In case it isn't obvious, I just finished watching "The Six Thatchers". I have to admit that I didn't go into it with high expectations, which might be why I was so blown away by the episode. I think I'd forgotten how good Sherlock can be without incredibly sexist, patronizing scenes involving KKK suffragettes. Yes, I know it's been a year, but I'm not good at letting things go. At all. Saying that, I think I might be one step closer to forgiving Moffat and Gatiss after tonight.
First of all, I was impressed (as always) by how beautifully the episode was shot. I absolutely loved the way that the aquarium with the sharks kept creeping into Sherlock's thoughts. There's one scene where you literally see the reflection of the aquarium on Sherlock's face when he's nowhere near the London Aquarium or water of any kind. There's also a shot in which a shark seemingly swims up the screen as there's a transition to a new scene. Kudos to new Sherlock director, Rachel Talalay, for finding new and fresh ways to shoot a show that is already known for its cool and innovative camera tricks and visual effects. Anyway, getting back to the shark analogy, I admire the way that Gatiss deftly wove it throughout the episode and brought Sherlock's premonitions -- or, rather, vibrations of the spider's web -- full circle in that heartbreaking scene in the London Aquarium. Oh, and excellent reference to "The Adventure of the Yellow Face".
As soon as the "secretary" introduced herself as Vivian Norbury, I thought, Oh, shit. This is where Mary is going to die. For those of you familiar with the canon, you'll know that Holmes makes an incorrect assumption during the Norbury case (in "The Yellow Face") and says to Watson, "Watson, if it should ever strike you that I am getting a little overconfident in my powers, or giving less pains to a case than it deserves, kindly whisper 'Norbury' in my ear, and I shall be infinitely obliged to you." This is touchingly re-enacted in that scene in 221B when Sherlock says much the same thing to Mrs. Hudson. Of course, it was never a secret that Mary was going to be killed off, but I thought it would be at the end of this series and in a much more dramatic and explosive manner -- literally. I suppose I should have seen it coming because of the shark imagery and that much-hated story of Death and the Merchant, but I'm usually pretty dense at the best of times. *g* In any case, I have to say that I found Mary's death scene in the aquarium surprisingly satisfying because it was more understated, and definitely more tender, than I had imagined it would be. John's grief was heart-wrenching, but his wholesale rejection of Sherlock was even more so. It was wonderful the way that Mary became the protector and Sherlock, quite unintentionally, was forced to break his vow. I'm really looking forward to seeing how Sherlock will be able to "save" John and repair the damage wrought by Vivian Norbury's bullet.
I admire the way that Mark Gatiss chose to reinterpret "The Adventure of the Six Napoleons" with busts of Margaret Thatcher (a modern-day Napoleon as Craig points out) and the A.G.R.A. memory stick instead of the Pearl of Borgia. Once again, we have that impish touch of humour with Sherlock's declaration that the Pearl of Borgia is boring and has nothing to do with the case when it was what the entire case rested on in "The Six Napoleons". I found the Thatcher shrine funny in light of the Napoleon idée fixe theory that Watson proposes in the original story. I also appreciated the reference to Horace Harker (as "Orrie Harker," I believe) and the fact that Ajay stored his A.G.R.A. memory stick in one of the busts while in flight from his future torturers -- much in the way that Beppo stashed the Pearl of Borgia in the drying Napoleon bust in the Gelder & Co. workshop when fleeing the police. Of course, the name "Gelder & Co." also crops up in this episode, along with more references than I can count. As usual, I'll list the ones that stood out to me the most.
I was over the moon when Toby from The Sign of Four made an appearance. I was taken aback at first because I thought Sherlock was saying that Toby was the computer hacker, so I was relieved when Toby turned out to be the computer hacker's adorable Bloodhound. I was also happy when A.G.R.A. turned out to be a group of four assassins, much in the spirit of the original Sign of the Four band in the novel, though I appreciated hearing Mycroft point out that Agra is a city -- as it was in The Sign of Four -- not to mention a fort and a great treasure. I also love the idea that the acronym A.G.R.A. represents the initials of the members of Mary's team. It's sweet that Mary's real name is Rosamund, the name she chooses to give to her daughter -- as if that is the only way she can reveal this one truth about herself and her old life to John. To be honest, I found this episode's references to The Sign of Four much more enjoyable than the ones found in "The Sign of Three". I also got a kick out of the references to "The Red-Headed League" with the carpenter with the larger right hand and the Japanese tattoo (rather than a Chinese one) above his wrist. And the carpenter almost repeats what Jabez Wilson says word-for-word when he tells Sherlock that he thought he had done something clever until Sherlock explained his observations to him. Sherlock's reaction is absolutely priceless as he rattles off his bullshit story about the carpenter's wife wanting to tunnel from their house of the American Embassy, which is another impudent nod to the plot of "The Red-Headed League" with the tunnel John Clay digs to the bank from the cellar of Jabez Wilson's shop.
I can't think of any real issues that I had with the episode. I wish we had seen Molly a bit more, but I think it's pretty understandable that it was difficult to work her in as much when so much else was going on. I'm hoping we'll see more of her in the remaining episodes of this series. Could Sherlock have been referring to Molly when he observed that Lestrade had a lunch date with a brunette forensic officer? His deductions aren't always 100% accurate, so the forensic officer might be a certain pathologist. Yes, I know Moffat and Gatiss have said that Lestrade and Molly will never get together, but Moffat, at least, has lied before. If Lestrade didn't have a lunch date with Molly, did he unconsciously choose someone like her...? I have to admit that I was a bit pissed off that Lestrade wasn't a part of that celebration after Rosie's birth or asked to be a godfather when I thought he was part of that inner circle. If nothing else, I thought he tried to be a good friend and support system for John after Sherlock "died" -- if that Many Happy Returns Sherlock Mini-Episode was anything to go by. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that Lestrade was overlooked when John continually undermines him in his blog. *g* Now Lestrade's rant is something I appreciated! Too funny! The episode is almost worth it for that alone -- that and John and Lestrade's "Hounds of Baskerville" type conversation about Sherlock being like an overgrown baby.
I'm really curious to see how the rest of the series will play out. Who is E? I wouldn't be surprised if she's working for Culverton Smith. And speaking of Culverton Smith, I get the feeling that Toby Jones is going to make a seriously bad-ass villain judging by the trailers alone.