Not even a week after the end of Sherlock’s two-year hiatus, season three’s second episode, “The Sign of Three”, hit televisions in the UK. On the whole, it has enjoyed a positive reception by fans who are fortunate enough to have seen it, thanks mostly to its gratuitous fan service, but also due to its intense character development, following the pattern of last week’s emotional episode. As with every installment, “The Sign of Three” had its hiccups, but was on the whole a step up from “The Empty Hearse” and served as a deep breath before the inevitable plunge of next week’s season finale.
“The Sign of Three” focuses almost exclusively on the wedding of John Watson and Mary Morstan (for whom my fondness grows after every line delivered by the quirky Amanda Abbington). The dynamic between Sherlock and John is again unhindered by her presence (see: stag night), and when they are together the trio has fantastic chemistry. Cumberbatch’s delivery is superb, his deductions at the wedding second only to Sherlock’s best man speech (if you didn’t get misty eyed you’re either lying or you don’t have a soul). As expected, the acting quality, comedic relief, and character development left nothing to be desired.
But again, as with “The Empty Hearse”, the case structure in “The Sign of Three” seemed disjointed to say the least. I’m not sure how the photographer case fits into the grander scheme of things, or if it was just filler, but considering that the vast majority of the episode took place within a single room, it just didn’t seem to have the same drive as episodes like “The Hounds of Baskerville”, which spanned a greater amount of time and whose case structure was much tighter. There is such a thing as too much fan service (a line that I feel is being pushed), but the season three has so far retained a respectable enough level of quality to be able to pull it off.
I could critique “The Sign of Three” for being too lighthearted and bogged down with filler, but considering the tears and heartbreak that are inevitably coming next Sunday, I will withhold my judgement until the season finale. I’m just going to put this out there, but I have a sinking feeling that series three is not going to end happily, and we might be in need of this lightheartedness more than we currently realize. It’s Moffat writing the finale after all, and if the tragic “Reichenbach Fall” is any indication of what is to come, we’re all going to be a wreck after “His Last Vow”.
The finale of Sherlock series three is scheduled to air on Sunday, January 12, on BBC One. PBS will broadcast the new season in the US beginning on January 19.