Review: BBC Sherlock continues but so do my doubts

sherlock-season-3-eps-2-promo-trailer-and-2-featurettesPlease don’t read any of this blog if you are trying to avoid spoilers

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.

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Author from Shropshire
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2 Responses to Review: BBC Sherlock continues but so do my doubts

  1. Patrick Kincaid says:

    Very reminiscent of the Season 1 finale of House, in style if not in content. I suppose that fits in with Moffat’s and Gatiss’s idea that everything is canon… I share you’re misgivings, though.

    • I’ve never seen House and really do need to get around to it. I think just throwing in a name from the canon doesn’t make something canonical – this is one of my main criticisms with Elementary. Sometimes with Sherlock too. It does feel like when you are doing your English literature GCSE and have to put in a certain amount of quotes to get the higher grade – they might not be relevant to what you are saying but you need to stick them in somewhere to demonstrate your knowledge, the more the better. Actually working with the themes, characters, storylines and ideas in the canon is far more difficult. The way you developed Watson in The Doll and his Maker for example was brilliant, very original.

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