The new Sherlock episode showed no sign of the series slowing down, but no sign of where things are going either. Like John’s good-intentions-bad-consequences stag night, The Sign if Three is an effort that appears to be meticulously planned, but ends up in disarray – maybe because it’s too self-confident, maybe because it attempts to cram too much into too little time. The end result is sometimes hilarious, sometimes too slapstick, but like any stag night it delivers good times with the promise of a hangover later.
The Sign of Three starts with a fast-paced opening scene with the probable intention of jump-starting the episode, which however ends up being overly smug, too wrapped-up in its attempt to be funny, and ultimately – useless. Unfortunately, this theme holds true for most of the episode.
Since bromance, character development and affirmations of kinda-almost love dominated the first episode, what should have taken the central stage here was a case. Yes, but no. The screenwriter trio Mark Gatiss, Steven Moffat and Stephen Thompson put their chips on the lovey-dovey formula again. And while this was excusable, even necessary the first time around, after Sherlock being presumed dead for two years, now it seemed a bit too soap-y, too emotionally cluttered, too…much. Too many cooks do spoil a meal then?
So, on the overall, for the bad – what used to be Sherlock’s biggest assets when used in small quantities – bromance, timely joke here and there, and not to forget the stylistic stamps of showcasing Sherlock’s mental process, texting, 360-degree slow-mo and fast-forwarding of certain activities, were a nuisance when domineering the narrative.
As for the suspense of revealing the criminal and the potential victim when we finally did get to investigate an attempted murder – it was lost (at least it was to me)! Maybe next time choose characters with more inconspicuous hair (for the killer) and less marked-for-death face and overall demeanour (for the victim to-be). Thus, the only mystery that truly loomed in my mind during the course of the episode was whatever happened to the new Big Bad hinted at the end of the first episode?
Now for the good! Although too many gags diluted the effect of the truly funny moments, when those came, it was a blast! The conscious ones: Sherlock and John napping on the staircase and in “deep” discussion about international reputation; Sherlock’s drunk deductions; “ The games is…something”, “ON!”, “You are not a puzzle solver, you never have been, you are a drama queen! Now there is a man in there about to die, THE GAME IS ON *the most hilarious grimace John has ever made* Solve it!”. And the possibly not so conscious ones – Mycroft is his stretchy work-out gear!
And while The Sign of Three takes its time to get to the point – namely, a head-scratching crime, it is brilliant when it finally gets there. The genius here is not in making us ponder over the “who”, since as already mentioned, this is painfully obvious from the beginning, but over the “how” of the crime execution. When the explanation is revealed, it is a treat, as is the court-room-reminiscent mental palace Sherlock initially uses for its solving. Unexpected and possibly naughty cameo from “The Woman” – Irene Adler, as well as great support from Mycroft and Mary’s characters, also provide perspective on how this is actually not a bad episode.
The Sign of Three starts slowly, then proves to be too much in some aspects, then it eventually comes through. And just like this review, by the time it ends, you seem to have forgotten the bad, embraced the good and be looking forward to the next time you are in the eccentric detective’s company.
3/5 Marvelous points