Sherlock series 4 episode 2 review

sherlock series 4 episode 2

WARNING: contains spoilers for Sherlock series 4 episode 2: ‘The Lying Detective’

After a week that saw Sherlock co-creator and Mycroft actor Mark Gatiss respond to ‘Sherlock is Bond’ criticism with a hilarious poem, we’re back tuned to the box for Sunday night appointment-to-view television, the second episode of the new Sherlock, cryptically titled ‘The Lying Detective’.

Who can forget the shock of Mary’s death in episode 1, leaving Sherlock and Watson polarized in grief and guilt. Then there’s the mysterious ‘Miss Me?’ DVD, left by Mary with a request for Sherlock to save Watson. But will he? It’s edge of the sofa stuff as we find out…

The next instalment opens with Watson in counselling, having not spoken to Sherlock in weeks. Unlike Mary, with the return of the brilliant Amanda Abbington, who appears by his side as a vision from beyond the grave.

Suddenly there’s a screech and a crash as an Aston Martin narrowly misses the house. A flash of dark hair. Could it be Sherlock?

Written by co-creator Steven Moffat, the second episode has an enormous amount to deal with but quickly introduces us to the baddie of the episode – Culverton Smith – played spectacularly by Toby Jones. Jones pulls out all the stops with his Culverton portrayal of a yellow-teethed, sleazy, entrepreneur/ philanthropist. Jones revels in the evil from the off.

sherlock series 4 episode 2

Speaking to a group of invited guests in a glossy, high-rise office Culverton confesses he has a problem he needs to share. His daughter, Faith, is part of the group, and he drugs her to make her forget his compulsive confession. He needs to kill someone. But who?

It’s Faith that presents Sherlock with the crime to solve, with a note she wrote about her father’s confession, missing only one detail – his victim’s name. Sherlock is skitzy, Cumerbatch’s performance in over-drive, as the needle on the coffee table and the stubble on his chin make it exceedingly obvious he’s back on the drugs. This isn’t good for anyone.

Inspired by Faith’s case, Sherlock leaves the flat for the first time in weeks to walk the streets. His mental and physical vulnerability make his fast-paced visions difficult to catch or make sense of. But it’s all part of the plan.

Three weeks later and we pick up with Watson and the Aston Martin to discover that it’s Mrs. Hudson, the wonderful Una Stubbs, who appears from behind the wheel. It’s good to see the series still retains its sense of humour. With a drugged Sherlock in mania, convinced that Culverton is the most dangerous, undetected serial killer the world has ever seen, Mrs. Hudson calls on Watson to help.

sherlock series 4 episode 2

The episode presents us with the mystery versus our two dysfunctional heroes neatly and sets all three on a fast-paced collision course. It’s expert storytelling at its very best.

Lured to the hospital where Culverton does much of his charity work, Sherlock believes he can outwit the slippery philanthropist but Culverton appears a match to Sherlock’s gameplay. There are twists, turns and shocks fitting of any Sherlock episode, aptly demonstrating Moffat and Gatiss’ nightmarish imaginations. A Sherlock roller-coaster that you need to keep your wits about you to keep up.

Culverton’s elongated creepy laugh underpins the realization that Sherlock is losing the game, as Sherlock lashes out at the one thing he doesn’t understand and lands himself in trouble once again. This time Watson’s really had enough.

With Sherlock and Watson split once more, Mary’s back with Watson gently encouraging him to do some of his own detective work. It doesn’t take long for Watson to find out something about Sherlock from Mycroft that no one knew. But how does it all piece together?

sherlock series 4 episode 2

Mary’s ‘Miss Me’ DVD is discovered and as John watches the puzzle starts to make sense. But with a weak Sherlock in hospital openly inviting Culverton to fulfil his evil potential, is it too late for Watson? The performances by Cumberbatch, Jones and Watson are exceptional, as the unthinkable comes incredibly close to happening and Mary’s dying wish comes true.

This is a dark and emotionally difficult episode, which is poignantly concluded with the pair – Sherlock and Watson – back in 221B on what turns out to be Sherlock’s birthday. A delicate heart-to-heart brings the men emotionally closer than they’ve been for some time, exposing the fragility of them both.

Back where it began, with Watson in counselling, the episode takes a final dramatic twist that leaves Sherlock fans with another fantastic cliffhanger to mull over in the week ahead. Watson’s counsellor removes her disguise to reveal her real identity, as a shot is fired at Watson.

Suddenly a week seems a long time when you need to know what happens next…

Did you tune in for Sherlock series 4 episode 2? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Isla is a screenwriter and playwright who writes for television and theatre, as well as online for BBC, ITV and The Huffington Post. She’s a drama obsessive who watches far too much television and loves a good plot twist.

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