BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE EXCITING NEW STUFF; for even after all our terrible jokes about what has happened between season two finishing and now, we can finally enjoy Sherlock season three! (Well, the first two episodes, but considering we only get three episodes – again – we’re really just splitting hairs.)
A QUICK WORD OF WARNING: THERE WILL BE INEVITABLY BE SPOILERS, BUT I’LL TRY TO KEEP THEM TO A MINIMUM.
It’s been two years – in real life and the series – since the Reichenbach Fall, and Sherlock has been exonerated of the slanders against him by Moriarty, which would be nice if he wasn’t dead and buried. Actually, that’s a bit of a lie, we’re shown exactly how he survived; a complicated plot involving a bungee cord, an incredibly good mask on the corpse of Moriarty, and John being hypnotised by Derren Brown*.
HA! No, it’s just a crazy theory from Anderson, looking exceptionally disheveled, and, as Lestrade is quick to point out, obviously devising a coping mechanism to live with his guilt over Sherlock’s fate. In a gentle nod to the fans, and the many theories about how he did it that have circulated online, co-creator and writer Mark Gatiss (also playing Mycroft) has had Anderson actually formed a group of fellow conspiracy theorists, the titular The Empty Hearse.
There’s a delightful moment later on when Sherlock explains what actually happened to Anderson, and he responds sceptically which plays delightfully on the fact that there are always going to be people disappointed by whichever direction the writers choose to take.
Actually, let’s continue to talk about nods to the fans; Mary Morstan, John’s finance, is an on-the-show embodiment of the Johnlock (yes, I use Tumblr, I know the ship name) enthusiasts. It’s nice, but in places a little annoying that her role essentially seem to boil down to a) marrying John, b) encouraging rumors on the internet that they’re more than friends. Personally, I preferred her character in the second of the new episodes – The Sign of Three – and it surprised me a little to learn Moffat was one of the writers**.
It may seem I’m being slightly harsh, so I want to temper that by saying that I like Mary. She very early recognises how much the two need each other, and…well, she plays along to each in helping them humble themselves and ask for the other’s help, without swallowing their pride. Unfortunately, she’s so likable, though, that she’s almost certainly going to die***.
The Empty Hearse‘s plot revolves around everyone dealing with Sherlock’s return, and a terrorist plot that ends up pretty much ripping off the ending of V for Vendetta, but we can excuse that a little because that’s not the important thing. It’s that John keeps punching him. And that’s funny.
I will say that I enjoyed the moment where Sherlock reveals he’s still alive to John – as is the norm in the series, at a completely inappropriate moment – but given the 90minute run time of each episode I think it could have been dealt with in more depth. They do both have moustaches.
The Sign of Three, in my opinion, was the better of the two, although it plunges in a well-trodden sitcom trope; it’s John and Mary’s wedding, and Sherlock is the bestman, setting the scene for Sheldon Cooper-esque “I don’t understand normal people” type shenanigans. If I was to pick another fault, it’s the use of flashbacks to flavor Sherlock’s speech – crimes they’ve solved together that speak to John’s character, and as a segue into the main crime of the piece – because even though they’re to things we haven’t seen, I think flashbacks are lazy writing.
All that said, I really loved the episode because I like fish-out-of-water stories, and you know that his speech is invariably going to be hilarious because of it. There are some genuinely touching moments, although it wouldn’t be Sherlock without him completely failing to understand why. There’s a lot to laugh at – Drunk!lock especially – and I found the pay-off to the “Mayfly Man” plot to be rewarding.
Season three finishes on the 12th, with a quite big thing having been hinted at in this penultimate episode, and while that’s it for the year fans can take some comfort in knowing that Moffat & Gatiss have already plotted seasons four and five.
ONE MORE THING: Today I learned that Amanda Abbington – Mary Morstan – is the real life partner of Martin Freeman. So there you go.
*By the way; has he “donated” money to them recently or something? First Doctor Who, now this?
**There has been much discussion on the subject of Steven Moffat and his treatment of female characters, and this is not the place for further of it. I will say, though, Couplings always makes me laugh.
***Much as I’m loath to draw the comparison, I can’t not mention that Moffat also subscribes to the Joss Whedon style of killing off the ones we love. Plus I’m told it happens in the books.