Sherlock Season 4 Premiere Recap: Babies, Burnt Bodies and a Big Twist

New year, new Sherlock: Our favorite pompously rude detective is back to kick off Season 4 with a ripping good mystery. Sunday’s premiere, “The Six Thatchers,” not only delivers lots of action and laughs (mostly at Sherlock’s expense)… but a truly shocking twist for one of the show’s main characters.

First things first: We need to clean up that whole mess of Sherlock killing Charles Augustus Magnussen in cold blood in “His Last Vow.” Mycroft informs his government cronies that Sherlock’s role in Magnussen’s death will never leave the room, and reveals doctored surveillance footage that exonerates his brother. So Sherlock is officially “off the hook”… but the authorities do want to know why he’s still expecting more tricks from a dead Moriarty. He tells them he plans to wait for Moriarty to make the next move: “I’m the target. Targets wait.”

To keep himself busy while he waits, Sherlock tells John and a pregnant Mary that he’ll go back to solving a string of crimes like everything’s normal. And in a fun montage, we see him rattling off solutions to awed clients, barely burning a brain cell in the process. (“It’s never twins,” he drolly informs John during one investigation.)

Sherlock Season 4 PBS MasterpieceBut they drop their cases when Mary goes into labor, and John rushes to drive her to the hospital. (Please, someone get us a GIF of a pain-crazed Mary shoving Sherlock’s face into the car window.) It’s a baby girl — Rosamund Mary, she’s named — and John asks Sherlock to be a godfather. Sherlock dismisses the very idea of it all (“God is a ludicrous fiction…”), but he relents when John informs him “there’ll be cake.” Later, we see Sherlock trying to make a logical argument to Baby Rosie and failing miserably, so he’s exactly how you think he’d be with kids.

Then the real case arrives: At Cabinet minister David Wellsbury’s 50th birthday party, he gets a Skype call from his young son Charlie in Tibet. But a week later, when a drunk driver smashes into a parked car in David’s driveway, the car explodes… and Charlie’s body is found in it. In fact, the body had been dead for a week, John declares. “Oh, this is a good one!” Sherlock exclaims. “Is it my birthday?”

Sherlock meets with the grieving parents — but feels “a pricking in [his] thumbs” when he notices a table of Margaret Thatcher memorabilia nearby. He senses a plaster bust of Thatcher is missing (it was smashed by burglars, David’s wife says) and then spins an explanation of Charlie’s death: He was hiding inside that car to surprise his father on his birthday, then had a seizure and wasn’t found until the car burnt up. Makes sense… but we’re only 20 minutes into the episode; this can’t be the real answer, right?

Sherlock Season 4 Episode 1 The Six ThatchersSherlock’s not satisfied, either, and keeps having visions of Moriarty. The plot thickens when Lestrade finds another smashed Thatcher bust — this one, with blood on it. Conferring with a hacker friend, Sherlock learns that only six of the Thatcher busts were made, and makes a beeline to find the only one still intact. He gets there just in time, as a masked burglar is ready to snatch the bust. A fistfight ensues… before Sherlock uses the Thatcher bust to smack the burglar in the face. He assumes the burglar works for Moriarty, but the burglar doesn’t know who Moriarty is, defiantly asking Sherlock: “You think you understand? You understand nothing.”

And that might be an understatement: Sherlock finds a memory stick with the initials A.G.R.A. on it hidden inside the bust. It matches a memory stick that held all of Mary’s secrets that John destroyed. Wait… Mary’s involved in this? The burglar knows who she is and tells Sherlock to “tell her she’s a dead woman walking” before escaping into the night.

Sherlock’s mind is reeling (like ours is) and he confronts Mary, showing her the memory stick. She explains she was part of an elite team of mercenary agents, along with the burglar (named A.J.), carrying out missions for whoever paid the most. The memory sticks contained all their personal information, and served as insurance so that no member could rat the rest out; A.J. hid his in the Thatcher bust before he was captured.

Mary’s stunned to know A.J. is alive — and even more stunned to hear he wants her dead. Sherlock offers to protect her as part of his godfather vows, but she doses him with sleeping powder and runs off. After writing John a, um, Dear John letter, Mary adopts a series of disguises and aliases, ending up in Morocco… but Sherlock beats her there. “How did you find me?” she asks. “I’m Sherlock Holmes,” he shrugs. That, and he stuck a tracer on the memory stick. John’s there, too, and isn’t happy that she lied to him. But before they can get her back to London, shots ring out. It’s A.J. He explains he was tortured after Mary escaped, and he always blamed “the English woman.” But cops shoot A.J. before he can explain.

Turns out “the English woman” isn’t Mary, but Mrs. Norberry, the doddering secretary we saw in the opening scene with Mycroft and the government cronies. Sherlock tracks her down to the London Aquarium, and she explains how she got rich selling government secrets, using A.G.R.A. as her personal hit squad. The cops arrive to take her away, but first, she fires her gun at Sherlock… and Mary dives in front and takes the bullet!

John tries to save his wife’s life, but Mary says, “I think this is it… you made me so happy.” After apologizing to Sherlock for shooting him that one time, Mary tenderly tells John: “Being Mary Watson was the only life worth living.” And with that, she dies. John unleashes a primal wail of grief and then lashes out at Sherlock: “You made a vow!” (And if you’re not tearing up by now, you’re made of stronger stuff than we are.)

In the aftermath, we see Mrs. Norberry being led away by the cops, John solemnly walking through a graveyard, and Sherlock seeing a therapist (!). After sharing a nice moment with Mrs. Hudson, though, he receives a CD in the mail, with the words “Miss Me?” written on it. (Uh-oh.) But it’s not from Moriarty; it’s from Mary. In a pre-recorded video to be played after her death, she gives him one last case to solve: “Save John Watson.” Which will be tough, since John refuses to see him. Sigh.

What did you think of the Sherlock Season 4 premiere, and the big Mary twist? Give us your take in the comments.  

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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67 Comments
  1. Danielle says:

    You’re missing two fairly large plot points here: 1) John’s emotional affair with the woman he met on the bus (I have no idea what else to call it, really) and the fact that he is refusing to see/have anything to do with Sherlock. These both seem like they’ll rear their heads again later, so they shouldn’t be glossed over.

    That aside, Mary’s death devastated me, even if it was canon in the books. *sighs*

    • Joy Tong says:

      Oh-oh, what about Mary’s ” Go To Hell Sherlock” in the last sec of the episode and John’s bus affair?

      • Darsan54 says:

        I suspect my impression Mary’s invocation was a request (a clue?) or instruction rather than insult or curse and part of saving John. As to the bus affair, I haven’t a clue.

        • Susan says:

          I agree ~ I think it has to do with just what has to take place in order to ‘save’ John, emotionally and physically.

  2. Suso says:

    Oh television. Another awesome female character sacrifices herself so that men can brood. Boo. I really thought “Sherlock” was better than this.

    • Sims says:

      Blame the book not the show.

      • rowenamck says:

        And to that end, this Mary is far more badass than the Mary in the books, so there is that at least.

      • Dr. Opossum says:

        But the books don’t give John and Mary a baby which makes the idea of him as a single parent and Sherlock running into dangerous adventures pretty irresponsible.

      • Suso says:

        As I wrote in the other comment, it’s NOT in the stories that Mary died. All Conan Doyle writes is that Mary is gone and John is sad. MANY things could have happened. I don’t know why everyone is suddenly stating this as fact when it’s not.

        • Darsan54 says:

          Well, she is certainly “gone” now. Gatiss probably used the vagueness creatively.

        • Alison says:

          Actually, her death is in a story – “The Adventure of the Empty House.” Watson narrates that Holmes had learned of his “sad bereavement.” Doyle could have simply written that Watson’s wife died, but he took the more artistic route and asked his readers to make an inference.

        • However, in the Sherlock Holmes narratives, Dr. Watson had a total of 6 wives. Mary was the first, assumed to have died, but he loved the ladies and married 5 more along the way.

      • Carol C says:

        I didn’t realize there was a precedent. Sure caught me off guard. And teary.

      • kath says:

        They updated the book to the modern era and made Mary the most badass character on the show.
        They could havw stepped away from the books on this too.

      • Suso says:

        It’s not canon though, and I hate when people who haven’t read Conan Doyle and only other comments just repeat things. The books say that John is sad about missing Mary, but do not elaborate. There were many options about what happened to her — not all of them involving her dead.

        • Midnighter says:

          “sad bereavement” is the exact wording Doyle used. Doyle would not refer to Watson as bereaved if he had not suffered the death of a loved one and given that Watson establishes no close living relatives when we first meet in A Study in Scarlett, in addition to the fact that he and Holmes are sharing rooms again in the following story it’s clear that bereavement was Mary.

  3. Anh says:

    Eh, you missed the bit about John cheating…

    • Kim R says:

      I was also wondering why that fairly big development was left out of the article. Watson is most likely just as mad at himself as he is at Sherlock.

  4. um says:

    I’m so bored by Sherlock. Benedict Cumberbatch is completely phoning it in at this point, too.

  5. Jeff C says:

    The ending of my episode literally made my jaw drop. I love that this show doesn’t pull it’s punches, I just didn’t expect THAT to happen in the premiere :(

  6. TvPeong says:

    Do you know when the next episode will be aired? Or is this a one-off, like the Abominable Bride

  7. Sharon Cooke says:

    Everybody notice this one was a riff off an original canon story with six napoleons? Fun!

    • vanchocstraw326 says:

      All the episodes are at least a little bit. Some are derived from 2 stories, and some are more obvious than others. I love it!!
      Did you notice that some of the letters are red in the end credits? They spell out the name of the stories the particular episode is based on. This one said, “The Seven Napoleons.”

  8. Leah says:

    Closed caption says his name is Ajay, not A.J.
    In addition to the affair stuff, I believe the last scene of E she was sitting next to a poster of our big bad ? It appeared to be Toby Jones.

  9. Silas says:

    Wait, but none of you mentioned that at the end of the episode, Mary said “Go to hell, Sherlock”

  10. kath says:

    I will miss Mary, she may just be my favorite character on the show.
    Between Sherlock’s arrogance and John Watson’s emotional (and maybe more) infidelity, I’m not liking either of them right now.
    It really wasn’t necessary to kill Mary just because she was a better detecting partner than John is.

  11. Eva says:

    Yaawn. So, now that Mary is gone, can we get back to solving actual criminal mysteries, instead of just using them in a music montage? Oh, we can’t, there is all that melodrama between the boys and a child to raise… ok, bye.

    • hannah says:

      I’m in agreement. I disliked the ‘awesomeness’ of Mary (hello Mary-Sue) and her mysterious past which just appeared to take over the whole show in season 3. As Sherlock cavalierly explained to John earlier in the episode, Mary made a better sidekick than her husband. She was cleverer, more experienced, and had the whole ex-international agent thing going on. Because of this intense dislike for her character, I couldn’t bring myself to care about her, and had actually hoped she would die in this episode, although because of said Mary-Sue she had to do it in a way which a) affects everyone, b) is totally heroic and of course c) she’d predicted, because she’s just THAT awesome.
      The lack of a cohesive storyline was just hard to watch, and the montage made a mockery of the whole ‘Sherlock solves crime cleverly’ because we neither see the truth of his deductions nor the outcome of his cleverness. I don’t really get his preoccupation with Moriarty either; He might have made a good villain, but you disposed of him already. Yawn.
      John feeling guilty over unfaithfulness to Mary foisted onto Sherlock for being the object of Mary’s martyrdom is just lazy writing … I have to say I don’t care about it at all, nor the baby drama. Am I watching a soap now?
      I don’t know what other people are tuning in for, but I was here for the crime solving and humour. Where did they go?

      • Bob H says:

        Th next episode is based upon “the Dying Detective” in which Sherlock Holmes helps a lady and her family. The last episode is based up “The final solution”, yet in this case is called “The final problem” which is in fact based upon Moriarty and Sherlock meeting again. I believe that Mary’s last words..”when I’m gone, if I’m gone” means that she wasn’t killed off and it was all a plan to protect her..the word “if” was repeated twice. the last statement of ” Go to hell Sherlock” may not be a place/time/feeling, but a place that Sherlock would be in his own-hell. I feel as if a string has been strung and is now knitting what is yet to be seen….The writers do seem to keep quite true to SCD’s premise in his original texts…..so all may not be what it seems at first glance

        • Eva says:

          The original texts were hardly spy thrillers and Mary was a background character, not a Mary Sue whose adventures overtook the story… it’s quite likely the next episode will again have a mystery based on ACD’s story that will get relegated to the backseat, because 45 minutes will revolve around overblown personal drama.

          • Voice of Reason says:

            I feel like you don’t really understand what a “Mary Sue” is. it doesn’t mean an expanded character based on original text, and since the writer of this episode plays Mycroft, I seriously doubt Mary was his Mary Sue.

        • K says:

          The show runners said Mary is definitely dead. Not a trick.

  12. qodrn says:

    Perhaps the fact that the John and Mary actors broke up in real life had something to do with this. They had split up during the filming of this series. Sad. Freeman is moving to LA.

    • DFM says:

      I commented to my husband at the beginning of the episode that I wondered if Mary would die because of the real-life demise of their romance. I understand that it follows the original story line, but I wonder if the death was accelerated because of that break up.

  13. Mia says:

    I’m happy that Sherlock is back but damn I did not expecrt Mary to die. And John flirting with that other woman? WTH. Can’t wait for next week’s episode

    • PatriciaLee says:

      Me either, but I was taken aback at her character being so in your face, especially with her swat/seal/MI6 type background. It was fun, but I can go along with it ending as it gives the Holmes stories more variety opportunities. I can adjust with Watson’s home interest retreating back more, as in the original Doyle stories. The flirting could be a set up for him feeling guilty. It is a little silly, and I agree with you on that, but I guess there is no such thing as perfect stories. And fiction is a fluid art, so hopefully we won’t remember or care as we move along.

  14. Bob H says:

    I still think that the statement “when I’m gone, If I’m gone” will come into play. i think that the “if” means that it may have been an elaborate set-up to protect Mary…

  15. Helen says:

    You missed Toby! Toby the bloodhound was there! Disney shoutout.

  16. Walkie says:

    Really weird episode. The pacing wasn’t odd. The writer seemed more interested in making this one a vaudeville comedy with amount of shoe horned in jokes.

    Disappointing

  17. Mary says:

    I don’t know what to make of this: In Mycroft’s scene with the refrigerator, he makes a phone call to “Sherrinford”. Are they going to introduce the hypothetical third brother? (Missed it on the first watch, but caught it on closed captions the second time around.)

  18. GraceM says:

    I wish they hadn’t killed Mary off in the first place. I liked her. Now her daughter won’t know her mother and Watson is a single grieving parent.

  19. Cincoflex says:

    I always liked Mary so it was sad to see her die. Found the last part of the episode a bit bogged down by the drama VS the action though. Very annoyed at Watson’s straying and yeah, it’s clear he’s projecting some of his guilt onto Sherlock as well. Why didn’t anyone coming for the secretary bring a gun?

  20. CambronP says:

    Sherlock felt a *pricking* in his thumbs, not a prickling. It’s a reference to Macbeth. (Should be corrected, especially if you’re going to put it in quotation marks)

  21. Adrienne says:

    Does any main character on Sherlock stay dead after they die? I’m wondering if Mary’s “death” was an elaborate ruse to protect John and the baby. Also, the “go to hell” statement may have been a clue for Sherlock to follow. Just some thoughts..

  22. I loved Mary Watson. I thought she was well written and well played. Now the couple has split in real life and on the show. Sigh. Sob.

  23. Pia says:

    Not a twist. She dies in the book.

  24. Marsha says:

    I think that once again, there are all kinds of things in this episode that are meant to be misleading – Mary’s “Go to Hell, Sherlock,” is probably one of them. I concur with the idea that it’s not her telling him off but telling him where to go to find information — there are at least five locations around the world called Hell, and of course, it could refer to something in his or John’s psyche that holds a clue that will help Sherlock to help John.

    Also, Mary says in the video (twice) “when I’m gone – IF I’m gone…” Some people are taking this to mean that maybe her death is a fake; others say it’s a natural reaction to the fact she’s making a document that is meant to be seen only in case of her demise. Most people, even trained military operatives / assassins, aren’t comfortable with the idea of their own death, so maybe she’s just saying “if I’m gone” as a way to reassure herself that (at least at the moment she’s making the video) she’s not dead yet. Personally, I accept the writers’ and actors’ statements that she IS dead; for all the mutual respect and affection between Mary and Sherlock, the third wheel dynamic does water down the whole relationship between Sherlock and Watson; and Mary’s death IS canon (as has been pointed out on this thread already). How the writers are going to get around that other, even larger, third wheel that was introduced in this episode – namely baby Rosie – will remain to be seen. I can’t imagine John handing his infant (motherless) daughter to Molly or Mrs H and saying, “Watch my kid will you, I have to go chase after Sherlock into some hare-brained situation where I could get killed…” So will they write Rosie out, or maybe kill HER off too, or just make her an afterthought most of the time? It will be interesting to find out.

    And finally, the question about Moriarty. They keep dangling him at us as a continuing presence while assuring us that he’s really dead. Again, I think a (seemingly) throw-away line from this episode (and at least two prior episodes) is a clue: Sherlock says, “It’s not twins! It’s never twins!” And yet, I think it is, but not in the obvious way. A lot of fans think it was Moriarty’s twin brother on the roof of Bart’s, and HE’s dead but Moriarty is really alive. Yet, what about a female fraternal twin? We had the attractive redhead with a muddy accent (some say Irish, some say Scottish) who gave John her number on the bus and then he’s shown to be texting someone, presumably the bus lad, with hints at what’s definitely an emotional affair, and perhaps a physical one. The redhead and the affair are not a plot hole – they’re a Chekov’s gun. Why introduce this in Episode 1 and then leave the thread dangling, unless it’s going to be picked up and developed later? Perhaps she’s just a pawn in some villain’s game – or maybe she’s Einin Moriarty (there’s a good Irish name!), Jim’s fraternal twin, out to carry on her brother’s plan to destroy Sherlock by using John as the tool with which to burn the heart out of the great detective?

    As a stand-alone episode, I think “Six Thatchers” was lacking and has many holes and problems that weren’t addressed right away. So, I found it somewhat disappointing in some ways, as well as heartbreaking, because I really did like Mary. Hopefully, the next two pieces will fill in some or all of the holes and prove that the bloody three years between series was worth the wait.

  25. Henry says:

    John brutally blamed SH because of his bitterness of the fact that he had an emotional affair(so called) with the woman in the bus. He felt he didn’t do his best as her husband, friend, and yet blaming his old best friend of her death. Such a selfish bastard.

  26. Cece Skidmore says:

    I need more Sherlock! Hurry

  27. Cece Skidmore says:

    When can we expect Season 5