While it is has just recently premiered in the States, season 3 of Sherlock has already come and gone across the pond. Show runner Steven Moffat has provided the fans with another stellar set of episodes that show a number of different sides of the famous detective as well as being incredibly entertaining and re-watchable.
I know I usually tag this, but: WARNING! SPOILERS.
Episode 1: The Empty Hearse
Season 3 picks up after Sherlock fakes his death at the end of season 2. In the show Sherlock has been away for two years dismantling Moriarty’s crime web. This is a nice allusion to the fact that it’s actually been about two years for fans since they’ve had a new Sherlock episode episode to consume. Sherlock is brought back to Baker street by Mycroft when his services are needed to stop an underground terrorist plot based on a seemingly vague message from a recently deceased agent.
Of course, the real point of the episode is handling Sherlock re-inserting himself into his former life and into Watson’s new life. To me, this is probably one of the funnier episodes in the series. Watson’s reaction to Holmes faking his death and having so many other accomplices is complete and understandable outrage that is just great to watch. Especially given Sherlock’s borderline autistic behavior and seeming inability to properly predict Watson’s reaction. I also notice in this episode that Sherlock seems almost uncharacteristically interested in humor.Whether it’s trying to surprise John in the restaurant or making jokes in the subway car, he seems much more interested in getting a laugh or at least amusing himself than I ever remember him being in this series.
Side Note: To be clear, I don’t think he’s autistic or has Asperger’s. The show continually references him as a sociopath and that’s as far as I take thinking about his mental disorder. Here’s a more in depth article for follow-up on that: “Sherlock does not have Asperger’s thanks”.
Of course the other big news in this episode is Watson’s new girlfriend (and eventual wife) Mary. In the first episode I don’t think she makes too much of an impression although I like that they make it evident that she’s going to be a part of the gang in some ways. I’ve never really liked when Dr. Watson’s wife is portrayed as just some off screen part of his life. It’s much more interesting to think of her as being an active part of the lives of the detectives.
Overall, this is a fun episode that also captures a lot of the heart of the characters as you get to see how everyone (well almost everyone) really feels about Sherlock.
Episode 2: The Sign of Three
I really liked the concept of this episode. It recalled the feeling of a lot of the Sherlock Holmes short stories that I would read when I was younger, but also tried to incorporate the structure from some of the larger works (I’m guessing that it was in some ways inspired by “The Sign of the Four“). Instead of focusing on one mystery this episode presents us with several short stories about Watson and Holmes. The stories introduce familiar mystery elements that Holmes would’ve dealt with in Arthur Conan Doyle’s short stories that wouldn’t have been substantial enough to make a whole show around but are still fun to see.
Some particular highlights from this one are the Bloody Guardsman case and watching Sherlock filter through the list of suspects when dealing with the Mayfly Man. Even though it can feel like the smaller mysteries take a back seat to the wedding, they’re still very much interwoven into the story. It’s also a great device to have so much of the mystery and the solution of the mysteries woven into Sherlock’s best man speech.
We also get to see the amazing fish out of water scenario that is Sherlock having to deal with a wedding and playing an integral part in the wedding. It does feel like the show wanted to focus on giving us more insight into how Sherlock views his companions. Overall, it’s been a real focus of the season. We had his confession to Molly in the first episode and his recognition of just how terrible of a person he can be to deal with when he begins his speech.
Those moments were really nice and I also felt like the scene with Watson and Sherlock being drunk was supposed to be fun for the audience. However, the scene that really got me was at the end of the wedding. Sherlock seems to actually be looking for someone to connect with at the wedding and there’s no one left because everyone’s having fun without him even though he’s the one who’s tried to set everyone up to have fun. There’s just a little moment where he looks a little disappointed because I think he realizes that, but he picks up his jacket and moves on. It’s probably because that’s an aspect of Sherlock I can weirdly identify with: wanting to help your friends while not wanting to intrude on them.
This second episode is really a change of pace for the show and may not be a fan favorite for some, but I feel like it’s an homage to the classic Sherlock Holmes short story with some really good character and relationship development.
Episode 3: His Last Vow
The last episode in the series takes a bit of a turn I didn’t expect. Without much ado, the point of this is that Mary Watson turns out to be a former CIA wetworks agent. This is revealed by the blackmail specialist Charles Augustus Magnussen, who shows up as the great villain that this season has been lacking. Honestly, I found Mary to be a more compelling story than Magnussen in this episode.
While the idea of Magnussen was interesting, I didn’t find him to be terribly interesting. I mean he got off to a promising start with the whole pissing in the fireplace thing but, to me, he never amounted to being much more than a slimy bully with a large capacity for memory (and horrible sense for self preservation). Ultimately, he just reminded me of two things that happened when Sherlock faced off against Moriarty:
1. “That’s your weakness. You want everything to be clever.” Magnussen’s vault turned out to just be his “mind palace” I was, at it seemed Sherlock was, hoping for something a little more elaborate than that for all the buildup over it.
2. “I may be on the side of the angels, but don’t think for one second that I am one of them.” Sherlock proved this statement to be even more true against this villain as he took the most obvious path to solving the problem. If the vault was all in Magnussen’s then the most fool proof solution was to destroy it. For a while I was thinking if he was going to come up with some clever way to wipe his mind but, instead, he just killed him and took the burden of protecting his friends.
Now Mary, on the other hand was much more than I thought she could be. I had no inclination that she would turn out to be someone so dangerous. Although, she acts as a piece that ties a lot of things together in John’s life. As Sherlock accurately points out John seems to be inexplicably drawn to danger and has a desire for conflict. As a result, all of his close acquaintances are either dangerous people or people who will likely find themselves close to danger.
The final little twist in this episode is the re-emergence of Moriarty. His face appears on every TV screen in England with the message “Did you miss me” attached to it. This occurs just in time to prevent Sherlock from carrying out his suicide mission as punishment for killing Magnussen (who couldn’t be proven guilty of anything at the time). Then just to make sure you didn’t think it was a trick the actual Moriarty shows up on screen after the credits and repeats the message to the audience right before the show cuts out. No doubt, getting more people excited for the 4th season. Let’s just hope we don’t have to wait too long to get it.