After a arguably imperfect debut, Sherlock’s season three produced a heart-warming episode meant to touch the chords of the hearts of its fandom and bring tears to eyes, perhaps- but also keep up with the tradition of providing a mystery that the world would need Sherlock Holmes to solve.
The most recent Sherlock episodes have, I believe, concentrated more on delivering things with a flourish, rather than focusing on the story. Keeping up with that trend, The Sign of Three was largely concentrated at the wedding of the Watsons. Given that Mary Watson is a delicately new addition to our Sherlock team, it is interesting to note how she has been incorporated into the hearts of the audience. They’ve had to make her charming and delightful, in addition to having her keep up with Holmes (which, as we very well know, very few people can). Let’s face it, a Mary Watson who was at constant loggerheads with Sherlock and kept trying to hold the good doctor back for herself, would be a real pain in the a-r-s-e.
I don’t quite know what to report about the shift this season seems to have taken from a story-line that pulled its audiences largely through theatrical suspense, to one where wit and sarcasm leave us entertained but the cases are less baffling and more dependent on good screenplay, rather than head-scratching plot twists. Perhaps the shift does not seem as radically mortifying as it could be expected to, because Benedict Cumberbatch manages to effortlessly slide from role to role, bringing Sherlock to life like no one ever could (sorry, Robert Downey Jr.).
I keep wondering again and again, what makes this Sherlock better (or worse) than the original paper version. It’s quite clear to me, at least as far as this season is concerned, that Sherlock has been converted into someone who is charmingly intellectual, yes, but also likable! I don’t think Sherlock Holmes is ever meant to have a heart- but this one does. It’s partly adorable but also a little disconcerting to see Sherlock express his heart’s love and anguish as he battles with all things Watson. It’s a little painful to watch because you’re starting to find Sherlock human and this humanness is making you like him, but on the inside you know Sherlock Holmes isn’t supposed to be anything less than invincible when it comes to emotions. So it’s quite strange, the way Sherlock delivers a socially acceptable best man’s speech at the Watson wedding- at least until he starts to anticipate that things might get heated up.
I quite enjoy travelling inside Sherlock’s head, though, and the writers always try to find innovative ways to make that happen. There are dynamics around Sherlock which he might not understand but when it comes to solving crimes, he reconstructs the most stunning visions inside his head. This Inception-ish vision building sustains the Holmes phenomena, adding to the power he brings to each case, no matter what you might think of the story after it’s been stripped clear of all these special effects.
For my part, I enjoyed the mystery bits of The Sign of Three. It was interesting to watch Sherlock solve it; anything different might not have been quite as effective. A tiny appearance by Irene Adler simply added a delicious sense of retrospection. No rendition has ever tried to justify Holmes this deeply and whether it all adds up in a positive direction or a negative one, remains to be seen.
I think we need to give Sherlock a break. High expectations do pull down the end result and Sherlock has been on a pedestal for two years, simply because it waited too long to make a comeback. A swifter return would have led to fewer disappointments but I don’t personally think any less of the show.
This episode did make me feel a little emotional towards Holmes (which was obviously the intention, in addition to making us want to quote the Holmes-Watson friendship as the best the world has ever seen). In short, the magic quite worked on me and as Sherlock Holmes donned his cape and made to leave off in the end, I felt his brooding silence.
Until the next, and final time then.