Sherlock Is Back — & Breaking Our Hearts

Photo: Heartwood Films/Masterpiece.
Pictured: Rupert Graves, Amanda Abbington, Martin Freeman, Una Stubbs, Mark Gatiss, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Louise Brealey

Spoiler Alert: This article contains spoilers about the season 4 premiere of Sherlock. Read at your own risk.

Take heart, Cumber-whatever-you-want-to-call-yourselves. Benedict Cumberbatch is back as Sherlock Holmes, and unlike last year's letdown of Christmas special, he's not wasted on some Victorian-era flashback that turned out to all just be a dream. Nope, tonight's season 4 premiere was firmly rooted in the present-day and was (sob) all too real.

Mary Watson (Amanda Abbington) is dead. Not Sherlock Holmes dead or Irene Adler dead or even Moriarty dead (because at this point we're not sure what's going on with that guy). Like, actually dead. (This may be convenient for Abbington and co-star Martin "John Watson" Freeman given their just-announced breakup, but it's pretty upsetting for Holmes heads.)

Watson's missus had quite an episode. The beginning of "The Six Thatchers" saw the former secret agent giving birth to the couple's daughter, Rosamund Mary (remember that name). Before long, however, she'd turned up as a person of interest in Sherlock's latest case, which ultimately led to her fatal shooting.

Some backstory: Sherlock, conveniently exonerated for killing Charles Augustus Magnussen (Lars Mikkelsen) so he could pursue any and all leads pertaining to that bigger fish, Moriarty (Andrew Scott), spent the episode investigating the destruction of six busts depicting former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Sherlock correctly guessed that the culprit wasn't just someone railing against the Iron Lady's anti-union policies some three decades after the fact, but he got everything else wrong. The bust-breaking spree didn't link back to his arch-enemy Moriarty — they implicated his friend, Mary, the very person he'd vowed to protect.

Back before she was pretending to be a nurse who would end up marrying Sherlock's BFF, Mary was part of a four-member team of secret agents (A.G.R.A.) charged with rescuing hostages the British embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia six years ago. The mission fell apart, people died, and her former assassin pal, Ajay, now wants Mary dead as revenge for her "betrayal." Ajay, incidentally, was the one smashing up the Thatcher busts, because he'd hidden an incriminating memory stick in one of them.

Photo: Heartwood Films/Masterpiece.
Pictured: Sherlock (Cumberbatch) pursues a lead.
And thus, Mary is forced to trade late-night feeds for some Jason Bourne-style antics, including temporarily poisoning Sherlock, embarking on a trek across the world that was still totally undermined by a certain British detective, and facing off in a shootout with Ajay. He ends up dying, but not before letting it slip that the team had been betrayed by an Englishwoman who used the code word "amo."

It takes a couple of guesses, but Sherlock finally figures out who that Englishwoman was: the secret service's elderly, lollie-loving secretary, Vivian Norbury. Norbury spills all in an appropriately spooky confrontation with Sherlock, Mary, and the rest of the gang at the London Aquarium. Because she's got nothing better to do, we guess, she fires a shot at Sherlock. Mary heroically leaps over to take the bullet instead, then uses her final breaths to reveal her real first name (Rosamund Mary, the name of her daughter and the "R" in A.G.R.A.). Then she dies, prompting Watson to emit some mournful death bleats and get very, very angry at Sherlock for not keeping his vow to protect Mary. (Then again, Sherlock wasn't the one texting redheads on the sly, was he, Watson? Hmm?)

"Families fall out," Sherlock tells A.J. halfway through the episode, and that definitely seems to be the case. Mary is dead. Watson has shunned Sherlock. The detective can only seek therapy and puzzle out his latest mystery: how on earth to honor Mary's posthumous request that he "save John."

Rest in peace, Mary. You may have been slightly shady, but you didn't deserve death (or Watson's sleazy sexting).

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