Sherlock – what a finale!

Nail-biting tension and great acting from Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman and Andrew Scott make this episode unmissable

SPOILER ALERT – don’t read any further unless you have already seen the the final episode of Sherlock!

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So, that’s it over, then. The last Sherlock has just aired and I’m feeling as shaky as poor Watson was by the end of it. Elsewhere on RadioTimes.com, deputy TV editor David Butcher is demanding a longer run when the series returns (as it surely must). But if every episode was as tense as this one, I’m not sure my heart could stand it!

You’d guessed that one of the wired-up hostages was going to blow, hadn’t you? It was just a matter of waiting to see which one. I’m sure by now there are plenty of ladies (and probably a few blokes) out there who’d be willing to risk their lives to impart a vital clue to the delectable Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes – and our blind OAP proved no exception.

Also, you probably suspected Moriarty would put in an appearance long before anyone on screen dared to mention his name. But when the reveal came, wasn’t it brilliant? Even though you’d thought at the time there was something odd about giving the forensic scientist’s camp boyfriend screen time, I bet you put it to the back of your mind, what with everything else that was going on (no shame in that – even Sherlock didn’t twig).

One of the things I’ve loved about Sherlock is the way it drops clues for the audience (though not being anywhere near as smart as Holmes, it’s usually 90 minutes in before I realise what the writers have done).

In Steven Moffat’s opening episode, for example, there were plenty of pointers to the true identity of the mysterious character played by Mark Gatiss, but right to the end I still found myself thinking, “That cheeky Mark Gatiss has only gone and awarded himself the plum role of Moriarty!” when in actual fact he had, of course, awarded himself the no-less-peachy role of Mycroft.

But whomever they cast, they certainly needed a strong actor for Moriarty – not only because he’s one of fiction’s most famous archenemies, but also because he needed to be credible opposite the sure-footed Cumberbatch. I’d wondered if they’d enlist a big name, but Andrew Scott was the perfect choice – so light on his acting feet he was practically dancing. The fact he sounded a bit like Graham Norton at times just made him all the more unsettling a presence.

Along with the nail-biting tension and some judiciously scattered nuggets of humour, Gatiss’s script also gave the two central characters room to develop. Despite his insistence on cold logic, were those fleeting glimpses of horror and disgust we saw cross Sherlock’s face as he registered Moriarty’s choice of ever more vulnerable hostages? Watson’s sense of anger at Holmes had never been more palpable, yet his willingness to sacrifice himself to save the world’s only consulting detective shows how deeply their friendship now runs.

David Butcher calls for more strong women characters in the next series and ordinarily I’d agree. But not this time. While I’d certainly love to see more of the brilliant forensic scientist Molly (beautifully played by Louise Brealey), I don’t think we should be trying too hard to make the series fit some sort of PC ideal by drafting in a bunch of right-on ladies to banter with the chaps.

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Sherlock’s strength – as with Conan Doyle’s stories – lies in the extraordinary friendship between Holmes and Watson. It’s at the heart of every one of their adventures. And when it leads to drama as thrilling, challenging and witty as this, why mess with a winning formula?