The season 4 finale provides some very strange answers to long-running mysteries
When he wakes up, Sherlock is in a dark room. He’s connected to the girl on the plane again, and he tells her to make her way to the front of the aircraft. In the cockpit, the girl sees they’re coming up on a river. Sherlock realizes he’s going to have to direct her to fly the plane. But his connection with the girl keeps getting replaced with a connection to Watson, who’s now found himself at the bottom of the well. John realizes he’s surrounded by bones just as Sherlock finds a dog bowl labeled “Redbeard.” Sherlock quickly realizes they’re no longer on Sherrinford at all, but back at the Holmes family estate. Euros, who claims to be Moriarty’s revenge incarnate, declares that Redbeard is both Sherlock’s first case and the final problem, and he’ll have to solve it before John drowns in the now-onrushing water.
Together, they untangle the mystery. Watson tells Sherlock that the bones are actually not dog bones, at which point Euros reminds him that their dad was allergic to dogs and refused to let them have one. The dog story is one Sherlock told himself to feel better. “Redbeard” was actually his childhood friend Victor. They would play pirates together (Sherlock was “Yellowbeard”). Euros, jealous at being left out of the games with no friends of her own, trapped this kid in a well where no one ever found him. This is why deep water has played such a symbolic role in Sherlock’s life (cue flashbacks to the giant pool where he met Moriarty, and the waterfall from “The Abominable Bride” climax). As Mycroft told him at the beginning of the episode, Sherlock has spent the years since acting like Euros (a cold, friendless intellect) instead of who he really was (a boy eager to play with his best friend). Sherlock then figures out that Euros’ song was actually a cipher, and the Holmes family gravestones were the key. He realizes the song is actually a cry for help — the girl on the plane exists in Euros’ head. She’s way above everyone else, and needs help figuring out how to land. Sherlock approaches her and together, they free Watson and Mycroft.
After that, things go back to normal, or rather a slightly updated status quo. Mycroft explains his decision to hide Euros’ existence from his parents (and does a bad job of it, because it’s unconscionable). Sherlock visits Euros and plays violin with her. Watson rebuilds the Baker Street flat, and together, he and Sherlock find one final message from Mary. This one is labeled “Miss You,” and features her declaring that she knows who the two of them really are: “a junkie who solves crimes to get high, and a doctor who never came back from the war.” Together, they’re there at Baker Street, a last refuge for the hopeless, just like they’ve always been.
And so we’re either back to square one, for the creators to pick up again at any time … or we’ve finally reached the end of the road. This episode clearly didn’t know whether it was supposed to be a series finale or a temporary stopgap. While it found a nice middle ground there, the rest of the episode was similarly indecisive about what, exactly, it was supposed to be.
This episode was just plain weird. The characters rarely acted like themselves, the dark child murder upon which the whole plot turns was mentioned briefly and then quickly forgotten, Euros’ villainous attempts to interrogate the heroes’ morality was reductive and half-hearted. There’s never been much chemistry in the Molly/Sherlock ship, and it’s never felt very important to the show. As this very episode demonstrates, Sherlock’s most important relationships are with Mycroft and Watson, and his flirtations with the likes of Irene Adler are sexier. Speaking of The Woman, the fact that the callbacks to her (both at the end of the last episode, and in this one) went nowhere, makes it seem like creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss weren’t really sure where they were going with any of this.
The Moriarty conspiracy went through several iterations over the course of these episodes (a distraction from Sherlock’s real problems, to a fake-out obscuring the return of his sister) before landing on the most boring one possible: An evil plan that went nowhere, featuring some minor posthumous assists from Moriarty (who nevertheless stayed dead).
This season had its high points, but ended on a pretty lackluster note. If the show does come back, hopefully it can leave the melodrama behind and return to the complex, thrilling mysteries that first drew fans to it.