Sherlock review: Season 4, Episode 2, “The Lying Detective,” Aired Jan. 8, 2016
Major spoilers ahead!
Usually, the second episode of each season of Sherlock is when everyone takes a breather. The pacing is a little slower and the threat a little smaller. That’s not the case with “The Lying Detective.” This season is like a freight train, going full speed towards something — Moriarty, Eurus, some traumatic event that took place in Sherlock’s past?” In the episode, acting on Mary’s orders, Sherlock takes himself to hell by feeding a life-threatening drug habit. John’s brought in by the incredibly badass Mrs. Hudson to check on his former best friend, who then asks John to help take down Culverton Smith, a man Sherlock describes as being the “most dangerous and despicable human being I have ever encountered… a living, breathing coagulation of human evil.”
To quote Sherlock quoting Henry V, “Once more unto the breach, dear friends!”
Culverton Smith was definitely as dangerous and despicable as Sherlock said he was. He uses his power and fame to shield him from any suspicion for the numerous murders he commits. American fans might be surprised to learn that the character was based on a real person. Moffat got his inspiration for Culverton from Jimmy Savile, a British television personality and philanthropist who used his charitable deeds as a cover for his heinous actions.
Culverton’s most effective scene is his first in which he is walking around a room of influential people, letting his hands linger on each person for a fraction too long as he tells them they’re about to have their memories tampered with. It’s an excellent scene which shows the viewer just how much power Culverton has, but the show needed one more scene to show us how truly terrible he was. While he was hyped by Sherlock and the show’s creators as being the most vile villain to appear in Sherlock, he wasn’t as sadistic and remorseless as Moriarty or as chilling and unnerving as Magnussen. That said, there is a villain in this episode who can potentially surpass all the villains in the show, and that’s the third Holmes sibling, Eurus.
Eurus is the arch-enemy we’ve been waiting for since Moriarty left the series. In Eurus we have a villain who is clearly a formidable match for Sherlock, managing to slip under his radar not once, but twice — first as Faith Smith and second as John’s therapist. Sure, he was high as a kite at the time, but even a drug-addled Sherlock is sharper than most. Some of Moffat’s twists don’t always land but this one sure as hell did, and that should be attributed to Moffat’s writing and Sian Brooke’s performance. It’ll be exciting to see what the Holmes sister has in store for Sherlock and what role she played in Sherlock’s past. Redbeard has come up several times this season and in the last. It’s clearly a trigger for Sherlock, and maybe Eurus played a role in whatever happened to Sherlock’s childhood dog. What ever happened, it was clearly traumatic.
Sherlock and John
As expected, Sherlock and John make up and on Sherlock’s birthday no less! It did seem a little strange that a text from Irene Adler is what spurred their heart-to-heart at the end of the episode, but John finally tells Sherlock that Mary’s death wasn’t his fault and the two hug it out, much to the joy of Johnlock shippers everywhere. Benedict also delivers a heart-breaking bit of dialogue about Mary’s sacrifice, saying, “In saving my life, she conferred a value on it. It is a currency I do not know how to spend.” The obvious answer is to continue doing what he’s doing — helping people and being a good friend to John.
- The deduction scene with the Faith Smith decoy / Eurus is lovely. Benedict is on top form and the visualization of how his mind works is clever, visually stunning, and plain old fun to watch.
- Watching Benedict deliver a manic version of the famous “Once more unto the breach, dear friends” monologue from Henry V was a treat. If you’d like to see more of Benedict doing Shakespeare, check out his turn as Richard III in BBC’s The Hollow Crown.
- The star of this episode was Mrs. Hudson. Everything from her sticking Sherlock into the boot of her sports car to disregarding the police as she speeds through London was amazing. I need a Mrs. Hudson spinoff. Opening scene: Mrs. Hudson leaves Sherlock and John in a cloud of dust as she speeds off in her Aston Martin, yelling, “Not your housekeeper.” Roll title credits.
- Who or what is Sherrinford? Is it where Euros was being held? Is there another Holmes sibling that’s going to pop up in the next episode? Maybe Anderson’s been wearing a disguise this entire time just to annoy Sherlock.
- Will Moriarty be making some kind of appearance? Is he the one behind the “Miss me?” message, or was Eurus the one who orchestrated that entertaining distraction for Sherlock? The title of the next episode, “The Final Problem,” suggests that Moriarty will be involved in some capacity. The Arthur Conan Doyle story with the same title tells the story of Holmes’s and Moriarty’s final showdown at the Reichenbach Falls. Here’s hoping for one more appearance from the wonderful Andrew Scott.
Catch the next episode of Sherlock, “The Final Problem,” on Sunday, January 15 at 9pm on PBS.