Sherlock: The Sign of Three

Watson: "He's cluing for looks."

For a show renown for its middle episode slump, tonight's instalment skewered the trend through the belt, and set a new bar for hilarity. It may have taken the collective might of Gatiss, Moffat and Thompson to pull off this minor miracle, but after two years away, what better way of reacquainting us with our favourite high-functioning sociopath than with a wedding, some wacky character interplay, and a cameo from Lara Pulver?

I know we often moan about the length of the series, but if the trade off is a film length episode every week, then I'll take it. You couldn't have squeezed tonight's story into an hour, never mind 45 minutes -- the plot was all over the place. Mid-episode, Mark commented on Twitter that it was like 'a demented short story collection', and it was. But it was the vignettes which gave us a context for the final reveal, cemented Mary's position alongside (rather than between) Holmes and Watson, and provided a framework for some of the most preposterous character development to date. We even got to see Sherlock dance. Now there's a sentence I'd never thought I'd write.

The stag party sequence was perfect. Sherlock's plan to organise the perfect night out was instantly scuppered by Watson spiking the drinks, which led to what must be the most incompetent crime scene investigation Holmes has ever been involved in. He even puked on the rug! Kudos to Cumberbatch and Freeman for giving us the most convincing drunks since Willie Ross in Rita, Sue and Bob Too. Watching an inebriated Holmes and Watson try to manage a case not only showed us a side of their relationship we've never seen before, it also allowed Sherlock to drop his grumpy demeanour, and let it all hang out. He almost cried listening to Tessa's ghostly boyfriend woes. Maybe he should give up drinking as well as smoking.

I loved Sherlock's scenes with Archie. Finally someone as perplexed by pointless human ritual as he. It was sweet the way Sherlock stripped back his usually verbose speech as they bonded over gruesome crime photos. In fact, didn't Archie provide the clue which allowed Sherlock to bring all of the seemingly disparate story lines together? Maybe there's a career as a detective awaiting him somewhere down the line. There's certainly a photo of a headless nun in his near future. We don't get to see Sherlock interact with kids much, but like the Doctor in Doctor Who, he's a natural. Something about kids seems to appeal to the exceptional.

And you can't deny it, that was some speech. Yes, he insulted Watson, condemned marriage as a civilization destroying institution, called the bridesmaid plain, denied God's existence, and called the vicar an idiot -- but he then righted the boat by admitting to being an arsehole, and ended up complimenting the very people he'd just denigrated. He even brought his audience to tears. His confusion as to why they were crying was utterly priceless. And if Janine hadn't been occupied with her Sherlock appointed date, I dare say he'd have finished the evening on the dance floor. She certainly seemed impressed by his dancing skills and violin playing. He even threw her a rose. Instead, Sherlock left the party alone -- in Mrs Hudson's estimation, the saddest exit of all.

I can't say enough good things about Mary Morstan. It's amazing how quickly Sherlock has endeared himself to her. (And vice versa.) She just gets him. She can tell when he's lying and, more importantly, she understands why John likes him. She even knows how to deal with his bullshit -- she just smiles and ignores it. She was even mindful of his feelings towards her marrying John. In fact, she ended up playing them both by secretly pushing them out on a case. It's as if she sees John and Sherlock as a symbiotic unit, each member vital for the other's survival. At least Sherlock won't have to worry about John's chair being permanently empty.

So Mary certainly has no interest in splitting up Team Sherlock. She's evidently something of an adrenaline junkie herself: happy to run out on her own wedding if it means saving a life. In this respect, her and John are the same. Or maybe she's just protective of him. Either way, she was a real asset tonight. Sherlock even gave her a kiss and made vaguely complimentary noises in her direction. Tonight was the first time I've seen Sherlock's smile look genuine. His promise to be there for John and Mary felt both heartfelt and without pretence -- but Mary is keeping secrets. Why did she look so startled when Holmes read out Cam's telegram? I'm guessing CAM is Charles Augustus Magnussen, but what does he know of her family?

Admittedly, tonight's episode wasn't to everyone's taste. It was a far from traditional outing, and a few people hated the Sheldon Cooperiness of Benedict's Holmes. For me, it was a strange but brilliant affair. It felt oddly like a series finale, maybe not in terms of story, but in terms of the character development so much happened. Both Sherlock and John openly declaring their love for each other (in the bromance sense, not the hand on knee, 'I don't mind', sense) felt like something of an achieved endgame. But what will all this character advancement do to the shape of the show? Will Sherlock be back to his cold, analytical self next week? And who is Redbeard?

Bits and Pieces:

-- Stabbing someone through the belt with a meat skewer would surely have triggered some sort of pain response, especially if it was delivering a mortal blow.

-- In an episode that was by design fairly disjointed, the cold open felt the most jarring. Did Lestrade walk away from the bust simply to emphasise his respect for Sherlock, or will it pop up again as a plot point next week?

-- When Holmes and Watson were drunk, even his word clouds were out of focus and largely unhelpful.

-- What the hell was in that matchbox?

-- What kind of monster was Mrs Hudson married to? He was unfaithful, ran a drugs cartel, blew somebody's head off and was later executed. What a life that woman's led. First Cliff Richard, now this.

-- The guy who played David (Oliver Lansley) also played Stuart in season five of Misfits.

-- Why did Sherlock have so many computers on at once? Has the man not heard of Pidgin? Or multi-tasking?

-- Sherlock keeps his back-up cigarettes in an old shoe. I'm not sure that'll make them taste any better. Maybe that's the point.

-- Wouldn't Bainbridge have known as soon as he'd taken his belt off that he was bleeding? Why didn't he bleed all the way to the shower?


Mrs Hudson: "Your mother has a lot to answer for."
Sherlock: "I know, I have a list. Mycroft has a file."

David: "They're right about you: you're a psychopath."
Sherlock: "High functioning sociopath. With your number."

Archie: "You're a detective?"
Sherlock: "Yep."
Archie: "Have you solved any murders?"
Sherlock: "Sure, loads."
Archie: "Can I see?"
Sherlock: "... Yeah, all right."

Archie: "What's all the stuff in his eye?"
Sherlock: "Maggots."
Archie: "Cool!"
Sherlock: "Mmmm."

Sherlock: "If you could all just cheer up a bit, that would be better."

Mary: "Aw, let's stick her by the bogs."

Mary: "I'm not John, I can tell when you're fibbing."
Sherlock: "Okay, I learned it on youtube."

Watson: "That's the thing about Mary, she has completely turned my life around. Changed everything. But, for the record, over the last few years there have been two people who've done that, and the other one is... a complete dick head."

Archie: "Mr Holmes, Mr Holmes!"
Sherlock: "Oh, hello again, Archie. What's your theory? Get this right and there's a headless nun in it for you."

Sholto: "I believe I am in need of medical attention."
Watson: "I believe I am your doctor."

Janine: "I wish you weren't... whatever it is you are."
Sherlock: "I know."

Janine: "Do you always carry handcuffs?"
Sherlock: "Down girl."

Sherlock: "You're already the best parents in the world, look at all the practice you've had."


Mark Greig said...

A bonkers format breaking that has split the fandom. Like Paul I'm firmly in the "fucking loved it" camp. I didn't stop laughing for whole 90 minutes and feared I would need medical attention by the end of it. We need more episodes where Sherlock tries to solve case while totally shitfaced.

sunbunny said...

I'm sorry but I really don't understand how anyone couldn't love this episode. I laughed the entire way through. And I cried. What more could you ask for?

I agree Sherlock's drunken "deductions" was one of the episode's highlights. Chair. Sitty thing. Love it.

Also I love the way that the show has used Mary. She's not a roadblock to the Sherlock/John relationship, she's part of it and it's beautiful. She's not jealous of her hubby's affection for Sherlock, she doesn't feel at all threatened by the fact that they need each other. She's perfect. Naturally, I am now expecting her to die.

I can't say enough about Sherlock's character development this season. Obviously, stuff's happened to him in that two year gap that's opened him up. Yes, he's still awkward and often wildly inappropriate, but it's coming from someplace different now. He was great with the kid (I particularly loved the line about Sherlock asking a grown up), he was charming with the maid of honor, and he was nervous (SHERLOCK HOLMES WAS NERVOUS) and worried about Mary and John's wedding. He wanted to do his friend proud. He wanted the wedding to go well. So well in fact, he was involved in planning the entire thing from the seating arrangements to the napkin folding.

Yes, he was still confused when everyone cried at his speech (which was lovely), but he was concerned that they were crying. He worried he'd done something wrong. I love that he cared so much I really do. And he wrote John and Mary a waltz as a wedding present. I seriously can't get over how much he's changed for the better. Lestrade's line from the very first episode just kept running through my head "Sherlock Holmes is a great man and I think one day, if we're very, very lucky, he might even be a good one." I think we've been lucky :)

(end rambling comment)

migmit said...

Two things that I didn't love about this episode; in fact I hated them.

1. Stupid prank Sherlock played on Lestrade in the beginning. First of all, that's too much even for Sherlock. Secondly, Lestrade is not stupid himself; why didn't he even call Sherlock or Mrs Hadson? And why didn't he send his men in BEFORE he got to Baker street?

2. Drunk investigation. It was so disgusting, I even fastforwarded a few minutes.

But everything else was pretty good.

TDS-Matt said...

I am very firmly in the "I loved it" camp. So, so great, and a big step up from The Empty Hearse.

Freeman said...

Fun episode. It was amusing seeing Sherlock "out of his element" so to speak. I don't know how there wasn't at least one person burying their head in their hands from second-hand embarrassment during his speech but hey, TV right? Also, I know they need to always make Sherlock the smartest person in the room, but could one person seriously not even at least guess that Watson was the "important element" in Sherlock's story?

I don't think a meat skewer was the murder weapon in question. I'm pretty sure Sherlock parsing back to that was more his revelation due to the imagery of it. I'm fairly certain it was some sort of stiletto or a razor blade thing. When you wear a really tight belt, you already have a sort pinching bite in you, and the Bainbridge fellow surely would be used to shrugging off annoying pain or even sharp twinges of pain due to the nature of his work. It would've probably been hard to notice he was bleeding since it appeared they were stabbed in the back. And Sholto definitely would've shrugged off the pain even more since it's highly likely that he's uncomfortable at all times forever. Also he was a very stalwart and rigid man and wouldn't cry out anyways. Both of them did flinch though.

Juliette said...

I liked it, though it was weird. It's strange that in a three-episode series we'll only get one more straightforward murder-mystery, but it was fun, and Mary was great. I agree that I hated the cold open with Lestrade though. Lestrade is one of my favourites, and I always think he doesn't get enough respect!

Btw, loved seeing Dean Thomas from Harry Potter as Bainbridge. My habit of feeling for underappreciated minor characters led my housemate and I to make up a Harry Potter drinking game where we drink when Dean Thomas appears, as the most under-used and under-appreciated male Gryffindor (this was pre-Half Blood Prince). Also, according to Wikipedia, he's the son of Doctor Who's Ian Chesterton. So that's cool.

lorogomo said...

My new favorite episode... that's all I have to say

sunbunny said...

Holy crap that was Dean Thomas? Didn't come close to recognizing him. You'd think with his magical education he would've picked a different career field.

Freeman said...

It all makes sense now, Sherlock was wrong. The real attacker was Harry Potter wearing his invisible cloak, trying to get revenge for Dean dating Ginny all those years ago.

Heather said...

This ep was such a kickass character payoff. The way the plot unfolded allowed for these perfect unforgettable moments that were as touching as they were unpredictable. Also, I haven't ever laughed as hard during Sherlock hour as I did during the late night cocktailed investigation.

drnanamom said...

It seems we are all pretty firmly in the 'love it' camp. I did think the opener was over the top but it just telegraphed what was to come. And I particularly enjoyed how they managed to include two murders into an episode about a wedding. As Sherlock was mentioning all the highlights of murders they had worked on I was thinking but we didn't get to see those, particularly the "elephant in the room'! Well-written, well-paced, just lovely.

Anonymous said...

Archie: Beheadings!!
Sherlock: Lovely little village...

Marianna said...

This episode was so much fun! (And I usually don't like episodes that center around flashbacks.) The opening with Lestrade made me laugh so hard. I don't think Holmes was playing a prank on him. I think he's just so clueless that it didn't occur to him that he might be busy. Lestrade was likely thinking of when Holmes was supposedly dead and panicked.

I'm not really surprised that Holmes is so good with children. In my experience children often gravitate towards people who hate children. I'm guessing it's because those people talk to them like adults. It might also be because those people let them do things they probably shouldn't do because they don't care enough to stop them (e.g. headless nun).

I also really liked the scene of Watson asking Holmes to be his best man and Holmes at first not understanding what's going on and then staring into space while in the speech he talked about all the nice things he said about being asked only to realize he didn't say any of it out loud.