Monday, July 10, 2017

Sherlock: The Six Thatchers Review


As much as I've tried, I simply have never liked Sherlock.  I don't think it's smart, I don't think it's the best adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's work, I don't think it's well-acted, and I especially don't think it's well-written.  Too often on Sherlock, writers/co-creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss confuse convoluted for complex, making things so incomprehensible and illogical that Sherlockians and critics praise them for being excessively opaque.

Now, after watching The Six Thatchers, I can tell that they are up to their old tricks, never settling on one narrative when twenty will do, sacrificing logic and generally making things a total mess but getting praise and Emmy Awards for their idiocy.  I may be the only person who says 'Sherlock has no clothes on', but I call them as I see them and see no reason why I should celebrate something so utterly idiotic and just awful as Sherlock just because everyone else says so.

It's hard to give a plot summary because there are simply so many stories going on, which I figure is part of the pressure of having to write essentially a feature-length film versus a one-hour episode, but I'll do my best.  Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) is brought back to London from exile after 'not' killing Charles Augustus Magnussen, Sherlock's brother Mycroft (Gatiss) reediting things.

Side note: this is a variation of Moffat's 'a character died but not really' bit, now suggesting that Sherlock didn't kill Magnussen when he most certainly did.  Moffat and Gatiss are masters at the art of rebooting things sans logic, but I digress.

Now with him back, Sherlock is having difficulty with the situation of John Watson (Martin Freeman) and his wife, Mary (Freeman's then real-life mistress, Amanda Abbington).  This is particularly true when it comes to their new baby, whom they name Rosamund or Rosie for short.  I would have preferred they name her 'Joan' as a nice dig at Elementary, but I'm not as clever as Mark Gatiss insists he is.

Despite all logic, John & Mary want Sherlock to be a godfather to their child, and he reluctantly agrees even though he sneers at both humans and the idea of a God.  After that, things get more jumbled.

Sherlock is called by Inspector Lestrade (Rupert Graves) to solve the death of a Minister's son who was found dead in his car when a week earlier the son had claimed to be in Tibet.  Making things more bizarre was that the son had been dead for a week when he was found after a car crashed into the boy's car when attempting to escape the police, causing the boy's car to explode (which is how they found the body in the first place).

That case is easily solved: boy was never in Tibet, died suddenly, father left boy's body in car and presumably would have left him there save for the unexpected car explosion.  It's another thing that intrigues Holmes, the smashed bust of Margaret Thatcher that the Conservative MP has.  Soon other Thatcher busts are being smashed, and someone has been killed in one instance.

Holmes sees a case, and somehow this case doesn't involve the Black Pearl of the Borgias, but a flashdrive that itself involves the secret past of former super-spy Mary Watson.  Her secrets are coming back to haunt her, when we find that this case involves her time in a super-elite assassination squad called AGRA, which cause her to try and flee.

John, perpetually flummoxed, is upset about all the secrets and lies of Mary, but he has a secret of his own.  He may be pursuing an affair with a pretty woman he met on the bus, though we don't see anything more than his desires and some text messages.  Eventually, after a few more twists and turns, we discover why AGRA was set up and who was behind the plot.  The real villain shoots at Sherlock but Mary jumps in front of the bullet to save him, begging him to take care of Watson.

It seems that seeing your wife shot in front of you is what finally breaks John's relationship to his 'best friend': not the psychological torture Sherlock has put him through, not the various times John's been kidnapped or shot at as a result of Sherlock's actions, not Sherlock's general haughtiness, rudeness, indifference and uncaring manner. 

Mary sends a video to him asking him to save John Watson, something that might be hard seeing that John wants nothing to do with him.  John, for his part, seems more interested in having a mistress to be all that focused on Sherlock.

The Six Thatchers is a big ball of rubbish, going on and on because Gatiss simply couldn't concentrate on one narrative.  We get false clues and leads, but we never actually get anywhere.

You think the case will involve the dead boy, but that was wrapped up in seconds, with a resolution that defies logic.  So, the father, who sees the son that came to surprise him for his birthday suddenly die, just decides to leave his beloved son in the car to rot?  I can understand grief being so great as to be devastating, but this is downright cruel.  Also, no one ever looked in the car?  Yes, I know we had this explanation that the boy was hiding behind a false seat cover (which again seems ridiculously extravagant) but if the boy pulled down the cover to show his face and then died, he couldn't have just pulled it up again to hide again after he drops dead.

Now, he could have died with the cover on without his father knowing, but that's not how it was presented to us.  As such, Gatiss wants to have things both ways: show us the boy dying but have the parents not know he died, and it just makes it not so much confusing as frustrating.

You think the case might involve the Black Pearl, a nod to the original Conan Doyle story The Six Napoleons,  but that is just a red herring, a bit of Holmesian fan service.

Most of this goes into Mary's past, and it's interesting that The Six Thatchers illustrates what I have long argued: that Sherlock Holmes is smart only when it's necessary.  When it's necessary to make him an idiot, Sherlock will have no problem making him so.  I argued that it was beyond idiotic to think that a man who can tell that someone is a cross-dressing child sex slaver based on the number of eyelashes he has on his nose or can tell if the Pope is a lesbian non-binary antiquities smuggler by seeing how many times he rubs his/her nose could not deduce Mary Watson had been a master assassin.

Now for someone who figured out that the Thatcher busts were being smashed as a result of her past could not equally take precautions against her using paper spread with sleeping potion to knock him out.

We also have moments that astound in their idiocy.  This super-elite, super-secret squad was named AGRA for the first names of the members? Alex, Gabriel, Rosemund, and Ajay couldn't apparently be bothered to have code names, but were perfectly willing to have their first names known to anyone willing to hire the AGRA-Team.  Further, it's a terrible cheat to give audiences no clue about Mary's real first name of Rosemund.

It's also a highly convenient coincidence that the code word of "Ammo" for ammunition would be confused with the Latin word "Amo" for Love, and that "Love" be one of the code names for a particular Minister involved in the machinations of assassinations and other nefarious dealings.

Something about all that just didn't sound right.  Why would the real villainness use the Latin to a group of Georgian terrorists?  Why couldn't she use 'Love'?  The answer is that if she did, Gatiss wouldn't have had his misleading moment between "Ammo" and "Amo".

Side note: 'amo' in Spanish also means 'Master' as well as 'Love'.  Just a thought.

At times, The Six Thatchers plays like a 007 spoof, and there certainly were efforts to play a lot of things for comedy.  The 'laughs' start right at the beginning, when Mycroft is attempting to make a very serious presentation only to ask Sherlock, "Are you tweeting?"

Sherlock's unusually chipper demeanor is explained as him being high but it also comes across as idiotic.  His continual tweeting while at the baptism, his inability to notice that John had replaced himself with a smiling red balloon, and a few moments when he clearly has no idea how to handle babies all try to make things funny.

I figure a lot of the Sherlockians thought it was all so hilarious, but I sat there wondering why so much comedy was forced onto situations that didn't need it.  Even when perhaps a little levity could have been introduced, it seemed all so forced, as if Gatiss really thought he was being clever.

The story goes on and on, because at a certain point there was nothing there, so Gatiss had to keep the ball rolling somehow.  We're given narrative after narrative: John's potential infidelity, Mary's past, the search for the six Thatchers, the dead boy in the car, the domestic hijinks of the Watsons.  It's so much going on but with nothing to show at the end of it.

Ammo vs. amo...I'm not buying a minute of this rubbish no matter how you dress it up.

That perhaps might be the only good thing in The Six Thatchers: some beautiful cinematography, particularly when we're at the London Aquarium.  Granted, some of this was undercut by the tons of graphics that overwhelm us (video screens and text messages that are now part of the Sherlock Canon), but some moments are quite visually splendid.

There isn't anything special about the performances in general.  Each continues to be submerged by Cumberbatch, whose efforts at hilarity in the beginning are almost cringe-inducing.  Freeman is still one-note, his Watson still the stooge.  Actually, I walk that back a bit: when Mary dies his growls and moans were hilarious and so false, I thought it among the worst performances of them all.

I confess to actually laughing out loud when I hear him emit whatever sounds he made.

Gatiss, I continue to insist, isn't acting but playing himself as Mycroft: a pompous, snobbish, elitist man who looks down on everyone and is convinced he's the smartest person alive.  I also sense it is his secret wish to play The Penguin on a Batman-themed show given his affinity for his umbrella.

Graves is still the idiot, who has no intelligence and essentially crawls to Sherlock.

Again and again, given how horrid Sherlock is, why do people still work with him, let alone associate with him? 

The Six Thatchers is a mess, rambling incoherently from one point to another, keeping up the idea that 'convoluted' is 'complex'.  It's just awful.

At the end of The Six Thatchers, after the credits, we see a quick shot of Mary saying to the camera, "Go to Hell, Sherlock".

Finally, something I can cheer about with regards to Sherlock.  That alone gets an extra point.


Next Episode: The Lying Detective

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