SHERLOCK 3.02 ‘The Sign of Three’
Episode Title: “The Sign of Three”
Writers: Stephen Thompson, Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss
Director: Colm McCarthy
Previously on “Sherlock”:
With the return of “Sherlock” for its third season, one thing is immediately clear: Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) is still the incredible a**hole that he’s always been. The reason that the audience loves Sherlock and disregards his behavior is due to the strength of Benedict’s performance, the strong scripting and because Sherlock doesn’t always seem to comprehend how he’s being a dick.
The opening of “The Sign of Three” takes place over a long period of time and it focuses on Detective Inspector Greg Lestrade’s (Rupert Graves) attempts to take down a criminal gang after they continually elude him. Yet on the verge of getting his personal and professional vindication by catching the gang in the act, Lestrade abandons the operation when he gets an urgent text from Sherlock that says “help me.”
Lestrade cares enough about Sherlock that he not only races to Baker street, he sends police backup as well. He’ll stop at nothing to save Sherlock; which is why he’s so upset when he learns that Sherlock just wanted Lestrade to help him come up with funny stories for his best man speech.
Now if Sherlock had intentionally made Lestrade go through that much trouble, then it wouldn’t have been as funny. But in Sherlock’s mind, writing the speech was a true emergency and he worded the message in a way that could be easily misinterpreted. That interpretation was largely lost on Sherlock.
Surprisingly, the opening sequence was a misdirect. I kept waiting for the gang in the opening to factor into the rest of the story, but it never did. Instead, “Sherlock” revolved entirely around the wedding of Doctor John Watson (Martin Freeman) and Mary Morstan (Amanda Abbington).
There are full spoilers ahead for “The Sign of Three,” so you should probably skip this review if you haven’t seen last night’s episode of “Sherlock” or else there will be no beheaded nuns for you.
Sherlock’s relationship with John is another reason that the audience has never turned on him in this show. Sherlock may be a jerk to almost everyone he encounters (and even to John), but he also uses his powers of deduction to help John and Mary pull off their wedding. This includes his assessment on which guests hate Mary and who has an unhealthy fixation with her. Sherlock even finds a little budding sociopath like himself, in the form of a kid who takes great interest in seeing Sherlock’s gruesome crime scene photos. Hilariously, Sherlock never even questions whether it is appropriate for the kid to see that material. He just simply goes with it.
The bulk of the episode revolves around Sherlock’s best man speech; which is simultaneously horrible and yet emotionally uplifting. After fumbling through his introduction with some inappropriate remarks about almost everything associated with the wedding, Sherlock seems to find the right words to express his love for John and Mary. When this brings the wedding guests to tears, Sherlock doesn’t understand why and he attempts to keep giving his speech long after he should have stopped.
From Sherlock’s speech, the episode cuts to a few of the cases that he John investigated in the weeks leading up to the wedding. That narrative was so disruptive and unwieldy that I wasn’t sure if the writers could bring it back together. Yet somehow it works. Along the way, there was a truly inspired scene in which Sherlock and John investigated a case while drunk out of their minds. If you still have the episode on your DVR, go back and reread the deductions that Sherlock makes while trying to stay focused. Those were really clever.
The “Sherlock” creative team has gone out of their way to make sure that the audience doesn’t hate Mary for getting between Sherlock and John. The solution is that Mary doesn’t get in the way, she encourages to keep working together and she even conspires with John and Sherlock separately just to give them an excuse to run out and solve mysteries.
Mary also refuses to be sidelined when she learns that someone close to John is about to be killed at their wedding. She’s also the driving force that gets Sherlock to solve the mystery while trying to get the victim to let them into his room. The partnership of Sherlock and John hasn’t become a trio, but Mary does seem to fill in the gap between them.
Sherlock’s non-existent romantic relationships with women were also addressed, as the only way he manages to relate to Mary’s bridesmaid is to use his deductive powers to identify if there is anyone at the wedding reception that she should hook up with. Molly Hooper (Louise Brealey) was also at the wedding with her boyfriend, Tom (Ed Birch) despite her lingering feelings for Sherlock. For his part, Sherlock is relatively gentle while shooting down Tom’s ridiculous theory about the locked room killer.
I loved the quick cameo of Irene Adler (Lara Pulver) in Sherlock’s mindscape as he desperately tried to pull the pieces of the puzzle together. Sherlock eventually figures out who the killer is, how they did it and what they wanted to accomplish. But there’s one loose end hanging by the end of the episode: who was the woman who hired them? She knew things that she shouldn’t, including John’s middle name and the location of the wedding. That suggests that this case wasn’t as straightforward as it originally appeared to be.
“The Sign of Three” wasn’t the typical episode of “Sherlock,” but I appreciated the change in pace. As an examination of Sherlock and John’s relationship, it was terrific and all of the performers were outstanding.
Imagine if we could get “Sherlock” as a weekly TV series for more than three episodes every two years. “The Sign of Three” makes me wish that was possible. This cast and these characters are so much fun to watch that it’s hard to let them go away for so long. Fortunately, we have one more episode before the long break between seasons.
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