Friday, 7 March 2014

Sherlock (Series Three)

Sherlock series three picks up two years after the events of series two. In the first episode The Empty Hearse we discover that Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes have been quietly taking down Moriarty's criminal network during this time. We also learn that John Watson has finally found a girlfriend that he wants to marry. Her name is Mary Morstan (Amanda Abbington). However, just as John is about to propose to Mary, Sherlock Holmes shows up and reveals to John that he faked his death. John is understandably furious with Sherlock but he soon finds himself being involved in a new case: London is on the brink of a terrorist attack. A sinister villain is also trying to detect Sherlock's "pressure point" in the background. This comes into play in the third episode His Last Vow. The in-between episode is The Sign of Three. This episode features John and Mary's marriage, Sherlock's best man speech, and an attempted murder at the wedding.

I absolutely adore this show and I love that Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss keep surprising me. Just when I think that their show can't possibly get any better they prove me wrong. Series three is my favourite of the show's run so far. In some respects series three is quite different to the previous two series of the show though. Series three of Sherlock is far more focused on character development rather than the crimes (although the crimes are still very good). Sherlock's character development in this series is especially wonderful. He'll clearly never pass for an ordinary human being and there were still be moments when he'll be unintentionally rude and insensitive I'm sure. However he's still quite clearly becoming a warmer person due to the influence of his friends. Sherlock has always been likeable in spite of his faults but in this series he's even more so. He's changing for the better and it makes sense. Sherlock hasn't seen his friends for the two years in-between series two and three so it makes perfect sense that he'd have a new-found appreciation for Lestrade, Molly, Mrs Hudson and John in particular. Even Sherlock's relationship with Mycroft appears to have greatly improved. Although I think I'd like series four to be more crime-focused I loved the heavy focus on the character development for series three. Just because Sherlock has a detective as its main character does that mean that the crimes always have to be the main focus of a series? Yes, the Arthur Conan Doyle stories are more crime-focused than these series three episodes are but there was still a very heavy focus on Holmes and Watson's friendship in them. I really respect Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss for wanting to explore this in a lot of depth for this series. Also, let's not forget that TV shows that aren't willing to mix things up a bit with each series/season become boring and predictable and inevitably get cancelled.

Another aspect of series three that I really loved was the addition of Mary Morstan. I was very excited to see Mary in the build-up to series three. I was a fan of Sherlock Holmes even before this TV show so I was of course very keen to see what she'd be like - and I loved her straight away. Mary is extremely likeable. She's funny, kind, clever, supportive and really well-written. She never ever gets jealous or put out about John and Sherlock spending time together. Quite the opposite, she encourages them to spend time together. She's seen how much John was affected by Sherlock's absence and is obviously thrilled that he's back in John's life. She knows that John and Sherlock need each other and she's perfectly fine with that. I think the very best compliment that I can give to Mary is that I really hope that she never gets killed off in the show like she does in the canon. Amanda Abbington's acting as Mary is also superb and her real-life chemistry with Martin Freeman shines through (the pair have been partners for over 12 years). It goes without saying that all of the original cast members in this show are as wonderful as ever too.

I try not to go into too much depth when I talk about the individual episodes of Sherlock because I want to save that for a future post some day. I'll try to give some brief opinions on the episodes though.

The Empty Hearse
The Empty Hearse is based on The Adventure of the Empty House and was written by Mark Gatiss. It's a thrilling and hilariously entertaining episode! It made me laugh hard! 
Especially during the Operation scene and the two fake theories about how Sherlock survived his fall. I especially loved the Holmes brothers scenes in this episode too. Sherlock and Mycroft's relationship fascinates me and the two of them get some great scenes together. The Empty Hearse is only loosely based on The Adventure of the Empty House but I'm fine with that because that story doesn't really have enough of a plot for a 90 minute episode. There's quite a bit of planning and waiting in that story. There are still lots of references to ACD's original story in The Empty Hearse though and the real explanation for how Sherlock survived the fall is perfect. Yes, some fans will be disappointed because it isn't the most exciting and clever explanation that Gatiss and Moffat could have come up with. Anderson's reaction shows that the two of them recognise that. However the explanation is really the only one that they could have gotten away with: a simple and plausible one. The only vaguely negative thing that I have to say about The Empty Hearse is that I kind of wish that Sebastian Moran could have been more developed. Sebastian Moran is basically an evil John Watson in the ACD story. He's Moriarty's military sidekick. This doesn't come across in The Empty Hearse though and I'm really surprised that Gatiss didn't want to explore this. But honestly this episode is so fantastic that it feels churlish to complain!

The Sign of Three
Steven Moffat, Mark Gatiss and Steve Thompson are all credited with writing The Sign of Three although I've read that it was mostly written by Steve Thompson, with Gatiss and Moffat only co-writing its final scene. This episode isn't really based on any particular Arthur Conan Doyle story although it does make some references to The Sign of Four. I'll just address one of my biggest pet peeves here: so many Sherlock fans moan and complain about the show having only three episodes a series and it really annoys me because each episode is movie-length. The fact that Sherlock's episodes are movie-length adds to their quality. There's absolutely no way that The Sign of Three's story could have been compressed into a standard 45 minute or 60 minute length episode! The script is beautifully intricate. Steve Thompson uses Sherlock's Best Man speech to weave together flashbacks, comedy, character development, and a few mysteries. Apparently The Sign of Three is quite a divisive episode but I just can't understand why. Yes it's far from traditional but it's also hilarious, moving, silly (in a good way) and just plain wonderful! It's so warm. It has so much heart. I just can't understand how anyone couldn't love it. Oh, and John's stag night is hilarious and exactly as you'd expect! Firstly, Sherlock invites only himself and John. He then tries to get them to both drink a scientifically perfect amount of alcohol so that they can have fun without losing control. John of course sabotages this. I think I could probably spend an entire episode watching Sherlock and John play the Post-It game! The pair then end up having to solve a case whilst drunk which is also hilarious ("Egg? Chair? Sitty thing?") :D I really can't decide which episode I love the most out of series three. I love both The Empty Hearse and The Sign of Three so, so much.

His Last Vow
His Last Vow is based on The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton
(my favourite of the Sherlock Holmes short stories) and was written by Steven Moffat. This episode is easily my least favourite out of series three but that's not really a bad thing considering how much I loved the previous two episodes. And I still really enjoyed His Last Vow for the most part. The reason why the episode is my least favourite is due to its non-linear storytelling. The Sign of Three uses non-linear storytelling as well but in that episode it works far better because it adds to the humour and makes sense for the wedding speech context. But in this episode the non-linear storytelling isn't at all necessary and I think it breaks up the flow of the episode. But as I say I still really enjoyed the episode for the most part and it has many great moments. I especially love John's reaction to Sherlock's girlfriend, the Mind Palace scenes, and John and Mary's truly moving reconciliation (beautifully acted by Martin Freeman and Amanda Abbington). Louis Moffat (Steven Moffat's son) does an excellent job as Young Sherlock. I also got what I'd been desperately hoping for: a Smaug reference! :D I thought Lars Mikkelsen did a brilliant job as Charles Augustus Magnussen in this episode too. Lars Mikkelsen is a Danish actor and the older brother of Hannibal actor Mads Mikkelsen. *Off-topic: Hannibal is so popular on Tumblr that I think the website would have blown up if they'd cast Mads in Sherlock!* Magnussen is a very different sort of villain to Moriarty. He's much quieter and so odious and repulsive that he made my skin crawl. I actually wanted him to die. Lars Mikkelsen is brilliant in the role but I'm very glad that we won't be seeing Magnussen again! This leads me very nicely to reflect on what series four might have in store...

Series Four Speculation
  • So judging by His Last Vow's cliffhanger ending it looks like we might be seeing the return of Moriarty in series four! To be honest I'm feeling very conflicted about this. On the one hand I love Moriarty. He's such an entertaining villain and I have so much fun watching him. I love Andrew Scott's acting in the role. But on the other hand, having both Sherlock and Moriarty surviving The Reichenbach Fall would lessen that episode's power and impact. Also the fact that Moriarty actually finds the idea of death peaceful and comforting is quite a fascinating end for a villain. So I've decided that I want Moriarty to be genuinely dead and that he simply arranged for a number of elaborate crimes for Sherlock to solve in the wild chance that he survived his fall. 
  • Was I the only one who was ridiculously excited at the Sherrinford Holmes hint in His Last Vow?! To anyone who's not familiar with Sherrinford Holmes I'll explain. He's a non-canonical character who was first suggested by a man called William S. Baring Gould, a notable Sherlock Holmes scholar. Baring Gould pointed out that since Sherlock comes from a family of country squires that that would mean that Sherlock had another older brother. This brother would have inherited the family estate and would have stayed at home to manage it. Mycroft couldn't be the oldest brother in the Holmes family because he's living in London and is working as a civil servant (which was a common profession for younger sons in Arthur Conan Doyle's time). Baring-Gould named his oldest Holmes brother "Sherrinford" which was a name that Arthur Conan Doyle considered giving to Sherlock. Now I know I shouldn't be getting excited at the thought of Sherrinford Holmes eventually showing up in Sherlock. More than likely this is simply nothing more than a throwaway hint to tease us. But when I think of the possibilities! If Sherrinford Holmes does eventually show up in Sherlock I'd prefer it if he was actually the youngest Holmes brother rather than the oldest. Mark Gatiss plays Mycroft as a bossy older brother so brilliantly that I think it would be weird if he then turned out to be a middle child. I also have a few Sherrinford Holmes casting suggestions :D 

  • I'd love for Sherlock to adapt The Adventure of the Red-Headed League, not necessarily in series four but at some point I'd love to see it! That story is definitely one of my favourites and it could be so much fun to see in the modern-day. The villain is a bank robber! I also want a completely original story where Sherlock's parents get kidnapped and he and Mycroft then have to team up in order to rescue them. I absolutely loved Mycroft and Sherlock's back-and-forth deducting in The Empty Hearse and I think I could quite happily watch an entire episode of this!
  • I want The Empty Hearse fanclub to return. That could be lots of fun!
  • I want Mary to get more backstory and to see more of her special skills. 
  • I want Sherlock's boxing and fencing skills to be showcased at some point. This would be hot stuff!
  • I want more involvement for Lestrade and Anderson in series four and for Molstrade/Lestrolly to eventually happen.
  • I want Tobias Gregson to be introduced.
Series Three rating: 5/5
Film Certificate: 12


S. said...

The reference to Sherrinford Holmes made me really excited too! :)
What was the Smaug reference? I guess I missed that one.
I really liked Louis Moffat's portrayal of the young Sherlock Holmes, and I loved the Mind Palace scenes. And I love Redbeard, that was a beautiful touch.
Nice review! I enjoyed reading it. :)


Hannah said...

Yes! So glad I'm not the only one! :D

There's a subtle Smaug reference in that scene where Mycroft and Sherlock are talking about Magnussen outside of their parent's house. Mycroft says "He's not a dragon for you to slay" and Sherlock then says "Is that what you think of me? A dragon slayer?"

I loved Redbeard too. He's a beautiful dog. Did you know that he belongs to Martin Freeman and Amanda Abbington in real life? :)


S. said...

Oh, okay. That's fun. :)

Yeah, I did hear that, so, so fun! :) I love dogs. :)


Sarah said...

Very nice review Hannah! I feel the same about this season -- that the attention to character development was absolutely fantastic, but I definitely hope the next season will concentrate more on some mind-bending cases.

I heard a rumor that Matt Smith was possibly joining the show next season... ;) But Colin Morgan looks so much like Benedict I think it'd be awesome if he got to play his younger brother!

Also, yes -- Moriarty needs to stay dead.

Mònica said...

Hi, I nominated you for the 'Sunshine' blogger award- You totally don't have to if you don't want to, but since I got nominated it felt rude not to pass it on. :)
Anyway, I liked your reviews! I didn't read the last one though, since I haven't seen the third episode. Oh woe. Really? Some people don't like Sign of Three? I mean, there's nothing that absolutely everybody likes, but that episode was terrific!

Hamlette said...

After pondering these eps some more over the last week or two, I've decided that in retrospect, I like "The Sign of Three" a lot better than I did originally. Still not a fan of some aspects, but it's a fun ep.

And I think the one thing that really ticks me off the most about "His Last Vow" is that they took possibly the very coolest ordinary woman character in recent memory, someone I wanted to be friends with, who behaved precisely as I'd want toward both John and Sherlock, who made me cheer with how well she was written and how real she felt... and they turned her into a badass superspy. We already have Lara Croft and Black Widow and so on -- but how many truly real-feeling, nice, non-pushy, non-needy real woman characters do we have? None, now, thanks to Gatiss and Moffat's fanboyish need to make Mary "cool."

Rant over. I love that Redbeard is actually Martin and Amanda's dog! He's gorgeous!

Hannah said...

Sarah - You heard that Matt Smith was joining S4?! I shouldn't get my hopes up but... asdfghjkl! But yes Colin looks far more like Benedict's Sherlock than Matt does. He's definitely got the cheekbones, dark hair and piercing blue eyes going for him :D

Miranda - Yay! I love tags and I'll have to get onto that. Thank you :)

Hamlette - I'm glad to see that you've changed your mind about The Sign of Three! :) With regards to Mary, I can see where you're coming from but I don't mind it. Despite Mary's past I still think that she's a very believable and likeable character. I think that's one of the joys for fiction: that we can watch or read about fictional characters with extraordinary powers or lives and still find ourselves connecting to them and believing in them as people. And if it does still bother you there's still Molly and Mrs Hudson in the show and they're quite clearly real-feeling, nice, non-pushy and non-needy.

Hamlette said...

I do quite like Mrs. Hudson. Molly... frustrates me.

Hannah said...

*Gasp* I adore Molly!

Hamlette said...

The writers keep Molly in this perpetual pool of patheticness that is starting to feel chauvenist.

Hannah said...

I love Molly. I think she's a brilliant female character. I find her adorable, clever, observant, kind and funny. Yes she's struggling to let go of her unrequited love for Sherlock but at least Molly isn't blind to Sherlock's faults and is trying to move on with her life. I probably won't change your mind but I love her :)

Hamlette said...

I want to love Molly -- she's sweet, helpful, kind, and intelligent. But it's starting to feel like she's not being allowed to get over Sherlock -- almost like there's a statement here that no woman is ever allowed to get over Sherlock Holmes? I was so happy to hear she had a boyfriend, and then he turns out to look like Sherlock -- that's not funny, that's mean. And kind of demeaning of her.

Now, if they want it to be truly funny, they could have her get a new boyfriend who is played by Benedict Cumberbatch with different hair and clothes, and that would honestly be hilarious because then it's not so much that Molly can't get over him as that we the viewers can't.

Hannah said...

Oh yeah I definitely don't want it to get to, say, series 6 and Molly is still holding an unrequited love for Sherlock! But I'm not expecting it to get to that point so it's not really bothering me. I have a lot of faith in Moftiss.

I have to admit that I *did* find it pretty funny when Molly's boyfriend was revealed but that was only due to Lestrade's reaction to it.

Dan O. said...

Good review Hannah. Didn't really like this one as much as I've liked the past two seasons, but it's still fun, snappy and as exciting as ever.

Hannah said...

Thanks Dan. I can understand why some wouldn't enjoy S3 as much as the first two but I'm glad you still enjoyed it anyway :)