The stakes have been raised to there highest and Sherlock faces his most personal case so far. We are also granted the most insight into Sherlock’s past life in London in an episode that proves to be the most significant of the series up to this point.
Holmes is presented with a murder possessing a number of traits that he recognises immediately as belonging to a criminal that he has dealt with previously and was unable to apprehend in London. The full nature of the relationship between Holmes and the culprit are later revealed as he confides in Watson more details of his past and provides full disclosure of who exactly Irene Adler was and the role she played in his descent into substance abuse.
Written by series show runner Robert Doherty, this is the episode that most closely refers to Arthur Conan Doyle’s original source material and digs the deepest into the Holmes mythos. It picks up and plays with elements and characters from Doyle’s stories and a few major references are made that will leave Holmes aficionados leaping up in excitement. The episode acts a type of pay-off and reward for having stuck with the series as it offers a glimpse of the established set of characters in a different light and sets up a few intriguing plot threads to be explored during the rest of the season.
Jonny Lee Miller is able to bring a darker side into play in his portrayal of Holmes. Arguably, his performances throughout the series have been the show’s strongest suit and he is at his best here when Holmes embraces the darker aspects of his personality. Lucy Liu is also impressive, sharing several tender scenes with Holmes. Firstly, as they begin to deal with the end of their companionship, then as she tries to save him from himself and then realising how much he still needs her and how much she needs him. The show’s leads are excellent and it is some of their best work in the season so far.
However, it isn’t flawless. Vinnie Jones guest stars but is awkward in his scenes with Miller and probably wasn’t the best choice for the role he is required to fulfill. He isn’t helped by a script that veers too close to cliché when trying to sound “British” and mixes American and British words and phrases that don’t sit right coming out the mouths of the characters.
Ultimately, this is the episode that proves a lot of the central groundwork for the show has been done and that all the key pieces of the Holmes canon are in play. There is a tantalising final scene that means a fascinating future is in store for Holmes and Watson.
Review by Jonathan Gray