Sunday, 26 January 2014
Sherlock: The Sign of Three
For a show renown for its middle episode slump, tonight's instalment skewered the trend through the belt, and set a new bar for hilarity. It may have taken the collective might of Gatiss, Moffat and Thompson to pull off this minor miracle, but after two years away, what better way of reacquainting us with our favourite high-functioning sociopath than with a wedding, some wacky character interplay, and a cameo from Lara Pulver?
I know we often moan about the length of the series, but if the trade off is a film length episode every week, then I'll take it. You couldn't have squeezed tonight's story into an hour, never mind 45 minutes—the plot was all over the place. Mid-episode, Mark commented on Twitter that it was like 'a demented short story collection', and it was. But it was the vignettes which gave us a context for the final reveal, cemented Mary's position alongside (rather than between) Holmes and Watson, and provided a framework for some of the most preposterous character development to date. We even got to see Sherlock dance. Now there's a sentence I'd never thought I'd write.
The stag party sequence was perfect. Sherlock's plan to organise the perfect night out was instantly scuppered by Watson spiking the drinks, which led to what must be the most incompetent crime scene investigation Holmes has ever been involved in. He even puked on the rug! Kudos to Cumberbatch and Freeman for giving us the most convincing drunks since Willie Ross in Rita, Sue and Bob Too. Watching an inebriated Holmes and Watson try to manage a case not only showed us a side of their relationship we've never seen before, it also allowed Sherlock to drop his grumpy demeanour, and let it all hang out. He almost cried listening to Tessa's ghostly boyfriend woes. Maybe he should give up drinking as well as smoking.
I loved Sherlock's scenes with Archie. Finally someone as perplexed by pointless human ritual as he. It was sweet the way Sherlock stripped back his usually verbose speech as they bonded over gruesome crime photos. In fact, didn't Archie provide the clue which allowed Sherlock to bring all of the seemingly disparate story lines together? Maybe there's a career as a detective awaiting him somewhere down the line. There's certainly a photo of a headless nun in his near future. We don't get to see Sherlock interact with kids much, but like the Doctor in Doctor Who, he's a natural. Something about kids seems to appeal to the exceptional.
And you can't deny it, that was some speech. Yes, he insulted Watson, condemned marriage as a civilization destroying institution, called the bridesmaid plain, denied God's existence, and called the vicar an idiot—but he then righted the boat by admitting to being an arsehole, and ended up complimenting the very people he'd just denigrated. He even brought his audience to tears. His confusion as to why they were crying was utterly priceless. And if Janine hadn't been occupied with her Sherlock appointed date, I dare say he'd have finished the evening on the dance floor. She certainly seemed impressed by his dancing skills and violin playing. He even threw her a rose. Instead, Sherlock left the party alone—in Mrs Hudson's estimation, the saddest exit of all.
I can't say enough good things about Mary Morstan. It's amazing how quickly Sherlock has endeared himself to her. (And vice versa.) She just gets him. She can tell when he's lying and, more importantly, she understands why John likes him. She even knows how to deal with his bullshit—she just smiles and ignores it. She was even mindful of his feelings towards her marrying John. In fact, she ended up playing them both by secretly pushing them out on a case. It's as if she sees John and Sherlock as a symbiotic unit, each member vital for the other's survival. At least Sherlock won't have to worry about John's chair being permanently empty.
So Mary certainly has no interest in splitting up Team Sherlock. She's evidently something of an adrenaline junkie herself: happy to run out on her own wedding if it means saving a life. In this respect, her and John are the same. Or maybe she's just protective of him. Either way, she was a real asset tonight. Sherlock even gave her a kiss and made vaguely complimentary noises in her direction. Tonight was the first time I've seen Sherlock's smile look genuine. His promise to be there for John and Mary felt both heartfelt and without pretence—but Mary is keeping secrets. Why did she look so startled when Holmes read out Cam's telegram? I'm guessing CAM is Charles Augustus Magnussen, but what does he know of her family?
Admittedly, tonight's episode wasn't to everyone's taste. It was a far from traditional outing, and a few people hated the Sheldon Cooperiness of Benedict's Holmes. For me, it was a strange but brilliant affair. It felt oddly like a series finale, maybe not in terms of story, but in terms of the character development so much happened. Both Sherlock and John openly declaring their love for each other (in the bromance sense, not the hand on knee, 'I don't mind', sense) felt like something of an achieved endgame. But what will all this character advancement do to the shape of the show? Will Sherlock be back to his cold, analytical self next week? And who is Redbeard?
—Stabbing someone through the belt with a meat skewer would surely have triggered some sort of pain response, especially if it was delivering a mortal blow.
—In an episode that was by design fairly disjointed, the cold open felt the most jarring. Did Lestrade walk away from the bust simply to emphasise his respect for Sherlock, or will it pop up again as a plot point next week?
—When Holmes and Watson were drunk, even his word clouds were out of focus and largely unhelpful.
—What the hell was in that matchbox?
—What kind of monster was Mrs Hudson married to? He was unfaithful, ran a drugs cartel, blew somebody's head off and was later executed. What a life that woman's led. First Cliff Richard, now this.
—The guy who played David (Oliver Lansley) also played Stuart in season five of Misfits.
—Why did Sherlock have so many computers on at once? Has the man not heard of Pidgin? Or multi-tasking?
—Sherlock keeps his back-up cigarettes in an old shoe. I'm not sure that'll make them taste any better. Maybe that's the point.
—Wouldn't Bainbridge have known as soon as he'd taken his belt off that he was bleeding? Why didn't he bleed all the way to the shower?
Mrs Hudson: 'Your mother has a lot to answer for.'
Sherlock: 'I know, I have a list. Mycroft has a file.'
David: 'They're right about you: you're a psychopath.'
Sherlock: 'High functioning sociopath. With your number.'
Archie: 'You're a detective?'
Archie: 'Have you solved any murders?'
Sherlock: 'Sure, loads.'
Archie: 'Can I see?'
Sherlock: '... Yeah, all right.'
Archie: 'What's all the stuff in his eye?'
Sherlock: 'If you could all just cheer up a bit, that would be better.'
Mary: 'Aw, let's stick her by the bogs.'
Mary: 'I'm not John, I can tell when you're fibbing.'
Sherlock: 'Okay, I learned it on youtube.'
Watson: 'That's the thing about Mary, she has completely turned my life around. Changed everything. But, for the record, over the last few years there have been two people who've done that, and the other one is... a complete dick head.'
Archie: 'Mr Holmes, Mr Holmes!'
Sherlock: 'Oh, hello again, Archie. What's your theory? Get this right and there's a headless nun in it for you.'
Sholto: 'I believe I am in need of medical attention.'
Watson: 'I believe I am your doctor.'
Janine: 'I wish you weren't... whatever it is you are.'
Sherlock: 'I know.'
Janine: 'Do you always carry handcuffs?'
Sherlock: 'Down girl.'
Sherlock: 'You're already the best parents in the world, look at all the practice you've had.'