Confession: "The Sign of Three" is my favorite episode of Sherlock so far. I adore it. I've probably watched the ending more than a dozen times. My heart runneth over. Given all that, it might seem odd that I only gave it a B+. I did so because in grading it, I'm trying to distinguish between that which I love, and that which is good. That sounds snottier than I mean it to. How to explain?
While you have a perfectly lovely, well-behaved, beautiful dog, my dog is my favorite. Last night, your dog saved a life. That is awesome, but my dog is still my favorite, even though last night (true story, and hey there were circumstances beyond her control), she piddled on the front hall rug. A few hours later, Sherlock piddled on John and Mary's wedding, but he's getting a biscuit, anyhow.
Within the show, everyone (who matters to Sherlock) largely indulges Sherlock the savant. Likewise, I'm inclined to indulge Sherlock the series. I get three episodes every year or two. Sherlock feels like a good friend who I don't see nearly enough. He blows into town for a weekend during which I'm already overbooked. I squeeze him into my schedule because he's so dear. Doing so makes everything exponentially hectic. We don't get to see enough of each other, and I end up late for everything else on my calendar. Once he's gone, the weekend is over and I fall into bed, with his visit the clear highlight in my memory, even though he made everything more complicated. Reference "The Empty Hearse" recap and the opening scenes of "The Sign of Three." Where this show is concerned, I remain Lestrade.
As much as Sherlock benefits from running for a short season, then breaking for an overly long hiatus, it suffers from same. Witness "The Sign Of Three." All three writers -- Gatiss, Moffat and Thompson -- had a hand in penning it. Why? I imagine for their Sherlock, the significance of John and Mary's wedding (and, more so, marriage) cannot be overstated.
It seems to me the creative team has so many stories it wants to tell that it hand-waved the need to settle on one (or two, or three) and tried to cram in everything they'd give us, if they had six or seven episodes per year. Drunken stag do? Check. Quiet night at 221B? Check. A drunken case? Check. Sherlock cock-blocking, for John's benefit, an old suitor of Mary's who pines for her? Check. Everyone worrying about Sherlock giving an awkward speech? Check. A wedding speech so awkward even Sherlock realizes it? Check. But wait, it needs to be poignant. Does it tug the heartstrings? Check. Let's add a romantic coda to the speech, at the late night do. Check. A murder mystery that interrupts the speech? Check (at least it didn't interrupt the ceremony). A pregnancy surprise? Check. Is Sherlock finally ready to stop playing the odd man out, only to realize he is the odd man out? Check. In this meta season, if Sherlock is an avatar of the writers, perhaps they might admit that while they craft the story so that everyone indulges Sherlock, in the crafting of "The Sign of Three" those same writers (over-)indulged themselves, more than any of their characters (even Molly) ever indulges Sherlock.
Despite all that, "The Sign of Three" is warm, wonderful, and moving. It gave me everything I wanted and needed, and then some. Mary supports John and Sherlock's friendship. Sherlock supports John and Mary's love. In fact, he so desperately wants everything to be perfect for them that he both composes their wedding waltz, and watches YouTube videos on napkin origami. Were I to list everything I love about this episode, this paragraph would be longer than Sherlock's interminable wedding speech. (Isn't that right, Hudders?) I even loved most of the moments I think of as writerly indulgence.
I'll be back ASAP with the recap. In the meantime, please grade the episode at the top of the page, and then come on over to our new Sherlock forum where, unlike John, we know when you're fibbing.
Eighteen, twelve and six months ago the headlines scream about a bank gang that's leaving the cops clueless. They're unable to secure a conviction. At each interval, Greg Lestrade and Sally Donovan exit the courthouse, frustrated that the whole Waters family is going to walk. Three months ago, after the crooks get away with it yet again, poor Greg kicks the hell out of the rear, driver's side tire as he rants to Donovan. They know they only way the Waters family is going down is if they manage to catch them in the act.
Yesterday, we watch as three men in horrifying latex clown masks steal pallets of gold bars from a bank vault. The masks are so creepy that, were I on the jury, I'd convict these guys just for wearing them. This time, Lestrade and Donovan are on top of the situation. While the crooks' laptop shows that the bank alarm is disabled, Donovan's shows "hacking detected." From her conversation with Lestrade, it seems she's been able to block the robbers from something I'm not even going to pretend I understand. Score one for the good guys.
When the police storm the bank, Lestrade and Donovan follow. Sally tells Greg he's got to make this arrest. "This one's yours, boss." He notes she's never before called him that. Sally says, "Ah well, look what happens when you're good." As he's going on about how this, unlike many, is a good day, he gets a text message alert. He ignores it, while rattles off a checklist of all the ways they've secured the scene. When the phone goes off again, Greg tells Sally to continue. After a couple more alerts, Greg says he has to answer it. Sally: "It's him, isn't it?" Of course it is.
Lestrade checks his messages. The first five read: HELP. BAKER ST. NOW. HELP ME. PLEASE. Greg tells Sally he has to go. "Sorry. You'll be fine. I'm cool with this." Sally objects and reminds him that someone named Jones will get all the credit, but it's no use. Lestrade will have to let it go. Out in his car, he calls into the station. "Backup. I need maximum backup. Baker St. Now!"
When Lestrade arrives at 221B, he rushes upstairs to find Sherlock hunched over his computer, so he asks what's going on. Sherlock is hesitant as he admits this is the hardest thing he's ever done. He sounds so scared and frustrated, Greg doesn't know what to make of any of it -- at least not 'til Sherlock holds up a book called How To Write An Unforgettable Best Man Speech. Oh, Sherlock. "Have you any funny stories about John?" Have you any nitroglycerin and perhaps some aspirin, to ward off Lestrade's impending coronary? "I need anecdotes." Well, Greg (Gavin, George, Geoffrey, Gordon) needs an ambulance. Sherlock hasn't heard a word I've said, but he does finally notice Lestrade's pained expression. "Didn't go to any trouble, did you?" Sirens and helicopters answer, so Greg can try to catch his breath.