After a long and frustrating hiatus, Sherlock finally returned to PBS for its third season. But was it worth the wait?
In my opinion it’s a tough sell.
Warning: Huge Spoilers follow! You have been warned!
In the first episode, we hoped for an explanation for how Sherlock faked his death. Did we get that explanation? No. Instead we got two farces and Sherlock’s attempt to placate Anderson. If you missed my rant, please see my review of ‘The Empty Hearse’.
The second episode, ‘The Sign of Three’, was good, interesting, and hilarious, but ultimately rather pointless and crazy. I’m sure the story of The Bloody Guard relates to an original mystery, though I’m not familiar with which specific one. The mystery took backstage to John Watson and Mary Morstan’s wedding, which went pretty much how I expected it to. Sherlock was the obvious choice for Best Man, but the thought of giving him a time limit for his speech should have been obvious as well. I fell in love with Mary in this episode. She’s smart, witty, fearless, and ready to follow John and Sherlock on their adventures. For a character who didn’t have a big impact in Doyle’s original mysteries, despite being Watson’s wife, this Mary has a lot of potential to influence the upcoming stories. Just not the kind of impact it I was hoping for.
In ‘His Last Vow’, I was shocked and dismayed at many aspects of the story. Yet, it was much more the type of story I have come to expect from Sherlock, as opposed to the two previous of the stories. You have a criminal – a despicable, disgusting, character that you eagerly await the demise of – and you have Sherlock and John pitting their wits and strengths against him.
Then you get the curveball. Not only is Mary a victim of the slime ball Charles Augustus Magnussen, but we find out that her entire identity is a lie. She is a former assassin, and she is convinced that the truth would turn John against her. This, after the accusations she started to throw at Sherlock when he first revealed himself to John in ‘The Empty Hearse’, seems hypocritical. If Sherlock’s apparent death did so much damage to John, how much damage will finding out that his wife is a fake and a killer do? While I was pleased that it appears Mary will be staying, I’m not satisfied with the fragile resolution Mary and John found. I don’t think we’re supposed to be, which just makes this that much more difficult. This character that I quickly decided I loved now will always have this negative aspect hanging over her, tainting how viewers see her and how John and Sherlock treat her.
After this revelation, the two shockers at the end of the story are almost two much to stand. First Sherlock commits murder, killing Charles Augustus Magnussen and thereby destroying the infamous blackmail archive that exists in his head. There are witnesses all around him and there’s no denying that at that moment it wasn’t self-defense. It was homicide.
Finally, the last shock of the season came at the very last second. Literally. Did you miss Jim Moriarty? I have to admit that I did! As an arch enemy, his demise seemed sadly premature and disappointing. However, just how many Lazarus cases can a show have before fans say, “This isn’t sci-fi! You can’t just bring them back from the dead with no explanation! I quit!” While I can completely believe that Moriarty’s death was faked – he was insane, but I don’t believe he was self-destructive, just smart enough to take the one action that Sherlock wouldn’t anticipate – I can only say that we had better get a full explanation on how he did it. Sherlock was too stunned to examine Moriarty’s body, but whose body was found on the roof if it wasn’t Moriarty? He had the resources to fake it, but just like with Sherlock’s still unexplained suicide, I won’t be satisfied without details.
Overall I have mixed emotions about Season 3 of Sherlock. ‘The Empty Hearse’ was an excellent episode but it lacked what we craved most: the answer to how Sherlock survived his apparent suicide. ‘The Sign of Three’ was hilarious but unfocused and insane, keeping the mystery too much in the background. Despite some brilliant moments it is my least favorite of the season. Finally, ‘His Last Vow’ was much more my type of Sherlock episode, but the revelations are almost too much to take, especially when we have no idea when the next season may come to resolve them. I’m not giving up on the show, not by a long shot. Yet one more shocking revelation, one more unexplained mystery, and I might just have to throw my towel at co-creators Moffat and Gatiss.