This is the most interesting and controversial Sherlock episode thus far. It has done three things to its own fandom and to itself as a television show in the course of what was a singularly fast paced episode. In the course of ninety minutes the show ended with mixed reviews from critics and fans a like bashing the episode from being the most un-Sherlock, Sherlock episode in the history of the series and the novel counterpart as well. Secondly, it is an episode in which a case (if you even want to call it that) presents itself only in the last thirty minutes of the show and is solved quite hastily. Lastly, the big reveal at the end of this episode (which I will indeed save for the end but don’t worry it’s not an obvious spoiler) is probably the most hot topic button pushed that leaves you hoping for the worst in the season finale. In short this episode is the lightest, un-Sherlock, cleverly written episode that has viewers laughing, baffled, and yet subtly suffocated as a lingering darkness looms in the last five minutes leading up it the impending season finale.
For the length of this review it will be split up into different sections of “Acts” (not listed in any particular order) that will contain a picture and some commentary underneath. Beware of mild spoilers (as I will leave some, but not all, to the imagination and the American viewers who have yet to see any of series 3) and carry on my wayward people.
What or Whom exactly is ‘The Sign of Three’? Obvious, it is Sherlock, John and Mary. Perhaps it could be Sherlock, John and Ms. Hudson. Or it could even be Mycroft, Sherlock and a metaphorical loneliness. For now (settle down, theorists) we will assume that this episode is talking about our main family; John, Sherlock and Mary.
“This is really hard, the hardest thing I ever had to do.” – Sherlock
This is the first thing out of Sherlock Holmes’s mouth as we are introduced to him sitting in his apartment hunched over his laptop trying to figure out how to make the best, best man speech.
And, boy, don’t we all know how hard it must really be for the consulting detective to switch off his computer brains and trade them for matrimonial fluff. In a conversation with Ms. Hudson who stops by to bring him a cup of tea (without biscuits, a fact that Sherlock fixates on to mask worry about John leaving his life for good) she starts our first foreshadowing of events. She reminiscences her wedding day to Sherlock in her comforting way to warn him about expecting to see less of his friend. Sherlock just arrived back in London not too long ago and despite his best efforts of thinking he is acting calm on the surface about being confident that this marriage will not change his and John’s relationship, his non verbal cues are exposing him gravely.
” Marriage changes people. You wouldn’t know. You’re alone all the time.” – Ms. Hudson
This fact obviously hurts Sherlock, but without a beat he sends her out and starts getting ready for the battle…er…The Wedding.
Something old, something new, something borrowed and someone is rather blue. Sherlock. This episode–at least the first forty minutes–is decidedly about Sherlock. It is through his eyes that we see all the events, provided in flash backs, unfold. It is the speech to end all speeches, the speech that weighs on all invited to the wedding that leaves everyone seated on edge. What on earth is Sherlock Holmes going to make a speech about? As a fan your mind thinks: maybe Sherlock will learn some manners and actually present a speech filled with niceties and fluff. Which isn’t too far fetched if you think about the Sherlock we all saw who was humanized in The Empty Hearse. However, as a fan in your heart, you know our crime solving, meticulous, drama queen of a man cannot possibly manage to say anything nice to the people that attend this wedding. A shockingly nervous Sherlock opens his mouth, our hearts and those in the wedding party audience pounds frantically in our chests.
Before I reveal some of what was said here we will back track a little to the festivities before the wedding speech as the episode does. But don’t worry there will be more on the wedding speech and the scene later in the post.
Sherlock holmes and the case of the best man
This episode is filled with flashback sequences leading up and throughout the scene of the wedding. It is a highly unusual method used for story telling in this series and it caused some uproar in the fandom. As mentioned earlier there are very little deductions in this episode. All deductions employed can be counted on one hand. And in this case this is one of the most funniest un-deduction, deduction sequences there is.
Leading up to the wedding Sherlock, John and Mary are seen in 221B going over who is to sit where at various tables. Sherlock stops on a name, Major Sholto, and asks Mary his credentials. Sherlock and the audience find out that Sholto was once a best friend of John’s in the military, and Mary is jokingly making Sherlock jealous by playing up the fact that John apparently talks to Mary about Sholto all the time. Sherlock tries to hide his surprise that John has never mentioned Sholto to him, and quickly moves on from the conversation makes a list for Mary about who should sit where and the scene has ended.
Now for the best man proposal. The Wedding is merely weeks off and John still does not have a best man.
Flash-forward or rather backward to John entering 221B–alone–and finding Sherlock (in one of his sexiest dressing gowns yet) blow torching an eyeball–as one does–and gives the best proposal that will surely inspire the best gifs around.
Sherlock stands rigidly, towering over John who finds a seat at the dining table and begins to ask Sherlock about being a best man. Cue some feels. As John asks Sherlock about having a best man at his wedding Sherlock misses the obvious and genuinely thinks that John is asking him about who Sherlock literally thinks is the best man ever. The scene goes as follows **Mild Spoilers** :
“Billy Kincaid, The Camden Garroter (Strangler), best man I ever knew.” – Sherlock
After a ranting about why he sees Kincaid to be the best man that ever lived, John then understands–with the patience of a saint–that Sherlock does not understand where John is trying to lead him. Sherlock continues to list other great men that John might consider being in his wedding.
“Mike Stamford? Lestrade?” guesses Sherlock
“He’s not my best friend,” John replies Sherlock has run out of men and John has become silent. Sherlock looks befuddled and in the sweetest scene this show has ever seen (and this episode is chalk full of John/Sherlock sweetness) John musters up the courage to say:
“Look Sherlock, this is the biggest and most important day of my life. And I want to be up there with the two people that I love and care about most in the world…Mary Morstan…and…you.”
For the first time in the history of the series Sherlock Holmes is completely stunned, shocked and above all silenced. In the funniest non-verbal scene yet Cumberbatch portrays the shock, aberration, and honor that goes through the detective’s mind in a flash that can only be described with a picture.
It is also the first time Sherlock comprehends that the was ever considered/had a best friend. Enough with the flash backs and let’s go forward to the present scene.
THE SIGN OF THREE
After a brief moment of niceties and a note addressed to the happy couple from someone named CAM (Charles Augustus Magnussen, perhaps?) we are brought back to the speech of the hour. If you thought Sherlock had been much too mild in his approach in ‘The Empty Hearse’ then we’ve all been mistaken. Sherlock flips his proverbial coat collar and primps his polished cheekbones and goes off on his worst tangent yet. The general idea is that Sherlock takes a day that is supposed to be about John and his bride and turns it into why he hates love. marriage, and people. The speech is just as embarrassing and outrageous as it sounds and everyone in the wedding shifts uncomfortably in their seats. Here comes a time for theories.
Theory #1: That wedding note from a person named CAM could possibly be from the new villain Charles Augusts Magnussen.
Theory #2: There is a man with the same yellow wire framed glasses and gray-blue eyes that sits in the audience of the wedding while Sherlock is speaking. We have a close up on him three different times throughout the speech. Who is that guy? Is he a spy for CAM?
Back to facts. Sherlock goes on to admit his love (ah! finally) for John and has the room in tears–I will not be posting the transcript of the speech, it’s someone one has to hear themselves by watching the episode–. Another touching scene ensues when Sherlock doesn’t understand why everyone in the room is crying and asks John if he had done his speech wrong (cue the feels, again). John reassures him that he did nothing wrong through the confirmation of a hug.
Alright, enough with the spoilers you say? Time to move on.
sHERLOCK AND THE CASE OF THE STAG PARTY
As I said earlier we do not get a proper case until the last thirty minutes of the show. It is the case of ‘The Mayfly Man’ that is at first told as a flash back in Sherlock’s wedding speech that spills over into the present day wedding–I will leave you wondering why.
During a night off Sherlock plans John’s bachelor party. This is the beginning of a beautiful, hilarious night out. Sherlock Holmes is a ridiculous man, but of course we knew that, but just exactly how ridiculous is he? Sherlock’s idea of a stag party is to carry John along to every pub near the ally of a dead body they found in previous cases. He enlists in the help of Molly Hooper (an awkwardly funny scene) to devise the proper measurement on how much he and Watson can drink without being completely smashed. John purposefully spikes Sherlock’s drink–when he isn’t looking–and the real stag party begins. Sherlock is drunk, very, very drunk. The only thing worse than a drunk Sherlock is drunk Sherlock trying to solve a case while hammered and coming up with fogged deductions as depicted above. How the rest of this stag party/case unfolds I’ll leave to you to watch. But I will say that it involves Dubstep and Madonna.
hIS LAST VOW
Naturally, this will be the least spoiled thing. The ending. It was an episode of laughs and heavily explored the relationship of Sherlock and John, but ended on a rather clandestine sour note that almost made you forget that it’s successor episode was not too far off. At the end I will say this. That you do know that Sherlock is ultimately alone, mostly by choice, but he feels the threat of the marriage and what it will do to his and John’s relationship. Towards the end we see Sherlock gain confidence as he makes his last vow to the happy couple and promises to be in their life always. However in that same speech he accidentally makes a devastating deduction that will most certainly alter his friendship with John and Mary. It is in this miscalculation viewers, John and Mary learn exactly what ‘The Sign of Three’ actually means. I’ll leave you to your own deductions…