After cheating death, Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch) encounters what is likely to be his most difficult challenge yet – delivering the best man toast at John Watson’s (Martin Freeman) wedding. How does our favourite, socially inept detective do?
Let’s bitch it out…
After such a strong return with last week’s Sherlock premiere, I have to admit I was a bit disappointed with ‘The Sign of Three’ and that’s primarily due to pacing of the episode’s central mystery. It isn’t until the episode second act (ish) that we discover there’s a killer amidst the wedding guests and the real sense of danger sinks in.
But the mystery isn’t really what’s important here. ‘The Sign of Three’ is about further exploring the relationship dynamics between Sherlock and Watson and what it means now that the two have openly acknowledged their deep and meaningful friendship. The wedding/best man nonsense is just the vehicle to which all these issues can be worked out. Furthermore, it’s a way to establish how Mary (Amanda Abbington), John’s future Mrs., will be integrated into the partnership going forward.
Don’t get me wrong – it’s not wholly bad that we’re getting more character development over yet another murder mystery, and who doesn’t love the comic gold that continues to churn out as Sherlock wrestles with his touchy-feely side? The problem is that the episode doesn’t fully commit to either the mystery or the relationship stuff, and ultimately it results in a lukewarm episode overall.
I can see the intended cleverness of introducing the bloody guardsman case, leaving it unresolved, and then finally tying it up with the murder attempt at the wedding so that we get the appropriate amounts of closure, but the execution just doesn’t work. Instead of feeling like an ingenious subversion of expectations, the guardsman’s murder functions more as an afterthought when the two disparate plot points eventually come together in the end. And although I’m sure it’s scientifically sound, it seems unbelievable that someone is able to walk around for hours after being fatally stabbed all because his belt was fastened tightly around the wound.
I can also appreciate how the best man speech is the through-line that ties it all together, and if anyone’s able to keep it consistent and interesting, Cumberbatch is certainly the MVP to do it. But even with Cumberbatch’s talents, I felt myself slowly inhabiting the facial expressions of the confused wedding guests as Sherlock continues with the never-ending speech. It creates the wrong kind of tension. I kept wondering why none of the guests, or even Watson for that matter, didn’t find a way to shut Sherlock up. The entire ordeal felt very claustrophobic and overly artificial, which made it difficult to keep my interest throughout.
Of course, I’ll take a mediocre episode of Sherlock over a triumphant offering of its American counterpoint Elementary, any day, but I’d have to say that ‘The Sign of Three’ is my least favourite episode of Sherlock to date.
- Despite the clunky ‘mystery’ narrative, the flashbacks that we get of Watson’s bachelor party are absolute gold. A Sherlock and Watson game of Hedbanz? Sherlock having a ‘Girls Gone Wild’ moment at a crime scene? Perhaps I should change my assessment of this episode – Drunk Sherlock makes any episode better.
- It was interesting to see a cameo by Irene Adler (Lara Pulver) as Sherlock tries to piece together the mystery, but ultimately it feels like a missed opportunity. Perhaps she’ll show up again in the next week’s finale (Yes – we’re already at finale time…)
- Further to that, I loved how Sherlock’s visualization of the multiple chat conversations is transposed into the parliamentary debate room. It’s abstract and artsy in all the right ways.
What did you think viewers? Did you love the episode and think that the fragmented mystery was a good way to go? Are you happy that it doesn’t look like Molly’s (Louise Brealey) engagement is gonna last? Do you think Watson Jr. will be a boy or a girl, and how will Sherlock fare as the inevitable godfather? Sound off in the comments below.
Sherlock delivers its third season finale at 10pm EST next Sunday on PBS.