Thoughts on the End of Sherlock and Comparing with the Sherlock Holmes Stories

Okay, a couple of things. Yes, I know this picture is old, but it’s the best I can do. Also, I was going to focus alot on the Sherlock Holmes book canon and launch my proposed writing series, but I just don’t know enough English nuances to be able to write something like that. I can only identify entertainment techniques. So that writing series won’t be happening. The last thing I’ll mention is… oh yeah, Sherlock just ended. And before people start freaking out and saying “But the ending was awful” or “There’ll be a series five, just wait!”, here’s what I’ll say to those fanboys and fangirls and fanothers when the time comes. …that “fanothers” was a joke, by the way. I realise that any given blog reader might or might not have caught that. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about “Sherlock”.

When series three ended in 2014, I began to tell my friends that very week that series four would be the last. Not to brag, but I predicted the end of “The Muppets”, “Galavant”, and “Resurrection”; all small potatoes, but I was right every time, for the reasons I backed my predictions up with. I also have predicted end dates for “Doctor Who” and “Once Upon A Time”, but that’s another blog post. All that to say, here’s a big show that, even though there are no definite answers from Moffat and Gatiss, the showrunners, I still believe I successfully predicted the ending of.

To begin with, there were strong hints towards series four being the last. Cumberbatch and Martin were just barely able to make series three, according to Moffat and Gatiss, because of The Hobbit trilogy and their long list of other engagements. Cumberbatch is hot on the market right now, and The Imitation Game and Doctor Strange both kept him from “Sherlock” series four. And Martin isn’t without his other roles either. “The Abominable Bride” Christmas special last year was further confirmation that series four had to be the last. Plus, the whole three-year wait time was a pretty good indication. To top all of that off, Moffat is also retiring from “Doctor Who”, and he delayed series ten to work on “Sherlock”, so that’s a bit of a nail in the coffin, I’d say, for “Sherlock”‘s end.

Turning to the book canon, however, this must, in my eyes, be the end. Moffat and Gatiss have always tried to be respectful of the Arthur Conan Doyle novels and short stories, and not just by dropping Easter eggs. The magic of “Sherlock” is that it adds to the book canon, and sometimes it reinterprets it (like Sherlock jumping off a building in series two instead of falling over the Reichenbach Falls), but the show never contradicted the stories. This is evident in the way that Mary was killed in episode one of series four. In the stories, Mary was an extremely insignificant character, and she only got a mention by Watson when she died, but nothing more. That’s because the books were always about Holmes and Watson, as Moffat and Gatiss have already stated, so the show needed to keep that focus. Also, we’re left to our own imaginations as to Irene Adler and Sherlock’s revived relationship, because Adler was only in one short story, and although she fascinated Holmes, and he asked to keep a picture of her, she was never mentioned again. Even Moriarty died at Reichenbach and never returned, so the fact that he wasn’t “officially” brought back to series four was in keeping with the books.

The whole Eurus idea was adding to the canon, but not contradicting it. Holmes and Mycroft never claimed to be the only Holmes siblings, and Moriarty’s initial motivations for running a crime syndicate or playing mind games with Holmes instead of killing him outright were also never blatantly explained, so if an evil secret sibling put him on the trail to begin with, it would still make sense in the context of the short story canon. The final episode of series four also incorporated many Sherlock Holmes stories in the form of Eurus’ trials (the wrong-sized casket, the three Garridebs, etc), as well as many other settings and brief references (the Musgrave Ritual, the Dancing Men, and others I’m sure I missed or forgot). All of the episodes have story references, and all are loosely based on individual stories, but with so many in one episode, it seems unlikely that there could be anything bigger coming in the future.

One other thing about the books and short stories is that twice, Arthur Conan Doyle ended the series: once when Holmes and Moriarty fell over the Falls, and once when Holmes and Watson said goodbye as Holmes retired. But both times, he brought Holmes back at his audience’s request. But in his last collection of short stories, he includes a forward saying that Holmes and Watson will always be around, solving mysteries, but there was a point at which he had to know to stop, and he felt that he had reached it. And after those short stories, he did end it. Moffat and Gatiss felt the same way, and they’ve even said before that they had an ending plan in mind. Episodes one and two of series four were complete setups for the finale, and every major loose end was tied up: Mary, Moriarty, Eurus, John and Sherlock’s relationship, and that’s only naming a few. Even little surprises, like Mrs. Hudson’s sudden sass and wealth, and meeting the Holmes’ parents, are all things that will quickly grow old should another series be made. And the closing dialogue was perfect, describing how Sherlock and John will always be around, solving mysteries, precisely like Doyle did.

If you really want to believe that there’s a series five in the future, then you may point to the complete redecoration of 221B, something they wouldn’t do if they didn’t want to continue the show. But that’s not really true; it really signifies a new era for John and Sherlock, especially considering that there were no unanswered questions as far as conflict or villains goes. You might also point out that Rosie was aged, so in another two or three years, she’d be a useful character in series five, because she’d be at least five or six and could tag along once in a while. But that’s more of an evidence against the whole idea: why would there be a two- or three-year time lapse only to leave the audience with another two or three years to wait for the next series? That makes no sense to me. But what about Molly or Irene? Moffat and Gatiss were smart: they left the only two possible paths to canon contradiction unaccounted for, and they actually expect the audience to use their imaginations in those areas. I know, crazy, right? What’s imagination? Unfortunately, alot of viewers and even reviewers will most likely actually take that stance to speak negatively or to speculate about series five.

“But the ending was so underwhelming,” you might say. “The show didn’t go out with a bang.” If you did say or think that, then first of all, you’re most likely an American viewer, because I highly doubt most British viewers would agree, but again, that’s an entirely different post waiting to happen. But second, the show is entirely based on something old and classic, and the series has used old and classic techniques throughout its run. The ending was entirely that: classic-themed, and very classy as well, I might add. No cheesy one-liners, no verbal speculation as to the future, and no sending Sherlock or John into retirement. The closing monologue completely acknowledged that this isn’t the end of Holmes and Watson: someone else will make something else soon enough. They’ll always be around, Mary said. To call the finale underwhelming or unsatisfying is to literally only take the last ninety seconds that constituted the closing monologue and use it to define the entire series four. And if you do that, and can’t remember even what you have just been watching for the last hour and a half, then again, you’re most likely an American viewer.And you’re not very good at identifying what makes good entertainment. Just saying.

To the contrary of what alot of fans will probably say about the ending, I think it is in fact the ending, and I also would say that it’s one of the most satisfying ends to any TV show I’ve ever seen, if not the most satisfying. And I’ve watched alot of TV. Have you seen how much time I’ve wasted writing the TV Showcases? And if all that wasn’t enough, remember Sherlock’s line from episode two, “Everyone stops looking after three”, used to mean the recording device that got Culverton Smith arrested, and also to mean that there are four Holmes siblings? Well, “Sherlock” got a series four. And if you’re going to follow Moffat and Gatiss’ logic, in which four was the ending number both with the recording devices and with the Holmes siblings, then how much of a stretch is it to say that four series’ is the end as well?

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