Sherlock: 302 “The Sign of Three” Spoiler-Free Review
Cult Fix presents our spoiler-free verdict on Sunday’s episode.
Sherlock has definitely changed. Not just the titular character, but the show itself. This was evident in the third series’ opening episode with less of a focus on having one big central mystery and more of an emphasis on the growth of its characters. This process continues in The Sign of Three, an episode which, appropriately, is really all about change.
This episode sees Sherlock and John taking on one of life’s biggest milestones – marriage (or murder, just slower as Sherlock would like to compare it to). John is tying the knot and has predictably but unwisely chosen Sherlock as his best man. Rather than a scene or two on the wedding and preparations, it instead dominates the episode. A lot of the running time plays out unlike any Sherlock episode we’ve seen before. In fact it could be an extended episode of a sitcom. If that last sentence scares you, don’t worry it’s a very good sitcom, just maybe not quite what you expect from an episode of Sherlock. We get scenes of the various wedding arrangements, Sherlock working on his speech, a disastrous drunken stag do and then the wedding itself.
A lot of the action is told through flashback during Sherlock’s best man speech. If you are in it purely for the mystery you’ll be disappointed initially. You’ll find yourself wondering when Sherlock is going to actually solve something, rather than just pick apart the wedding guest’s foibles (humorous as that is). Fortunately, several mysteries eventually present themselves. While they at first appear be quite scattershot in nature, most eventually come together into a pretty compelling whole. It’s just not immediately clear that the episode is working towards a bigger picture. It can feel a little haphazard at times and that may reflect the fact it’s been written by all three of Sherlock’s writing team (Moffat, Gatiss and Thompson).
At this stage it’s a hard to talk about just how good Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman are without repeating yourself. Fortunately this episode does allow the pair to explore some new territory. We arguably get to see a more human and warmer side to Sherlock that we’ve ever seen before. His best man speech is just as funny as you might expect but it’s also very touching. And if you’ve ever wanted to see John and Sherlock on a drunken bender you’ll be very happy with the results.
The direction in this episode deserves special mention as it is superb. While the opener had its moments it’s Colm McCarthy who ups the game. Some of the most impressive scenes take place in a surreal courtroom (with a surprise guest), but many scenes throughout are incredibly stylish and inventive – just wait until you see Sherlock’s intoxicated vision. A couple of shots are a little distracting (a phone call between Mycroft and Sherlock overdoes things a little) but overall this is a visual treat.
The thing is, as much as this episode isn’t really a ‘traditional’ Sherlock, it’s still a fabulous episode. It’s hilariously funny and touching with superb acting all round. It’s not perfect and some may resent the initial lack of a big case, but for everyone else, you can ask for little more.