Many Happy Returns (only Broadcast online so may well be missing depending on streaming service used)
The Empty Hearse
The Sign Of Three
His Last Vow
Following its shocking finale last year, Sherlock returns for its penultimate season and three more episodes of mind-bending detective work. With a sharper wit and much more emphasis on a recurring storyline through the episodes this time, Sherlock’s third season changes the tone of the show, highlighting an emergence of Steven Moffat’s unnecessarily convoluted plots and comedic wit, overpowering the charm the show had in abundance during its previous two seasons. Still, the intriguing cliffhanger ending and some genuinely funny and surprising moments make Sherlock one of the better detective shows out there and well worth sticking with.
The first episode tackles the dramatic events that transpired last year, picking up two years after Sherlock’s supposed death and introducing us to all the key characters we’ve come to love over the years. John (Martin Freeman) and Mrs Hudson (Una Stubbs) have moved on, contemplating leaving Baker Street completely while Mycroft (Mark Gatiss) continues his line of secretive work. As events transpire, it’s revealed what really happened the fateful night with Moriarty before plunging Dr Watson and Sherlock back into the fray of detective work. At least until the second episode that is. With John engaged for marriage, The Sign Of Three is a distinctly different sort of episode, much more lighthearted than a lot of the earlier work put out in the show, revolving around Sherlock attempting to write a best man’s speech. The final episode, His Last Vow, introduces us to another devious villain to match Moriarty’s presence, Charles Augustus Magnussen in what’s easily the best episode of the series.
There’s no denying there’s an awful lot going on this year and the way each episode lends itself to the next represents a change in style for Sherlock which always kept each episode separate with its own plot. There will inevitably be some that take instantly to this style of plotting but those expecting three parallel episodes with their own cases and guesswork involved may well be left wanting. While the cases themselves are still here and are as elaborate and mind-bending as they’ve ever been, it takes a backseat for the various themes and ideas presented to us including Sherlock’s sexual orientation and the continuously changing dynamic between him and John.
There’s always been an element of playful campiness between Sherlock and Dr Watson but on the whole, it’s generally been well handled and kept in the background. This season changes that perspective, haphazardly handling both character’s sexuality clumsily and teasing their homosexuality which unfortunately overpowers the narrative during the opening few episodes. While this is toned down for the climactic episode of the series, it’s still a little disappointing that after 2 seasons of masterful execution in this field, Moffat drops the ball a bit and offsets the balance that made the` show so compelling before.
Still, Sherlock continues to be an endearing presence on screen and a force to be reckoned with. Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman are as good as they’ve ever been in their roles and the lighthearted, comedic tone spilling through the three episodes certainly gives the show a renewed sense of style and identity. While as a personal preference the dark and gritty tone suits the show better, there’s more than enough plot twists, surprise reveals and detective guesswork at play here to at least allow Sherlock to continue showing what made the show so good to begin with. While some of the series is spoilt by Steven Moffat’s whimsical convoluted plot points and the clumsily handled sexuality of Sherlock and John Watson feels a bit forced, there’s enough here to make Sherlock one of the better detective shows out there, even if it pales in comparison to its first 2 seasons.
Verdict - 7.5/10