Sherlock Season 3 In Review
Every week at Liberal Values I have a post entitled SciFi Weekend which extends from science fiction to genre television and other areas of entertainment. Generally it contains briefer news items and comments on a variety of items, but some weeks I deal with a single topic. I had briefly covered the third season of Sherlock as the episodes came out in the U.K. but held of on spoilers until after the season completed airing in the United States. Now that the series completed airing, the entire post last weekend was devoted to season 3 of Sherlock this week. There are major spoilers for those who have not seen season three yet.
The third season was far more meta and fannish compared to the first two seasons. The first episode, The Empty Hearse, played with fan reaction to the cliffhanger by showing various possible solutions as to how Sherlock survived the fall. The episode also concentrated on how a world in which this Sherlock is real would react to Sherlock’s apparent death and rumors that he has survived.
Apparently Sherlock did fool Moriarty’s people who were watching to see if Sherlock went through with jumping. Unfortunately the explanation concentrated on fooling Watson, but the more contrived it was to fool Watson, the greater the chance that one of Moriarty’s men should have seen something to tip them off that Sherlock was faking his death.
The relationship between Sherlock and Watson, along with their relationships with women, was also a major theme of the season. Sherlock sure misjudged how Watson would react to seeing him alive. Although Mrs. Hudson, in one of many amusing scenes in the episode, was surprised to see that Watson’s fiancé was a woman, there was very good chemistry between John and Mary. This was partially due to Mary being played by Martin Freeman’s wife Amanda Abbington. We learned later in the season that Mary is not exactly what she seems, but in the end that actually makes her a better partner for a Watson who is spending time fighting crime with Sherlock (once we move beyond awkward events such as Mary shooting Sherlock later in the season).
The Sign of Three was again more about relationships than a classic Sherlock Holmes story. Sherlock faced one of the hardest tasks of his life–writing the best man’s toast at Watson’s wedding. Sherlock often looked awkward, and at times I felt like I was watching Sheldon Cooper. Besides the talk about John as a friend, Sherlock brought up past cases, some of which were unsolved. In the end this was all tied together as there was an attempted murder at the wedding, and a previous unsolved case provided the information to figure out how to stop it. Unfortunately the method of the attempted murder was not very realistic.
His Last Vow was the best episode of the season, and many have called it the best of the series. It was the most like a conventional episode, but relationships between both Sherlock and Holmes with women played a key part. Sherlock’s relationship was established to obtain information, and we learned the truth about Mary’s past with the CIA. Lars Mikkelsen did as wonderful a job playing Magnussen as his brother does playing Hannibal.
I found the ending with Magnussen to be somewhat disappointing. Sherlock could not get the evidence to convict Magnussen, or stop him using conventional means as the information was all in his head, so he had no solution but to shoot him. Besides not being an entirely satisfactory ending, I find it hard to believe that Magnussen would have allowed Sherlock into his home without checking for a gun. There were other situations solved too simply this season, such as Sherlock stopping a bomb by hitting the off switch (after playing with Watson).
As punishment for murdering Magnussen, Sherlock was sent on a mission to East Europe which was predicted to result in his death in six months. This sentence was changed when Moriarty’s face showed up on screens all over England with the question, “Miss Me?”
Fans will be speculating over this cliff hanger just as they did over the cliff hanger over how Sherlock survived the fall. There are many possibilities, but we might not find out the answer for two years.
I always found it questionable that Moriarty would devise a plan to kill Sherlock in which he would not survive to enjoy seeing this, or anything else. Steven Moffat has claimed in interviews that Moriarty is really dead, but we know Moffat lies, or that Mark Gattis might have different ideas. Maybe we are to take this on face value and Moriarty really did fake his death. Moriarty and Sherlock are often parallels of each other. In that way it might fit to have the question between one season be how Sherlock faked his death, and then move on to how Moriarty faked his death.
There is another variation on this which I like. At one point in The Reichenbach Fall, the Moriarty character claimed to really be an actor named Rich Brook and that Sherlock invented Moriarty. What if he was partially telling the truth. Maybe the person we saw kill himself really was an actor, perhaps really named Rich Brook except one working for Moriarty, and was coerced by the real Moriarty into killing himself. I can more easily see Moriarty coercing someone else into pretending to be Moriarty and killing himself than I can see the actual Moriarty committing suicide.
It is also possible that the suggestion that Moriarty is alive was a complete hoax. Perhaps another villain, or one of Moriarty’s men, arranged this and plan to commit future crimes in Moriarty’s name.
Sherlock might have arranged this as a backup plan in case his initial plans to get the evidence against Magnussen failed and he wound up getting arrested. A more likely possibility is that Mycroft Holmes was responsible. It has been established that he has considerable technological abilities. It was also established earlier in the episode that he did not want to see his brother go to his death in Eastern Europe. This could have been his way of ensuring that Sherlock would be brought back home.