Monday, January 6, 2014

In Which I Review Sherlock (3x2)

I'll say this for Sherlock: the writers sure do know how to break a fandom. After this week's episode, "The Sign of Three" I have to wonder if the writers secretly sit on Tumblr and read fanfic at AO3 and that's how they come up with their scripts. The episode was, essentially, a love letter to the internet culture fandom and to the JohnLock shippers, of whom there are many. MANY. It's the wedding day of John and Mary and Sherlock is tasked with his most important and difficult task yet: delivering the best man speech at John's ceremony. He can fight criminals and solve murders and outsmart everyone else in the room, but ask him to speak in public about his only friend and Sherlock becomes a socially awkward stutterer incapable of forming a single thought. And of course, he somehow manages to insult everyone. But under the exterior is a man who, I think, has a very big heart. Especially when it comes to his best friend. 

I want to start this review with some negatives. If you're not a die hard fangirl/boy of the show, meaning you have no idea what JohnLock is and you've never ventured into the wilds that is Tumblr, then this episode probably felt disjointed and unfocused. I'm having a hard time deciding if this was a good Sherlock episode when compared to others. When it comes to a typical episode, there are certain things you expect: an intricately woven crime plot, Sherlock being unbearable, John being compassionate, and a sense of awe at everything that happens. If that is the grading rubric, then this episode only met a few criteria. For one, the crime plot of someone trying to murder John's former commanding officer, Major Sholto, was almost too bizarre and intricate to follow properly. It involved several unsolved mysteries, a lot of flashbacks, and sweeping scenes of Benedict Cumberbatch making Sherlock almost manic in his final attempts to solve the crime (while delivering a best man speech). For the second episode in a row, the main crime drama takes a back seat to the relationship of John and Sherlock. If you think about the series opener 2 years ago, "A Study in Pink," and compare it to season three so far, I think it's fair to say that the actual mysteries that Doyle wrote aren't as tight in the modern adaption anymore. I saw a lot of jokes yesterday on Tumblr and Twitter that this episode was written by the fans. And I think, knowing realistically that it was penned by real writers, that joke might have some merit to it. But does that make the episode good or bad? It's a tough call. As a die hard fangirl who ships JohnLock (in a non-romantic soul mate kind of way) I was thrilled to the point of tears and ecstasy. But the television lover who enjoyed Sherlock first and foremost for the plot was confused and underwhelmed.

However, a fangirl I am and because of that, most of this review will be me gushing over how much Sherlock loves John. Let's talk about Sherlock himself for a second. He is, as he tells us frequently, a high functioning sociopath. He is cold and calculating and could probably figure out a way to murder you and get away with it. He toys with people and with words. Prior to meeting John, he literally had no concept of affection for others. Other humans bother him because they are all so very stupid. He has no issue tearing down people to their face--pointing out their flaws--because it never occurs to him that he is being rude or hurtful. Sherlock cannot conceive of being someone's best friend because he doesn't understand what friendship even means. So when John asks Sherlock to be his best man because he is one of the two people John loves most in this world (cue freak out #1), Sherlock literally doesn't understand. It simply does not compute in his brain that anyone could have any sort of affection for him because he has no affection for anyone in return. The best mans speech, which comprises most of the episode itself, is a series of flashbacks to John and Sherlock solving cases and being together in the weeks and months leading up the wedding. The first one finds John sitting in Sherlock's kitchen at 221B Baker Street trying very hard to ask Sherlock to be his best man. This flashback is maybe one of the most touching moments on the show (and the fact that the internet is still standing is a miracle because I'm fairly certain that we broke Tumblr last night). Once Sherlock finally realizes what John is asking he goes catatonic for the longest time while his super human brain tries to process that someone could love him. When he finally snaps out of it, his only question is "you mean I'm your best friend?" John smiles slightly and says, "Course. Yes of course you are. You're my best friend."

In the present day, back at the wedding, as Sherlock is telling this part of the story, John gets emotional and asks Mary to hold him back if he tries to hug Sherlock to which Mary replies, "absolutely not." Oh, I like her. I like her a lot. Sherlock is finally able to articulate his feelings to John in that moment and (cue freak out #2) says: "So if I didn't understand I was being asked to be best man, it is because I never expected to be anyone's best friend. Certainly not the best friend of the bravest, kindest, and wisest human being I have ever had the good fortune of knowing. Today you are sitting between the woman you love and the man you saved. In short, the two people who love you most in the all the world." And then IT happened. THEY HUGGED. John gets up and they hug. And the fandom DIED. I'm not kidding. My Twitter was full of nothing but loud screaming and internet-speak freakout. For myself, I went running downstairs to my mom to announce that they had hugged, something that failed to impress her as she has never seen the show. Three years the Sherlockians been waiting for a JohnLock hug. Why is it such a big deal? Because of who Sherlock is. He is not one who demonstrates affection. It doesn't jive with him. The one time he was really at a loss for words was when Irene Adler tried to seduce him by being stark naked. When Lestrade hugged Sherlock in last weeks episode, he groaned and tried to fight it off. Sherlock and Mycroft have never even shook hands so far as I can remember. And there is John, his soul mate, wrapping his arms around him in an effort to show love--plain and simple agape. And the best part: Sherlock accepts and gives it back.

A lot of this episode dealt with how life may or may not change for John and Sherlock once John and Mary are hitched. It's a thing that does happen: couple gets married, couple does couple things with other couples and the BFF of yesteryear is forgotten. Sherlock, having been alone his whole life, is suddenly faced with the real possibility that he may loose the only person who has ever meant anything to him and is terrified, to the point of looking up how to fold origami swans on YouTube. And this is why I think I love Mary so much. She doesn't want to break up JohnLock. In fact, I think she sorta loves Sherlock as an awkward older brother. Mary begins to send them both out on cases, claiming that she is doing it for the other. She tells Sherlock to get John out of the house because he is a nightmare with wedding planning, and she tells John to get Sherlock out of the house to prove that nothing between them will change. We learn a bit more about Mary this episode. Her family is gone but we don't know how but I suspect it has something to do with out big bad, Magnussen. During the "telegraph readings" (British people have cute traditions), Mary gets one from CAM--Charles Augustus Magnussen--and she looks terrified for just the briefest second. How do they know each other? Did Magnussen kill her family? I really need Mary to not be evil. It would break both John and Sherlock's heart because Sherlock has really taken a shine to her.

The second part of the non-crime related flashback is John's stag night which Sherlock has carefully planned so that they get pleasantly buzzed but not drunk. Yeah, that didn't work. They end up totally wasted, lying on Baker Street's steps talking about Sherlock's reputation before moving on to play drinking games. Drunk Sherlock is my new favorite thing. There were so many great quotes and moments from this flashback that I simply can't do them justice here. And of course, at that moment, a client comes and wants their help with a case. So drunk John and Sherlock run off to her apartment to investigate a ghost but are far too drunk to solve anything. Sherlock's brain, which normally analyzes everything, can only spew dribble like "sleeeeeeeeeep" and calling a chair a "sitty down thing." They end up in jail much to Lestrade's delight. Back in the present day wedding, as Sherlock is telling this story, he gets emotional one more time and tells everyone that "this man saved my life so many times and in so many ways." (freak out #3) The best man's speech is interrupted by the crime drama catching up to the present day action and once more Sherlock and John work together to catch a killer. It wasn't the best crime plot they've ever done and mostly I just wanted to get back to JohnLock.

The final moments, once the perpetrator is arrested, finds Sherlock playing his violin for Mary and John as they share their first waltz as a married couple before giving them one more moment: he tells Mary that she is pregnant. It's a shocking moment for John and Mary but once they recover, John and Sherlock are ecstatic for each other. Sherlock tells them that they are already fantastic parents and they'll "hardly need me around when you have a real baby" to which many smiles are given. Sherlock doesn't make vows normally so he gives his first and last vow here: "no matter what it takes, I will always be there for all three of you." (freak out #4) Uncle Sherlock already loves this baby. The one thing that does worry me was Mary's reaction. She seemed both happy but scared, not totally out of the ordinary but with next week being the season finale and Magnaussen taking center stage, I'm worried for Mary and her baby. And to add fuel to this fire, the final episode of the season is called "His Last Vow." Interpret what you will, but I think next week is going to be a roller coaster for all involved. Sherlock leaves the wedding early, as Mary and John celebrate. What does that mean? It's hard to know. On the one hand, Sherlock isn't a party person. He isn't comfortable around others. But at the same time, on the other hand, it might signal that despite promises, things do change. Life will be different for JohnLock.

Miscellaneous Notes on The Sign Of Three

--A random smattering of excellent quotes:
--"They're right. You're a psychopath." "A high functioning sociopath. With your telephone number."
"I learned it on YouTube..."
"Two people changed my life. Mary and---"
"Am I the current King of England?"
"Am I a pretty lady?"
"The game is...something." "On?" "Yeah. That."
"He's clueing for looks."
"John Watson, you keep me right."
"You're not a puzzle solver. You're a drama queen."
"I love dancing."

--Sherlock did a little ballerina dance. And perfectly too.

--The main crime was just too complicated for me to get into properly. A dead guard, a mayfly man, and a disgraced major in the army. It might take one or two more watches to really get it.

--I feel really bad for Molly. Despite being engaged to Tom, she is clearly still in love with Sherlock. Now SherLolly is a romantic ship I can get behind.

--Random appearance of "the woman" Irene Adler. Naked, of course.

--One more episode. How is that possible? Will it return? No one is really sure. It's one of the BBC's highest rated shows but Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman are becoming Hollywood elite. Would they stick around? Hard to say.


  1. First, Irene sneaking her way into Sherlock's Mind-Interrogation room was wonderful. I hope that she comes back as a love-interest for Sherlock.
    Second, I have to say that overall I did not enjoy this episode. Out of all of the seasons/episodes thus far, I believe it is my least favorite. I get that the writer's tipped their hats to the "eccentric" fans, but I enjoy the show because of the crime and plot. Aside from Irene making an appearance, the few lines from their drunken excursion, and Sherlock's first/last vow; the episode kind of flopped for me.

  2. Interesting. It's the one that I've watched the most out of the 3 for Season 3. But I'm a diehard fangirl who obviously enjoyed being played to.
    The crime portion was lacking, totally, but I'm not sure we sure we should call those fans are "eccentric." As it stands, Sherlock (the show) is the #1 fandom in internet culture, second only to Doctor Who and Supernatural. JohnLock is the #1 ship in internet culture. The internet culture actually ensured that the show survived. Moffat said once that he never expected the show to go more than one season or to get more than 3 million views. It was going to be a fun little thing and then over with. But overnight it became a sensation, due in large part to Tumblr.
    While they were playing to the JohnLock shippers, I would argue that to a large degree Sherlock (in any iteration--Conan Doyle or this modern take) is really the story of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. They are the center of any good Sherlock adaptation. So to have an episode that was really just showing that relationship is yes, fan service, but it also stays true to the original work. I think we should take Sherlock's speech to heart when he says: "this blog is the story of two men and their frankly ridiculous adventures." At the end of the day, the story isn't the crimes or Sherlock's brain, it's how John and Sherlock work together. I recently rewatched "A Study in Pink" and I think it's very telling that the nature of the crime, the killer at least, is so blatantly obvious. Cabs in every shot at the beginning--obviously a killer cab driver. But the real meat of the episode is how Sherlock and John save each other; Sherlock made John whole, and John gave Sherlock normalcy. So while the crime portion always underpins, the central movement of the show is how Sherlock and John evolve together.