I’ve dreaded writing this because unlike Series 1 and 2, Series 3 left a sour taste in some fans mouths. Did the show take a different path this series? Yes, it very much did. We fell away from the cases taking the center-stage to the human relationships between Sherlock, John, Mary and others being the focus of the series. That bugged some people. It bugged some people a lot. Sherlock is no longer the icy machine from A Study in Pink. He has friends (not even just John anymore). He has emotions. He’s slowly developed as a character (he’s still a machine though) and for some reason people don’t like that.
Let me ask this, if Series 3 of Sherlock had followed the same pattern as the previous series would you love it any more or less than what was actually delivered? Would it have started to become predictable and maybe even a bit boring? We don’t know the answers to these questions because there is nothing to compare to, even hypothetically. The way in which Series 2 ended made it impossible for Series 3 to ever follow that same pattern. Change is scary and doesn’t always work perfectly, but that doesn’t make Series 3 any lesser of a product than Series 1 or 2.
Now that that’s out of the way, after a two-year wait of finding out how Sherlock lived, in The Empty Hearse we never get a real answer, which sucks. The third situation presented by Sherlock was probably how he did it but we’ll never know for sure and that’s something everyone is going to have to accept. Ultimately, that and the fact that the “case” is only brought up when convenient make it not as strong of an episode as it could have been. In The Sign of Three, it’s the wedding episode so if you were thinking there’d be a “normal” episode of Sherlock, sorry to disappoint. However, it is the episode that shows the most character development and shows the most realistic experience any of us could actually have in real life (apologizes to people who’ve spent time in bonfires and/or been shot by your best friend’s wife). In His Last Vow, bombshells are dropped which threaten everything Series 3 has worked towards but manages to conquer them, in a realistic manner.
In every episode of Series 3, the focus is on character development. Whether it be John’s reaction to Sherlock being alive, showcasing Sherlock as the best/worst best man of all time, or the rawness of Mary’s betrayal, Series 3 is big on emotions. It does get a little annoying when you are watching and everything seems like it’s trying to get you to feel happy here or sad over there. However, those emotions are set up in a highly intelligent way in regards to the episodes. Episode 1 brings the team back together so we’re happy about that. Episode 2 is full of so much love and laughter its suffocating but we’re even happier. Then we leap off the edge and fall into an episode full of darkness and anger. His Last Vow wouldn’t have had the effect it did if episodes 1 & 2 weren’t as joyful (using that term loosely) as they were.
Series 3 gave us the black sheep of Sherlock, Mary Morstan. It’s almost ingrained in you from the start to find a reason not to like her. She’s going to break up the team, ruin the show, and stop us from ever seeing Sherlock and John living in the same flat ever again. Some people probably never liked her, but a majority fell in love with her. She doesn’t break them up, she reunites them in a way. Yes, she splits them up too but merely in terms of living situations, not friendship. The build up of her as a likeable character is so well done that when she shoots Sherlock, it hurts and you wish you had kept your dislike for her. Something else changes in that moment as well. It’s realized that Sherlock and John are on one side of the room and Mary’s on the other. Despite everyone’s forgiveness of her (even your own), she’s never getting on the other side of the room again. She hurt both members of our favorite duo and no one will forget that. Everyone can get along and still love each other, but they won’t forget and that’s a cross Mary’s going to have to bear for the rest of Sherlock.
Moriarty is dead (well he was for Series 3 at least) and we need a new villain, Charles Augustus Magnussen (CAM). If you go back to the telegram scene from The Sign of Three, the telegram from CAM is actually from Magnussen. Magnussen as a villain does not live up to Moriarty. He’s a disgusting human being, grant him that, but he doesn’t send a chill up your spine like Moriarty. He’s barely mentioned in episode 1, brushed aside in episode 2, and when he gets killed at the end of episode 3, who cares? He could be considered frightening because there is a much greater chance that someone like him exists in our world but it’s scarier to have someone blow people up for fun rather than blackmail them. The only truly “worthy” moments of villainy happen when he licks a face, urinates in a fireplace, cleans his hands in a glass and flicks John in the face. Not exactly the stuff of nightmares. Was he just a filler villain? Probably, due to the fact that Moriarty is back. I’ll give it this, the show does know how to top itself on cliffhangers.
Series 3 was a mixed bag of testing a new version of Sherlock out with a greater emphasis on characters rather than the mysteries. It’s not perfect for sure but for those with an open mind, it still went beyond our expectations. Only time will tell what Series 4 brings (and how on earth Moriarty is alive). Below is my ranking of the episodes of Series 3 with some brief reasoning’s for each.
His Last Vow was a roller coaster of emotions that left us hanging on an even bigger cliffhanger than how Series 2 ended. While this is the last episode, there will still be GIF/Pics of the week, only now they won’t be limited to any one episode. Enjoy.
I think we’d all faint if Sherlock ever legitimately proposed to someone.
Sherlock and Mycroft, two of the most clever and powerful people in England, still afraid of getting caught smoking by their mom.
Oh, yes. We missed you…but how are you alive?!
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Like the other episodes of series 3, the title of His Last Vow is a play on the title of the original story, His Last Bow. In that story, it is presumed to be Sherlock Holmes last adventure, much like the end of the episode makes it seem like. The scene in which Janine confronts Sherlock in the hospital takes elements of His Last Bow and “The Adventure of the Lion’s Mane,” where Sherlock references a small cottage and bee-keeping. The start of the episode with John and Mary speaking with their neighbor is almost exactly the same as the beginning of “The Man with the Twisted Lip.” Billy Wiggins, the addict John attacks at the start is a reference to “Wiggins,” one of Sherlock’s Baker Street Irregulars in the original stories.
The initials, A.G.R.A., that Mary says are her initials come from The Sign of Four where Mary is first introduced and come from the name of the Agra treasure in that story. Lastly, the character of Charles Augustus Magnussen is based on Charles Augustus Milverton from “The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton.”
If you haven’t signed up to find out more information about the upcoming Sherlock convention SHERLOCKED, you can do so here.
Also, Martin Freeman’s new show Fargo, premieres tomorrow, April 15 on the FX networks in the US. The show is supposed to air sometime in May for those in the UK.
Another quiet week for Sherlock related news. In this interview by BBC Worldwide, co-creator, writer and actor Mark Gatiss answers some fan questions while visiting Brazil. While not much is said about Series 4, it may answer some other Sherlock questions you’ve had stuck in the back of your mind.