Sherlock Review: “The Sign of Three” (Season 3, Episode 2)


Most of this week’s episode of Sherlock takes place during the events of Watson’s wedding, of which Sherlock is the best man. Knowing this iteration of Sherlock as we do – borderline sociopathic, probably registering on the autism scale, unfeeling, uncaring – the very idea of him as a best man is inherently comedic. This is played out to great effect throughout, as the central pull of the episode is Sherlock recounting some of his and Watson’s weirdest and funniest moments. This is more laughs than we’re used to from the show, and if you quickly scan Twitter, there’s a lot of people who are very unhappy about this. Very unhappy indeed. Why? Who knows. People on Twitter are unhappy about everything, it’s pointless even bringing it up here really. So why would I? Because one criticism I kept seeing over and over again stuck with me as a very good point: a lot of this episode seems perfectly engineered for GIF creation. There’s a lot of clear, close-up images of Sherlock’s face, a lot of reaction shots, a lot of weird visual moments.

There’s a scene quite close to the end of the episode, when everything has been solved – we’ll get to the crime shortly, don’t worry – and Sherlock is relaxing with one of the bridesmaids. In conversation with her, he reveals that he’s always secretly loved dancing. To demonstrate, he executes a little pirouette and poses momentarily. Instant GIF. Another scene, earlier on in the episode, involves Sherlock and Watson getting drunk (like I say, this is no normal Sherlock). As they get progressively woozier, they end up in a game of Celebrity, the celebrities being Madonna (Watson) and Sherlock Holmes (Sherlock). Cue lots of posturing, giggling, and Sherlock eventually investigating the carpet so closely that he falls asleep. Are you telling me that moment isn’t made solely for the purposes of propagation via Tumblr?

It’s no big deal, and I don’t mind a bit of fan service, but in a series consisting of three(!) 90 minute episodes, I don’t need a full half hour of exposition and a lengthy drunken scene. The first sniff of actual crime occurs exactly thirty minutes into the programme, almost like they had the mystery written then quickly needed to come up with something to fill an extended time slot. While I’m a big fan of the snippets of crimes Sherlock offerd in passing, with no more explanation than a brief descriptive name – The Elephant in the Room (a literal elephant in a literal room), The Hollow Client, The Poisoned Giant, and one involving a French decathlete and a mysterious matchbox – this episode featured loads, almost as many as there were different explanations for Sherlock’s faked suicide, when what the nation really wanted was an actual crime that Sherlock could maybe, if at all possible, solve. Then it arrived.