Studying Sherlock: “The Lying Detective”

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The phrase “quality over quantity” has never seemed truer than it dos with Sherlock. While it’s sad that each series only lasts a mere 3 episodes, it had proved beneficial in the long run. The three episode format has meant that there’s not much time for any crap, and while there have been a couple of iffy moments along the way (find me a TV show which doesn’t have any iffy moments), Sherlock is consistently good. Two-thirds of the way through the fourth series, and I still haven’t scored anything below a seven.

But even though Sherlock is consistently good, there are still some highlights. It’s not the best show on television every episode. I wouldn’t expect it to be, but I do ask what separates the good from the great from the best. My answer and this applies to all stories, is that the best stories play with your emotions. Of course, this is a subjective approach to determining quality, everyone’s feelings are different, but it’s the only way I can determine which ones are my favourite. It’s why A Scandal in Belgravia gets a lower score than a lot of the others for me. Yes, I appreciate what it’s trying to do, and I can see the brilliance in it, but it doesn’t interest me much. To me, good episodes keep me entertained. Great episodes keep me entertained more than the “good” ones. The best episodes, keep me entertained, but they also make me feel things. If we go by that rule for determining quality, in my opinion, The Lying Detective perhaps may be the best episode of the lot.

To just say it, The Lying Detective completely unnerved me. It’s probably the darkest, scariest, episode to date. There’s a reason for that if feels real. I watch TV mainly for escapism. I like to sit back, relax, and enjoy scenarios which I’ll never experience in the real world (for better or for worse) on the TV. I do enjoy realistic dramas, but there is a reason why Doctor Who is my favourite franchise, and there’s a reason why I enjoy murder mysteries. However, I do think it’s vital to have a kick of realism in the story. This adds to the experience, gets the audience to relate to the characters and to see themselves in the story. In this case, The Lying Detective is terrifying because it could actually happen. Hell, it has happened.

It’s obvious that Moffat’s version of Culverton Smith is inspired by Jimmy Saville. A dark, twisted, manipulative individual who abused his celebrity power to commit awful crimes. The abuse of power and status, as well as the idolisation of celebrity, is something which is very prominent in modern times. It really made me uncomfortable, seeing this man do the things he did, and get away with it because he was a known figure with status. The scene where he’s talking to the children about serial killers is a particular highlight. If a normal person came and frightened children this way, they’d be thrown out of the building, but Culverton Smith had influence, the hospital couldn’t exist without him, so he is allowed to continue. This is an episode which definitely works now, with people like Rolf Harris still being trialled for sick offences. The character is improved by the performance of Toby Jones, who is perfect in the role. He’s creepy, unnerving, but at times quite likeable and charming, which is what made it scarier. The best villain we’ve had so far, an achievement in a show where Andrew Scott is in it most weeks and a simply marvellous performance. My highlight of the episode.

Of course, this isn’t the main focus of the story. Sherlock will always be about the relationships between all of the characters, John and Sherlock in particular. This was probably the best episode at showing the complicated, but loving relationship, between the two main characters. Both of them drive each other insane and cause a lot of trouble for each other, but there’s definitely a lot of platonic love between them. The hug scene was beautiful, doing wonders for both characters. This episode really pushed the friendship of the two leads, but frankly, it has never been showcased better than it has here. I loved how Mary was used to reflecting John’s thoughts. It was a very interesting use if that character, and I’m thrilled that Amanda Abbington hasn’t vanished even if Mary herself may have died,

Speaking of characters, this episode was Una Stubb’s time to shine as Mrs Hudson. She provided some good humour, the car scene was hilarious with Stubb’s evidencing her beautiful comic timing. But there were also some really touching between her and Sherlock and Watson. Stubb’s definitely gave her greatest performance this episode, and I hope this development of Stubbs continued. All along she has told us that she’s “not their landlady” and here she got to prove it. She’s their friend, and it’s fantastic to see.

Sherlock continues to be extremely clever, and the twist at the end here has got to be one of the finest in all of television. As said in the episode, the easiest place to hide is in plain sight, and it was a wonderful reveal that not only Sherlock has a sister, but we had seen her three times before already. I honestly feel a bit stupid that I couldn’t recognise the same woman three times, and I never expected three minor, insignificant, characters to be anything but. A wonderful, exciting, rewarding reveal.

Production wise, marvellous. Nick Hurran proves why he should direct every episode of this programme, the music is lovely, and the pacing is so good, you’re unaware that time is even passing.

Overall: Absolutely magnificent. Great performances and development all round, a magnificent script, and absolutely chilling throughout. Sherlock has never been darker, and it has never been better.

10/10

Episode Ranking
1. The Lying Detective
2. The Reichenbach Fall
3. The Sign of Three
4. A Study in Pink
5. His Last Vow
6. The Great Game
7. A Scandal in Belgravia
8. The Hounds of Baskerville
9. The Abominable Bride
10. The Six Thatchers
11. The Blind Banker
12. The Empty Hearse

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