I have a confession to make about series 3. I was forewarned by other Sherlock fans that series 3 was pretty bad compared to the first two. They were nice enough to not go into too much detail so I wouldn’t be too spoiled, but I guess there were some creative choices that didn’t sit well with the diehards. I even went back and did a rewatch of series 2 (which was a lot of digest) before going onto series 3 because I loved that so much. I must say, after watching series 3, again in a binge viewing format, I’m obviously alone in the wilderness. I LOVED it – every single episode. I definitely see why it put off the avid fans, but I considering I’ve never watched an adaption of Sherlock Holmes before, nor read the books, I was able to accept this new direction in creative license with great enthusiasm. If anything, series 3 has turned out to be my favorite.
But yes, I know. Series 3 stresses character development over the mysteries. Many thought the things that Sherlock did were wildly out of character. These stories do definitely stretch Sherlock into unchartered territory. But that’s the purpose of adaptations. The big Doyle stories were covered in the first two series so Moffatt and Gatiss had every right to take their established universe and expand on it. After all, this is not the traditional Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, so they can’t always follow the traditional paths. If you really look hard at the material we were given though, especially the scripting and story construction, Sherlock hits a whole new level of brilliance. This isn’t mostly the Mystery of the Week and I for one feel we’ve been given something wildly extraordinary. The Emmy voters obviously agree as well, since Sherlock won the most Emmy Awards of any other program this year, seven, and all of those for the controversial “His Last Vow.”
What I love most about series 3 is the character POV switches to Sherlock. That’s what makes it so different. The complexity of the character confounds us at times when seen through his own eyes. He isn’t all about the puzzle. He also loves his drama, and he will do whatever it takes to protect those that matter to him. It does take us by surprise.
I can probably better explain myself going through each episode though. Here’s my breakdown.
The Empty Hearse
My Reaction in a Nutshell: I LOVED this. How do you bring back an iconic hero from the dead? As we saw, Sherlock Holmes in his two years away became a big cult figure (death is usually a career move), gaining tons of fans that believed in him after his reputation was ruined. We see that he ended up being vindicated and cleared of wrong doing, and that Richard Brooks was a hoax of Moriarity after all. Anderson himself became the leader of the nuts, I mean avid fans known as The Empty Hearse, mostly to clear his conscience about wrongly accusing Sherlock in “The Reichenbach Fall” and driving him to suicide. He has the “action hero” theory worked out, complete with bungee cord and passionate kiss for Molly Hooper!
Anytime a show decides to take on the fandom culture, there are those that are going to hate it. It’s tricky territory, and definitely a playful tease of those that have made this show a huge worldwide success. But the craziness of fandom can be very, very funny (just ask Supernatural), and even though more time was devoted to it that most people’s liking in this episode, I thought it was perfect. The scene with the Scottish fan recounting her theory of Sherlock and Moriarity on the roof, resulting in the two foes snickering together over the hoax before sharing a kiss, had me on the floor rolling in tears of hysterics. Very few shows are ballsy enough to take on the taboo of slash fandom, and you really can’t truly dig at the craziness of fans without going there. However, I’m sure only a fraction of us really got the joke.
But hey, fandom aside, the main focus is clearly on Sherlock and John reuniting. Sherlock comes back to see that John has gotten on with his life, and is getting married. John’s reaction to Sherlock’s faked death was hilarious as well as tender, and it’s believable he needed the entire episode to get over it. All of these character dynamics ended up taking the place of a real case, but I didn’t mind.
Of course, they never really did answer the question of how Sherlock got off that roof, did they? That’s both extremely clever and incredibly infuriating. After all, this is a mystery themed show! We like our mysteries solved. So, for the sake of my own sanity, I’m believing Sherlock’s story that he told Anderson. It’s mostly right, and I did believe the part of the Sherlock looking body Molly found in the morgue. That’s how they got around seeing a body on the slab, like Lestrade mentioned early in the episode.
What Didn’t Work: Strangely, I didn’t like the end. Going out to face the press in the deerstalker was cute, but fell flat for me. Also, that awkward bit with Molly’s fiancée didn’t go over too well with me either. Not when we got such a sweet scene between her and Sherlock earlier.
Episode Highlight: It’s a blend of two scenes. It starts when they find the bomb, and Sherlock goes into his emotional breakdown pleading for John’s forgiveness. Sure, it’s obvious it’s an act, but John bought it and he gave Sherlock what he wanted. Then it’s all interrupted by Sherlock finally revealing to Anderson on camera what happened on the roof. Was he telling the truth? Who knows, but it’s a believable story and it’s the best one we’ll get. Then we go back to the train car, and Sherlock revealing that it was all a joke, debunking one of TV and film’s greatest myths. Bombs do come with an off switch! Yes, it’s an easy end to a case that didn’t get a lot of attention, but sometimes that’s life. It’s not all clever and diabolical. In this case it was really funny.
Although, one quick little scene gave me HUGE chills. It’s when Sherlock is back in London, embracing the city he left behind for the first time in two years. The granduer of Central London from the view of the rooftop never ceases to amaze me.
Mary: Oh, no! You’re…
Sherlock: Oh, yes.
Mary: Oh, my God.
Sherlock: Not quite.
Mary: You’re dead!
Sherlock: No. I’m quite sure. I checked.
Mrs. Hudson: Talk to John.
Sherlock: I tried talking to him. He made his position quite clear.
(John is shown in the exam room getting ready to do a prostate exam on a patient. While putting his glove on, his middle finger is extended).
Mrs. Hudson: What did he say?
John: Cough. (He tells his patient while doing the exam).
John: I’m definitely gonna kill you.
Sherlock: Oh please. Killing me, that’s so two years ago.
The Sign of Three
My Reaction in a Nutshell: LOVED it! This episode had tons of uncomfortable bits, but that was the whole point. Sherlock Holmes, master detective, was pushed way out of his comfort zone by having to be the best man at his best friend’s wedding. The results are like watching a train wreck. It’s gruesome, but you can’t look away. Watching Sherlock have to interact with other people, like wedding guests and family friends, is a compelling exercise. It’s also an exercise in sentiment, that underneath it all, when pushed, Sherlock really isn’t an ass. He can be a softie too, even though he doesn’t understand that speaking from his heart will evoke genuine emotional reactions in people (I died laughing over his “Did I do something wrong?” line during his speech.)
This episode out of the three was more focused on the mysteries, and using the backdrop of Sherlock’s best man speech to unfold the plots is quite a brilliant story telling device. But I also loved how Sherlock was overpreparing for the wedding per se, just because this meant a lot to him. He didn’t want to screw it up, even though he was so out of his league and knew it. It’s a big leap in maturity, isn’t it? (Napkin folding abilities aside).
What Didn’t Work: The pacing was slower and the story wasn’t always fluid, plus the dialogue at times really fell flat. Not a deal breaker though. I also didn’t care for the opener. Lestrade isn’t that dumb, is he?
Episode Highlight: It was that moment when all these random cases that Sherlock was sharing during his speech clicked and all came together. The slow motion drop of the champagne glass, which was pretty dramatic considering the actual time it took to click in his head was far less. It was a clever way to reveal that “A ha!” moment. Also, his vow at the end. That’s pretty damned important for what’s to come next.
However, the bachelor party gets honorable mention. Funny how those two are such lightweights and were smashed after a couple of hours! It was pretty funny to see what happened when those two tried to do a case drunk. Not howling funny, but very amusing. I so wish they made Mycroft play that game with them.
Mrs. Hudson: I’m bringing you your morning tea.
Sherlock: You bring me tea in the morning?
Mrs. Hudson: Well, where did you think it came from?
Sherlock: I don’t know. I just thought it sort of happened.
Mrs. Hudson: Your mother has a lot to answer for.
Sherlock: I know. I have a list. Mycroft has a file.
Sherlock: I confess at first I didn’t realize he was asking me. When I finally understood, I expressed to him that I was both flattered and surprised.
(Flashback to a stunned and speechless Sherlock)
Sherlock: I explained to hi that I’d never expected this request and I was a little daunted in the face of it.
(Flashback to a still stunned and motionless Sherlock)
Sherlock: I nonetheless promised that I would do my very best to accomplish a task which was – for me- as demanding and difficult as any I had ever contemplated. Additionally, I thanked him for the trust he placed in me…
(Present day John has a “I don’t remember this conversation” face. )
Sherlock: …and indicated that I was, in some ways, very close to being…moved by it.
(Flashback, Sherlock is still stunned and speechless).
Sherlock: It later transpired that I had said none of this out loud.
Sherlock: The point I’m trying to make is that I am the most unpleasant, rude, ignorant and all-around obnoxious arsehole that anyone could possibly have the misfortune to meet. I am dismissive of the virtuous, unaware of the beautiful, and uncomprehending in the face of the happy. So, if I didn’t understand I was being asked to be the best man, it is because I never expected to be anyone’s best friend. Certainly not the best friend of the bravest and kindest and wisest human being I have ever had the good fortune of knowing. John, I am a ridiculous man, redeemed only by the warmth and constancy of your friendship. But, as I’m apparently your best friend, I cannot congratulate you on your choice of companion. Actually, now I can.
Mary, when I say you deserve this man, it is the highest compliment of which I am capable. John, you have endured war, and injury, and tragic loss…so sorry again about the last one…so know this, today you sit between the woman you have made your wife and the man you have saved – in short, the two people that love you most in all this world. And I know I speak for Mary as well when I say we will never let you down, and we have a lifetime ahead to prove that.
John: If I try and hug him, stop me.
Mary: Certainly not.
Sherlock: Ah, yes, now on to some funny stories about John…(He sees several wedding guests are crying). What’s wrong? What happened? Why are you all doing that? John?
Mrs. Hudson: Oh, Sherlock!
Sherlock: Did I do it wrong?
John: No, you didn’t. Come here (he gives Sherlock a big hug).
Sherlock: I’ve never made a vow in my life, and after tonight I never will again. So, here in front of you all, my first and last vow. Mary and John: whatever it takes, whatever happens, from now on I swear I will always be there, always, for all three of you. Er, I’m sorry, I mean, I mean two of you. All two of you. Both of you, in fact. I’ve just miscounted.
His Last Vow
My Reaction in a Nutshell: Are you kidding, what didn’t I like? A massive LOVED IT from me. My favorite just a hair behind “Scandal In Belgravia.” It was brilliantly constructed from beginning to end. Steven Moffat definitely earned his Emmy Award with this script, because everything but the kitchen sink was thrown at us. Sherlock’s drug use finally got some exposure (he went off the wagon for a case?), he has a girlfriend (yes, we all had the same WTF??? reaction as John), he fakes an engagement, he gets shot, he dies, he comes back, he gravely injuries himself again because he has to solve the puzzle, and then he murders the villain in cold blood and is exiled from England for his actions…until that fake out ending. It was a lot to absorb. It had a ton of melodrama and sentiment, especially when John and Mary were concerned, and it was a stunning exercise of exactly how far Sherlock would go to protect those close to him (after all, he did make it his vow). Even cruelly tricking Janine was acceptable since she eventually benefitted from it.
I know, this one did ruffle some feathers. However, I think Sherlock shooting Magnussen wasn’t just for John and Mary’s sake. I think he believed he was doing Mycroft a big favor too. After all, Magnussen was using Sherlock to get to Mycroft, by way of harming John and Mary, and his closer relationship with his brother this series shows that Mycroft too plays an important part in Sherlock’s life. Their chat during their annual Christmas cigarette proves it! The guy had to be killed, and Sherlock would have rather pulled the trigger than let Mary do it. It also accents the prophecy from the very first episode. There are times when psychopaths find themselves on the other side. It also ties into his conversation with Moriarity on that rooftop about being on the side of angels. Plus, wasn’t that line epic? “Do your research. It’s high functioning sociopath. Merry Christmas.” It’s just brilliant, and the clues were always there.
What Didn’t Work: See above. Everything worked. Although, I would have been happier without the Moriarity fake out at the end, because emotionally everything was perfect when Sherlock flew away, but hey, that’s creative license. It wasn’t a deal breaker for me, and it’s possible TPTB were trying to spare audiences from another two years of excruciating cliffhanger agony. Besides, I have this feeling John is in on it this time and that twist was our big clue. That was hardly an emotional farewell for two best buds that supposedly weren’t ever going to see each other again, especially when Sherlock was going off on a suicide mission.
Episode Highlight: It’s hard for me to pick just one, but digging deep into Sherlock’s mind palace as he was dying from a gunshot wound was definitely the most daring and fascinating montage to watch. That’s an extremely unique way to show a guy getting shot. Even though he lost consciousness in three seconds real time, we got a long and shocking peek at what goes through that mind at extraordinary times. Sherlock went into the deepest, darkest recesses of his mind to survive and there was even a callback to the staircase from “A Study In Pink.” Strange that somehow he knew it would be Moriarity that would pull him through. It makes you wonder, was that intentional or accidental? Sherlock Holmes always keeps us guessing.
Although, one scene did make me cry. That was the confrontation scene at the Baker Street flat between John, Mary, and a barely functioning Sherlock, who knew he wasn’t well but wouldn’t do anything about it until all was square with the Watsons. Emotionally, all three of them just killed me.
Mary: What is that?
John: It’s a tyre lever.
John: ‘Cause there are loads of smackheads in there and one of them might need help with a tyre.
John: Are you concentrating yet?
Bill: You broke my arm!
John: No, I sprained it.
Bill: It feels squishy. Is it supposed to feel squishy? Feel that!
John: Yeah, it’s a sprain. I’m a doctor – I know how to sprain people.
John: That was Janine.
Sherlock: Yes, of course it was Janine. She’s Magnussen’s PA. That’s the whole point.
John: Did you just get engaged to break into an office?
Sherlock: Yeah. Stroke of luck, meeting her at your wedding. You can take some of the credit.
John: Jesus! Sherlock, she loves you.
Sherlock: Yes. Like I said, human error.
John: What are you going to do?
Sherlock: Well, not actually marry her, obviously. There’s only so far you can go.
John: So what will you tell her?
Sherlock: Well, I’ll tell her our entire relationship was a ruse to break into her boss’ office. I imagine she’ll want to stop seeing me at that point, but you’re the expert on women.
Mycroft: The East Wind is coming Sherlock. It’s coming to get you.
Janine: Sherlock Holmes, you are a back-stabbing, heartless, manipulative bastard.
Sherlock: And you, it turns out, are a grasping, opportunistic, publicity-hungry tabloid whore.
Janine: So we’re good then.
Sherlock: Yeah, of course.
Sherlock: You’re a man who couldn’t stay in the suburbs for more than a month without storming a crack den and beating up a junkie. Your best friend is a sociopath who solves crimes as an alternate to getting high…John, you are addicted to a certain lifestyle. You’re abnormally attracted to dangerous situations and people, so is it truly a surprise that the woman you’ve fallen in love with conforms to that pattern?
John: But she wasn’t supposed to be like that. Why is she like that?
Sherlock: Because you chose her.
John: The problems of your past are your business. The problems of your future … are my privilege.
(Tears begin to form in Mary’s eyes.)
John: It’s all I have to say. It’s all I need to know.
(He drops the pen drive onto the burning logs.)
John: No, I didn’t read it.
Mary: You don’t even know my name.
John: Is ‘Mary Watson’ good enough for you?
Mary: Yes! Oh my God, yes.
John: Then it’s good enough for me, too.
(They step together and hug each other tightly. She cries.)
John: All this does not mean that I’m not still basically pissed off with you.
Mary: I know, I know.
John: I am very pissed off, and it will come out now and then.
Mary: I know, I know, I know.
John: You can mow the sodding lawn from now on.
Mary: I do mow the lawn.
John: No, I do it loads.
Mary: You really don’t.
John: I choose the baby’s name.
Mary: Not a chance.
Sherlock: John, there’s something I should say, I’ve meant to say always then never have. Since it’s unlikely we’ll ever meet again, I might as well say it now. .. Sherlock is actually a girl’s name.
John (laughing): It’s not
Sherlock: It was worth a try.
John: We’re not naming our daughter after you.
Sherlock: I think it could work.
Thanks for tuning into the ramblings of what turned out to be a very worthwhile binge viewing adventure. Come series 4, I’ll have to watch live with the rest of you. Hey, we only have to wait until Christmas…OF 2015! So, that gives you time to share any thoughts you have on series 3. Lots of time.
(Again, a MASSIVE thanks for the quotes from ArianeDeVere.livejournal.com. Her transcripts of all the Sherlock episodes are freaking amazing and a must read, plus these would have been three really lame articles without them. The screencaps are from Kissthemgoodbye.net.)