MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW
During the final moments of Sherlock‘s series four premiere on Sunday, “The Six Thatchers” literally interpreted something Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories had always alluded to — but never quite said. That is to say, they killed off Mary Watson (Amanda Abbington) during Sherlock Holmes’ (Benedict Cumberbatch) confrontation with the person ultimately responsible for most of the episode’s mysteries. The culprit fires at the consulting detective and before John Watson (Martin Freeman) can do anything about it, Mary instinctively jumps in front of the bullet and goes down.
In a subsequent interview with Entertainment Weekly, series co-creator Steven Moffat admitted “it’s never established that she died in the stories.” Yet the writers opted for the divisive plot twist after reinterpreting one of Doyle’s passages, in which “Watson refers to his ‘sad loss’ which is probably a death but not necessarily.” Despite the clever explanation, however, critics and audiences alike were up in arms after Sunday’s broadcast on BBC in the United Kingdom and PBS in the United States.
The Guardian‘s Ralph Jones was especially perturbed by what he interpreted as Sherlock‘s move towards a more James Bond-like story:
Holmes uses science and a phenomenal application of logic to make sense of physical evidence. Unlike Bond, he is just about human enough to remind us of people we have met at parties. He is a nerd, not an action figure; a scientist, not a spy. But, as Sherlock‘s stakes have risen, and as the guns and assassins have multiplied, it is starting to feel worryingly like we are watching villains be taken to task by a mutation named Sherlock Bond.