I’ve arrived at Season Four, and I just keep running into a roadblock: the treatment of the elder Holmes, Morland Holmes played by John Noble.
Yes, Sherlock has issues with his father. And yet, Joan (Lucy Liu) and Captain Gregson (Aidan Quinn) who are supposed to be clever, sympathetic characters, become the very opposite where Morland is concerned.
Perhaps this came about because John Noble is such a good actor; he lends authority and occasional playfulness to the role, he can be threatening, he can be opaque and yet there’s a humanity to the man. On the other hand, Holmes the younger comes across as a spoilt brat though with good reason based on family history. And none of us can escape that.
But Joan and Captain Gregson have none of that, which made their behaviour seem so utterly out of character, dare I say heavy handed. They openly threaten Morland, before, during and after he helps Sherlock (including pulling strings so his son can avoid a gaol sentence for beating someone half to death at the conclusion of season two).
But once you watch the whole season through, you can see why they were written like this: the writers had an end in mind, a noble (haha) sacrifice in mind for Morland. The characters were then supposed to hang their heads in shame and mutter “Oh he’s not such a bad chap after all is he?” and/or Morland was to be redeemed in his son’s eyes. Despite spending pretty much the ENTIRE SEASON doing just that.
In my opinion, and it’s my blog so I can have one, I think Sherlock should have been the one being redeemed. He’d fallen off the perch of sobriety, but as soon as the credits rolled on Season Four, he was back to his old self, with nary a backward glance; a couple of episodes covered his embarrassment, his avoiding sobriety meetings but he was pretty much okay and even better once his father stepped in to help. I’d call this a missed opportunity. He’s a passionate man, surely there’d be more depth to his second recovery? A shakiness to his approach, perhaps some self-doubt? He’s shown emotion on several occasions before, finding then losing Irene Adler, the death of his friend Alastair. There have even been touching moments in meetings.
And no, I’m not asking for a bloody soap opera. I am asking for some depth, which has been evident in prior seasons. And, dammit, consistent characterisations. Joan makes several astonishingly poor calls this season, which appeared to be more there to serve the plot than be in any way logical. Growling at Morland within an episode of meeting him for the first time seemed complete overkill, sitting at the low end of the same spectrum the “idiot scientists” were in Prometheus. Her characterisation went right out of the window.
Police procedurals aren’t exactly high art of course. That said, earlier seasons didn’t fall into this quagmire.
Writers do the best job they can in the circumstances they’ve got. It’s hard enough being in my position slaving over the same tome for almost ten years, hazarding a pronoun here, cutting a sentence there. But to be in TV writing, you’d need to work hard and fast. I can forgive the writing here for that reason, though the writers in question undoubtedly don’t care about my opinion.
That said, this season did put me off continuing watching. It seemed by season four they’d lost the uniqueness of the premise with the small team of cops helped by a twitchy yet brilliant Brit, an ex surgeon sidekick and occasional arch-enemies appearing from the shadows for a quick snarl over a cuppa (because we’re British, that’s what we do!). The show is at its best when it focuses on that uniqueness, and weakest when it forces characters to act, well, out of it.