I really wanted to like this one – I sat there full of hope, optimism and open-mindedness but still the nagging issues kept flooding back in.
The second episode of Sherlock series three, The Sign of Three, was aired in the UK last night and watched by an average of 8.84 million viewers.
I loved the opening sequences, they were fast-paced with great banter between Lestrade and Donovan who really deserve a spin-off series all of their own. The comedy just kept on coming when the hapless DI got a text from Sherlock right before a crucial arrest asking for urgent help. He faithfully abandoned everything and rushed to his aid complete with squad cars and a helicopter fearing that Sherlock was in danger. In fact, all he needed was help writing the best man’s speech for John’s wedding. Brilliant. Loved it. The script and direction all came perfectly together to elicit great comedy performances out of the actors and give a bouncy energetic start to the show.
But then the pace changed dramatically and turned the episode into something completely different – into ‘the Sherlock team does rom-com’. We didn’t see another crime or any hint of this being a crime drama for quite some time.
As a fan of Sherlock, I have emotional investment in the characters and therefore care about their relationships with each other, their inner workings etc. I enjoyed watching 90 minutes of warm-hearted comedy drama that was like a traditional soap opera wedding – lots of emotion, comedy, a surprise pregnancy, a murder or life-threatening situation. If they’d set the reception in the Queen Vic we would have had classic Eastenders. And I didn’t mind this; I loved watching Sherlock getting drunk at the stag, his reaction to being asked to be John’s best man, his emotional speech, his dancing, the will-they-won’t-they interplay between him and Molly. But just read that sentence back and ask yourself, does it sound like I’m describing a Sherlock Holmes story?
As I say, I enjoyed the episode but my worry is that casual viewers who tuned in hoping to see a gripping crime drama would be pretty disappointed. Husband, for example, fidgeted, questioned why Mary had been given such a big part, said he was bored and then fell asleep. And usually he loves Sherlock, he thought Scandal in Belgravia was one of the best piece of television he had ever seen – and not just because of Lara Pulver being naked.
There was a crime in this episode, but we didn’t encounter it for at least 30 minutes. The narrative thread jumped around between flashbacks, the crime, a mind-palace type sequence, the wedding, heart-to-hearts. I’m looking at my notes now and at one point I wrote – ‘the plot is as inconsistent as Lestrade’s hair.’
The crime was fairly clever as were Sherlock’s deductions but it felt like an afterthought, something the writers felt obliged to add in but would rather have spent the whole episode focusing on the wedding and the character interaction. And as a fan, I could watch them interacting all day long but if Sherlock is to have longevity each episode needs to be attracting new fans not just grandstanding to the existing ones. At times, it just feel too self-indulgent and needed a more detailed crime plot running throughout to hold it together. And I’m still pretty annoyed that I don’t fully know how Sherlock faked his death but I’m happy to move on.
The episode was full of many clever canonical references from Major Sholto and Jonathan Small to the extraordinary thing in the matchbox. But then Husband felt that the episode wasn’t canonical at all because it had departed so very far from the works of Conan Doyle. This episode had no resemblance what-so-ever to the Sign of Four, except the names.
Sherlock is certainly taking Sherlock Holmes into very new and unchartered territory. Will this risk ultimately pay off? Continually high viewing figures suggest it might but then Husband tends to be a good barometer of these things. If a show he once enjoyed starts to put him to sleep (Ripper Street and Whitechapel for example, both of which have been axed) it usually spells doom. Hopefully super-villain Charles Augustus Magnussen will keep him wide awake next Sunday and restore the crime element which I think has been missing so far.
- BBC Sherlock is back but not forgiven – by me anyway
- Is BBC Sherlock becoming ‘too cool’?
- A twist on the Empty House? Can’t wait
- How will BBC Sherlock tackle the problem at the very heart of The Empty House?
- RAT, WEDDING and BOW – three little words, one big mystery
- So, how did Sherlock fake his own suicide?
- BBC’s Sherlock – a televisual feast for the mind and eye
- Another triumph for the Sherlock team with the Hounds of Baskerville
- BBC Sherlock’s A Scandal in Belgravia – simply wow