Here’s how good Sherlock is: After one episode, I was ready to call it the greatest piece of television to have ever aired.
Probably the best review for the show came from my girlfriend. She doesn’t enjoy a lot of TV, by the way. At roughly the twenty minute mark of the very first episode, A Study in Pink, she said, “I’d rather watch this than CSI any day.”
Pretty much proves that British television is better than American – Even my girlfriend likes it.
When the third, and final, episode of Season one aired, I wasn’t only addicted to the series, I was in love with Sherlock Holmes, Conan Doyle, Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, and Steven Moffat. My mind was suitably blown. How could Moff do such a wonderful season of Doctor Who (Season 5) and lead right into this stunning show?
A little more than a year later, the show came back. It was pretty big. Season One was an unexpected smash. Cumberbatch and Freeman came back as borderline household names. Doctor Who was getting bigger than ever. The fan base for both had grown. I fully expected that to be a hindrance on this series. Moffat and co-creator/producer/writer/actor Mark Gatiss knew the show was huge. Surely they would let that hype seep into the show.
Thank Doyle it didn’t. Season 2 was masterful. Somehow even better than the first. Gatiss’ episode, The Hounds of Baskerville, was the weakest of the new three, but far and away better than season one’s low point, The Blind Banker. Whatever was left of my mind to be blown was, this time with even further trajectory.
Two years later. January 1st 2014. Sherlock returns to screens, to the lives of those he left, to pop culture. Moffat is on top of the world with Doctor Who. Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch are practically superstars after Star Trek Into Darkness and The Hobbit.
A few months ago, worry started clouding my excitement for the new series. The internet was starting to talk about and theorize about the show in much the same manor and fervor as Doctor Who. Of course the show is great. Fandom is expected. But Moffat started letting the fan base into Doctor Who, winking at them, blatantly referencing them, teasing them, tearing away the thin reality of the show to become self aware of how “cool” it is. Would this happen with Sherlock? It didn’t with season 2, and I was worried then. Could it now?
The very first scene of Sherlock Season 3 is a comment to the insane number of fan theories regarding Sherlock’s miraculous survival at the end of Season 2. (why the explanation for how he faked his death should so fascinates people is beyond me. He’s Sherlock Holmes. He’s brilliant. That’s what he does.) A big and stylish sequence, that sees Sherlock as a smooth action hero is itself a fan theory. A funny one. Turns out the scene was concocted by the recently Sherlock obsessed Anderson, who feels guilty about the great detective’s demise, and is desperate to prove he lives. I liked the nod to the fans. The first time. Then it kept happening.
A number of fan theories appear in the episode. Everything in the plot stops for these sequences that do nothing other than say, “Yes, we’ve read your theories. Your wrong. But isn’t this fun?”
Speaking of plot, there isn’t much of one. The mystery is shoved in because, “Oh, this is Sherlock, we forgot to make him solve something.” Amidst fan service, family drama, and friendship issues, Sherlock has to figure out when and where a terrorist attack is meant to take place. Could be thrilling to watch him balance all that out, solving the mystery and his issues at the same time (like A Study in Pink). Instead we bounce back and forth between very goofy comedy scenes, annoying fan service, and forced drama.
I get that this episode had to be a reintroduction for Sherlock Holmes. He’d been gone from London for two years. He thinks the city and the people in his life will be thrilled to see him. That isn’t really the case. So, yes, I understand the trauma this would have caused on Watson is important to address. But it’s so slapsticky, and out of order. Sherlock reveals himself to John first. It isn’t easy as Watson is preoccupied with nerves preparing to propose to his girlfriend. The scene is very funny and suspenseful. Naturally, it doesn’t go well.
Then Sherlock reveals himself to Molly, Lestrade and Mrs. Hudson, in a quick montage, that makes his return look mysterious. This feels so out of place. We saw the reunion that mattered most. Why do these with such style and mystery? I was confused. Maybe they were edited out of order. Seeing Holmes introduce himself as a silhouette to Mrs. Hudson, A reflection in a mirror to Molly, and man in the shadows to Lestrade, would have been a great lead up to the main event of Sherlock and Watson.
That has to be my biggest disappointment with the episode. It comes off like a collection of scenes, not all of them in the right order. A few great moments shine through, but the rest is jumbled and seemingly random.
Now, I have no doubt that there is a LOT in the episode which is setting up events for episode three (such as a weird moment with Mrs. Hudson in brief slo-mo. A cryptic conversation with Sherlock and Mycroft where Mycroft mentions how painful something it. And the obvious bad guy at the end) and that would explain the lack of unification of the episode. It’s just a pity the story should suffer.
Still, each season has one episode that isn’t totally up to snuff. This one could be it.
Either way, I’d still rather watch this than CSI everytime.