The only true measure of a great episode of TV is when you spend ten minutes after the credits repeating “wait, what?” like a mantra.
‘The Lying Detective’ was all about confessions; inner secrets laid bare for all.
Our big bad, Culverton Smith (what a great name) is on the end of the spectrum, relishing his cathartic admissions. There’s a delightful air of theatre about it as we soon come to realise that Culverton needs the spotlight to fuel his narcissism.
Toby Jones plays the truly despicable Culverton to perfection; each syllable, nod and glance timed to cause the most entrancing unease for the viewer. The capture of Culverton was too easy, too fast, dare I say sloppy. But it had to be squeezed in amongst all the other narratives vying for attention in this episode.
Freeman’s Watson is practically vibrating off the screen with anger, very reminiscent of the first episode of the series. John is holding on by his fingernails, clutching the memory of Mary tightly to his heart. Their conversations reveal how she truly was his better half, or at least that’s how he saw her. His grief and misery is a private cocoon that he wraps himself in, much like his friend Sherlock.
There’s something fascinating about Sherlock tripping his brains out. The scenes of him (literally) climbing the walls, hallucinating and generally turning his weird up to twelve is oddly delightful to watch if we ignore that undertone of sympathy we have. Sherlock is hurting and this is how he fixes himself – or so we thought.
The joke really is on the audience at the end of the episode.
Mary’s idea to save John is to almost kill Sherlock. How is that a decent plan? She must know to what lengths Sherlock will go to save John and there’s something sadistic in her request that makes for great viewing and fuels the meta in the fandom.
But if we take Culverton out of the equation, it is an episode of grief and how we all process it in our own ways – how we hold onto guilt of actions past, how we try to self destruct.
As Sherlock says; “Your life isn’t yours.” And isn’t that the truth. Your death isn’t your problem, it’s everyone else’s.
John deals with his loneliness by conjuring Mary before him, to talk – often of utterly mundane things. It’s so purely human, it grounds the zaniness of Sherlock’s antics.
But let’s move onto the biggest moment of the episode, and possibly the season: The Other Holmes Sibling!
The internet rumours that Tom Hiddleston was going to play the third brother were not just laid to rest, but beaten to a pulp, salted and then burned with the reveal of Euros, the Holmes sister.
Guess the mysterious E on the bus wasn’t as benign as originally assumed.
Sherrinford/Euros is a nutcase. It’s clear the Holmes clan are smarter than the average person, but it translates differently into each of them. Mycroft uses it to control the world, Sherlock uses it to save the world and Eros? She creates the chaos.
It’s all rather brilliant and makes next week’s episode feel all too far away. Especially if that shot hit its mark.
Aired at 9pm on Sunday 8 January 2017 on BBC One.
What did you think of ‘The Lying Detective’? Let us know below…