Doc On The Box – Sherlock 4.2 – The Lying Detective

Culverton Smith is a much loved philanthropist. But he has a dark side – a prediliction towards serial killing. Or does he? When his daughter calls on the help of Sherlock, she finds that he’s not exactly in a good place. John Watson has chosen a life away from Sherlock and Sherlock himself has not so much fallen off the wagon, rather he has dived off it head first – and landed in a big pile of drugs. Needless to say, he’s not exactly at his best at exactly the time that he needs to be.


More than ever, Sherlock needs the help of his friends, but he seems determined to isolate himself. But as whatever game he is playing seems to be backfiring, and with absolutely no evidence of Smith’s guilt, Sherlock seems to be in serious trouble – and that’s before the East wind blows into town…

Episode Two of the fourth series of Sherlock and this time we’re taking The Dying Detective as the source material. And, a little surprisingly, just like the previous episode, it follows the main plot of the story pretty closely, with the primary exception that Sherlock isn’t faking his… health issues. But that’s just the start of the shenanigans, as Moffat pulls off a stunning piece of misdirection with this episode, possibly the best trick the series has ever played. Seriously, did anyone spot it?

But let’s not overlook the performances here. Cumberbatch is really let off the leash here, and grasps the opportunity with both hands, giving one of his strongest performances yet, but it’s important not to overlook Martin Freeman here, with his channelling of John’s pain proving to be utterly convincing, especially in his scenes with SPOILER, who I thought gave her best performance here too.

una-stubbsBut apart from the leads, the chameleonic Toby Jones delivers a stunning performance as the repellant Smith, a character who could easily have fallen into caricature. The rest of the regulars deliver their usual strong solid performances (although can we have some more Molly – please?) but huge plaudits for Una Stubbs who seizes her chance to utterly steal every scene Mrs Hudson is in. I know she does this in every episode, but she gets some great scenes to steal in this episode.

Yes, I know some people are a bit narked about Sherlock being near psychic in some of his predictions while failing to recognise… someone, but this was an outstanding piece of television and I’m more than willing to excuse the odd plot hole. And with that ending… next Sunday can’t come soon enough.

So, as ever, if you’re a fan and haven’t seen it yet, stay away from basically ever other review that just can’t help spoiling something, and watch this as soon as possible. And then start counting the minutes until next Sunday evening… Highly Recommended.


  1. Still unsure what I make of the episode. Did feel a bit too off the wall for me, particularly the final twist shall we say. Equally is it just me or does Toby Jones’ northern accent slip at times?


  2. We thought this one was pretty fab too (and, as an aside, agree that SPOILER’s performance was her best yet). After the disappointment of last week, this was a mighty relief.

    Interesting you should say Toby Jones was “chameleonic.” When I described him to Pam as one of our finest actors, she couldn’t remembered having seen him in anything. Two or three movie titles later, she got bored of saying, “Oh, that was him?” What a contrast between Culverton Smith and, say, T.H. Huxley or Truman Capote . . .

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This was one of the best, trickiest episodes (though it took a while to get going). I recognized Toby Jones as the well-intentioned but ultimately malevolent mastermind of Wayward Pines (don’t recall seeing him in anything else). As brilliantly done as this episode was, there’s something about the series that just doesn’t sit well with me. It’s unpleasant for reasons I can’t put my finger on. But I can’t wait for the next ep.


  4. I thought this was a good episode and a vast improvement on last week and was paced quite well.
    Having said that, I think people’s reservations, as usual, are quite sound – for a plot revolving around a serial killer, there’s a conspicuous absence of death, particularly as there’s never truly any doubt that Smith is guilty.
    I think we will find out next why just why Sherlock did not recognize SPOILER.


  5. Thank you for this. I wasn’t going to watch Sherlock at all because of some negative stuff I read, but because of you I did. I finished the first and am halfway through this one. Excellent writing and acting. Thanks again.


  6. Just watched it. It WAS a hundred times better than last week. The fact is, The Dying Detective doesn’t comprise much, and this one managed to take that fact and spin it out of bloody control. That climactic scene between Holmes and Watson was truly lovely, a wonderful finale to the episode . . . except I kept thinking there’s more time left! And then – holy hell! Yes, it doesn’t always stick together, but this was a fascinating reversal. I love being bamboozled! I really do!


  7. Yeah, I loved this — great stuff, even if we are fast approaching the penumbra of “Ohno Sherlock’s in so much trouble oh wait it turns out he was in control the whole time and it’s just a ploy to lure the bad guy” plots. And the whole issue of how Sherlock didn’t recognise SPOILER — well, he was off his nuts on drugs — is surely eclipsed by the fact that Mycroft says he gets regular updates on OTHER SPOILER but they’ve clearly been free to do whatever they like for at least half of the events of episode one onwards…which is quite a long time, by all accounts…so, like, who’s been telling Mycroft what? How did he — with all his power and influence — not know?

    But, bah, it’ll eiher be addressed or it won’t. This is still the best-scripted and most entertainingly plotted thing on TV at present; and best acted too: Freeman was simply amazing in this episode, Cumberbatch, you’re right, ran away with the chance he was given, Jones was awesome as usual, Stubbs was light and hilarious and then suddenly switched in a heartbeat…goddamn, we are lucky to have so much talent crammed into a mere 90 minutes!


    • Oh, and here’s hoping they don’t Daemons’ Roost Culverton Smith and bring him back as some lousy tertiary villain in about five years from now (which, given the current schedule, would is probably when the next series is due to air…)


  8. It was enjoyable, I don’t think Sherlock is the best thing on TV. Jonathan Creek and Death in Paradise are much, much better, in my view.


    • We worked out the entire main twist between us, which I’m quite pleased with, but that did involve pausing halfway through to make some tea and talk about it, and Googling potential names. I don’t think I’d have got the whole thing on my own.

      I thought this was much better than last week’s (which I still quite liked), although I could have done without so much ghost/delusion bunkum for John. A little too loose to match the peak of the series (Study in Pink/Scandal in Bohemia) but maybe top 3 episodes, and a very clever adaptation of the source material.

      I also found it odd there wasn’t really any setup for who Culverton Smith was. Other than the ad they were making and some deliberately disorienting clips when Sherlock was high, I didn’t really understand what kind of entertainer he was. Of course beloved British entertainers having a (very) dark side is sadly all too believable, and I assume Saville was the main inspiration. But by ONLY showing us the dark side I found it hard to imagine why anyone would like him at all.

      At the risk of seeming out-of-touch and curmudgeonly, I increasingly find that modern films/film-length TV episodes cut out a lot of the establishing work for characters and plots, especially villains.

      Liked by 1 person

      • You go right ahead and curmudge away! I agree with your point entirely! Comparing the original Upstairs Downstairs to Downton Abbey: the former felt no need to hurry. Two characters might have a leisurely conversation just so you could get to know them better. The cumulative effect over the course of the series was fabulous. DA covered WWI in three episodes. Compare Joan Hickson’s Marple to the newer ones. The first is more faithful to the source material, while the second is evidence of the dwindling of our attention spans. There! I’m a bigger curmudgeon than you!

        The dazzling visual speed with which the Sherlock stories are told is part of its fun, and the adaptations of the original stories are hit and miss but very clever – sometimes a little TOO clever for me.


  9. Best episode to incorporate Mrs Hudson! She was never all that much part of the series until this episode. I’ve always loved Una Stubbs. Saw her in the original company of CURIOUS INCIDNET OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHTTIME (via the miracle of National Theater Live! shown in movie theaters). Delightful, heartfelt performance. And here she shines just as you outline above. She gives SHERLOCK its much needed warmth and soul. Loved it when she told off Mycroft. Loved the wild ending of this episode. As for the trick (so reminiscent of Agatha Christie at her best) — it succeeds perfectly because of brilliant casting and the way a certain character was filmed…or not filmed, as is more often the case. This certainly gives the writers fuel for another full season which I understand is already in the works.

    Liked by 1 person

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