Redemption! Oh, Mr. Moffat, you wonderful wonderful man! You’ve somehow managed to cancel out the disappointment of the Doctor Who Christmas special AND gain some points after series 3 of Sherlock. And I presume that Mark Gatiss had something to do with that, so I’m grateful to him as well. And, of course, Stephen Thompson was marvelous as always, rounding out the writing team. But let’s break this down:
The Empty Hearse
They had a lot to cover in this episode: how Sherlock survived, what he’d been doing while he was gone, what John had been doing since thinking Sherlock had died, their reunion, Sherlock’s reunion with the other characters (Molly, Lastade, Mrs. Hudson), the introduction of Mary, John’s proposal to her, and a taste of Magnussen for a proper series arc. And they handled everything pretty damn near perfectly.
Time was taken into account. The Series 2 finale was two years ago and in the show two years have passed since Sherlock’s “death.”
The opening sequence was flawless, there’s clearly something off about the how-he-survived scenario, but you couldn’t help to sort of get into it. And when Sherlock bursts through the glass, tousles his hair, and catches Molly with that kiss…well, the internet’s been talking about nothing else since then. And it’s all in Anderson’s mind. Dream on, you wonderful idiot. It is your fault he’s dead, even though he’s not.
Sherlock seemed to have grown a sense of humor while he was away, and his surprise reunion with John, just as John was about to propose to Mary, was hilarious, if a bit gut wrenching (sense of humor or no, Sherlock’s still a little shit).
As for Mary herself, that was a perfect piece of casting. A lot of people are touchy when it comes to her character, as she’s splitting up the dream team to a certain effect (and apparently poor Amanda has been receiving death threats), but I have yet to hear one person I actually know say that they didn’t like Amanda Abbington’s portrayal. She’s adorable. And she and John are adorable. And the actors are actually a couple in real life and that’s adorable.
And the writers did their job setting up clues for this series’ finale when Sherlock “deduces” Mary and sees “Liar” written all over her face, but many other kind things as well, which is enough to throw the viewers off the scent.
Also, the writers have become more playful too. With all the slash fiction that’s flying around, the show had to remark on it. Cue Sherlock/Moriarty almost-kiss (I miss when Moriarty was the bad guy).
There was some Guy Fawkes riddled plot, Sherlock saves John, yada yada yada. But the point is through the whole episode, after Sherlock has apologized a dozen times (something he doesn’t do), John still hasn’t forgiven him for letting him think he was dead for two years. So, there’s a wonderful scene when they’re on a Tube carriage that’s about to blow up and John finally forgives him just in time for Sherlock to reveal they were never in any real danger.
It was the perfect follow up to Reichenbach. Mary’s not tearing apart the relationship. She’s simply turning the duo into a trio.
The Sign of Three
This episode was practically a straight comedy.
The plot really doesn’t show up until an hour in, but I was very happily distracted with the best, albeit longest, best man speech there’s ever been, which crescendos in something along the lines of “today you sit between the woman you have made your wife and the man you have saved.”
Hand me the Kleenex when you’re done.
But the opening with Lestrade, the eye in the tea during Sherlock’s first time being stunned into silence, the napkins, the full 10 minute sequence of the John and Sherlock being drunk (and “clueing for looks”), Lestrade waking them up to what may very well be their first hangovers, and Mary clearly being cleverer than the other two combined, brought on continuous shrieks of laughter that quite startled everyone in my near vicinity.
John’s sister, Harry, was mentioned again. I’m not sure if they keep bringing her up to make us say “how sad he has such a bad relationship with his sister,” and we’re never going to see her, or if they’re purposely building her up and she’s going to be in a future series.
Then the plot finally decides to roll in, and they ingeniously had the online correspondence in Sherlock’s mind palace, or in this case a mind courtroom, with a cameo from Irene Adler and Mycroft.
And it’s a little boy that kicks Sherlock’s mind into high gear, and they save John’s old war friend (who has a frightfully depressing backstory).
I had already figured out who the murderer was a few minutes earlier and I’m not sure if that was on purpose; that they meant for the audience to have the jump on Sherlock, their point being with John and Mary around his mind isn’t working at full capacity.
It certainly seems that Sherlock’s mind is moving a little sluggishly (I wouldn’t have been able to gather all the facts, but they slow-mo-ed right as the photographer was taking Sherlock’s picture and I went “Oh! It’s the photographer!” But I’ll get back to that in the third part. I miss when Moriarty was the bad guy).
Bu they arrest the photographer, Sherlock plays the violin for John and Mary’s first dance, and let’s slip that he’s deduced Mary is pregnant. And they all dance into the night, except Sherlock, even though he wants to, so he disappears into the night.
At the reception Sherlock says the only vow he will ever make is to do everything he can to protect John. And Mary. Which brings us to:
His Last Vow
To be really honest, I felt like this episode was the low point of the season. Unlike Sign of Three which had almost too little plot for the allotted hour and a half, His Last Vow was trying to stuff an awful lot into 90 minutes.
We finally get to meet Magnessen, seeing both how he manipulates people as well as how he views them. And he sees all people in pretty much the same way: as targets. It’s just a matter of finding the right pressure point (interestingly, Sherlock appears to have more pressure points than anyone else). A good long stint of the show follows Magnessen’s manipulations, before we finally cut back to John and his idea of domestic life, which apparently involves storming a drug den. This is where we finally meet back up with Sherlock.
The idea of Sherlock being a drug user is by no means new, it was a part of the original books, but it was a step they had never quite taken in the BBC show before. But Molly even tests him, and yes, Sherlock has been doing drugs in John’s absence.
That’s not all he’s been doing either as John discovers when he get’s Sherlock back to 221 B. John finds Janine, one of Mary’s bridesmaids, has moved into his old room and gotten awfully cozy with Sherlock. Point being this is all important to the plot and the episodes already halfway through.
The reason for Sherlock’s sudden romantic interest is that she actually works for Magnessen and by proposing, he tricks her into letting him and John into Magnessen’s office and she almost gets killed for it.
While John stays with her, Sherlock looks for Magnessen and discovers he’s already being held at gunpoint by, dun dun DUN! Mrs. Mary Watson. Cause she’s a liar, as they told us, and this is her day job. Or night job.
Again , I guessed this, but only right before it was revealed this time. I went “Oh! It’s Mary!” And here I think the reason Sherlock didn’t get it, he even says it’s not Mary, when they’re in the elevator, is the same reason the audience might not.
Whether you saw it coming or not, it’s sad. We like Mary at this point. So does Sherlock. She makes John happy and he deserves that and this would crush him. Then Mary shoots Sherlock.
And this was my favorite sequence of the episode. In Holmes’ mind, Molly talks him through what’s happening, to physically keep him alive, then Mycroft appears and talks him through the shock, to keep him going mentally, and when Sherlock reaches the deepest most horrific part of his psyche, Moriarty shows up and reminds him why he has to stay alive: he has to warn John.
Sherlock survives and tricks Mary into telling John herself, by planting him in the room where she confesses to Sherlock. But we also discover she really does love John and she knew that the bullet to Sherlock wouldn’t kill him.
The harshest thing for me is when the trio return to 221 B and make Mary sit in the chair and John tells her that’s where the clients sit and that’s what she is. She has to explain herself and then they’ll “decide if we want you or not.”
But Sherlock wants her. He brings the Watsons to dinner with his family, hoping it can mend their relationship and eventually it does, with the one line of the season that actually brought tears to my eyes, “the problems of your past are your business. The problems of your future are my privilege,” and throws the flash drive with all her secrets into the fire, never having viewed them.
Then all hell breaks loose.
Sherlock drugs everyone at the house except John and they go to Magessen to get the incriminating information he claimed to have on Mary, only to discover he has no files, no proof, no vaults. It’s all in his mind, and if it’s printed in the press, people will believe it. This ruins Sherlock’s plan, which was to inform Mycroft of the location of the information and put Magnessen in hot water with the government. So, when Mycroft does arrive, Sherlock decides the only way to get rid of the evidence and keep Mary out of trouble, the only way to protect her, as he vowed to do in the previous episode, is to shoot Magnessen in the head.
Pause for a note. Magnessen tells Sherlock that he isn’t the villain and this is true to an extent. He’s greasy slimeball of a weasel and we all hate him and want him dead, but he’s not a gonna-blow-up-London, steal-the-Crown-Jewels, make-Sherlock-jump-off-a-building bad guy. And HE’s the one who gets his brains blown out by Sherlock. And that was my biggest problem this series. I felt like it was missing a strong villain. I miss when Moriarty was the bad guy
This is the first time in the entire Sherlock has straight up killed someone point blank, that wasn’t in self defense. And Mycroft can’t get him out of this. Too many officials saw it. To Mycroft’s credit, we see a moment of big broth humanity when he looks down and sees Sherlock, not as he is, but a s a child, the way all older siblings see younger ones. In the end he convinces whoever was in charge of the whole investigation to send Sherlock on a suicide mission, rather than giving him any formal sentencing.
John and Mary see Sherlock off before he’s going to get on the plane to take him to that mission and say a “final” farewell. Then Sherlock gets on the plane and it flies off. Cue closing credits.
Just as the end music comes in, the screen goes to static and this is what made up for the whole episode in a 60 second foul swoop. Lestrade sees something on the screen, Mycroft sees it, all of London. It’s Moriarty. He’s back, and they call Sherlock’s mission off so he can once again save the day.
Overall, I was thrilled with the season, especially considering how disappointed I was with recent Doctor Who episodes. But I have yet to see, and I don’t want to jinx it here, a bad episode of Sherlock.
I still think Reichenbach Fall was the best episode, but I think it will always be the best episode. You can’t top that shit. And knowing Moriarty is coming back makes me look forward to the upcoming episodes (Moffat and Gatiss said that there will be a series 4 and 5).
The only concern I have about this is that now every time they kill a character that character springs back up. But this time I’ll allow it.
I’m also a little worried because there’s some new bigwig at the BBC who wants the next series of Sherlock to begin filming over the summer…when Moffat will be busy filming Doctor Who and this means he may have to choose between Sherlock and Who. Who’s entering a turnover season anyway: new Doctor, though seeing as Moffat cast Capaldi I could see him wanting a season with him. Personally, I feel that Who would have a better chance of surviving with a new show runner. Sherlock still needs him.