Monday, January 27, 2014

The Sign of Three

The third series of BBC's Sherlock continues with "The Sign of Three," an odd series of vignettes framed by the wedding of John Watson to Mary Morstan. It offered some of the series best character-based material ever, and yet, like "The Empty Hearse," was not entirely satisfying on the mystery front.

It certainly was a showcase for what makes Sherlock so great: the interplay between Holmes and Watson, between Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. The episode's somewhat meandering structure, contained largely within the narrative device of Holmes' best man speech at Watson's wedding, was a vehicle for serving up one fantastic scene after another. In particular, Holmes and Watson's drunken night out was the gift that just kept on giving, from Sherlock's attempt to carefully plan their intoxication, to the wonderful game of secret identities, to "contaminating" the scene of an investigation, to Lestrade's harsh handling of them the next morning -- it was all just wonderful, perfectly hilarious material.

Also wonderful was the way in which the character of Mary was fitting into the mix. From using Sherlock to suss out her relationships with her friends, to calling him out on his grandiose stories, to quietly manipulating both he and John to go out together on an investigation -- she's a fantastic addition to the mix, not at all a third wheel. And on top of all the good scenes with her, we had fun moments with Mrs. Hudson, Lestrade, and Molly too. A feast of great character moments.

But then there was the matter of the mystery itself. For nearly two-thirds of the episode's running time, it looked like there wasn't actually going to be a case, just little snippets of past adventures as related by Sherlock. And though I might have been a little disappointed in that at first, I soon reached a point where the vignettes were entertaining me enough that I didn't mind at all. But then it turned out there was a case in the mix, about a murder attempt at the wedding itself. It felt like a bit of an afterthought, coming so late in the episode. It also felt like too great a coincidence that it happened to relate to the very stories Sherlock had chosen to recount in his speech. Basically, it all came together a bit too quickly, a bit too neatly.

Still, this was probably the most pure fun of any Sherlock episode in any series so far. In a way, it was the show's statement that "we can do comedy too." Overall, I enjoyed it a bit more than "The Empty Hearse," but I'd still probably give it about the same grade, a B+.

No comments: