Synopsis of 4×01: The return of Sherlock, and his ever-patient fandom! In the first episode, we have Sherlock fighting to protect the thing he cares for most: John Watson’s feelings. There will be death, tears, and spoilers.
The Six Thatchers is loosely based off of The Six Napoleans. Except in that particular story, there is no Mary Watson. So instead of slowly writing her out, Gatiss and Moffat dig her deeper into the story.
Our story begins where ‘The Abominable Bride’ left off. Sherlock is getting pardoned for killing Magnussen. And in true Sherlock style, he celebrates his newfound freedom by getting high (on life), trolling his brother and the people meant to protect him (including a secretary), and plunging himself headfirst into work.
Sherlock is convinced that solving cases will lead him right to the breadcrumb trail that Moriarty has left for him. He works and tweets his way through all sorts of life events, including John’s baby, Rosemunde Mary, being baptized.
The red herring case is that of Charles, a 50 year-old man just celebrated his birthday. A week after his party, his son is found dead in a car in Charles’ driveway. Sherlock figures that one out quite quickly. The boy died in his car in an attempt to surprise his father. He called saying he was abroad, coerced his father to check on his car outside, and died hiding in a vinyl coverup. Tragic, to be sure.
But what Sherlock sees is something totally unrelated. A missing statue on a small shrine to Mrs. Margaret Thatcher, the first female Prime Minister. Sherlock tries to look further into the case, but no luck. Mycroft keeps trying to preoccupy Sherlock with the searching for the missing Pearl of Borgias (a nod to the original novella).
Instead, Sherlock picks up a trail for more missing Thatcher statues and finds not a pearl, but a person. A deadly person from Mary’s past.
Let’s think back to Season 3, all those many years ago. Mary, caught in her web of lies, confesses to John that she was a super assassin. Part of her confession included a flash drive with everything about her. John, such an honorable man, refuses to look at it.
Well, maybe he should have. Because hiding in a Thatcher statue is another flash drive. This one belongs to AJ, a former associate of Mary’s who’s determined to see her dead. He’s convinced that 6 years previously, she had betrayed him and the others in their group.
Sherlock manages to escape with AJ’s flash drive and confronts Mary with what he’s found. Mary, in a flashback of exposition, explains. AGRA, as written on all of their flash drives, was a deadly mercenary group. All four members carried a flash drive with all of their information on it in order to retain trust in one another.
Trust is the theme here. Because six years ago, AGRA was sent in on a mission to save a government official when everything went wrong. They were somehow betrayed and only Mary (nee Rosemond Mary) escaped. Or so she thought. AJ was captured and heard his captors talk of the betrayal committed by the Englishwoman. And of all the Englishwomen in the world, he’s convinced the traitor was Mary.
This information sets Mary off on a worldwide adventure, so random that she literally just rolls a dice. It’s a lovely montage that highlights Amanda Abbington as a comedic actress. Too bad Mary is outwitted by Sherlock, who had already put a tracer on her flash drive.
Her adventures takes us to Morocco, where she is found by Sherlock, John, and finally AJ. AJ confronts Mary about her betrayal and gives Sherlock a clue as to who might have actually betrayed AGRA: AMMO. AJ dies in Morocco and our trio head back to London.
Turns out Mary isn’t the only one who’s been lying. John has secretly been texting a woman he met on the bus. Is it an emotional affair or a sexual affair or even a love affair? We never find out in this episode. And frankly it seems a little shoehorned in.
Moffat is the master at adding excessive elements to elicit an emotional reaction. Usually there’s some sort of payoff, but not this time. What happens next would, for me, have been even more powerful had John remained entirely faithful and devoted to his wife.
Sherlock brings back what he’s learned to Mycroft. Ammo is not short for ammunition like one would assume. It is a Latin derivative of Love. And love was the code name for a specific AGRARIAN mission, namely the one that failed. Which means the only suspect could be the woman in charge of AGRA’s political missions. Or so we think.
Just like in SVU, the first suspect is never the right suspect. Sherlock eventually figures out that it’s the secretary. Meek, quiet, and firmly in the background, Miss Vivian Norbury had made a pretty penny off of selling government secrets. She had bought a cottage and had almost gotten away with her scheme.
The theme of this episode is destiny. Will we ever outrun our fate? Sherlock has outrun death and chaos many times. And he hates the idea that everything is preordained. Mycroft even recalls a childhood anecdote about Baby Sherlock writing his own versions of the story Appointment in Samaara. Sherlock is convinced he is fated to face off with Moriarty one last time. And Mrs. Norbury says she knew she would always be found out.
But in a shocking twist, Mary is the one fated to die. Sherlock speaks the whole episode about how he swore a vow to protect Mary, John, and their family. But when Sherlock is the one in the line of fire, it’s Mary who moves to protect him.
John arrives just in time to see his wife dying. She tells him how much she loves him, how much she wanted to have a normal life with him, and how being Mary Watson was the only life she wanted to have. John never gets a word out, only moaning in a mourning way.
Naturally, you’d assume John would go back to therapy. But the one reaching out for help is in fact Sherlock. Mary, via a DVD marked “Miss Me?” sets Sherlock on an impossible mission: save John Watson.
Too bad John won’t see his (former) best friend. In fact, when Sherlock comes to visit John, Molly stops him at the door. Through her, John leaves Sherlock a letter (that we don’t get to know the contents of), and a message. John will have no more of Sherlock. “Anyone but him.”
The episode ends with a strange final shot of Mary’s DVD saying “Go to Hell, Sherlock.” What Mary’s death will mean for the show has yet to be seen. I doubt next week’s episode will become a soap opera of their lost friendship. A mystery will arise and eventually John will be roped back in. This episode is already significantly better than Season 3’s effort. So here’s to a new season, and here’s to the Sherlock fandom! May you be filled with Johnlock trash and Tumblr AU’s!