Sherlock’s final problem?

Image property of the BBC.

There is a lot around my head right now as I just finished watching The Final Problem, but the heat of the moment might make this easier and let’s face it, I want to write this now.

No spoilers ahead.

The 4th series of Sherlock just finished airing and it left quite a sentiment. Is it a goodbye? Is it the beginning of a new era? We don’t know for sure, but as a fan of this series, my favorite one, I surely hope this is the beginning of a new era, or probably not a new one (?). But I will explain later.

Since season 3 aired I knew the show had changed, and I have to admit that the 3rd season is my least favorite (even taking season 4 into account). The show was lighter, but the problem wasn’t it. I have given a lot of thought to this, and not because it is impossible to understand, but because there are many things to take into account, like the fact that a show can’t ever be 100% what the viewers want. I have come to the conclusion that the problem (I don’t think it is a problem indeed, but I will refer to it that way) with season 3 is that it changed the logic of the show. I have to say at this point that Gatiss and Moffat are two of my favorite writers, if not my favorite; but that doesn’t mean I have to be alright with everything they write and do. And I am not here to judge or say they messed it up, first because I am no better than they are and second because it’s not the point. The point is to acknowledge that the series changed, and from my point of view and analyzing the narrative of the plots, they changed the show not by eliminating what they had done right but including [not that necessary] new things to what Sherlock was.

Let me go deeper. The first two seasons of Sherlock are my favorite in any TV show. They were characterized by the fact that this was a show about two detectives that are best friends and the core of the series is the solving mysteries side of it. We had many cases in the first two seasons, and it’s not like we didn’t have them in season 3 or 4, but there’s a difference. What Sherlock was in the first two seasons was a detective show, not a drama show. And you can argue with me that the detective side of it was drama, and yes, it is, but it wasn’t just that. The difference is that the first two seasons weren’t about telling their personal struggles or stories, they were about showing cases that both John and Sherlock investigated, and it was through those cases that we got to discover their personalities, their struggles. In season 3 and 4 it was the other way around, the cases became a pretext to tell us about their personal lives so the core of the show wasn’t any more about two detectives that are best friends but about two best friends that are detectives.

Then again, I am not saying by any means that it ruined the series, because it kept being awesome, it just wasn’t as clever as before, or let me rephrase it, it wasn’t the same clever as before. And there’s the key. That is a consequence of the show not being anymore about detectives and their cases. So I get the frustration that many fans have after season 2, because if the show had been a purely drama one from the beginning, it wouldn’t have made a difference in what they perceive as the show they love and the quality it had (and I mean they because I don’t see it that way). To me it wasn’t about Sherlock losing quality, it just gained in an aspect, which was character development in a more traditional way, but losing (a lot in some episodes and just a little in others) in what the show is special about.

Season 3 went too far away from the detective essence, it wasn’t only until the third episode aired that I saw the show I was used to and loved so much coming back, even if it wasn’t entirely. And with Season 4 the show was closer to what we were used to see in the first two seasons, but then again they used the cases as a pretext to tell us about the personal lives of the characters. And telling the character’s personal lives isn’t a mistake, it is the right thing to do (after all, a TV series is all about the characters, it’s driven by them), but how you do it is what makes the difference. Season 4 was dark, and I loved it because of that. It was clever and exciting, and I also loved it because of that. The problem is what I mentioned before, but there’s more to it.

The high bar that the first two seasons set is more than high. And by any means I am saying that it is unreachable, but if anyone who reads this has ever tried to write fiction (either in literature or scriptwriting) they will realize that keeping a high point is the hardest thing; that writing with the purpose of topping what you have done is the hardest and most annoying part; that trying to open the mouths of more people is the worst. And that doesn’t mean we stop trying, it just means that there’s no certainty that we will ever write in the same level again, at least not in the same story.

Of course I want to see more of Sherlock, it is the show that encouraged me to study what I studied which is writing and producing movies and TV shows that people love and feel passionate about, to try to become a writer and a scriptwriter. It is the show that my friends know that I love more than any other, and that I know I will always love more than any other. And even with the changes that it went through in season 3 and 4, it kept making me feel the excitement and love for it. I do expect though that they come back to the first two seasons’ routes (if this interview with Gatiss and Moffat is to judge, my hope is really high right now), and I am not saying that I want the exact same show, I just want back a detectives’ story which happens to have two best friends as its main characters, not the other way around. This, hopefully, is the beginning not of a completely new era, but of an old era with the face of a new one. I trust in the writers, the actors and everyone behind the show.

Here’s to more episodes of Sherlock!

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