You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘reviews’ tag.

34

Whew! Not sure I have any fingernails left after this episode. The usual warnings apply: massive spoilers for all episodes of Sherlock season 4. My earlier reviews can be found here in the Sherlock tag.

First, the Doyle story references:

  • The episode title is, of course, taken from the story by the same name, “The Final Problem.” The show has already used that story extensively for inspiration, and the episode draws less from the actual plot this time. However, it does use the element of an explosion at Baker Street. (If you thought the explosion looked fake…well, it wasn’t.)
  • The episode also pulls heavily from “The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual,” in which a nonsense riddle is also a clue to a buried, somewhat grisly mystery. Mycroft calls the Holmes house “Musgrave, the ancestral home,” and in the episode Eurus’ song is called “her little ritual.”
  • Mycroft mentions that he’s seven years older than Sherlock, which is true in the stories as well. (We also learn that Eurus is a year younger than Sherlock.)
  • Mycroft dressing as a sailor is a nod to the several occasions on which Holmes masqueraded as a sailor.
  • We got another reference to Sherlock and John’s danger signal, Vatican Cameos, taken from the “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” in which Holmes says, “I was exceedingly preoccupied by that little affair of the Vatican cameos, and in my anxiety to oblige the Pope I lost touch with several interesting English cases.”
  • Eurus forces Sherlock to solve a mystery in which one of three brothers named Garrideb killed a man named Evans. In “The Adventure of the Three Garridebs,” one of the three men turns out to be Evans, a murderer.
  • Eurus mentions that Moriarty happily agreed to do the recordings for her, and she speculates that he was jealous of his brother, who was a station master. In The Valley of Fear, Holmes says that Moriarty’s brother is “a station master in the west of England.” (Then again, Doyle also says Moriarty has another brother who is a colonel and who inexplicably has the same name, James Moriarty. Doyle never was terribly good with continuity.)
  • Sherlock’s childhood friend Victor Trevor is taken from “The Adventure of the Gloria Scott,” in which Victor Trevor is described as one of Sherlock’s earliest friends from university.
  • Mary’s voiceover at the end paraphrases The Sign of Four: “I am the last and highest court of appeal in detection.” There is a similar quote in “The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual.” She also calls Sherlock and John, “the best and wisest men I have ever known,” taken from Watson’s description of Holmes in “The Final Problem.”
  • The ending montage features several story references, including one of a chalkboard with stick figures, which is from “The Adventure of the Dancing Men,” in which these identical stick-figures are a secret message. And of course, the ending shot with Sherlock and John running out of Rathbone Place was a nod to Basil Rathbone, who played Sherlock Holmes in the 1940s.

Not story references, precisely, but fun little Easter eggs nonetheless:

  • The Wilde quote “The truth is rarely pure and never simple” was intriguing since Wilde and Doyle met at a dinner party in real life and, by some accounts, were friends.
  • Mark Gatiss who plays Mycroft has been dying to use a sword cane for years now, and finally gets his wish in this episode.
  • Hudson was vacuuming to “The Number of the Beast” by Iron Maiden.
  • I searched high and low to see if Uncle Rudy mentioned by Mycroft had a Doyle counterpart. I couldn’t find anything, but if you know what that’s referring to, leave a comment!
  • In the first episode ever of the series, Lestrade says, “Sherlock Holmes is a great man. And one day, if we’re very, very lucky, he might even be a good one.” In this final episode, a police officer mentions to Lestrade that Sherlock is a great man. Lestrade responds, “No, he’s better than that. He’s a good one.” Nice way to bring that full-circle.
  • The fairy tale theme started by Moriarty continued a bit in this episode, with Eurus stating that “good and bad are fairy tales.”
  • The water theme that has been so prevalent was finally explained in this episode as well. Kyle Powers drowned in a pool (Holmes’ first case), the showdown between Sherlock and Moriarty took place at the pool, “The Abominable Bride” featured the fight at Reichenbach Falls, Sherlock fought with AJ in the first episode of this season, and Vivian Norbury kills Mary at the aquarium.

Sherlock fans can be incredibly picky, and it seems every season there’s a large dissatisfied faction, but I thoroughly enjoyed this season. This definitely felt like a wrap-up episode (being the only season finale NOT to end on a cliffhanger), and it’s a good note to end on if they choose to do so. There have been a few rumors of season 5, but it doesn’t sound like that would happen anytime soon. We shall see….

1-1

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!

1Sherlock is the only television show I ever review, because it’s just so darn fun combing through the episodes for Doyle references and crowing about them online. This review for the first episode of season four is too late for British viewers to find terribly useful and too early for American viewers to have seen the show, but if I don’t post it now I never will.

You can read my earlier reviews here in the Sherlock tag.

Massive spoilers for the first episode of season four beyond this point!

So far season four has seen, if anything, an increase in references to Doyle’s stories. I’m just going to bullet these because the quantity is ridiculous.

  • The episode’s title (“The Six Thatchers”) and the episode itself are of course patterned after Doyle’s story, “The Six Napoleons.” In that story, Holmes rightly deduces that the Napoleon busts are being smashed because someone is trying to locate something hidden in them. In the story’s case, it does in fact turn out to be the Black Pearl of the Borgias, whereas in the episode, the pearl is a red herring.
  • The opening scene states that the code names for the room’s occupants are Antarctica, Langdale, Porlock, and Love. Langdale Pike was an information source for Holmes in “The Three Gables,” and Porlock was an informant within Moriarty’s ring. In the episode, we know Love is Lady Smallwood, and Antarctica, I imagine, is Mycroft. Vivian Norbury is probably Porlock, given the name’s connections to Moriarty and double-dealing.
  • Several of the bust owners have the same names in the episode as in the story. Craig compares Thatcher to Napoleon at one point as well, and the bust manufacturing company is the same in episode and in story.
  • “The wrong thumb” is a reference to “The Engineer’s Thumb” by Doyle.
  • “The Canary Trainer” is a reference to an unrecorded case mentioned in “The Adventure of Black Peter” (and later expanded into a Holmes novel by Nicholas Meyer).
  • Attempting to arrest a jellyfish is a reference to “The Lion’s Mane,” in which a man dies by jellyfish poison.
  • The case using fresh paint to disguise the smell of gas is likely a reference to “The Adventure of the Retired Colorman,” where a similar strategy is used.
  • Sherlock tells Rosie, “You see but you do not observe,” a direct quote to Watson from A Scandal in Bohemia.
  • A potential client says, “I thought at first that you had done something clever, but I see that there was nothing in it, after all,” which is paraphrased from a client in “The Red-Headed League.”
  • Stella Hopkins (the inspector who chats with Lestrade) is probably a gender-swapped version of Stanley Hopkins, a detective Holmes thought was fairly smart, for a police officer.
  • The show makes use of the recurring joke in which Sherlock can’t remember Lestrade’s name, a continued reference to the fact that Doyle never gives Lestrade’s first name, but only his initial G.
  • Sherlock tells Lestrade to take the credit, a reference to the stories in which Lestrade constantly takes credit for Holmes’ work.
  • Lots of adapted lines in this one, too many to call them all out. John reuses a line from “The Yellow Face” when he says he’s a better man than Mary gives him credit for. Sherlock texts Mary that the curtain is rising on the last act, paraphrased from “The Adventure of the Second Stain.”
  • Toby the dog is used by Holmes in several stories, including The Sign of Four.
  • A.G.R.A. are the initials of Mary’s team in the episode, but in the novel The Sign of Four, Mary is connected to the Agra Treasure. When Mary is no longer an heiress to that treasure, Watson feels free to marry her.
  • Sherlock’s comment that “The world is woven from strands crossing one over another. Every strand of quivering data,” etc. is reminiscent of Holmes’ description of Moriarty as a spider, sitting in the center of a web and feeling every quiver of its strands.
  • Mary walks past a boat in Norway called Flekkete Band, a reference to “The Speckled Band.” Source: @ingridebs. Apparently the name of the other boat, Løvens Manke, means Lion’s Mane, according to Tumblr user Cupidford—another reference to “The Lion’s Mane.”
  • Sherlock tracks Mary to a place called Hotel Cecil. In The Sign of Four, Mary Morstan worked as a governess for Mrs. Cecil Forrester before marrying Watson.
  • Mycroft pulls a take-out menu from his fridge for a restaurant called Reigate Square, a reference to the Doyle story “The Reigate Squires.”
  • In the Doyle story “The Adventure of the Yellow Face,” Holmes ends up being quite thoroughly wrong about the case. He tells Watson, “If it should ever strike you that I am getting a little overconfident in my powers, or giving less pains to a case than it deserves, kindly whisper ‘Norbury’ in my ear, and I shall be infinitely obliged to you.” The episode reuses it almost word for word.
  • Sherlock tells Mrs. Hudson that “Work is the best antidote to sorrow,” a direct quote from “The Empty House.”
  • Mycroft says Sherlock rewrote the Appointment in Samara story and called it “Appointment in Sumatra,” possibly a reference to the Doyle-mentioned case, “The Great Rat of Sumatra.”

Mycroft takes a note that says “the 13th” from his fridge and immediately picks up the phone and asks for Sherrinford. Sherrinford Holmes was the name for Sherlock in early Doyle notes. Sherrinford was first proposed as an older Holmes brother by William S. Baring Gould in his fictional biography of Sherlock Holmes. In “The Greek Interpreter,” Holmes states that his family were country squires, meaning that the eldest Holmes son would have inherited the estate and would have managed it. If Mycroft were the eldest, he wouldn’t have time for his role as a civil servant, a theory bolstered by the fact that the position of civil servant was commonly chosen by younger sons of gentry.  Sherrinford has subsequently been used in a host of Sherlock Holmes retellings. The show has been hinting at another Holmes sibling for some time now; Mycroft said last season, “I’m not given to outbursts of brotherly kindness. You know what happened to the other one.”

As for Moriarty, we learn that in the last year or so of his life, he was involved in four political assassinations, 70 assorted robberies and terrorist attacks, including one on a weapons factory in North Korea, and had shown interest in finding the Black Pearl of the Borgias. Sherlock assures everyone that he knows what Moriarty is going to do next with some sort of long-term plan that would take effect in the event of Moriarty’s death. For the viewers, however, it’s too soon to say what that plan might be, or if it even involves any of the items on the list of his interests. Stay tuned…

My husband and I believe very strongly in taking full advantage of Chik-fil-A’s Cow Appreciation Day, so on Tuesday we dressed up as cows–twice–in order to obtain free chicken.

cows1

Go big or go home.

We enjoy costume themes, so this year we were city cow and country cow (Aristocattle and Cowntry Bumpkin, specifically) for lunch.

2016-07-12 18.24.23

And high society cows for dinner. I particularly enjoy the disparity in facial expressions in this one.

These two bovines are headed to Boston next week (my husband has a week-long teacher development thing at Harvard, and I’m joining him for a few days), so with any luck I will have further adventures to relate after that.

In the meantime, here’s my review of Anne Elisabeth Stengl’s new book, A Branch of Silver, a Branch of Gold:

I  am in love with Stengl’s characterization. While there were many aspects of this book that I savored (it’s certainly the best retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses that I’ve ever read), the characters were my favorite part. Heloise is brilliant, and the interactions between all of the characters are incredibly lifelike. The contradictory nature of the love-hate bond between the sisters was spot-on, and even the character who initially seemed relatively bland (Evette) turned out to be multi-faceted and intriguing. I confess, as a result of my love for the characters and their interactions, I preferred the parts of the book that dealt more with the character development/Near World and less of the sections that dealt more with allegory/Faerie. As with Golden Daughter, there were a few parts that felt wordy to me–I liked the more pared-down prose of Starflower or Dragonwitch–but my affection for the characters easily carried me through the slower parts. I ate this door-stopper book right up in just a couple days and couldn’t put it down!

Speaking of books, there are a couple days left on the giveaway for The Battle of Castle Nebula, so don’t forget to sign up!

Is it–can it be–a book review?

It is.

I read A Celtic Miscellany recently, which is a collection of Welsh, Irish and Scottish Gaelic, Cornish, Breton, and Manx poetry and prose selected and translated by Kenneth Hurlstone Jackson. It’s aptly named; this collection is definitely a hodgepodge. Some of it is brilliant:

I shall not go to my bed tonight, my love is not in it; I shall lie on the gravestone–break, if you must, my poor heart. There is nothing between him and me tonight but earth and coffin and shroud; I have been further many a time, but never with a heavier heart.–Welsh; traditional verses; seventeenth century?

Some of it is wryly entertaining:

The world has laid low, and the wind blows away like ashes Alexander, Caesar, and all who were in their trust; grass-grown is Tara, and see Troy now how it is–and the English themselves, perhaps they too will pass!–Irish; author unknown; seventeenth-eighteenth century.

Granted, some of it is dull too, and I was disappointed that so many of the selections were fairly modern (sixteenth through eighteenth centuries) when I was hoping for more of the older, harder-to-find Celtic poetry of the first thousand years AD. Some of the excerpts seemed to leave off in odd spots. Overall, though, I enjoyed the somewhat random assembly of stories and poetry.

In other bookish news, I’m hooked.  Giving books away is almost as fun as getting them. This time I’m offering a free autographed paperback copy of The Battle of Castle Nebula, volume I in The Cendrillon Cycle!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Battle of Castle Nebula by Stephanie Ricker

The Battle of Castle Nebula

by Stephanie Ricker

Giveaway ends July 17, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

 

Clear your schedule before you pick this one up.

I’m serious. I made the mistake of starting Golden Daughter when I had a plethora of imminent deadlines looming over my head, and setting this book aside to attend to them was torturous. Once you become immersed in this particular Tale of Goldstone Wood, you will not want to leave.

Don’t let the girly cover fool you. As is often the case with the Tales of Goldstone Wood, the book is truly terrifying in parts—and I chose a bad time to eat dinner, as I read the scenes with the imps. This story is intense, in a good way.

Sairu, the heroine of the book, is possibly my favorite female character of Stengl’s, which is really saying something—I was in love with Starflower, hitherto my favorite installment in the series. Golden Daughter has wrested the status of favorite away from the earlier book, however, and this is due in large part to Sairu. She is intriguing, realistic, terrifying, and lovable. The whole premise of the Golden Daughters is fascinating, and I would love to see more of them in future stories.

All of the characters, even the minor ones, are drawn in such a lifelike way that you’ll swear you’ve met some of these people before. Jovann in particular impressed me very much and is one of Stengl’s most likeable heroes, in my opinion. Eanrin maintains his charm and mystery, and by this time, I feel like no story is quite complete without him. In each book, we learn more about him, and I adore him even more.

Stengl creates a multi-faceted, intriguing culture for Golden Daughter, one that is quite different from those in her other books. Her command of multiple storylines is impressive, and all of the plots weave together beautifully at the end. The story casts new significance on the events of earlier books in the series, particularly Heartless—which made me like Heartless much more. While I admit I preferred the day-to-day character interactions and plots to the more cosmological, allegorical ones, all of the threads were skillfully manipulated to create a cohesive, dark, funny, fascinating, eerily realistic whole.

You seem to have stumbled upon a storytelling of ravens. Watch for falling collective nouns; you may find a wing of dragons or a charm of hummingbirds caught in your hair. Hardhats are recommended.

my read shelf:
Stephanie Ricker's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)

A Storytelling