SHERLOCK (BBC) “The Great Game” Review

Sherlock (BBC) - The Great Game

Do you ever feel like you’ve missed an important memo? That’s the sensation I had watching the end of this week’s episode of SHERLOCK, ‘The Great Game’, which was also the series one finale. The problem is that it contained a potential series-worth of plot.

There were five(ish) cases this week. Six if you include the case of Andrew West and the USB Drive given to them by Mycroft Holmes, Sherlock’s secretive and antagonising older brother. The first five all involve clues sent to Sherlock’s mobile phone (a pink number reminiscent of the one in A Study in Pink, which was sent to the police station for him). As Sherlock races to solve the clues (and, incidentally, save the life of innocent civilians), he must also try and figure out what connects each case and thus reveal the identity of the antagonist.

The episode starts with Sherlock visiting a murderer in a Minsk jail. He claims that killing his girlfriend was an accident. Sherlock doesn’t seem convinced, even after the murderer corrects his own grammar in an attempt to please Sherlock. He leaves the man to his fate. And that, it seems, is the end of that case. I’m still not entirely sure what we were supposed to get from this scene.

Then we get Sherlock shooting at a wall in his flat (doesn’t 221 Baker St have adjoining properties on either side? Or people nearby worried enough to call the police?), storing a head from the morgue in his refrigerator, and Watson going to spend the night with his girlfriend, who did stick around after all. All is well in Casa Holmes.

And then the frantic string of cases begin.

We spend the episode pondering two main questions: how did Andrew West die and where is his USB drive containing UK defence plans? And who is behind the clues-and-threats that Sherlock is trying to crack?

The former is an actual honest to God mystery. We’re given very little to work with, so little in fact that we pretty much round it down to the only three people who could possibly be connected with the case: West’s brother-in-law, Mycroft himself (he’s an arrogant bastard, who would put it past him?), and the person behind the clues-and-threats case. Spoiler alert: it was the brother-in-law.

The latter question ruined the episode for me. It was clear straight away that the entity behind this case was Moriarty. The question should have been: who or what is Moriarty? But it wasn’t. It would have been a lot more interesting if the audience had been trying to figure out WHO Moriarty actually was.

And that is why this episode would have worked better as a whole series. Three episodes of Sherlock solving cases, saving lives, and meeting countless possible-Moriarty’s, only to end with a big reveal? Perfect.

Instead, we get an unexpected reveal that answers a question that we had not been asked. Admittedly, the fake out of Watson being the villain (before we see the bomb strapped to his chest) was breathtaking. Could John Watson – Sherlock’s friend – have somehow been the primary antagonist all along? Of course not, but those few seconds of wondering were thrilling.

And then we get introduced to Moriarty himself. Now, I’m not entirely convinced that he IS ‘Jim’ Moriarty. It’s entirely plausible that Moriarty could have hired an employee to be his face in his dealings with Sherlock, but for the sake of this review we’ll stick to the facts presented in the episode. Moriarty is… Molly’s gay boyfriend who slipped Sherlock his number earlier in the episode. (Side note: There are only so many he’s-not-gay-but-let’s-imply-it moments a series can take before it just becomes childish.)

Really, writers? This is the best you could do? You couldn’t bring in possibilities we actually cared for – Lestrade, Sally Donovan, Molly – even if it was none of them in the end? Where was the intrigue, the suspense? You gain points for the whole text becoming vocal commands progression that did make the audience lean toward Mycroft (who I honestly believed was the antagonist/brains behind an organisation called ‘Moriarty’.)

Let’s not forget Moriarty himself. Even if he isn’t the real deal, what is with this character? I get that Moffat and co like ‘quirky’ characters and actors, but come on. With his annoying voice and off-kilter accent (the actor’s original Irish accent after it had been put through a blender, apparently), Moriarty was a pastiche of Sherlock that didn’t quite work. Or maybe the incongruity of his looks, sound and evil wiles is exactly what the creators were aiming for.

In summary: though entertaining, this episode just didn’t work for me. While the ending of series one will definitely pull me back for series two, I can only hope that the pacing and plotlines are tightened into something a bit more coherent and masterful. The BBC is becoming too contented with producing big budget episodes that skip from set up to resolution with no satisfying middle. And as they say: ‘getting there is half the fun’.

What did you think of the series one finale of Sherlock? Were you satisfied with the reveal of Moriarty? How would you have done things differently? Or do you disagree, feeling that this episode was well-done? Enquiring minds want to know!