Channel: BBC One
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman
We were always going to get a third season of this show. Not even Sherlock’s death could stop a return from this hit show.
Two years after Sherlock’s death and John Watson has moved on. He is ready to propose to his gorgeous girlfriend and has finally let go of this nagging need to investigate and get involved in dangerous events. And then, when has finally reached a level of normality, Sherlock bursts back into his life, with a new case and a terrorist plot to solve. As Watson comes to terms with the fact that his entire emotional breakdown was completely unnecessary, a new threat brews in the distance. A cold-hearted blackmailer who has dirt on everyone powerful in London, Charles Augustus Magnussen. He hides in the shadows, pulling strings where necessary and when Sherlock decides to make it a personal vendetta to bring his collection of personal files down, Magnussen seems more amused than worried. Has Sherlock finally met his toughest opponent yet?
These three episodes are a very different breed from the ones we are used to. The first season simply enjoyed being fresh and original, making it the best of the lot so far. Season Two set the bar slightly too high and while we mostly enjoyed it, it didn’t quite hit the standards it set for itself. Season Three is a much more light-hearted affair, finding it enough just to enjoy being Sherlock. It takes its time to play around with the characters, explore relationships and give its stars some meaty roles to take on. I think this is going to work badly for the show. Again, it is hard to criticise the show too much, because we do enjoy what we have been given. The episodes are clever and witty and we do find ourselves laughing harder than we ever have before. The stag do where a drunken Sherlock and Watson end up taking on a case, intoxicated, is one of the most entertaining moments to come out of all nine episodes. The blasé way in which Sherlock strolls back into everyone’s lives is superb. And of course, we will all be remembering the emotional best man speech for quite some time. Yes, all of these moments are great, but the problem with them is the fact that they are replacing the actual mystery and story parts of the show, which we could argue are the fundamental parts of the season. Yes, there are still enigmas to unravel and Sherlock always appears to be on some sort of quest. However, in the first two episodes, the mysteries feel like background, rather than the forefront of the show. Sometimes this helps, as it becomes easier for the writers to hide important clues. I really did enjoy the way ‘The Sign of Three’ all fell together; it was clever writing which I appreciated. However, at the same time, I came away from this season, feeling slightly deflated.
Therefore, with the first episode being all about Sherlock’s return and the second episode focusing on how cute Sherlock and John are together, it all falls down to the finale to be the Sherlock we have waited two years for. For the most part, it is a resounding success. It uses every trick in the book to dupe the viewer and it handles misdirection very well. There is one twist that you will not see coming, although it will probably take a while before, it sinks in enough for me to appreciate it. At the moment, I feel it was an unnecessary development and it might hurt future episodes. At the very least, it opens up some avenues that I am sure Moffat and Gattis are dying to explore. I liked how the story began to move away from Magnussen, which I felt was a waste of this great build-up of the new villain, but then the story looped right back around and made him the number one priority. The conclusion was much more satisfying than the last season and I felt it was an interesting development for one of the characters. Of course, if you have read my other Sherlock reviews, you know I won’t approve of the cliff-hanger at the end of the season, but at the very least, it didn’t get in the way of the rest of the season, like last time.
So how did Magnussen compare to Moriarty as the main villain? I thought he did very well, and while I hated Moriarty as a villain, making me a biased reviewer, I felt that Magnussen was much more fitting person for Sherlock to play off against. His presence was slightly hurt, by the fact that the season was enjoying the dynamic between Holmes and Watson too much to build up the character, which might hurt him in the long run, when we reflect on the numerous Sherlock bad guys. However, when we finally got to the finale and saw this interesting villain, he instantly won us over. More thought has been put into Magnussen than had been done with Moriarty. Moriarty seemed like crazy for crazy’s sake, almost trying to literally become Sherlock’s Joker. Magnussen is much more interesting to watch. He is refined, yet harshly rude. He enjoys his work, yet never comes across as manic. He even feels more dangerous, as we never get to know just how well connected and powerful he really is. Near the end, we learn that he isn’t even really a villain. He has no mastermind plot like Moriarty; no end goal. He is simply a guy who holds all of the cards and has his finger on the trigger, making him instantly dangerous, yet he never expresses the true nature of his malice and cruelty. This makes the battle between him and Sherlock much more complex, as there isn’t really a direct reason for Holmes to even take him on.
Let’s loop back to the cliffhanger at the end of season two. It ruined the whole thing, but there is a slim hope that a decent resolution to that plot point could save the show’s failings. If you would pardon a mild spoiler, we never learn how Sherlock faked his own death. We are given several possible explanations and one of them is even satisfactory. However, there is still a vague gap in that mystery that the show doesn’t seem to want to answer. It even mocks us, the viewer, for being so desperate for the truth. Personally, I think this is the right thing to do. No answer was going to be good enough for the two year wait and at least now our imaginations can do the work for us. I like it, because it almost feels apologetic, as if Moffat and Gattis admit that abrupt ending was a mistake and this is them making up for it. Personally, they are forgiven and Sherlock is back on track.
Final Verdict: While lacking in actual story, Sherlock manages to remain excellent television, developing Sherlock and Watson well and treating us to several memorable moments.