16 Times Sherlock Drove Us All Crazy

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A Holmes family promotional shot from “Sherlock” Season 3, featuring Benedict Cumberbatch’s real life parents. (Photo: BBC)

When Benedict Cumberbatch’s Parents Played Sherlock’s Parents on the Show

The decision to cast Wanda Ventham and Timothy Carlton as Sherlock’s parents is clearly supposed to be a fun in-joke for fans. After all, they’re Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch’s parents in real life. And wasn’t it cute when they all shared a scene for a minute and a half during the Season 3 premiere? It’s a kind of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it in-joke that the show’s hardcore fans generally love.  It is a little bit eyeroll-inducing, to use Cumberbatch’s parents to play Sherlock’s parents just because they’re both rather well known British actors themselves. But in a throwaway scene like that, much can be forgiven. Unfortunately, that’s not all it was.

The Holmes parents are also an active part of the storyline in Season 3 finale “His Last Vow”.  We spend Christmas with the Holmes family, we watch Mum and Dad interact, and we learn that Sherlock basically considers them an ideal relationship. He pretty much brings John and Mary to visit just so that they can have a good model of a marriage to witness while they go through their own relationship troubles. And it raises an interesting question as well. How did these people – who really do seem quite nice and well adjusted – raise two (fairly emotionally damaged) children like Sherlock and Mycroft?

Sherlock is most definitely a “show about a detective” rather than a straight “detective show”.  It features defined character arcs and development, but it’s usually within the framework of an ongoing mystery. We’ve never interacted with the Holmes’ family dynamic to this point, before, and the sudden shift feels a bit strange. (And at this point, the meta-joke of including the Cumberbatch parents as the Holmes parents starts to feel a little … too meta, in many ways.) It also drags us even further away from the case of the moment, in a season where there are already like five other subplots going on.