode. It just didn't have the Conan-Doyle touch to it. I didn't recognize any connection to a classic Holmes tale, so it didn't keep my interest. And the gratuitous violence and misogynistic undertones weren't particularly necessary, IMO, either.