Yet again, we only have three episodes in this series to sate ourselves with. The good news is that series four is already committed, despite the rise of Martin (The World’s End. The Hobbit) and Cumberbatch (12 Years a Slave, The Hobbit) in film, and five is even in discussion. Sherlock remains one of the most delightfully intellectual and funny series without any sign of slowing down. In fact, if anything, it is improving over time. If they can resist some of the directions they opened up with this series and stay true to their original intent around Sherlock’s personality, it will continue succeeding as well.
This is the season of humanizing Sherlock, whether we like it or not, and whether he likes it or not. It is an inevitable evolution if he is to feel like a real human being rather than just a crime solving automaton, but it does cause a bit of oddness in the stories. If you compare the Sherlock of series 1 and 2 to this round, he has changed rather dramatically. Is it a fair change? Probably. But it isn’t quite consistent with even his own self-identified descriptor of high-functioning sociopath.
This series also interlinks and grows as a whole better than the previous two. While certainly the previous series all built up to ultimate episodes, neither is as much a whole as series three is. There is an arc with this series that is more obvious amidst the mysteries. It is also very satisfying and less jarring than what were more stand-alone cases which the previous series laid out.
I have to say that I wish Moffat had spent as much time on structuring the Doctor Who Christmas special and series 7 as he did on structuring this series. Sherlock is really Moffat at his best. However much I’m glad Sherlock is still around, Doctor Who suffered for the distraction, I fear.
If you haven’t found Sherlock yet, correct that gap immediately. If you have, be assured that they’ve added to all the reasons you stayed.
All that said, I’ll take the episodes on in order, and in brief, with a very minimum of spoilage.
The minisode, Many Happy Returns, was a great way to tease what we all knew was coming. If you somehow missed it, check it out.
The Empty Hearse is a delightful resurrection and leap forward for the Baker Street gang. The forced reconciliation is both frustrating and fair (dang him). And the addition of Abbington (Mr Selfridge, Case Histories) is a brilliant bit of color and refereeing. There is even a comeuppance or two and the laying out of a broader mystery… in short, everything you need after a long hiatus.
The Sign of Three is almost a Hangover-like adventure that comes together in completely unexpected ways. It relies on the trope of the big event, but without devolving into the smarmy treacle it could have wallowed in. It remains, as ever, true to Sherlock, if perhaps a Sherlock a bit more exposed.
His Final Vow is the oddest of the series, both in structure and events. There are revelations, twists, action, and some bold choices and characters. The additions of the lesser-known Mikkleson, Lars (Mads‘ brother) and Brooke (Pirate Radio) also added new and interesting nuances. It is also the most forced and with the least thought through resolution; there was a better selection of choices to solve the problem, in my opinion. Slightly less dramatic choices, but more likely and clever. And, lest you worry, they also set up series 4 (watch all the way through the credits for one last gift).