Trying really hard to crank out this review/reference list before the final episode airs! As usual, you can read my earlier reviews here in the Sherlock tag. Spoilers for 4×02 and rampant speculation for 4×03 from this point on!
First, the Doyle references:
- This episode almost draws too much from an existing Holmes story, but I found that rather enhanced my enjoyment of it. The episode entitled “The Lying Detective” closely follows Doyle’s story “The Adventure of the Dying Detective,” in which villain Culverton Smith (didn’t even bother to change the name) attempts to kill Holmes to cover the murder of his nephew. Holmes lets Smith believe that he is indeed dying of poison to lure Smith to 221B, where he tricks Smith into a confession. The story even features Mrs. Hudson driving like a maniac in a panic to reach Watson, although admittedly in a hansom cab and not in an Aston. Fortunately, however, the episode didn’t rely on Sherlock’s near-death for its main twist.
- Sherlock’s line, “Your life is not your own. Keep your hands off it.” is lifted directly from “The Adventure of the Lion’s Mane,” in which Holmes convinces a female client not to kill herself.
- The name Blessington is from “The Adventure of the Resident Patient.”
- Sherlock says he “caught a triple poisoner in High Wickham,” which may refer to a line from The Sign of Four:“I assure you that the most winning woman I ever knew was hanged for poisoning three little children for their insurance-money, and the most repellant man of my acquaintance is a philanthropist who has spent nearly a quarter of a million upon the London poor.”
- Nurse Cornish and her criticism of John’s blog might be references to a Cornish boatman who once rowed Arthur Conan Doyle across a river and complained to the author that the Holmes stories were “never quite the same after he came back from the dead.” Everyone’s a critic.
- Sherlock quotes much of Shakespeare’sHenry V, including “the game’s afoot!” Of course, Doyle took the phrase from Shakespeare in the first place.
- The Killer Orangutan is likely a reference to Murders at the Rue Morgue.
- Culverton’s hospital is named after Saint Caedwalla, the patron saint of repentant serial killers. (Seriously. There’s a saint for everything.)
- While American audiences might be tempted to identify Culverton with Trump, British ones will recognize his origins in children’s entertainer Jimmy Saville, who abused children in hospitals but was kept from justice due to his powerful friends and influence. Culverton mentions his inspiration in serial killer H.H. Holmes, an historic serial killer with an insane Wikipedia article.
As neat as these references are, the really fascinating part of this episode, of course, is the reveal of the third Holmes sibling. In retrospect, of course, it seemed obvious, but I didn’t figure it out until only a moment before the reveal (and even then I didn’t put it together that E was the same as Faith too—great job, costuming department).
But the clues were definitely there. Early on, the therapist calls John out on the difference between “looking away and looking to. I tend to notice these things. Now I am reminding you of your friend, I think.” Holmes siblings have a lot in common. When Sherlock hinted in the last episode that Rosie should’ve been named after him, John and Mary say, “It’s not a girl’s name!” Sherrinford isn’t either, which threw viewers off since Mycroft asked to speak to Sherrinford in the last episode. But if Sherrinford were, for instance, a secure prison or mental institution where the third Holmes sibling was being held, the lines would still make sense. (I say the third Holmes sibling and not the last because, as the last episode reminded us, “People always give up after three” and this show is just crazy enough to throw in a fourth sibling.)
After Mycroft assures her that “the fact I’m [Sherlock’s] brother changes absolutely nothing. It didn’t the last time and I assure you it won’t with Sherlock,” Lady Smallwood asks if he still speaks to Sherrinford. Mycroft says he gets regular updates and that “Sherrinford is secure.” From this we might infer that the third Holmes sibling has caused some mayhem in the past, but her brother was dutifully unsympathetic and locked her up.
A few things seem to imply that Eurus (as we know she is really called) was removed from the Holmes family life at a young age. As Faith, she tells Sherock that he’s nicer than she expected, and she seems to mean it, so possibly they haven’t seen each other in years. This helps to explain why Sherlock wouldn’t recognize HIS OWN SISTER, for crying out loud. Perhaps her crime, whatever it was, was committed quite early. Eurus (as E, texting with John) says she’s a vampire. Perhaps this was a reference to her predatory nature.
However, Eurus mentions that a mutual friend put her in touch with Culverton Smith. Now, she does give Sherlock the info he needs to solve the case and bring Smith down, but she’s also clearly a bit crazy (if she really does try to shoot John, as it appears she does). It’s fair to say that the “mutual friend” is Moriarty, although it also seems clear that Eurus was behind the big “Miss me?” message at the end of season 3. So maybe not as secure as Mycroft thought.
Eurus, the Greek god of the east wind and of rain, is an odd name, but the east wind has been referenced many times in the series. Sherlock says in season 3, “The East Wind takes us all in the end… It’s a story my brother told me when we were kids. The East Wind — this terrifying force that lays waste to all in its path. It seeks out the unworthy and plucks them from the earth…That was generally me.” Later when Mary asks if Moriarty is back, John says, “Well, if he is, he’d better wrap up warm. There’s an East Wind coming.”
The only reference to the East Wind in the original Doyle stories dealt with Holmes’ comment about WWI: “There’s an east wind coming all the same, such a wind as never blew on England yet. It will be cold and bitter, Watson, and a good many of us may wither before its blast. But it’s God’s own wind none the less, and a cleaner, better, stronger land will lie in the sunshine when the storm has cleared.”
I predict that the Moriarty thread and the Sherrinford/Eurus thread will end up intertwining in the finale, but we shall see!