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Sherlock S4E3 The Final Problem – Spoiler-free review * 13 January 2017

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This review is plot spoiler-free, but assumes you have already seen S4E1 The Six Thatchers and S4E2 The Lying Detective.

Our thoughts here may be more fractured than you're used to from our other reviews, and quite a bit shorter until our spoiler analysis after broadcast.

There is a reason for that.

With the arrival of The Final Problem, Sherlock has reset back to a similar tone to what we loved best about the show - a detective and a doctor running around together, solving mysteries.

To that end, the characterisation is as you love it most too. Sherlock Holmes is a motor mouth, frantically probing and solving clues in the most desperate of circumstances. John Watson is the conflicted, noble man again, a layer of sadness pervading him thanks to the loss of his wife, but once again truly the steadfast and loyal Army Doctor. Mycroft Holmes is heavily involved and is snappy and snarky while revealing new layers to his character. Molly Hooper is at her brittle, vulnerable best. Mrs Hudson retains that new spiky sharpness from last week. And Lestrade is Lestrade, given the least to do but still has a moment that drew cheers and applause. Everyone is universally excellent in the episode, particularly the leads, as the situation continues to ratchet up.

Tonally, if there is any one other episode of Sherlock we can draw close comparison to its The Hounds of Baskerville from Series Two. Imagine that scene with John in the Baskerville laboratory, stretched out for bursts of a much longer duration throughout a ninety minute episode. The Final Problem is perhaps the single most tension filled (and indeed, fueled) episode of Sherlock ever produced, relentless in its pacing, and it truly feels like all bets are off in this one. Director Benjamin Caron has created a hugely cinematic ninety minutes filled with thrills and adventure that will likely make you clutch whatever furniture you are seated on extremely tightly. If it's the floor, you may bury your face in it.

There are of course some flaws, and we'll address those later, but for now it is vitally important to preserve the experience of seeing this episode with as little knowledge of the plot as possible. The pleasure of feeling wrong footed until the big revelations are dropped is by turns frustrating and exhilarating in equal measure. It is easily the best episode of the fourth series, and at risk of overhyping it the best episode since The Reichenbach Fall, with a wonderful, perfect ending that may or may not be as final as the title of the episode suggests.

Rest assured though, whatever your thoughts on what you see in this episode, there is no denying The Boys from Baker Street are back to their best.

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