The problem with only having a three-episode season of television is fairly self-evident: just when it gets going, it stops. Sherlock is pretty much the only show I can think of that actually does this, and it kills me every single time. While a season spanning only three 90-minute-long episodes allows each one of these room to breathe, not to mention a more complex budget and cinematic production design, it still means we’re always–like Uncle Miltie suggested–left wanting more. In the case of series four of the now-occasional sleuthing series, we might be forever left wanting more. Watch the above teaser for “The Final Problem” and then you’ll see what I mean.
Sherlock premiered in the autumn of 2010 and didn’t return until the spring of 2012. Thereafter, every subsequent return has taken longer and longer, nearly two full years between series two and three, and a hair shy of three years for three and four (with a little one-off special thrown in to tide us over). Production costs are a cause, sure, but the increasingly busy schedules of stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman–who both truly shot to superstardom in the wake of this show’s popularity–means getting them all together for more sleuthing is harder and harder to do.
And hence, friends, I’m going to guess this is why we’ll be saying goodbye to Sherlock and John more or less permanently following “The Final Problem,” the third episode of the current series following “The Six Thatchers” and “The Lying Detective.” The title “The Final Problem” comes from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1893 story of the same name, which both introduced Sherlock’s nemesis, the criminal mastermind Professor Moriarty, and gave the two characters a fatal, cataclysmic battle atop Reichenbach Falls, which effectively killed both of them. This was meant to be the actual end of Sherlock, as Conan Doyle had gotten tired of writing his incredibly popular character. However, as we know, this didn’t last for long, and the detective was later revived.
Now, Sherlock has already effectively done that storyline in the series two finale “The Reichenbach Fall,” in which Moriarty and Sherlock seemingly die. The show and Sherlock himself returned with the episode “The Empty Hearse,” a take-off on the Conan Doyle story “The Empty House,” which was indeed the story that revived the character in print.
Co-creators Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat are too big of Sherlock Holmes nerds just to use “The Final Problem” willy nilly; it’s my belief that this episode will be the “end” of their version of the characters for all intents and purposes, but with the caveat that maybe they’ll bring them back for a special or two in the ensuing years. But you don’t invoke “The Final Problem” lightly.
Furthermore, I think the newly discovered Euros Holmes (Sherlock and Mycroft’s sister) will somehow be involved in what Sherlock has assumed was a Moriarty plot from beyond the grave, which may also connect with the “Sherrinford” name we keep seeing in Mycroft’s office. Although it’s very short, the teaser looks particularly “last ride” and “end-of-the-line” type stuff. That final shot of John and Sherlock being literally blown up probably won’t be the actual end of things, but certainly portends to a fiery conclusion, not continuation.
What do you guys think? Am I off-base with this? Will we be seeing Sherlock for another three-episode arc before I lose all my hair (I give it 8-10 years max)? Let me know in the comments below!