‘Sherlock’ Review: 4×03 “The Final Problem”

Sherlock review: Season 4, Episode 3, “The Final Problem,” Aired Jan. 15, 2016

Major spoilers ahead!

I remember watching the first episode of Sherlock a few weeks after its release. The show wasn’t available in the States even though it had been out in England for a while, but a friend managed to find a copy of this new show starring the guy from the British Office and the ginger guy from the Vincent Van Gogh documentary I’d seen somewhere. As a huge fan of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, I was so thrilled to have yet another Sherlock Holmes adaptation, and my excitement only grew with each new episode of Sherlock (though some episodes were markedly better than others). From Sherlock and John’s first meeting in the morgue, I knew Sherlock would be one of those fandoms for me–the ones I obsess about, write about, have 2 hour-long conversations about–and now that journey of joy and obsession might be over.

Although the creators and cast of the show haven’t given a definitive answer on whether this is the last episode of the series, many of their comments seem to suggest that this could be the end. When asked if “The Final Problem” was the final episode of Sherlock, series co-creator Steven Moffat said, “If this is the last time–and I’m not planning on it to be, but it might be–it is possible that we could end it.” Without further ado, let’s plunge in and talk about “The Final Problem.”


The Horror
Before we get into the meatier stuff, let’s talk about all of the horror elements in this episode. The show opened with the classic horror trope of the haunted house. We see Mycroft being spooked (which in itself is frightening–Mycroft’s not supposed to get scared) by the sound of what he believes to be his sister’s voice. A little girl is running through the halls of his home, the portraits on his wall begin to cry blood, and a clown attacks him with a giant sword. Of course, this wasn’t a real haunting, but rather Sherlock manipulating his brother to come clean about Eurus.

It can be argued that Sherlock has shifted from a mystery show to a thriller, but Sunday’s episode was all about the horror, drawing comparisons to Silence of the Lambs with Eurus’s Hannibal Lecter status and movies like Saw that place the central characters in death traps they need to escape by solving puzzles. While the original stories can primarily be categorized as mysteries and adventures, the stories, and most notably the novel The Hound of the Baskervilles, heavily feature gothic elements, and it was fun to see Sherlock borrow from modern favorites within the genre.


The Truth about Sherlock’s Past
Where to start? The big reveal, probably the biggest in the series, is that Redbeard wasn’t the family dog–he was Sherlock’s childhood friend Victor Trevor who Eurus murdered by throwing into a well. Why did she kill her brother’s best friend? Eurus says she did it because no one would play with her, and by no one, she means Sherlock. Like almost every other character on the show, she has a Sherlock fixation.

Eurus was every bit as frightening as the final scene in the previous episode suggested. Her cold, dead stare was chilling, as were the twisted ‘games’ she had Sherlock, Mycroft, and John play. While I buy that Sherlock’s love is what finally broke through Eurus’s hardened exterior and managed to bring peace to the frightened child buried within her, the transition happened far too quickly. Eurus has been locked up for years, the feelings of abandonment and anger undoubtedly building as time passed and her family continued to live their happy lives. A few more touching moments between Sherlock and Eurus would have sold that scene, but the trauma she and her brother suffered seemed to melt away with a hug.


Full Circle
There was a definite air of finality in this episode–the monologue delivered by Mary almost serves as an epilogue–a send-off for these characters. That last shot in particular, the one of John and Sherlock running towards the screen, seems to suggest this is the end, implying that the adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson will continue, even if we’re not around to witness them.  

There were also a few callbacks to the very first episode that brought the show full circle. One of the last scenes in this episode is very similar to the one in “A Study in Pink.” Like that first episode, we have a scene in which Sherlock and John are at a crime scene with Lestrade and one of our two leads is swathed in a blanket. The more notable callback is when a young officer approaches Lestrade and tells the Inspector that Sherlock is a great man. Lestrade shared the same sentiment in the first episode, saying, “Sherlock Holmes is a great man, and I think one day–if we’re very very lucky–he might even be a good one.” In “The Final Problem,” when Lestrade responds to the officer, he says, “He’s better than that. He’s a good one.”

Sherlock’s humanity has been one of the central, if not the main arc of the show. Over the course of four seasons, the high functioning sociopath who only lived for the game became one of the most caring characters on the show. Hats off to the writers on that one.


Favorite moments

  • Mycroft pulling on the handle of his umbrella to unsheathe a sword and then detaching the blade to reveal a pistol–you don’t get any smoother than Mycroft Holmes
  • Sherlock complementing Mycroft on his performance in The Importance of Being Earnest
  • Moriarty being helicoptered to Sherrinford as he listens to Queen’s “I Want to Break Free”
  • Eurus and Moriarty sizing each other up
  • Mrs. Hudson listening to Iron Maiden as she vacuums–still waiting on that Mrs. Hudson spinoff


  • Did nobody search the Holmes estate for Victor Trevor’s body? Why were his remains still at the bottom of that well? They knew Eurus killed him, but didn’t search the killer’s home? Or was the well located somewhere else? So many unanswered questions.
  • It’s sad that Molly’s final scene was of her being crushed by her admission of love. She’s been lovelorn this entire series, even when she was dating Jim and Tom. Her character deserved a better ending.
  • It was annoying to have yet another female character neutered by Sherlock, even though in this instance it was for the best. I love this show, but the women never win. Irene didn’t, Eurus didn’t, and Mary certainly didn’t.
  • Mary and Moriarty sure recorded a lot of footage of themselves before dying. Not saying it was bad, but there was a lot of it. That said, I’d love to have Andrew Scott make all of my transportation related announcements. 

What’s next?
If we don’t get another season, there are a few Sherlock Holmes related releases to look forward to like Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly’s comedy Holmes and Watson, as well as the long anticipated third installment of Robert Downey Jr. and Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes.

(Image: BBC)


Tamar Altebarmakian

Writer, fangirl, and cat-enthusiast. My work has appeared on The Mary Sue, The Portland Review, Ranker, and other websites. My favorite show growing up was Xena – I've tried to emulate the Warrior Princess in every way (see current hairstyle).

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