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The Lying Detective

"The Lying Detective" is the second episode of the fourth series of the British television series Sherlock and the twelfth episode overall. The episode was first broadcast on BBC One, BBC First, PBS and Channel One[1][2] on 8 January 2017.

"The Lying Detective"
Sherlock episode
Episode no.Series 4
Episode 2
Directed byNick Hurran
Written bySteven Moffat
Based on"The Adventure of the Dying Detective"
by Arthur Conan Doyle
Produced bySue Vertue
Featured music
Original air date8 January 2017 (2017-01-08)
Running time89 minutes
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
← Previous
"The Six Thatchers"
Next →
"The Final Problem"
List of Sherlock episodes


Sherlock remains distant to John Watson, who is still grieving over the death of his wife, Mary ("The Six Thatchers"). John, who is seeing a new therapist, conceals the fact that he is having hallucinations of Mary. Culverton Smith, a prominent entrepreneur and philanthropist, gathers close colleagues, including his daughter, Faith, to confess that he is going to kill somebody. But before he does so, he forcibly subjects them to a medical serum that inhibits memory causing them not to remember his confession. Despite that, Faith is able to remember fragments shortly afterwards and writes them down on a sheet of paper. She comes to Sherlock, who has started abusing drugs again to the point of suffering from their side effects, with the sheet of paper saying that there was a name – one word – that shook her. Sherlock dismisses her case as being too weird and refers her to Scotland Yard. Before she leaves, Sherlock realises that Faith is suicidal, and offers to walk with her around London at night. Meanwhile, Mycroft tracks Sherlock's unusual movement across the city, even calling John out of concern, and accidentally slips an implication of another Holmes sibling. Sherlock and Faith walk all night, and the following morning, he decides to take her case on. Sherlock is momentarily overwhelmed by the side effects of his drug use and, upon gathering himself, finds Faith gone. As Sherlock stumbles his way back to his flat, he realises that the 'one name' was "anyone".

Sherlock becomes inexplicably obsessed with Smith, but his drug-addled antics frighten Mrs. Hudson, who effectively subdues him. Mrs. Hudson races with an intoxicated and bound Sherlock in the boot of her Aston Martin Vantage S to see John while he is at his therapist's house for a session. Sherlock accuses Smith of being a serial killer and asks John to help bring him down. Much to John's shock and annoyance, the arrival of a car sent by Smith, and of Molly Hooper with an ambulance to his therapist's house at the exact time, were all prearranged by Sherlock two weeks prior, even before John had chosen his new therapist.

Sherlock and John arrive at a studio to meet with Smith, after which the latter takes them to visit a new hospital wing for which he had been a major donor. He subtly hints to Sherlock and John at being a serial killer while meeting with a group of children at the hospital. Smith continues to give them a tour of the hospital by taking Sherlock and John down to his 'favourite room', the mortuary, whilst repeatedly referring to the American serial killer H. H. Holmes. John asks Smith how he moves through all of the rooms freely, to which Smith replies that he has keys to the hospital. Sherlock tries to goad Smith into a confession just as Faith arrives, having been texted by Sherlock from Smith's phone. But upon seeing her, Sherlock realises that she was not the woman who had come to his flat a few weeks earlier. Frustrated and suffering from withdrawal, Sherlock moves to attack Smith with a scalpel, but is stopped by John. John attacks Sherlock out of anger, and blames him for Mary's death.

Sherlock is admitted into Smith's hospital, where John pays him one last visit. Sherlock is then visited by Smith, who enters the room through a secret door. Sherlock states that he wishes for Smith to kill him, despite his fear of death which was asserted in the Series Three episode "His Last Vow", and Smith complies after confessing to his murders. Unknown to him, the events were part of Sherlock's elaborate plot to expose Smith and fulfill Mary's last wish for Sherlock to "save John" by "going to Hell" ("The Six Thatchers"). Acting on Mary's orders, Sherlock puts himself in harm's way so that John would be compelled to rescue him, thus mending their broken friendship and "saving" himself. After seeing Mary's video for himself back at 221B Baker Street, John rushes to the hospital and arrives just in time to pull Smith off the suffocating Sherlock. Believing that he would be able to get away without proof of his confession, Smith is surprised when Sherlock reveals a recording device hidden in John's old walking stick which John had left behind earlier. John reconciles with Sherlock, telling him that he no longer blames him for Mary's death. He also confesses to Sherlock that he had cheated on her by texting with another woman. Sherlock comforts him as he weeps, and John's hallucinations of Mary finally disappear.

During John's next session, his therapist reveals that she was the one who had pretended to be both Faith and the woman with whom John had been texting. Holding John at gunpoint, she reveals herself to be Eurus, Sherlock and Mycroft's secret sibling. (She explains that Eurus is Greek for the east wind.) As John attempts to leave, Eurus pulls the trigger.


The episode was based loosely on the Doyle short story "The Adventure of the Dying Detective".[3] The villain, Culverton Smith, was loosely based on disgraced British entertainer and charity fundraiser Jimmy Savile, who was a BBC icon.[4] Sam Wolfson of The Guardian noted that the Savile-esque character must have caused consternation behind the scenes at the BBC. Wolfson gave "a respectful nod to the BBC," writing, "There must have been some unease in the corporation about having an episode in their flagship drama series in which a beloved public figure... uses his position of power and fame to commit monstrous crimes."[5]

Broadcast and receptionEdit

The episode received positive reviews from critics. Kaite Welsh of IndieWire graded "The Lying Detective" an A+, particularly the plotline of Sherlock descending into drug addiction: "He really does turn his kitchen into a meth lab, he is weeks away from death and hallucinating. It's the flip side of the genius that carries the show."[4]

Vox rated the episode 3.5/5 stars.[6] Sean O'Grady of The Independent gave the episode 4/5 stars, describing it as "Rarely can drama have come so morbidly loaded as last night's Sherlock, and rarely carry so much morbid fascination for the viewer".[7] IGN gave the episode a good rating with a 7/10, describing it as "hampered by another unsatisfying case and some odd story beats".[8]

Allison Shoemaker of The A.V. Club praised the episode and the story, grading it a B+, writing, "'The Lying Detective' does what it does so dazzlingly well that it's easy to overlook its misses... It's got a couple of good twists, some familiar to readers of the stories and others not. It's affecting and funny and moving and smart, and in short, a great script. But just because something checks all the right boxes doesn't mean it totally works, and Steven Moffat's script falls a bit flat where it really counts. It's as if he's blinded to the big picture by his own considerable gifts. This is a great Sherlock/Watson story with time to spare for everything but them."[9]


  1. ^ Moskvitin, Egor (1 January 2017). ""Шерлок": что мы знаем о четвертом сезоне" [Sherlock: what do we know about the fourth series]. Meduza (in Russian). Retrieved 9 January 2017.
  2. ^ Soshin, Dmitry (1 January 2017). "Первый канал начинает показ нового сезона британского сериала "Шерлок"" [The fourth series of Sherlock on Channel One]. Channel One (in Russian). Retrieved 9 January 2017.
  3. ^ Mellor, Louisa; Leane, Rob (25 September 2016). "Sherlock series 4: first 2 episode titles revealed". Den of Geek. Retrieved 25 September 2016.
  4. ^ a b Welsh, Kaite (9 January 2017). "Sherlock Review: The Lying Detective Has Most Terrifying Villain Yet". IndieWire. Retrieved 9 January 2017.
  5. ^ Wolfson, Sam (9 January 2017). "Sherlock recap: series four, episode two – The Lying Detective". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 January 2017.
  6. ^ Romano, Aja (9 January 2017). "Sherlock season 4, episode 2: "The Lying Detective" is the show at its best and worst". Vox. Retrieved 9 January 2017.
  7. ^ O'Grady, Sean (9 January 2017). "Sherlock season 4 episode 2 review: Detective drama takes a morbid turn". The Independent. Retrieved 9 January 2017.
  8. ^ Krupa, Daniel (8 January 2017). "Sherlock: "The Lying Detective" review". IGN. Retrieved 9 January 2017.
  9. ^ Shoemaker, Allison (9 January 2017). "Sherlock observes, but doesn't see, in a thrilling but overcrowded episode". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 9 January 2017.

External linksEdit