The Movie Waffler TV Waffle - <i>Sherlock</i> (Season 3) | The Movie Waffler

TV Waffle - Sherlock (Season 3)

The latest season of BBC's smash hit detective show.

Series three of Sherlock brings us the return of the world's most famous detective and, ultimately, his companion Dr. John Watson, played by Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, respectively. As is standard, the series consists of three 90 minute episodes. The first episode premiered on January 1st of 2014 after a two year gap. As with my series two review, spoilers will be largely unavoidable at this point so proceed at your own risk.
The Empty Hearse is the first episode and begins two years after the death of Sherlock Holmes. This results in an episode heavy with exposition. These types of episodes are always difficult to get into and there is the added burden, in this case, that too much is put into the 90 minutes. Like trying to thread a needle with a rope, we are brought up to date on just about every character in the series, in addition to the threat of an imminent terrorist attack on London, while also learning why Sherlock is, in fact, still alive. Sherlock, as it turns out, spent the previous two years destroying Moriarty's criminal network. In the mean time, John Watson has become involved with a woman named Mary Morstan, who he is attempting to propose to during the episode. Holmes returns to Watson as he is making his first attempt in a scene that, while clearly attempting to be humorous, I personally found to be more silly than anything else. There was also a later scene between Mycroft and Sherlock, reminiscing about their childhood, that had a bit of humor that I thought fell flat as well. As far as Sherlock's death goes, we are ultimately given something that could be an answer depending upon whether Sherlock actually visited Anderson or not. The scene is played in such a way that it could just as easily have been a hallucination on the part of Anderson as he attempted to assuage some of his guilt. However, even if this is the case, Anderson's solution could still be correct as it is definitely quite sound. During all of this the terror plot is, of course, foiled by Holmes and Watson. This is one of those episodes that definitely improved upon second viewing.
The next episode is The Sign of Three and as is fitting with the title, it is authored by all three of the series' regular writers. Sherlock is put in the awkward position of being Watson's best man at his wedding. Specifically, he is troubled by the speech he is expected to make as the best man. The episode is largely centered around the ceremony and the following reception but makes exceptionally effective use of flashbacks to tell the full story. The main mystery of the story surrounds a murder attempt at the reception, which leads to an awesome bit of the episode where Sherlock has to solve a case in real time, during the speech itself no less, which ends up tying a number of the episode's elements into a nice little bundle. The other big part of the story is the introduction of Mary Morstan/Watson as a character and, to some extent, this episode, along with His Final Vow make up a loose sort of two part story arc. Like The Empty Hearse, The Sign of Three also makes use of humor for some of the scenes, which worked far better for me in this episode than the first, although I could see them not working for everyone.
In His Final Vow we really go into the background of Mary through the intervention of a newspaper magnate by the name of Charles Magnussen. Sherlock refers to him as the Napolean of blackmail and has taken an unusually strong, for Sherlock anyway, dislike of the man. Part of the story takes place over the holidays, which gives us the entertaining opportunity to see Holmes' parents, Mycroft and Sherlock through the lens of their family dynamic. The story inevitably leads to a direct confrontation between Holmes and Magnussen, which ends in such a way that left me wondering whether Mycroft is a greater threat to his brother than Moriarty ever was. I also really liked the return of the mind palace concept that was introduced as a bit of deus ex machina in the previous season's Hounds of Baskerville episode. It was actually put to good use in this episode as an important element of the story. However, for me the most interesting part of the story, although it was quite brief, was the character development of Watson with respect to his relationship with both Mary and Sherlock. As seems to be standard form, we are also left with one hell of a cliff hanger for the next series.
I found this season of Sherlock to be quite solid but comparison to the exceptional second series is going to make it look weaker than it is, which is always a risk when any series over performs for one particular season (season five of Dexter leaps to mind here as well). The first episode was most certainly the weakest but my respect for it went up considerably on repeat viewing. The major thing it is guilty of is placing too much on the plate for us. I think the previously mentioned Mycroft/Sherlock scene could have easily been discarded as well as the Jack the Ripper bit. The final two episodes are very good and, although I do have some trouble keeping them apart in my head, I would say that His Final Vow was probably the slightly stronger of the two. My mixing of them is in large part due to the addition of Mary, who I found to be a fascinating character and an excellent addition to the cast. While unable to hit the same heights as the second series, which is hardly surprising, I found this series of Sherlock to be a welcome return of the characters I have grown to love over the previous six episodes.

Nick Sauer
For more from Nick, visit his site Fantastic Television