Sherlock season 3 review

sherlock series 3

Sherlock series 3 sees the return of Sherlock Holmes to London, along with everything that entails.

During the first episode we see Sherlock employ devious tactics in order to get John to forgive him for not telling him he was not actually dead. A pissed John Watson is a funny John Watson, but as we see, he can’t stay pissed at his sociopathic best friend forever. What stands out about the second episode is Sherlock’s Best Man speech at John’s wedding. The speech is laden with an unusual display of both self-awareness and sentiment, such as the moment Sherlock stated that John is the best man he has ever know, while also referring to himself as the worst:

“The point I’m trying to make is that I am the most unpleasant, rude, ignorant, and all-around obnoxious arsehole that anyone could possibly have the misfortune to meet. I am dismissive of the virtuous, unaware of the beautiful, and uncomprehending in the face of the happy. So if I didn’t understand I was being asked to be the best man, it is because I never expected to be anybody’s best friend, and certainly not the best friend of the bravest and kindest and wisest human being I have ever had the good fortune of knowing. John, I am a ridiculous man, redeemed only by the warmth and constancy of your friendship.” 

Most of the rest of the second episode is comic relief, along with some good old-fashioned crime solving. Not to say that comic relief is a bad thing in this case; getting to see a drunk Sherlock Holmes on screen is not the most high-brow form of entertainment, but it’s entertaining enough in other ways.

From a drunk Sherlock Holmes in episode 2 we go to a high Sherlock Holmes in episode 3, the best in the series. This episode starts by showing us just how addicted to danger John really is, and eventually introduces us to a drug-addicted Holmes who now also happens to have a girlfriend, much to everyone’s surprise. Sherlock’s drug-addiction has been alluded to in earlier episodes, but we have never gotten to see it on full blast before.

Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes was a cocaine addict. He consumed it because he said it sharpened his faculties of observation. This modern-day Sherlock is a recovering addict… until now. He claims his relapse is all for the sake of a case, that it’s a cover. However, based on the way the episode plays out, we can never be sure he didn’t fall back into his old habits just for the fun of it.

Sherlock with a girlfriend was interesting, but not as interesting as Sherlock on drugs. The show has played around with Sherlock’s sexuality ever since it started. Is he straight? Gay? Bisexual? Or just so smart he’s simply asexual… the pleasures of the flesh too mundane for him to consider? The truth is, I’m far less interested in this than I am in seeing Sherlock solve cases. Don’t get me wrong, the scene where John finds out about Sherlock’s girlfriend is a good scene. The humor is spot on and the changes in rhythm between Sherlock and John are hilarious.

Everything in that scene is brilliant… the last scene involving Janine (the girlfriend) and Sherlock in the hospital, is not. It’s implied they never consummated their relationship, a fact I think would’ve been better left unsaid. It would’ve been far more interesting to keep us guessing and to tone down the asexual undertones. Or maybe he’s just faithful to The Woman, wherever she may be?

There’s a big plot twist in this episode involving the outing of Mary Watson as an ex-assassin, followed by a deep plunge into Sherlock’s psyche as he tries to fight for his life. The scenes are intense. Do not watch when high (just kidding, you can watch it high if you want to). I liked seeing Andrew Scott reprise his role as James Moriarty, if only as the Moriarty of Sherlock’s nightmares. This Moriarty is the representation of everything Sherlock fears and also secretly desires… a man unable to feel pain. But pain is what saves Sherlock; pain at the realization that if he dies, John could be in danger. Eventually this realization gives him the strength to come back to life and to leave nightmare-Moriarty locked up in a cell deep inside his mind.

The good thing about this scene is that we get to see exactly how Sherlock survives, as opposed to the last episode of series 2, when we had no idea at all. A contrast, in short, to all the guessing us viewers had to go through during seasons.

At first I thought outing Mary Watson as an ex-assassin was a good way to get John out of the whole marriage conundrum and have it be only Sherlock and John solving crimes and living together again. But using it as a way for John to accept and reconcile with his danger-loving dark side is a way better idea. The great thing about this storyline is that it’s Sherlock who wants John to take Mary back and accept her for who she is. He believes they could be happy together, even if John’s first reaction to all of this was to ask if it just so happens that  everyone he’s ever met a psychopath.

The idea of the ‘mind palace’ is referenced to during the entire episode, not least when we take a dive into Sherlock’s psyche during his fight for life. It serves as a foreshadowing of what ultimately defeats Sherlock in this case. Because he does lose. He’s outwitted by his enemy, the dead-eyed disgusting Charles Augustus Magnussen, portrayed excellently by Lars Mikkelsen. Sherlock loses because he underestimates his enemy, a rookie mistake he should’ve outgrown by now. It never occurred to him that somebody other than himself could have a mind palace of their own, a similar way to store incredibly vast amounts of information inside their head. In a way, Magnussen is an interesting display of how a mind like Sherlock’s could be used for evil instead of for solving crimes.

Magnussen is a businessman, Mycroft says. He’s not really dangerous, he just trades favors for secrecy, and it would be better if Sherlock stopped trying to take him down. But Magnussen is slime. Sherlock hates the way he blackmails people and always gets what he wants. He hates the way nobody ever stands up to him. He probably hates that Magnussen beat him most of all. So he cocks John’s gun and kills him with one straight shot to the head. An emotional solution to an intellectual problem.

It was probably Mycroft who got him all worked up, calling him a dragon-slayer and such.

Sherlock as a murderer isn’t hard to understand if you take into account his motives. Killing Magnussen was the only way to ensure Mary’s protection, and in turn, to protect John. He didn’t seem to regret it, either. It’s hard to imagine Sherlock regretting killing someone he considered slime if it meant keeping the person he cares most about in his life safe, even after he’s punished with exile that entails certain death.

Still, it’s a little brutal to witness this act. We’re used to Sherlock beating the bad guys with his mind, not with violence. At the same time, however, it’s refreshing to see Sherlock lose a case. It reminds us that he’s still human. It’s also a nice to see that even after defeated, Sherlock prefers to sacrifice himself, to do something, rather than just give up. Sort of like flipping the table when you’re losing a game of chess.

We also get to see more of Sherlock’s and Mycroft’s relationship this series, and especially this episode. It’s interesting that Sherlock sees Mycroft both as a source of crippling insecurity and also of intellectual resolve and strength, and that Mycroft sees Sherlock as the little brother he fervently believes in, is annoyed by, and ultimately just wants to protect. This is a common enough dynamic between an older and a younger sibling, but seeing it played out between two genius brothers gives it a nice little twist.

Overall, this was a very diverse series. Series 2 probably showcases a more coherent and interesting display of crime-solving episodes, mainly because so much of series 3 was focused on developing the relationships between characters. But now that (possibly? maybe?) Moriarty is back, we should get back to hardcore detective work soon enough.

Speaking about Moriarty–my favorite villain ever just because he’s so charmingly insane–I just about burst when I saw that he could (possibly) be back. “Did you miss me?” he asks us. Yes I did, Moriarty. Indeed I did. And I really hope this isn’t just some criminal pretending to be Moriarty in order to lure Sherlock into a trap. Then again… how can someone survive a blow to the head? Maybe what we saw of Sherlock’s mind-trip is a form of foreshadowing. Maybe something similar happened to Moriarty. I guess we’ll have to wait and see in series 4.

They’re planning to release series 4 in 2016, which seems like a long wait for some but doesn’t really bother me. Some viewers hoped for a shorter timeframe between seasons, but I think that in order to keep the show creative, interesting and complex, some time should be taken to let the new stories take form and life in the mind of the show’s creators. More time to breathe between seasons allows for better, more prepared writing and also allows the actors to decompress and work on other projects so that they come to back to the set feeling fresh and excited. I also believe in the concept of the characters aging with the audience. For some reason it feels like this allows for more series sustainability.

Are you a fan of Sherlock? What was your favorite moment in series 3?

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