‘Sherlock’ Recap and Reaction: “The Final Problem”

Graham Host

Sherlock has thrown us some curve balls over the last seven years but none as thrilling as “The Final Problem“. Acting from beyond the grave, Jim Moriarty has unleashed the psychotic hidden Holmes sibling, Eurus and now is the time for family secrets to be unburied. But the trials ahead may finally do what many have tried, and all have failed – beat Sherlock Holmes and John Watson.


On an entire plane of passengers, only one scared little girl is awake to answer a ringing phone. Moriarty is calling to announce the final problem. Simply hearing Andrew Scott’s voice is enough to raise shivers before we cut to Mycroft watching old films. Somebody has altered his reels to display old family films finished with the blunt message ‘I’m back’. Herded around his home by mysterious apparitions, bleeding paintings and a clown, it comes out that Sherlock and Watson were behind everything, to prove the existence of the third Holmes child. It’s a fitting reminder that Sherlock – appearing in deerstalker for possibly the last time – can out-think everyone else when partnered with Watson.

Benedict Cumberbatch Sherlock wearing deerstalker hat

Despite being a genius, Sherlock is also childish. After blackmailing his brother to come to 221B Baker Street, the deductive duo then refuse to speak to their client until he sits in the chair. Mrs. Hudson – once again proving to be the shining star of Sherlock – offers Mycroft (the man behind the entire government) tea, only to point him to the kettle. Finally sat down together, the truth comes out about Eurus.

When Mycroft tries to force John out for family reasons, Sherlock is even more adamant that he stay for the same reason. With their lengthy history together, it appears John is more his brother than Mycroft. As for Eurus, one year Sherlock’s junior, she was as genius to Mycroft as he is to normal people. She was also insane – she is unable to distinguish pain from pleasure and once drowned Sherlock’s dog, Redbeard, and burned down the Holmes family home before the family had her committed.


Eurus sounds every bit as evil as Moriarty yet every bit as cunning as Sherlock – a fearsome combination. Under the directions of Uncle Rudy – the only member of the Holmes family to not appear – her death was faked, and Eurus secured in the world’s tightest prison. Whoever has been targeting Sherlock and Watson cannot possibly be Eurus. Well, the drone with motion-sensitive explosives seems to put that idea to rest. Their only hope is for Mrs. Hudson to finish hoovering and leave the house before they make a break for it. Ending in a terrific explosion, 221B Baker Street goes out in a blaze of glory.

Transitioning to a small fishing boat, Sherlock Holmes suddenly appears on the roof of the cabin. Well, not Sherlock the Detective, but Sherlock the Pirate. Launching a small attack on the Sherrinford prison, Watson, and a mysterious elderly sailor are captured. Except the governor knows Mr. Holmes is hiding beneath the face. In keeping with the constant unexpected plot twists, it actually is Mr. Holmes under the beard and false nose – Mr. Mycroft Holmes. Considering his refined and polished ways, Mycroft joining the gang is a much-loved extension to the team. Infiltrating the secure unit as a guard, Sherlock finally meets Eurus.

Family Reunion

Somehow, Eurus deduces that her visitor is Sherlock without even turning around from playing her violin. It comes out that she taught Sherlock his love for music – another key trait of himself that was once hers. As John, Mycroft and the governor talk, it is horrific to hear that one of Eurus’ doctors was told to kill his family. Pushing the point, Mycroft learned that he actually did. Anybody who talks to the youngest Holmes child is programmed to her whims. Determined to save his friend, Watson uses their emergency codeword “Vatican Cameos” only for Sherlock to take out his earpiece.

Despite being seen as the least intelligent of the group, John Watson is also the most undervalued. As Mycroft berates the governor for underestimating Eurus’ powers of ‘programming’, John realizes that the governor’s voice is on the tape talking with Eurus. Red Alert is triggered as the architect of the entire disaster reveals himself – Jim Moriarty.

Miss him?


Greeted by the governor himself, Jim lands on Sherrinford to meet Mycroft Holmes – five years ago. In exchange for aiding Mycroft in his governmental duties, Eurus demands five minutes conversation with Moriarty. It is honestly disturbing how much they match.

Trapped in Eurus’ repaired cell, John awakens in the company of Sherlock, Mycroft, and the governor. Eurus has The Governor’s wife hostage and offers a Faustian bargain – she will not kill the governor’s wife if either Mycroft or John kills the Governor. For some reason, Mycroft is terrified of killing, so John takes the weapon. It is a horrible situation, being both a soldier and a doctor, and John cannot carry out his task. Grabbing the gun, the governor takes his own life but because it was not John or Mycroft the wife dies next. Despite the insane criminal mind, it has a vein of logic.


With only one bullet left, the group is sent to complete a series of challenges. Their first challenge is solving the murder of ‘Evans’ who was killed at 300 meters by one of three brothers. The murder weapon was a powerful buffalo gun – a nice reference to The Adventure of the Empty House, in which Holmes was targeted for murder with a similar weapon. As there are rarely any direct consequences to Sherlock’s actions, Eurus dangles all three suspects outside the window. As soon as Sherlock makes a deduction, the other two are dropped first, to prove killing the innocent means nothing. Only by using John’s insistence that they are soldiers for the day does Sherlock force them all onward.

Love Conquers All

Having been given one minute with the girl on the plane, Mycroft whispers that they may have to have her crash the plane. Their next puzzle is who owns the coffin in the room. Both of the Holmes brothers come to the conclusion that it belongs to somebody who is practical about death and sees there is no need to waste any money. The label on the coffin reads “I Love You”. A woman who loves Sherlock but is alone and practical about death? It can only mean Molly Hooper.

If he can get her to admit her love without alarming her, she will survive the explosives placed in her flat. It is absolutely excruciating seeing him press her to say the words. She is already having a bad day and knows he is taken by Irene Adler/The Woman. It’s only by saying he loves her that she returns the favor. Though he saves her, Eurus wanted to torture her brother with emotion and succeeded. Finally stepping down his emotional control, Sherlock smashes the coffin with his bare hands.

Their next task is the most brutal yet – Sherlock must kill either John or Mycroft. Playing on John’s duties as a soldier, Mycroft nominates the doctor to the beyond. But his constant mocking and derision have an alternative use – to make Sherlock hate him. A gentleman to the end, he straightens his tie and reveals the meeting between Moriarty and Eurus. Throwing the game, Sherlock points the gun to his own head instead. Much like John said at his grave, he is the most human person. But Eurus isn’t going to let them out that easy and tranquillizes all three.


Inside another cell, Sherlock is connected to the little girl on the plane and John in a large well. Mycroft is nowhere to be found. Also in the well with John are several small bones. As he tries talking the young girl through finding a radio, Sherlock realizes that the wall he is staring at is fake and the entire side collapses outwards. Quite embarrassingly, an extra’s hand can be seen in the background as Cumberbatch strides out and the other walls fall. A few bits of string would have worked better.

Back at Musgrave, Eurus challenges him to solve her riddle as the plane starts falling and water begins filling John’s well. But there is one last lie to destroy – Daddy Holmes is allergic to dogs. Redbeard was the best friend of young Sherlock Holmes, born Victor Trevor. In a moment of utter grief, the answer finally comes to the broken man – Eurus used the family gravestones near the house as part of her riddle. It was a cry for help – the plane is Eurus’ mind palace. Because she is so much better than anybody, she imagines herself as trapped on a plane, unable to land where normal people live. It makes for the perfect example of alternative thinkers and people with needs or disabilities. Sherlock manages to reach through, and she helps him save John.


Calling the parents in, a freshly saved Mycroft reveals the truth to his parents. But the truth came too late – Eurus has slipped beyond all contact. All, of course, except Sherlock Holmes. People say that music bridges gaps and it is certainly true here. By playing his own unique song, Eurus reacts to his presence by playing her piece. As their music overlays the video, John and Sherlock set about fixing 221B Baker Street. During some visits to his sister, Sherlock is accompanied by his parents. Back at home, a new DVD arrives for John – ‘Miss You’. This is Mary’s P.S. She knows exactly who they both are, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is the legend of Watson and Holmes and solving their impossible cases. If this is really the last episode of Sherlock, it was damn near perfect.


  • Keeping secrets from family is rarely deadly, but the Holmes’ take everything to the extremes.
  • Although ‘Sherrinford’ began as a planned version of Sherlock and was later his oldest brother, Eurus is easily the most ingenious yet. Hats off to Gatiss, Moffat, and Vertue.
  • Seeing Scott take on Moriarty once more was an unexpected delight. Just when there can be no more surprises, there they are.
  • The use of emotion in this episode is quite amazing on all accounts. Sherlock is usually as emotional as his brother, but both really went the full distance.
  • Whilst not the kindest ending to Eurus, it certainly makes one wonder just how far away are the differently abled? Throughout the episode, Eurus – in the plane – finds herself slowly getting closer to Sherlock – represented by London – as she believes that he is learning to use emotion in his deductions. But at the end where he turns her in, she realizes that nobody else is like her and simply keeps flying.
  • Well, that may very well be it for Sherlock. Just remember once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be true. Just because we don’t know of another chapter does not make it impossible.
Graham Host is a member of the Fan Contributor program. In his spare time, he enjoys the works of Terry Pratchett, DC Comics and a wide assortment of video games. Under no circumstances should he be fed after midnight.
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