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'Sherlock' Recap, 'The Lying Detective': The World's Only Consulting, Psychic Detective

By Emily Cutler | TV | January 9, 2017 |

By Emily Cutler | TV | January 9, 2017 |


I’m going to write something that I never believed I would have to: Sherlock Holmes does not have super-powers. Last’s night episode The Lying Detective seems to have, at times, forgotten this. I understand that the basis of Sherlock’s wildly complex trap is that he’s a master of understanding human behavior, and given that it all worked out, he looks like even more of a genius. But if literally one thing had gone wrong, Sherlock would look even more like a corpse. The issue with the overwhelmingly intricate plot isn’t just that it seems stupid in retrospect, it’s that it’s antithetical to Sherlock’s very nature. Yes, his powers of observation, reasoning, and deduction are amazing, but at the end of the day, what Sherlock Holmes does is grind it out. He doesn’t have special abilities, he’s got essentially the same abilities everyone does and a personality disorder which won’t allow him to give up on a case. If Sherlock gets done explaining how he knew what he knew and we still can’t understand it, it means the scene was poorly written.

The plot of the episode focuses on Toby Jones’ Culverton Smith, a billionaire philanthropist who is also a serial killer. He makes a lot of references to Chicago’s own OG serial killer H.H. Holmes and his murder castle. (Fun fact: no, of course H.H. Holmes wasn’t related to Sherlock as he is a fictional character. But H.H. did take that alias in order to convince his victims, murder or otherwise, that he was related to British royalty after whom the sleuth was named. H.H. was a big fat liar.) And then, surprise! Smith made the hospital he built into his modern day murder house, and is using said murder-hospital to kill Sherlock who was admitted after Watson beat the heroin out of him. Watson saves Sherlock in the nick of time because Mary told him to from beyond the grave all of which was discovered by Mrs. Hudson because she’s actually way more observant than the show has previously given her credit for. OK. This is why I promised myself I wouldn’t discuss the plot.

All of which is actually only the second biggest problem with last night’s episode. The biggest problem was how irrelevant it felt. Not unenjoyable, but definitely irrelevant. Does anybody even remember that Sherlock is supposed to be looking for Moriarty? Isn’t that why he was given the pardon over that whole Magnussen thing? I get that Mary’s death threw a real wrench in the system, but I also understand that these are contrived plots. You can’t argue that realistically Sherlock and Watson would need some time to recover from her death because this isn’t reality. This is a season of television written by two long-term writing partners who couldn’t figure out how to connect one episode to the next. The mysteries give the appearance of being related, but end up being a red herring or a dead end (literally in poor Mary’s case). My issue with last night’s episode is the same I had in last week’s: why are you showing me this, guys?

Most of which Moffat and Gatiss are hoping you’ll forget because of the last minute twist ending. John’s therapist who is also the Lady From The Bus is actually Mycroft and Sherlock’s long-lost, secret brother sister who also posed as Culverton Smith’s daughter in order to sneak pertinent information to Sherlock about Smith’s case, and who might be working with the late, great Moriarty. And her name is Euros which means “East Wind.” Which you might have heard on this show before.


And you know what? I can’t even be mad that the show pretends two different men would meet a total of three different characters all played by one woman, and not realize it. Because this is finally a goddamn plot. It’s relevant to the overreaching story, it has a weight and purpose that doesn’t feel manufactured, and most importantly, it’s going to require some actually detectiving instead of a post script “I totally planned to do all this stuff.” Moffat and Gatiss gave us what amounts to little more than three hours of half-hearted foreplay, and about fifteen seconds of what might be the good stuff. They’ve got one-hundred minutes next Sunday to convince us that Sherlock can still be as dazzlingly brilliant as we once believed it to be. Let’s hope they didn’t prematurely blow their plot.