Back in January, fans were still reeling from the explosive finale of Sherlock series four, which saw Benedict Cumberbatch’s sleuth taking on his mysterious sister Eurus in a game of wits across a variety of puzzles.
But despite all the high-stakes action, many viewers were most affected by a much quieter scene, when one of Sherlock’s challenges saw him compelled to make his friend Molly Hooper (Louise Brealey) declare her love for him over the phone to her obvious emotional distress.
Afterwards, series co-creator Steven Moffat said he believed that Molly would have taken the event in her stride, saying that the pair probably worked out the situation later and “she probably had a drink and went and shagged someone.”
“She gets over it!” he said. “Surely at a certain point you have to figure out that after Sherlock escapes, tells her, ‘I’m really sorry about that, it was a code, I thought your flat was about to blow up.’ And she says, ‘Oh well that’s okay then, you bastard.’ And then they go back to normal, that’s what people do.”
However, Brealey herself disagreed, telling fans on Twitter at the time that she believed the “impact of the scene” on Molly was more significant than Moffat had allowed for, and inspiring even more debate online.
Now, several months on we got the chance to catch up with Brealey about the furore – and it’s fair to say she thinks the whole thing was blown a bit out of proportion.
“I was cycling across Cambodia, as you do, when that came out,” Brealey, who currently stars in new Channel 4 sitcom Back, told RadioTimes.com. “I was very sweaty and covered in mud, and not paying that much heed. But obviously I was curious about how [the episode] was being received and blah blah blah.
“And there was a whole sort of internet thing of… I’m tentatively thinking about the hornet’s nest I’m about to kick up. The whole internet thing about whether Molly had been treated right by ‘The Writers.’
“[Fans] were annoyed I think that she was made to say she loved him. And I just thought it was a great scene, I just wanted to do the scene. And she does love him, as far as I’m concerned, so that was kind of alright.”
But the online debate only increased after Moffat made the comments to Entertainment Weekly about Molly and Sherlock’s relationship, with the series co-creator contacting Brealey to apologise after his words began to attract attention.
“Steven called me, actually, after people had picked up on what he’d said,” Brealey recalled. “And left me a message, which I got in my hostel, in Kampong Chhnang.
“And it was basically him saying ‘Look, I got the hump. And I just said something. I hope it hasn’t upset you.’
“And I wrote to him and said, ‘It hasn’t upset me mate.’”
Louise Brealey with Benedict Cumberbatch in Sherlock
However, Brealey stands by her position on the scene from The Final Problem, which she believes was of greater importance to Molly’s character than Moffat suggested.
“I do totally and utterly disagree with him,” she told us. “But as I said in my tweet responding to this, he’s totally entitled to his opinion.
“To be honest, I thought ‘that’s Steven getting the hump’, so he’s got the hump with the question. So I didn’t remotely think ‘How could you say such a thing about my character?’
“I just thought, ‘oh Steven’s got the arse… he’s annoyed. With the question, and the fact that people are asking the question’.”
“I don’t know who gets dibs on it,” Brealey added. “He writes me, but I am her. So whoever. We’ll have to squabble it out. But I don’t think he even thought that to be honest. He just was being grumpy, which is, you know, fair enough. He’s a human being. He’s allowed!
“So yeah, that was all, really. Nothing particularly to see here.”
So there you have it – everyone’s still friends, and we can probably now put this story to bed for the rest of our lives. Or until the fifth series of Sherlock starts airing, whichever comes first.
Louise Brealey stars in Back on Channel 4 on Wednesdays at 10:00pm