'Sherlock' Season 4: 'The Final Problem' Recap

Benedict Cumberbatch is all brooding in this shot. (Photo:  Courtesy of Laurence Cendrowicz/Hartswood Films & MASTERPIECE)

Sherlock, Season 4 MASTERPIECE Mystery! on PBS Sunday, January 15th at 7pm ET Picture shows: Sherlock Holmes (BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH) For editorial use only. Not for use on social media. Courtesy of Laurence Cendrowicz/Hartswood Films for MASTERPIECE

Copyright: Hartswood Films 2016

Previously on Sherlock: Sherlock went on a massive drug bender and staged an elaborate case to catch a serial killer, all so that he could give John someone to rescue and somehow help him process his grief over his wife’s death. It turns out that Sherlock and Mycroft have a heretofore unseen secret sibling who, surprise, is actually a sister, not the brother everyone thought . Her name is Eurus and she’s a little bit…well, crazy is probably the best word. She staged an elaborate ruse, involving multiple disguises and fake identities to both pose as John’s therapist and also as the woman who managed to get him to engage in an emotional affair. Why? No idea. Oh, and she also pulled out a gun and shot him at the end of last week’s episode.

Man, a lot of weird stuff happened this season. If you need a recap of last week, you can catch up on "The Lying Detective" here

“The Final Problem” is, like much of Season 4, a mixed bag. There are several intriguing smaller riddles, along with a few plot threads that make absolutely no sense. (And one rather large plot thread that makes no sense either.) The insertion of Eurus in this story still feels strange, and at times too new to hang the crux of the season on. And, for better or worse, the show officially seems to have crossed the line into pure soap opera territory. There are a few twists and character moments that would probably make Days of Our Lives’ infamous Stefano DiMera proud. 

Time for Some Family Backstory. The episode begins with an exceptionally bizarre Mycroft Holmes horror movie-style sequence, including a creepy clown, paintings with bleeding eyes, burning family home movies, and a disembodied child’s voice floating over all. It turns out that it was some sort of weirdo test set up by Sherlock to confirm his deduction that he has a sister and that Mycroft not only kept her locked up for years, but that he’s afraid of her. John, looking remarkably well put together for a man who got shot last week, also pops up to confirm this bit of news. He tells Mycroft about Eurus’ brief stint as his therapist and the fact that she shot him, though only apparently with a tranquilizer gun. Because of course she did, as otherwise this show might have to delve into covering real fall out from any of its myriad cliffhangers ever. Anyway, onward. 

After all this, Mycroft ends up having to come in to Baker Street for the standard Sherlock Holmes case applicant interview. Sherlock wants to know why he can’t remember ever having had a sister, but Mycroft insists that every thing that has happened was because he was trying to look after Sherlock and his mental state.

We learn that Euros is a year younger than Sherlock, that she was an incredible genius on the level of Isaac Newton, and that she was also pretty disturbed. She cut herself and drowned Sherlock’s dog, among other things. She was ultimately put in an institution when she burned the family house (Musgrave) down with matches. Man, Euros sounds like a delight! Eventually, Mycroft told the Holmes parents that Euros died in another fire she set at her facility, so that he might protect them from her, and keep her secret from Sherlock. She’s currently being held at “Sherrinford”, a fortress-esque secret asylum on an island that basically looks like that base where they were holding the Avengers. Mycroft insists that there’s no way that Euros got out of that place, so wherever Sherlock and John met must have been someone else. 

Behold the World’s Worst CGI. Of course, that’s the exact moment a drone bursts through the window of Baker Street. It plays Euros’ weird East Wind song and has a motion-sensor bomb attached. They have a couple minutes to plan how to try and get out of the building, and then Mycroft rushes for the door as Sherlock and John leap from the windows. What follows is a hilariously bad sequence that you probably already saw in the trailers for this episode, involving John and Sherlock flying from the windows of 221b as a fireball erupts behind them. It’s so awfully cheesy, and also… perhaps less than credible, as it seems extremely unlikely that all three men, plus Mrs. Hudson in the flat downstairs, would safely be able to escape the building, but sure. It’s hardly the weirdest thing that’s ever happened on this show. 

Sherlock’s Pirate Dreams Came True. After escaping the bombing of their home, Sherlock and John take a boat hostage at gunpoint, so that Sherlock can fulfill his lifelong dream of being a pirate captain, and also because I guess there’s no other way to reach the Fortress of Solitude island where Euros is being held. And then because this is a 90 minute episode, we’re treated to their complicated plan to break Sherlock into said facility to visit Euros, instead of, I don’t know, having Mycroft just give the order to let them visit since he seems to be kind of in charge of things.  This plan involves Mycroft having to dress up like the Gordon’s fisherman to distract the warden of the asylum, while Sherlock dresses up like a guard in a 1990s emo beanie to go visit his sister. Cool cool cool, I guess.

Mycroft is real concerned that Euros’ security has been compromised, which seems like a very foregone conclusion since multiple people have reported interacting with her outside the Fortress of Solitude. He also wants to watch the security tapes of the unauthorized psychiatric evaluation his underlings had performed on her as soon as possible. 

Of course Mycroft Holmes has a screening room in his house. (Photo: Courtesy of Laurence Cendrowicz/Hartswood Films & MASTERPIECE)
Of course Mycroft Holmes has a screening room in his house. (Photo: Courtesy of Laurence Cendrowicz/Hartswood Films & MASTERPIECE) 

Is This Supposed to Be Like Silence of the Lambs? Sherlock makes his way to Euros’ cell, which is very like Magneto’s prison in the X-Men movies. She’s playing the violin, as grainy Holmes childhood flashbacks are intercut with a dire-looking scene from her psych evaluation, in which Euros ominously intones how the idea of good and evil are fairytales. She seems nice! Sherlock asks Euros how she managed to get out of her prison cell and have chips with him last week. She’s not very forthcoming on the subject, though she is surprised that Sherlock has written both her and “what happened to Redbeard” out of his memories.

Elsewhere, Mycroft and John are learning all about how Euros somehow managed to enslave half the Fortress of Solitude employees just through the act of talking to them, including one doctor who she somehow convinced to kill his own family. Apparently anyone who spends any time with her is automatically compromised.       

Somehow she’s also managed to “enslave” the warden, who has Mycroft and John arrested. No one seems terribly interested in explaining how this “enslavement” mind control works, so it’s just another bizarre thing that we’re apparently just supposed to accept at face value.

Euros gets Sherlock to play the violin for her, and finally confesses that the way she got out of her cell was that there’s no cell at all – everyone just thinks there’s glass around it, thanks to the signs that tell everyone to keep three feet back, but there’s nothing there. This seems…suspect, since glass and “the absence of glass” do not look the same. But since we’re apparently supposed to believe that Euros can talk people into killing themselves and becoming her slaves, I guess Sherlock not noticing that there’s no glass around his sister’s glass prison isn’t necessarily the weirdest thing? (Either that or I’ve just stopped caring, I’m not sure.)

In Case You Thought Things Couldn’t Get Weirder: Here’s Moriarty. It turns out that Moriarty came to visit Euros at the Fortress of Solitude, because of course he did. Also, Moriarty really loves the music of Queen, and that gives me great joy. He and Mycroft had a meeting, and the elder Holmes offered him to his sister as some kind of a trade for her help predicting a terrorist attack. Apparently, in exchange for her help on the terrorist thing, Euros wanted five minutes alone, unsupervised with Jim Moriarty. Anyway you look at it, this is a terrible idea, and one that feels a little like something that Mycroft would never agree to, but fine. Moriarty and Euros seem to instantly take a liking to each other, and Euros tells him about Redbeard. 

Now Euros is in Charge and It’s Kind of Awful. Myrcroft, John, Sherlock and the prison governor are all locked up in a room. A recording from Moriarty plays, launching a series of puzzles and situations for Sherlock to solve, much as he had to do in “The Great Game”.  There’s a little girl trapped on a pilotless airplane with nowhere to land. There’s the Governor’s wife tied up in a room with Euros, and Sherlock has to choose either Myrcroft or John to shoot the Governor instead. An unsolved murder involving the three Garrideb brothers, and once Sherlock figures it out, the guilty one will fall to his death. (Of course Euros kills all of them, so it doesn’t matter much.)

There’s a particularly horrible moment in which Sherlock realizes that Euros has rigged Molly Hooper’s flat to explode, and she tells him that unless he gets Molly to say the words “I love you” to him over the phone, she’ll die. What follows is just an awful scene in which he has to talk her into doing it by telling her he loves her first, and it’s not only humiliating and painful for everyone, it just retreads the “Molly and her unrequited Sherlock crush” story that I thought we’d all left behind in Season 2. And, of course, ultimately Sherlock has to choose whether to shoot John or Mycroft, and ends up threatening to kill himself instead.

This all has a distinctly Saw-esque vibe, and is extremely disturbing to watch. Euros is awful, and her presence is actually make me miss Moriarty. He was evil, too, but at least he was fun. 

Surprise, Redbeard is Not a Dog. Euros shoots Sherlock, John and Mycroft with tranquilizer darts before her brother can shoot himself in the head. When Sherlock comes to, he’s in some kind of prison cell. As for John, he’s chained in the bottom of a well, surrounded by bones. It turns out that Sherlock’s in a fake cell, built in the front yard of Musgrave, the burned out husk of his childhood home. So, this is getting weird, right? How did Euros have the time or resources to move everyone off the Fortress of Solitude island? Where’s Mycroft? No idea. Let’s just go with it.

Euros starts filling the well with water, and tells Sherlock it’s time for him to solve the mystery of Redbeard – she jokingly refers to it as “the Musgrave Ritutual”, ha ha – Sherlock’s first case and the final problem. Meanwhile, John discovers a skull in the well with him, and realizes that what they had assumed are “Redbeard’s” bones, are, in fact, actually human. Apparently, Sherlock’s father was allergic to dogs, so the Holmes family never had one at all. Dun dun dun…. It turns out that Redbeard is code for Sherlock’s childhood friend Victor Trevor. Euros drowned the little boy in the well because she was jealous of Sherlock having a friend while she had no one. Sherlock was so traumatized that he repressed all memory of the event, and transformed Victor into a dog in his mind because he played Redbeard in their pirate games. Sherlock needs SO MUCH THERAPY YOU GUYS. (There’s also a whole other issue here of how Sherlock’s entire family has pretty much conspired to keep this truth – about the death of his friend, and the existence of his sister – from him for his entire life. This seems impossible and crazy. 

There’s also another point I’m confused about here, and that’s the use of Redbeard as an image back in Season 3. This scene doesn’t really make a ton of sense anymore now. Nor does the idea that Sherlock would remember Redbeard being put down at all if he just wandered off into the woods and vanished. But ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. 

Man, John has had it really rough this season.  (Photo: Courtesy of Laurence Cendrowicz/Hartswood Films & MASTERPIECE)
Man, John has had it really rough this season.  (Photo: Courtesy of Laurence Cendrowicz/Hartswood Films & MASTERPIECE) 

Sherlock Saves the Day, Of Course. Having figured out that his insane sister murdered his childhood best friend, Sherlock races off to find his current best friend before she can kill him too. He realizes that Euros created a cipher based on the incorrect dates used in the cemetery full of fake graves at Musgrave House. The message is something about how lost Euros feels and how Sherlock has to save her and her soul by looking in her room. In her room is where Euros is heading, orchestrating “the game” she’s playing with her brother, and also pretending to be the little girl trapped in the plane. This makes almost zero sense, especially as Euros starts crying about being lost in the sky where no one can here her. Sherlock starts telling her how he’s her brother and she’s not lost and blah blah blah and I’m just wondering if someone should be more concerned with John drowning in a hole somewhere? I guess one nice conversation from a brother that didn’t remember her  is enough to undo years of loneliness, sanity and plans for vengeance now? Apparently. Thanks to Sherlock’s moment of brotherly attention, Euros tells Sherlock where John is, and everyone is fine. 

(Seriously, I’m so confused about this plane thing. Was Euros just doing the voice of a little girl the whole time? Was anyone paying attention enough to notice whether she was ever on the TV screens when the “little girl” was talking? I don’t think this mystery matters enough for me to get this worked up about it, but also it kind of makes no sense and I would kind of like it to?)

If This is The End, That’s Probably Okay. Lestrade and the police show up to clean up after everything and also so that Greg can randomly pronounce that Sherlock is now a “good man”, even though he’s legit only been in this season for a grand total of ten minutes. We find out Mycroft’s still locked up in Euros’ old cell, but is otherwise fine. Mycroft then has to tell the Holmes parents that Euros is still alive, and I’m struggling yet again with how either of those people produced any of these children. Euros is taken back to Sherrinford and put in custody. Sherlock goes to visit her sometimes and plays violin duets with her.

The episode ends with the discovery of another video from Mary. (How many farewell DVDs did this woman put together?! Who has this kind of time??) The boys watch it, and in it Mary says she knows what the two of them can be together. She knows who they are, a junkie who solves crimes to get high, and a doctor who never came home from the war. She tells them that who they are doesn’t matter, but the legend they can build together, as a last refuge for the desperate and unloved. We see Sherlock and John rebuilding Baker Street, even down to the yellow smiley face and gun holes on the wall. The boys take cases, and investigate evidence and pass Rosie back and forth, smiling, as Mary calls them her Baker Street boys and the best and wisest men she has ever known. 

There was a general feeling of finality throughout this episode, as though it were some kind of ending. This last sequence sort of puts a nail in that , as it were. The show feels over.  Despite the rumors of Season 4 being Sherlock’s last, it always seemed more likely that the show would eventually return again at some point. I still think that’s true, but I’m now more convinced than ever that we won’t see Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman back on our screens like this for years. And not just the standard two years between seasons, but real years. Maybe they’ll make some Christmas specials a decade or so from now, but at this moment, if you ask me, the show feels done.

And, you know, I don’t actually think that’s the worst thing in the world.

But what did you all think? Did you find this a satisfactory end to the season? Or to the show itself if it comes to that? Hit the comments and let us know. 

Lacy Baugher

Lacy's love of British TV is embarrassingly extensive, but primarily centers around evangelizing all things Doctor Who, and watching as many period dramas as possible.

Digital media type by day, she also has a fairly useless degree in British medieval literature, and dearly loves to talk about dream poetry, liminality, and the medieval religious vision. (Sadly, that opportunity presents itself very infrequently.) York apologist, Ninth Doctor enthusiast, and unabashed Ravenclaw. Say hi on Threads or Blue Sky at @LacyMB. 

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