Studying Sherlock: “The Six Thatchers”

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I think it could be argued there’s a lot of power in a single moment of time. Particularly in a story, sometimes a certain moment can be so important to the overall viewing experience, that it changes the audience’s perspective on the entire product. This can be for better or for worse, though admittedly this usually has negative connotations. Of course, it’s important to look at the picture as a whole, as well as the compartments which make up the image, but sometimes certain moments stick out to you and end up refining your opinion on all that has come before.

That’s kind of how I feel about The Six Thatchers. It’s not a bad piece of TV by any means on the whole, not the best episode of Sherlock, but it still contains many of the aspects which made this series great. There’s a clever, if a bit convoluted, plot, and there’s some good character work in there too. But there’s also quite a lot of junk in there too. While the good definitely outweighs the bad, the bad really can’t be ignored, and turns this story into a bit of a mess. Ultimately, I’m conflicted and don’t know exactly what to make of it.

Let’s start with the good. Like pretty much all of the episodes of this series, it’s strengths are in its character work, it’s plot, and it’s quirky sense of humour. I do seem to say this in every review, obviously the production team are aware of what makes this show, but if it’s good you can’t complain.

As I have said before, I think Gatiss himself may be the best at understanding Sherlock. Quite possibly because I think Gatiss is that bit eccentric himself, so he can reflect that in his writing, but Sherlock definitely feels a lot quirkier, while still remaining completely human, in Gatiss’ stories. There are some brilliant moments at the beginning of the story, with his bluntness towards being a godparent making me crack a smile, and there’s also some really touching moments, every time Sherlock remembers he made a vow is a lovely moment, as well as when he tells Mrs Hudson to call him out if he gets arrogant. I always love the moments where Sherlock shows emotion. They’re becoming more apparent now, each episode Sherlock is becoming more dimensional, and I’ve loved seeing how much he has grown throughout the series so far. Benedict Cumberbatch gives some of his strongest performances in the softer moments and is a joy to watch in the quieter moments (as well as the entirety of the rest of the series, Cumberbatch is brilliant).

The Six Thatchers also provides us with a decent plot. I really enjoyed the mystery at the beginning, with the boy in the car. It wasn’t the most difficult murder to solve, but in fairness, it probably couldn’t have filled 90 minutes of screen time, and it was resolved in a satisfying way. I enjoyed the mystery of the Thatcher head smashing, and I also enjoyed hearing more of Mary’s backstory. That allowed her to have some good development, gave Amanda Abbington a chance to shine. Mary’s certainly a unique character, whose relationship with the other characters is a pleasure to watch, as well as her complex morals. I do feel that Gatiss tried to do too much here. I can sort of work out each compartment of the plot separately, but as a whole, it did feel messy. Too much is trying to be done at once, and while it ties together slightly (though not as strong as episodes like A Scandal in Belgravia do), I do find it hard to follow at times.

I mentioned that Mary got some good development here, and she did. It was great learning more about her, her morals, why she does what she does, and what she’ll do for the people she loves. This was a great episode for Mary, and I was looking forward to seeing how she’d grow from this point…

…Except they went and bloody killed her, didn’t they? Talk about wasted potential. Like O’Donell in Before the Flood, it seems that Gatiss and Moffat read a textbook on “How to fridge your female characters” beforehand. It doesn’t really seem to serve much purpose, only so John can grieve with his male angst. What annoys me most is this came after a brilliantly feminist episode in The Abominable Bride. This reduces female characters to objects and plot devices, something so the men can mourn over rather than being allowed to be a damn good character in their own right. It was cheap, it was silly, and it really ruined a lot of the episode for me. Apparently, they did it to focus more on the relationship with John and Sherlock. Personally, that was always more prominent even in the Mary episodes (Hell, that’s entirely what The Sign of Three, an episode set entirely at John and Mary’s wedding is about) and you didn’t need to kill your character to achieve that. I also found it more enjoyable with another character in the mix myself. John and Sherlock worked on their own for two series, it was great having someone else, almost a mixture of the two, there. Shame.

Also, I wasn’t a fan of John’s affair subplot. That felt a bit off to me, probably just something extra for John to feel guilty about. Apparently, it gets pay off next episode, which makes me very happy, as here I see no purpose or need for it whatsoever.

Production wise, it’s mainly good. Talalay’s direction is good, as always, but sometimes, the swimming pool scene, in particular, moments felt a bit clunky and not quite right fit the show. Talalay is one of my favourite TV directors, but I think her work on Doctor Who will always be her strongest. The music was good, and so was the pacing.

Overall: Gave us some fantastic character development and then took it away, but the plot’s decent, Sherlock’s written well, and it’s competently made.

7/10

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

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