In the Season 4 premiere of the Masterpiece Mystery Sherlock, “The Six Thatchers,” fans are reunited after three long years of waiting with main characters Sherlock Holmes and John and Mary Watson. It is a happy reunion initially, but as promised by creators Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat, this episode ends darkly. Spoiler alert.
Sherlock, who has been whisked back by brother Mycroft and the muckety-mucks that secretly provide security for England, is his usual irreverent self as he sits in on the development of the alternative reality the public will see for the private detective’s murder of Charles Augustus Magnussen in the final episode of Season 3. In addition to Sherlock and Mycroft, three other people are in on the cover-up that Mycroft terms to be of higher security than Top Secret.
In exchange for the sociopathic detective’s save from both an expulsion from Britain that would likely have resulted in his death and a murder charge, Sherlock is tasked with figuring out how Moriarty was able to terrorize Britain with his taunting, “Miss me?” videos broadcast throughout London. When asked how he plans to do that, Sherlock dismissively informs the group he will wait for the game to come to him, as he knows he is the target.
Central to the ever-evolving plot in “The Six Thatchers” is Sherlock’s recitation of an old story as he ponders what lies ahead for him in the aftermath of Moriarty’s death and what Sherlock considers to be an inevitable posthumous plan by his old adversary to do him in.
For what seems a long time – enough time for pregnant Mary Watson to be near her delivery date – Sherlock speedily dispatches what he finds to be easily-solved cases, nothing to match his superior deductive abilities and is growing bored when Inspector Lestrade saves the day with a case that has baffled the police.
With nothing more pressing at the moment, Holmes and Watson accompany Lestrade to the home of a wealthy man who recently celebrated his 50th birthday, at which he received a surprise telephone call from his son, Charlie, who is studying abroad. The dilemma at hand occurred a week later when a drunk driver plowed into the driveway of the estate, read-ending Charlie’s car parked there. In examining the wreckage, police find the burned body of Charlie, who they determine had already been dead for a week.
Sherlock becomes pre-occupied with a small table in the grieving parents’ living room that contains a variety of Margaret Thatcher memorabilia. His interest in the table and its contents distress Charlie’s mother who expresses her doubts about Sherlock’s ability to solve her son’s death. Holmes quickly explains why and how Charlie was in his car and his manner of death, then returns to his fixation on the table.
Something was missing from the collection, Sherlock deduced, and he wanted to know what it was. It turns out that a bust of Thatcher had had the central position on the table, but was found smashed by the homeowners after a break-in in which nothing else was taken or disturbed. Here’s the first glimpse as to why the episode is titled “The Six Thatchers.”
Trailer for Sherlock Season 4, Episode 2 “The Lying Detective”
In the midst of all this, Mary has been texting John feverishly because she has gone into labor. John and Sherlock rush to get her to the hospital, but the trio doesn’t make it in time. Mary delivers their baby girl, Rosamund Mary Watson. The couple chooses Molly, Mrs. Hudson and Sherlock to be the baby’s godparents.
Sherlock goes to Mycroft to talk about Margaret Thatcher and the smashed bust, but Mycroft has his own concern about retrieving a black pearl from the Borgia dynasty. The old story of the merchant who escaped death in Baghdad only to find it waiting for him in Samarra resurfaces, with Mycroft pointing out that even as a child Sherlock did not care for the inevitability of fate the story suggests.
Sherlock learns from Lestrade that a second Thatcher bust has been smashed, which becomes an ah-ha moment for the private detective, seeing these incidents as the first moves of Moriarty’s posthumous game.
When Sherlock examined the bits of broken pieces from the bust, he found a small blood stain. With this finding, he declares he must find Toby, explaining that a hacker he once helped out of a criminal jam is just the person who can help with the mystery of the game.
As it turns out, the hacker is Craig. It is Craig’s bloodhound who is named Toby. John, Mary and Sherlock take off with Toby, who leads them to an open market where the scent of the blood takes them to a butcher, where copious blood is being cleaned from the ground.
A dead end with Toby, but Sherlock employs Craig’s computer skills to find out more about the Thatcher busts, learning that only a limited number of them were made in Georgia (think USSR), with six total being bought in Britain. With the first two being smashed and two subsequent ones reported smashed, there are only two Thatcher busts remaining.
The fifth Thatcher bust is not only smashed, but its owner is found killed outside his home. Thanks to Craig’s computer skills, Sherlock and Lestrade know the address of the sixth bust owner.
John and Mary are having the mundane problems facing many couples with a young infant, from sleepless nights to little private time together. On the bus one day, John’s interest is piqued by a young woman smiling at him. She gives him her phone number, which we learn later than he is using to surreptitiously converse with the woman in what may be a budding romance.
S4Emen: Gabriel, Alex and A.J. We learn the “R” stands for Mary’s real name, Rosamund. Each of the four kept a memory stick that contained proof of their activities, with the purpose being to keep each person from telling on the others because doing so would then expose that person’s actions, too.
Mary explains that all had been going well for the four compatriots until six years earlier when the group was hired to free hostages taken by terrorists in Georgia. (Think USSR) The plan, which used the code word “ammo,” had taken a turn after the group had freed the hostages. Mary thought all three of the men working with her had died that day. She is excited to learn that A.J. is still alive and wants to find him immediately. This is when Sherlock reveals that A.J. has a vendetta to kill Mary.
Mary hands Sherlock what looks to be a note, but when he opens it, it contains a drug that renders him unconscious. When he awakens, he finds Mary gone, along with the memory stick. Meanwhile, John opens a letter from Mary explaining that she must go away for while to keep him and the baby safe.
Despite Mary embarking on a series of randomly-selected journeys in which she also chooses randomly selected personalities, Sherlock finds her. Mary is dumbfounded that Sherlock was able to find her despite her many cautions. Initially, Sherlock explains that there is no such thing as being truly random and goes on and on about his ability to work it all out mathematically when he breaks down and tells her he had put a tracking device into the memory stick. Mary congratulates his efforts, which is when John reveals himself to also be there, saying that the tracking device was his idea.
The happy reunion is short-lived, however, as A.J. Bursts through the door, gun in hand. As he and Mary stand only a few feet from one another, pistols pointed at the other, Mary tries to make sense of A.J.’s hatred for her. In some tense moments, A.J. explains that his captors for the previous six long years taunted him with Mary’s betrayal of the group. Upon questions from Sherlock, A.J. admits his captors never called Mary by name, but said, “that English woman.”
Before anything more can be learned, A.J. is killed by a policeman standing behind him.
Sherlock is left with much to ponder. He determines that the code word for the Georgia operation, “ammo,” doesn’t stand for ammunition, but instead is the Latin word, “amo,” for love. “Amo” used to be Lady Smallwood’s code name – and Lady Smallwood was one of the muckety-mucks Sherlock faced in his reprieve from the murder charge. He shares all this with Mycroft, who has Lady Smallwood arrested. During Mycroft’s interrogation of Smallwood, which Sherlock observes, she categorically denies being the woman who thwarted the escape plan six years earlier.
Sherlock mulls this over and comes to a different conclusion, certain he knows the identity of “that English woman.” He texts Mary and John separately to meet him at the London Aquarium, just as John is about to admit to Mary about his relationship with the woman from the bus. Neither of them reveal to the other who has texted them or what was said, but both jump up to go at once when they realize they can’t both go because of the baby. John tells Mary to go on and he will find a babysitter for Rosie before he sets out.
When Mary arrives at the aquarium, she finds Sherlock talking with an older woman – Vivian Norbury – who has been Lady Smallwood’s assistant and receptionist for decades. A clever woman, Norbury had been manipulating Smallwood for a long time and used AGRA to carry out the assassinations Norbury was able to arrange via Smallwood’s position in government security. When Norbury ascertained that her secret might be out, she found a way to botch the Georgia hostage rescue operation so that the four members of AGRA would be killed.
Norbury quotes the old story about the merchant and his meeting with death at Samarra in reference to her knowing her day would also come. Sherlock began his litany of deductions he could make about Norbury from her clothing and appearance, all the while in the background Mary is asking him to stop. Sherlock, self-satisfied and enjoying showing off his abilities, continues his assessment of Norbury. Norbury has a surprise of her own, pulling a pistol from her purse, which she aims directly at Sherlock and fires.
In that split second between the firing of the gun and the bullet making its way toward Sherlock, Mary jumps in front of her friend, taking the bullet intended for him. John, Mycroft, Lestrade and others have arrived on the scene as Mary falls to the floor. John takes her in his arms and tries to staunch the bleeding beneath her breastbone as she tells him she realizes this is the end for her and that he has made her so happy.
As Sherlock and the others look on in stunned silence, Mary takes her last breath after which John lets out an agonized howl. He looks at Sherlock, angrily reminding him he had promised to keep Mary safe.
We next see Sherlock in a therapist’s office, where she is explaining to him that he needs to open up to her for her to be able to help him. Sherlock replies that that isn’t his style; he needs only to know how to help John.
Time passes, during which Sherlock keeps busy with work, because as he explains to Mrs. Hudson, that’s the only remedy for grief that he knows. He becomes excited when his landlady and friend hands him a package that upon opening contains a computer disc that reads, Miss Me?
Certain that the game really is on now, that Moriarty has at last reached out to him from beyond the grave, Sherlock is surprised to see Mary is on the disc. She explains she labeled it as she did to get his attention, that if he was viewing the disc, it was likely because she was dead. Mary explains she has a case for Sherlock, perhaps the most difficult of his entire career – to save John Watson.
In the final scene, Sherlock goes to check on John. Molly comes to the door holding Rosie and explains to Sherlock that his old friend wants nothing to do with him. Molly, who looks uncomfortable delivering John’s message, then hands Sherlock a note from John. John has made it plain that he would accept help from anyone but Sherlock.
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