IT IS with a heavy heart that I take up my pen to write these the last words in which I shall ever record the singular gifts by which my friend Mr. Sherlock Holmes was distinguished.
With these words, Arthur Conan Doyle began what was originally intended to b the last Sherlock Holmes adventure. As the story goes, by 1893, Conan Doyle had grown tired of the impact that his Holmes adventures were having on what he considered to be his "serious" writing. It was apparently after a trip to the Alps with his wife that he was inspired to kill off his famous creation at the majestic Reichenbach Falls. In so doing, he created a villain who, despite the small number of times he appears in the Holmes stories, became the great detective's most infamous nemesis: Professor Moriarty.
Backlash to the publication of "The Final Problem," which featured the (apparent) death of Sherlock Holmes, was swift and enormous. The Strand Magazine was inundated with complaints and subscription cancellations. Reportedly, many people could be seen around London wearing mourning clothes, due to the death of their beloved hero. Conan Doyle eventually felt enough pressure from his fans, that he published what is arguable his greatest Holmes novel, The Hound of the Baskervilles, in 1901. As that novel was a flashback to an earlier adventure, rather than a true "resurrection," it still wasn't enough for Sherlock fans. In 1903, Sherlock Holmes truly returned in "The Adventure of the Empty House," in which it was revealed that the brilliant sleuth had not, in fact, died at the hands of Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls.
Which brings us to the wrap-up of the first series of Granada Sherlock Holmes adaptations. "The Final Problem" (1985) is a fitting finale to the second season of that first series. It would prove to be David Burke's final performance as Dr. Watson. Edward Hardwicke took over the role for the second series, entitled (appropriately enough) The Return of Sherlock Holmes, which began airing in 1986. Burke turns in an excellent final performance as the good doctor, and as he takes pen to paper to write "The Final Problem" and bid farewell to his friend, the gravitas is palpable.
Jeremy Brett is in absolutely top form throughout the episode. One wonders if the series had been renewed by this point, or if he also felt that the episode may be his last chance to play Holmes, as well. Whatever the case, he is spectacular. Eric Porter turns in a menacing performance as Professor Moriarty. Overall, the episode is a fantastic adaptation of this most pivotal story, despite a rather clunky special effect that happens when Holmes and Moriarty go over the Falls. The stuntpeople are obviously suspended by wires for their "fall," and the bodies that hit the bottom are clearly dummies. Still, I imagine most of their budget was spent on the gorgeous aerial shots of the Swiss Alps, and what looks to be plenty of location shooting in Switzerland for the second half of the episode.
Despite the climactic ending of the story, there really isn't a whole lot going on in much of the original story, so the writers are forced to pad things out quite a bit. As a result, we have a rather lengthy and unusual sequence after the three attempts on Holmes' s life in London, wherein Holmes recovers the stolen Mona Lisa(!) Indeed, it is that event that precipitates Moriarty's decision in the episode to "dispose" of his nemesis.
I suspect, if you were only to choose to watch a few episodes of the Granada series, "The Final Problem" would be a must-see installment to have on your list. Or you could choose to do what I am doing: watch them all on YouTube!
Incidentally, as next week is Holy Week and I am a church musician, my schedule is going to be very busy next weekend. Therefore, I am not planning on doing a review next Saturdaay. I will resume my reviews the weekend after Easter, as I move on to the second series, The Return of Sherlock Holmes. I hope you'll join me!
(Apparently, this video is also age-restricted, no doubt due to the violent ending of the episode. You've been warned!)
I thought I'd take a little break from my catching up on Elementary, and try to watch the final episode of the BBC's Sherlock, entitled "The Final Problem." Honestly, I couldn't get through it; it's simply too ridiculous. I reviewed the episode (or season finale, whatever you want to call it) on this blog, as well as on I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere. Just for kicks, I thought I'd take a look at the AV Club review of the episode as well. Their critic gave it a D+ rating, which I think might be just a bit too negative. However, as I was scanning comments on their review, I quite enjoyed the following lengthy comment by a user named "SkullKid." I think it accurately sums up many of the problems with the episode, in a most entertaining way.
Here's my review of the final episode of Season 4 of the BBC's Sherlock, and possibly the final episode of the entire series. This review was originally published on I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere.
"It is with a heavy heart that I take up my pen" [FINA]
[Editor's Note: this is the eighth in our series of reviews for Series 4 of Sherlock. There are spoilers below. Don't say we didn't warn you.]
Where to begin? How does one describe this beautiful mess, this sublimely ludicrous end to a season that has delighted and frustrated so many viewers? Well, I guess we have to start with the obligatory spoiler warning. I mean, for the love of all that is Sherlockian, don't think about reading any further until you've watched the final episode of Season 4 of Sherlock: "The Final Problem."
Let's start with that title: despite the obvious reference to perhaps the most famous of all Holmes stories in the Canon, this episode has little to do with Doyle's story of the same name. Moffat and Gatiss had already plundered Doyle's "The Final Problem" back in Season 2, with "The Reichenbach Fall." So plot-wise, there's not much in the way of references to that source material, other than a certain air of finality at the end of the episode. But more on that point later...
There are references to the Canon, of course, as we have come to expect from this series: the reference to "The Three Garridebs" (just their names—the plot point is completely different); the "Dancing Men" reference in the final montage. Perhaps other more eagle-eyed Sherlockians will detect other clues. And there was a delightful detail in the final shot, where a placard on a building clearly reads "Rathbone Place," a cheeky little extra-canonical tidbit. But I'm getting ahead of myself again.
As a fan of comic books when I was younger, I can't help but think that the island fortress of Sherrinford was reminiscent of Arkham Asylum from the Batman series: a place where only the most brilliant of the criminally insane reside. Meanwhile, the writers made the parallel to Silence of the Lambs explicit in the scene where Sherlock first visits Eurus at her cell, and a guard refers to the famous film/novel. Eurus certainly brought Hannibal Lecter to mind right away.
Perhaps one of the biggest laughs I got (maybe the only laugh, considering the dark tone of the episode) was when the camera panned down through the floor at 221B, to show Mrs. Hudson vacuuming her floor, while listening to Iron Maiden's "Number of the Beast" on her headphones. No, that's not right, I did laugh at one other spot: the great musical cue at the beginning of the flashback to Moriarty's visit to Sherrinford, wherein he's listening to Queen's "I Want to Break Free." Typical Moriarty flash and cheese, all in one delicious moment.
The Critical Question
At this point, though, I have to ask myself: canonical references and humorous musical cues aside, what about the rest of it? Did this episode, in fact, make any sense?
No, I don't think it did. For all their attempts to really wow us, with all the suspense — will Sherlock shoot Watson or Mycroft? Will Mrs. Hudson perish in the explosion? Will Molly Hooper die because she won't say "I love you"? — for all that, much of the action felt horribly contrived to me. If anyone has watched any of the Saw films, there's often a point in those elaborately executed torture traps where the viewer thinks, "How could anyone possibly set all of this up?" In the case of Eurus Holmes, a woman who had been incarcerated for much of her adult life, I found myself thinking the same thing: even with the help of the guards that she had (almost magically) talked into doing her bidding, there was just too much planning and almost superhuman omniscience involved in setting up her elaborate test of brothers Sherlock and Mycroft.
Speaking of superhuman, we're also forced to believe that Sherlock, John and Mycroft (not to mention Mrs. Hudson) all walked away from the huge explosion at 221B, with nary a scratch on them? For heaven's sake, Sherlock and John were blown through a second story window!
I'm a stay-at-home dad, and Director of Music Ministries at a United Methodist Church in Mt. Juliet, TN, and a longtime fan of Mr. Sherlock Holmes.