Many say it’s sometimes not the hero that makes a story but the counter-part to him. The Evil. The Villain. And Sherlock has successfully resurrected a real life villain and it’s sent shivers down the spine of the nation.
The Lying Detective quickly shows us the defeated duo of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. Sherlock is again on death’s door through excessive drug abuse, while John still mourns the tragic death of Mary. Seeing Sherlock in such a state provided a perfect contrast once again to his egotistical nature of the previous episode. To be honest I both loved it and hated in some weird contradiction. This is because, despite its effectiveness on-screen, it’s never easy to watch your beloved characters go through hell. In the end it’s all part of Mary’s weird plan to get John back into reality by making him save Sherlock. But this doesn’t dampen how powerful it is to see the heroes in such an extreme struggle.
And what a struggle it is. Sherlock has delivered one of the best TV villains in the past decade to our screens. Toby Jones masterfully plays a devilish villain with truly haunting parallels to our own reality. Culverton Smith. I try to keep up beat in most of my writing, however since I’m talking about a villain that has been plucked out of our own dark reality, I’m obviously struggling. Smith is quite simply based on Jimmy Savile. It’s a bold move by the producers, especially since many of his victims are still alive. Smith’s embodies the awful facts we’ve had to face over some recent years, including the power of fame, money and ‘public good deeds’ being used to disguise wickedness. Everything from his favourite room in the hospital to him delivering an uneasy speech while sat next to children, sent shivers down my spine. Culverton Smith is truly grotesque, but an impressive adversary to Sherlock.
Smith is exceptionally evil, and Sherlock Holmes wants to bring him down, and hopefully ‘save John Watson’ in the process. But it’s no easy task considering the state Sherlock is in. What I found very interesting throughout this episode was how he was given the unreliable narrator trait. Sherlock’s ‘madness’ was a wonderfully influential on the plot and was finely executed. Moreover it was good that they didn’t abandon Mary in the episode, and brought her back from the dead in a way that some may become frustrated with, but I personally love. John talking to Mary in his mind was an awesome inclusion to the episode and suited the surrounding themes very well. As ever Cumberbatch, Freeman and Abbington continue to be superb in their roles.
In the end, Sherlock saves John, by letting John save him from the literal strangling grasp of Culverton Smith. This sinister villain will long be in the minds of the audience, and continue to remind us that not everyone is as nice as they may seem. And this applies to more than one character in this episode. As Sherlock’s secret sister Eurus Holmes is revealed to be that annoying Scottish Zooey Deschanel look alike from the first episode, and John’s therapist, and the women pretending to be Smith’s daughter to Sherlock. That’s some damn fine costume and cinematic direction work. It certainly fooled me. So not only is this a fantastic example of British television, it has set up what may well be one hell of a finale.
The Lying Detective: 9/10
By Robert Anderson