Sherlock’s Biggest Problem Was Its Season Finale Cliffhangers

Sherlock’s Biggest Problem Was Its Season Finale Cliffhangers

While the BBC show Sherlock was an exceptional version of the iconic detective, its weakest point was the resolutions to its season finale cliffhangers. Sherlock was known for leaving its dedicated audience shocked with its season endings. The resolutions to these cliffhangers wouldn’t be seen for years as the show was notorious for its years-long stretches between seasons.


As the seasons went on, the stakes of the cliffhangers kept going up, and audiences kept falling down rabbit holes of theories to figure out what had happened to Sherlock, John, and the show’s other intelligent characters. However great these cliffhangers were, the resolutions provided in the subsequent season premieres always ended up being lackluster and rushed. In reflection, these resolutions ended up ruining one of the best aspects of the series, at least until the final season.

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Related: Why Sherlock Fans Thought There Was A Secret Season 4 Episode


Sherlock’s Cliffhangers Were Great – The Resolutions Weren’t

The season finale cliffhangers for Sherlock seasons 1, 2, and 3 all left audiences on the edge of their seats. Season 1 ended with the episode “The Great Game,” in which Sherlock and John solved a series of cases linked to Moriarty. The episode ended with the three characters facing off at a pool and Sherlock pointing a gun at an active bomb, leaving it unknown whether he ended up pulling the trigger. However, at the beginning of “A Scandal in Belgravia,” the first episode of season 2, Irene Adler inadvertently saved Sherlock and John by calling Moriarty away.

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In the season 2 finale, “The Reichenbach Fall,” Sherlock is backed into a corner by Moriarty and seemingly kills himself, leaving John distraught. However, in the last few moments of the episode, Sherlock is seen watching John at his gravestone from afar, revealing that Sherlock is, in fact, alive and well. This sparked hundreds of theories on how Sherlock faked his death. However, when season 3 aired, the first episode, “The Empty Hearse,” shows multiple solutions to how Sherlock survived the fall, most of which are either inexplicable or debunked, and it is never actually confirmed how Sherlock faked his death.

The finale of season 3, “His Last Vow,” followed Sherlock and John’s efforts to take down Charles Magnussen. To save John and his wife, Mary, Sherlock kills Magnussen, leading to his banishment from the country. Sherlock is on a plane towards a suicide mission when he is called back to England as Moriarty, who killed himself in season 2, has appeared on screens across the country with the message “Did you miss me?” Again, audiences created many different theories explaining how Moriarty came back, but the storyline was only briefly touched upon in the season 4 finale, “The Final Problem.” Sherlock’s sister Eurus Holmes revealed that Moriarty recorded himself saying many cryptic messages before he died.

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Why None Of Sherlock’s Big Cliffhangers Worked

The problem with Sherlock‘s cliffhangers was that the resolutions ranged from comedic to vague or were even outright ignored. While a funny joke at first, Moriarty changing his mind at the beginning of season 2 about dying with Sherlock at the pool now comes off as cheesy and rids the scene of all its tension. The cliffhangers from Sherlock seasons 2 and 3 were so big they led to countless theories, and then audiences were either given a boring answer or not given one at all. For a show known for its clever writing, this was a huge letdown, especially when the title character himself is known for wanting to explain every detail of how he solves these complex scenarios.

Related: Sherlock: The Moriarty Wasn’t Just One Person Theory Explained

Sherlock Season 4 Fixed Its Cliffhanger Problem

BBC Sherlock promo Sherlock John

The final episode of season 4, otherwise known as the Sherlock series finale, is the one exception to this rule. The episode follows Sherlock, John, and Mycroft Holmes, trying to escape from Eurus’s death game and succeeding. At the end of the episode, Sherlock and John are seen falling back into their old life at 221B Baker Street, solving crimes and raising baby Rosie Watson. A voice-over by Mary plays out the episode, with the last shot being Sherlock and John running off into danger.

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What makes this a great ending to the season and the series is that it leaves audiences not with giant, head-scratching cliffhangers but instead the possibility of what the next adventure is for the legendary Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. Audiences can read this as a happy ending or as a new beginning. Regardless, there are no lingering questions or plot threads that need to be delicately handled. Whether Sherlock season 5 is ever created or if this was truly the ending, audiences are left satisfied.

The BBC is known for taking traditional and iconic stories and reworking them for a modern audience, and Sherlock is arguably its most successful attempt. Sherlock remains a beloved show, and its iterations of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson have become classic. Looking back, it’s a shame that the series dropped the ball on the resolutions to their shocking cliffhangers. However, with the series finale, Sherlock managed to go out with a bang instead of a whimper.

Next: Sherlock’s Mind Palace Explained: Is It Really Possible?

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