When the credits roll at the end of “Sign of Three” it’s obvious that we have witnessed what will probably be the most polarizing episode of Sherlock. Straying even further from the mystery and the case, this rather lighthearted affair suffers from a fragmented plot with a too simple to be good resolution. What made it easy to forgive part of it is the relationships we witness here and some very humorous dialogue, but a big runaround as well that leaves this particular episode too weak to be great.
Obviously for some, perhaps last week’s “The Empty Hearse” was a bit too far off the beaten path but one couldn’t have expected everything to be back to normal once Holmes returns to the picture. The show has to escape its narrative trappings while keeping the hallmarks that make it great. You couldn’t expect Holmes to return to Watson’s life without a bit overreaction and emotional turmoil. Watson’s internal conflict was thwarted once Mary comes into the picture and in “Sign of Three” last week feels almost forgotten although it does take place sometime after that episode.
Jumping along the show’s timeline once more, “Sign of Three” fast forwards to John and Mary’s wedding day but we also experience many flashbacks leading up to this point most of it told during Sherlock’s best man speech. Using the best man speech, which was rather entertaining (I may have taken notes since I have to give a best man speech in November) we have all the best memories leading up to this point done in flashback but with a twist. All the elements here no matter how astray they seem all fit into Sherlock’s deduction of a case unfolding at John’s own wedding. Even John and Mary aren’t bothered when they realize that something is about to happen.
The case in question, the slow murders of several ex-members of an army platoon, one of which is John’s former commanding officer, is rather limp and mainly cause it sort of makes little sense. Wouldn’t someone feel themselves being stabbed through the back even if it was done slow and quick? More importantly if you remove your belt, which is clearly holding all the blood in from the stabbing, why would you go to the shower instead of running for help? It sounds rather nitpicking but it’s worth bringing up and the final reveal of it being the wedding photographer was rather weak and unnecessary. Considering how last week’s episode ended and assumingly what will be resolved next week in “His Last Vow” this particular episode is devoid of any linking plot although something in the letters part of the speech has got me thinking (one from CAM. Is that Charles August Magnussen?)
The main focus here is the relationship between Sherlock and John, and to some extent Mary and all three gave top notch performances. Due to the structure of the story this episode really rests on Cumberbatch’s performance mixing a great deal of dry humor with his detective instinct. Having all the best man stories come together to connect to the rather late in the game murder plot. We spend many moments here inside Sherlock’s head as he pieces together just who the murderer is and what his next move is and these visual ticks were very well orchestrated as they were the week before. As she did last week Amanda Abbington really it hit out of the park as Mary and in just two installments she feels so in place with the Sherlock world which speaks volume to both the writing and Abbington’s performance.
While everything stated above is mainly positive the trouble with “Sign of Three” ultimately comes down to its lack of structure and importance as it pertains to this season’s narrative. Fun and entertaining, it sadly lacks the weight it needs to be anything but a passing moment and continues the trend of second installment blues for each series of Sherlock.