Television Review: Sherlock (season 3, 2014)

January 19th, 2014 | Tags: , ,

Sherlock, season 3 (BBC, 2014)

Sherlock Holmes: Benedict Cumberbatch
John Watson: Martin Freeman
Year: 2014
Note: a modern re-imagining of Canon

Rating: 

After yet another extended hiatus, Sherlock has returned for a much anticipated third season. Unfortunately, all that anticipation seems to have been for naught, for in the interim the creators’ egos have inflated beyond their writing abilities, and it shows. Sherlock’s third season is a resounding disappointment, fraught with plot inconsistencies, characterization missteps, and far more style than substance. It is with great sadness that I award what was once such a promising series a mere two pipes, for this, its third season.

Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes

If Sherlock’s third season has earn two pipes, then surely one of those pipes belongs to Benedict Cumberbatch. He continues to prove himself an exceptionally talented actor and has, I believe, the potential to stand as this generation’s definitive Sherlock Holmes. Unfortunately, this is likely to prove an impossible feat, especially if the show’s writing quality continues its downslide. The problem here is not Benedict Cumberbatch. The problem lies in uneven characterization, tedious dialogue, and the penchant to use this character as a vessel for showboating. It is a shame to see such tremendous talents go to waste.

Martin Freeman as John Watson

I continue to enjoy Freeman in the role of Dr. Watson, and if I’ve awarded one pipe for Cumberbatch’s performance, then perhaps the second belongs to Freeman. Though perhaps not as strong a performance as the first two seasons, Freeman still portrays a conflicted Watson, torn between his grief, his new life, and the return of his old. If there are moments of uncertainty, they exist purely in the writing, and not in Freeman’s performance. All around, a very moving performance.

Amanda Abbington as Mary Morstan

The true gem of this season, and perhaps the reason I suffered through three episodes, is Amanda Abbington in her role as Mary Morstan. Abbington is transcendent as Mary, her performance adding layers of intrigue to perhaps the most important woman to grace the pages of Canon. Her chemistry with Freeman, though perhaps not surprising, is electric, but as a rare and wonderful treat she also plays exceptionally well off Cumberbatch, creating a firm cornerstone in this, the series’ love triangle. But Abbington is not merely a love interest. Steeped in mystery and complexity, Abbington’s Mary is perfectly capable of standing on her own. In fact, I dare say I would gladly tune in to watch an entire series dedicated to her and her adventures. A fine addition to the cast, and decided bright spot in an otherwise convoluted and frustrating season.

The Episodes

I have opted to forgo touching on my quibbles, or highlighting some of the more delightful elements this time around, mostly because the episodes, though tied together, felt entirely too disjointed to group as a whole. As such, I will examine each episode in turn. Rest assured that the more delightful technical elements from the first two season continues here. The show is, if not well written, well produced, with breathtaking cinematography, clever editing and seamless directing.

The Empty Hearse

Perhaps my biggest problem with this season, and it is by far the most evident in Empty Hearse, is that it is becoming increasingly obvious the writers (in this case Gatiss, but it is evident across the board) are nowhere near as clever as their fans. They are certainly not as clever as their lead character. And this is fine, no one expects writers to be smarter than their characters. We do, however, expect writers to convince us their characters are as clever as they say they are.

And perhaps this is a rare talent, possessed only by ACD himself, but part of what makes Sherlock Holmes such a compelling character is his intelligence. We know he is smarter than us. We know we will never attain his levels of brilliance. But we try anyway, because this is part of the fun in being a Sherlock Holmes fan. And this is what fans of Sherlock have done. They have brought Sherlockian scholarship into the twenty-first century. The only problem? They’re smarter than the people writing the show. For the first time ever it is the fans, not the detective, who are owed the spotlight. This changes the dynamic of the series considerably.

I believe this is why we didn’t get a solution to Holmes jumping. Instead we were handed recycled fan theories speculated upon long before the third season aired. I didn’t come away from this episode impressed. I came away from it feeling patronized and let down.

You can’t outsmart Sherlock Holmes, and when you try, it only highlights your inadequacies.

If there is one high point in this episode, it is John Watson, though I expect a good portion of this is Freeman’s performance. He did an exceptional job portraying a man grieving, lost and struggling for a way to move forward and then fighting guilt when he found it. His reaction to Holmes’ return marked a dramatic improvement over the original. Oh how I have longed to witness Watson striking Holmes upon his return. Surely fainting followed by gleeful acceptance is not an acceptable response to discovering you’ve been lied to and dismissed for the better part of three (or in this case two) years.

The rest of the episode was rather hum-drum. It was decidedly lacking in ties to the original Canon (though I did enjoy the nod to Empty House, with the old man selling British Birds.) Unfortunately even this wasn’t enough to save this episode from its plot holes. As a general rule, writing should answer more questions than it asks. This is especially true of a detective series. I’m still at a lost for why they felt the Holmes-torture scene was necessary. I still cannot suspend my disbelief long enough to accept that Mycroft would ever leave his track and embark on an undercover mission to rescue his brother. I’m not sure I even want to theorize why Watson was abducted, the scene seeming to serve no real purpose, not even two episodes later, when we were spoon-fed the answer. I begin to think these episodes could benefit greatly from a reduction in airtime. Far too much filler was needed to meet their ninety minutes.

The abundance of filler material also served to derail the episode’s pacing, leaving it jarring, over-packed and yet sluggish, at times outright boring. I lost count of the number of unnecessary scenes. Was there a reason to introduce Holmes’ parents at this juncture? Do we yet know why Holmes was hallucinating? The Empty Hearse was a jumbled mess of slow, dragging scenes, with nowhere near the cohesion one would come to expect given previous seasons.

Certainly there were a few bright spots, but none of those were characterization. I’m not sure why the writing for Holmes was so far from the mark, but this was not the man I met in the first two seasons. It was certainly not the man sprawled across the pages of Dr. Watson’s stories. This Holmes was boorish. He transcended rude, tipping straight into the obnoxious. There were times, in fact (teasing John on the train for example, harping on John’s mustache being another) when I was completely thrown from the story, Holmes a complete stranger, not at all the detective I and so many others have come to know and love. I know this series has opted to play Holmes as a sociopath/psychopath, but it was my understanding that was a self-given label meant to hide Holmes’ true heart. The Holmes I met in this episode was completely lacking in heart. Certainly he was not a Holmes worthy of forgiveness. It is almost a relief, then, to experience the character inconsistencies that will come over the next two episodes. Under normal circumstances, it would be a point of contention, but here it was a decided improvement.

Though, for the record, Sherlock Holmes had a lovely, impish sense of humour, but he was never, ever cruel, especially not where Watson was concerned.

And so, while there were aspects I thoroughly enjoyed (Mary Morstan’s introduction for one, Anderson and his Empty Hearse society for another) on the whole the episode left me feeling decidedly hollow and immensely bored. Much I suspect, like John Watson before Holmes’ return, wandering aimlessly through London, without purpose. I do not, however, suspect this was intentional, and if it was, it is not a technique I recommend to anyone.

A Sign of Three

The Sign of Three was easily the most frustrating of the three episodes, in that it was also the most promising and yet somehow managed to miss the mark entirely. Rich with Canon references, the episode combined several of Holmes’ actual cases into something that both held together and told a rather complex, coherent story. Far-fetched at times, certainly, but cohesive. In fact, were it not for the filler material, this might have been one of their best episodes to date.

Unfortunately, the at times clever plot was grossly overshadowed by the melodramatic, decidedly soap-opera-like character drama. Yes, Watson got married, and yes, Holmes was forced to confront his loss, but why any of this needed one half of the episode’s running time is beyond me. Part of what made the original Holmes stories so compelling was the warmth and constancy of the characters. We, as Sherlock Holmes fans, looked forward to each little morsel, to watching these characters come alive on the page. I have no idea, then, how The Sign of Three managed to take these moments and stretch them into tedium. The less I say about Holmes’ best man speech the better, and unfortunately this was not the only point where the story bumbled slowly towards its eventual resolution. On more than one occasion the joke ran overlong, the story growing awkward to the point of second hand embarrassment. A marked difference from previous seasons. Season three suffers from many things, not the least of which is its pacing. Nowhere is this more evident than in The Sign of Three.

That is not to say there were not high points in the episode. I quite enjoyed the numerous references to Canon, and as I mentioned above I believe the writers did an admirable job of weaving their cases together. There were enough common threads for a neat and tidy resolution. It is only a shame the plot was so thoroughly buried by unnecessary filler and fluff.

Mary Morstan continued to delight, although I am leery of where her eventual story will lead. There was enough foreshadowing (quite brilliantly done, I should mention) so that the events in His Last Vow were hardly a surprise, but Moffat doesn’t have the best track record where female characters are concerned, so I am hardly one to extend too much of my trust. For now, however, and especially in this take on SIGN, I liked Mary. She was certainly a different take on the Mary Morstan of Canon, but I think it worked for the adaptation. I only wish they hadn’t decided on making her pregnant, but I believe I’ve already touched on the overly dramatic melodrama inherent in this season’s character arcs.

We will not be commenting on drunk Sherlock. I’m still trying to delete the scene from my hard drive. Nor will we be commenting on Holmes and Watson’s relationship in this, or any episode. While it is one thing to examine their relationship using the Text as our source, it is quite another to examine their relationship in the face of an adaptation made with clear authorial intent. Moffat and co. have firmly stated Holmes and Watson will remain heterosexual. Any nods towards their relationship are at best fan-baiting (note I do not use the word queer-baiting as I do not believe anyone involved in the production is interested in attracting queer audiences), and at worse fan-teasing. Sadly, I believe the latter more likely.

In the end, The Sign of the Three still had a lot of potential, and it could have been a brilliant episode. Unfortunately, pacing issues and too much filler made for a lackluster ride. Sorting through the drivel to find something to write about was remarkably challenging. I cannot remember the last time watching an episode felt so much like a chore. A disappointing second in a line of disappointing episodes.

His Last Vow

As The Adventures of Charles Augustus Milverton has long been one of my favourite stories, I was quite excited to see this brought into a modern adaptation. Overall, the episode did not disappoint, at least not insofar as the case. The moments that did disappoint are the same issues that disappoint continually with Moffat’s work.

There is often a fine line between a writer and their audience. A good writer can blur this line enough to disguise their presence, allowing the audience to get lost in the characters, the story. This doesn’t happen with Moffat’s work. Too many of Moffat’s own person issues and presumed kinks make it into his work. He has an unnatural obsession with psychopathy (or sociopathy as he would call it, though I have yet to speak with someone in the field of psychiatry who isn’t vexed by his misuse of the terms).

That is not to say the episode was lacking in delightful elements. The numerous nods to Canon were quite appreciated. I was particularly impressed with their use of The Man with the Twisted Lip. An ingenious case to introduce the story. The opium dens of London may be long gone, but where better to set a case in a modern adaptation than a crack house. BAMF Watson was also a lovely touch, and I will forever be pleased by the introduction of Billy. The twist on Empty House was particularly clever.

The pacing in this episode marked an improvement over the rest of the season, though only just and it did fall apart considerably after the midway point. The “twist” in Mary’s story line was overly dramatic, meant, no doubt, for shock value, though why one would seek shock value when they went out of their way to foreshadow the event is beyond me.

This was, of course, the point where the episode ran off track. Holmes’ extended trip into his “mind palace” lacked the insightful intrigue I suspect Moffat was attempting. The forcibly drawn parallel between Mary as shooter and Mary as bride, both surely destroying Holmes’ heart, was heavy-handed and about as unsubtle as a tanker truck driving into the side of a house. The entire sequence came across as dull, awkward and unnecessary.

Then there was Holmes’ excuse for Mary not killing Magnussen. The suspension of disbelief needed to swallow what was obviously an attempt to drag the plot forward was enough to remove me from the story. I’m not going to comment on why Holmes had Moriarty chained up in a padded room in his mind palace, as by this point I’ve gotten used to Moffat showboating for the sake of satisfying his ego.

If there was a high point in this episode it was Lars Mikkelsen. His portrayal of Charles Augustus Magnussen was both suitably creepy and yet hauntingly unforgettable. Even days later I still feel unclean. This is the sign of a truly great adversary, one I believe fully captured the C.A.M. of Canon. Bravo Mikkelsen, for such a noteworthy performance.

I also continue to enjoy Mary Morstan’s character development, this in spite of knowing Moffat’s track record with female characters. True, she is an entire caricature of Moffat’s dream woman (psychopath adventurer whose life revolves around the central male figure in her life) but I believe there is still enough tempering at this point to afford her her own agency. Certainly, she has a good deal of potential. I only worry this potential will be squandered for the sake of Holmes (or Watson’s) growth.

Overall this episode is a bit of a mixed bag. There were numerous occasions when I fell head-first into the story and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Unfortunately, each of these occasions were followed by disbelief, annoyance and, at times, and outright boredom. I was entirely prepared to forgive the episode its fault and simply enjoy the poignancy of Holmes leaving London, Watson left behind, the final cut of Holmes’ plane gaining air I thought both fitting and conclusive. Unfortunately, all of this was squandered in their setup for the a fourth season. Once again Moffat has overplayed his hand, demonstrating his inability to conjure a unique and non-repetitive storyline. Of the hundreds of cases littered throughout the Canon, why he felt the need to resurrect Moriarty is beyond me. A disappointing end to a disappointing season, and hardly one to leave me excited for future episodes.

Conclusion

Season three stands as an excellent example of what happens when a show grows too big for its talent. While the quality and potential is still there, the writing fails to live up to expectations. This season has been disjointed, insulting, overly-showy and, perhaps most damning of all, boring. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

  1. Rachael
    January 19th, 2014 at 08:45
    Quote | #1

    At last, somebody who shares my opinion of this most diminished of returns. At times I wondered if I was even watching the same show- where was the heart? The characters we’ve grown to love? The mysteries? Sherlock is, after all, a detective, but so much of this season was given over to rom com style hijinks. That’s not what I or other die hard fans tune in for. I can’t help feeling as though it was written as a sop to a small, noisy fanbase who haven’t read the stories and so don’t care when it derails.

    Since these trends pop up time and time again in Moffat’s work (Doctor Who has seen a similar plummet in quality recently), much of the blame must be laid at his door. Insulting, frustrating and sad. The last episode was too little too late; I doubt I’ll be sticking around for a fourth series.

    • admin
      January 19th, 2014 at 10:13
      Quote | #2

      I wondered about this too. The season seems to pander to “fangirls”, and while I myself have been known to join those ranks, a show’s quality tends to suffer when it takes this route. You’re spot on about Moffat (and Doctor Who). I gave up on that show shortly into his run as showrunner, and I suspect I too will be tuning out come season 4. A shame.

  2. January 19th, 2014 at 09:17
    Quote | #3

    Ah I was waiting for you review! So thank you for putting out your thoughts! What you say in conclusion is right on the spot. Throughout the series, it felt as if I was obligated to feel certain way when I actually didn’t. Then there is all the discontinuity of the scenes – jumping forward and backward through time in TEH and HLV. Also, months have passed where important developments have taken place but we only get to see the end of it. (E.g. months between John coming to know about Mary and his forgiving her in Holmes house.) The most severe disappointment for me in this series was John Watson. I couldn’t understand his motivations and his jumps in character at all. Having listened to the Empire interview of Moffat and Gatiss, it seems there is not much plan for John. He needs to be around and needs to get through his emotions either quickly or off-screen. Anyway, I have ranted and been ranting about this series a lot though there have been really good points too.

    Most of the things you said you disliked, I agree with you. Some that you found boring, I found entertaining. The mind palace sequence, for example, in HLV. I think in this series, they have replaced the scathing deductions with rapid-fire mind palace sequences, which is why I found them entertaining.

    Regading Mycroft’s legwork and Holmes family. The writers, as you might know already, have not followed Mycroft of the canon, but Mycrof ot The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. So the Mycroft who absolutely refuses to climb the gate in BRUC may still be there (“legwork” comment in TGG), but he is MI6 operative too, as in TPLoSH. Maybe that’s why I was ok with him being in the field.

    As for introducing Holmes family. If this was an adaptation of canon in its own time, Holmes parents would have been jarring. But even while reading canon, I always wondered, WHY they never talked more about their own families? What was it like? Moffat said in the recent Empire interview that you don’t expect a Victorian man to have a relationship with his parents, but a man in his thirties living in London is of course going to have a relationship with his parents. Not a strong argument, but what I understood from it is that in modernization of SH, one must have answers to these questions about family of the lead character. There has got to be a backstory. I think backstory needs to spill over the main story some of the times to give more insight about the protagotnist. At least that’s how I wanted it in canon, so I am fine with Holmes family introduction. What I am not fine with is, I have no idea what purpose it served here. Apart from adding more mystery as to how Sherlock and Mycroft are products of such loving couple. Which Gatiss was quite glad of having thrown it at us, without giving any other clues! (At least I don’t see anything that can answer for Sherlock and Mycroft’s characters.) Again, from my understanding, they have used Baring-Gould as their backstory canon.

    So the stretch that you are feeling in your disbelief suspenders is likely because Sherlock is as much an adaptation of canon as it is of non-canon such as TPLoSH and Baring-Gould.

    Overall, this whole series felt as if writers were back-slapping each other throughout, and ambiguity was there just for the sake of ambiguity, without ever having any intention of resolving it. Sure it is a brilliant piece of television, but as an SH adaptation and as a coherent story-telling, I have reduced my expectations drastically for the next series.

    • admin
      January 19th, 2014 at 10:20
      Quote | #4

      I do freely confess a lot of my likes and dislikes are entirely subjective, so it’s interesting to see another perspective. I can see why someone might enjoy Holmes’ mind-palace scenes, and I do agree there is an argument for Mycroft in the field. Neither worked for me, but that comes from my own bias of the characters and the source material.

      I think thought part of what I liked about Canon is not knowing Holmes’ parents. They were a source of mystery, as mysterious as Holmes himself sometimes. Introducing Holmes’ parents in this series took away some of this mystery in a way I found quite disappointing. I absolutely agree it makes no sense to have Holmes and Mycroft spring from such an ordinary, loving couple. The contradiction was jarring, and not in an interesting way.

      I will say, though, that I don’t mind adaptations that borrow from Canon and other sources. There are quite a few that do this quite successfully. One of the things I enjoyed about the Guy Richie films is its nods to Granada and the Rathbone films. I think instead the disbelief I’m feeling is because any theories put forth suggesting Holmes had ordinary parents are theories I rejected whole-heartedly.

      I think you hit the nail right on the head when you say it feels like the writers were back-slapping each other. As I mentioned in the review, they were writing for their egos, not their audience, and I think this is why S3 had such a poor showing.

  3. January 19th, 2014 at 11:44
    Quote | #5

    Like your other commentators, I’m glad to find a review that is willing to go against the current, and point out what was wrong with this series. Like you, one of my biggest disappointments was the inconsistencies in characterization of the main character. How did a man who, in the previous series, disdained everything mundane, become a napkin folding, pirouetting comedian, who takes up a “protege” and has a pair of ordinary and affection parents?

    I have to disagree with your comments about Mary. Although Abbington is a good actor and Mary is a good character; and although she may be an asset to the show, she is not an asset to the story. She seems to have become as large as, if not larger than Watson. It seems that we no longer have a story about a detective and his side-kick, but a story about Sherlock and the Mary/John duo. Although we are told that Mary is clever,and presumably, that explains Sherlock’s unusual tolerance for her, nothing in the show actually illustrates that she is any more clever than, say, Lestrade.

    I cringe to think about where series 4 will take us. With the introduction of a baby, I can just imagine the “riotous” potential as Sherlock interacts with the baby. After all, we’ve already met a chubby-cheeked, tossel-haired 5 year old Sherlock for no apparent reason. The earlier series were great, but with the character changes and the introduction of a whole cast of players, I fear the show has turned to sit-com.

    • admin
      January 19th, 2014 at 19:26
      Quote | #6

      It’s odd you mention this going against the current, because outside mainstream media circles I’ve seen nothing but disdain for this series. Odd, the disconnect between media critiques and fans. I’m not sure why that is. But yes, I hard time with Holmes’ characterization this time around. I was prepared for him to deviate from the original stories, but to have him deviate so widely from the series’ previously established canon was quite off-putting. The protege I didn’t mind, because Billy’s plucked straight from the pages of Canon, but the rest… Far too many jokes at Holmes’ expense. It was distasteful.

      We will have to agree to disagree on Mary. She has always been an integral part of the Canon (even if she’s not featured) and given the time difference (modern vs Victorian) I would expect a wife to be more involved in her husband’s affairs. I have no problem seeing her inclusion, but then, I never complain when female characters are added to male-centric casts. In addition to being a Sherlockian scholar, I am also a feminist scholar. 😉

      I will say, however, that I don’t believe we will see a baby manifest (though don’t quote me on that and it is horrifying to think of). I suspect they were setting up the story nicely for Mary to die in childbirth. Numerous scholars have purported this theory as the cause of Canon Mary’s death, so…

  4. zaidapdx
    January 19th, 2014 at 13:25
    Quote | #7

    Wonderful review! I thought I’d say that in my mind Watson has always been the heart of the Holmes canon. We all love Holmes, yes (or are at least fascinated by him), but Watson is why we, or at least I, always stuck around for so long. The problem with this adaptation in particular is that the creators have an obvious obsession with Holmes himself, to the point that Watson is quickly pushed aside to the role of Plot Device. (And I would argue this started as early as Season 2, or even as far back as “The Great Game”….basically, the minute Moriarty was a tangible presence in the narrative.) I can’t even begin to explain how frustrating it was to watch the Empty Hearse and see Watson’s reaction be made all about Holmes, or in Sign of Three to see Watson’s wedding be made all about Holmes, etc.

    The saddest thing to me about this season is that so much of it didn’t surprise me. I wasn’t surprised by the twist with Mary, or by Watson being quickly targeted in Empty Hearse (because nothing shows Holmes’ devotion by constantly putting Watson in danger, am I right?) or really any of the crap that went on in His Last Vow. At this point, I’ve come to expect this quality of writing in anything that Moffat and increasingly Gattiss touch. And by quality, I mean none at all. But unfortunately that seems to be what audiences want? Or what the BBC wants? I have no other explanation for how Sherlock and now Doctor Who are more popular, and bringing in more money, than ever.

    • admin
      January 19th, 2014 at 19:34
      Quote | #8

      Oh, absolutely Watson is the heart of the Canon. He has always been the heart, with Holmes the brain. I think that is why their partnership works so well together.

      I actually appreciate the treatment of Watson in this adaptation, though mostly because I still live in fear of getting another Nigel Bruce. True, this Watson is occasionally used to further the plot, but most of the time I’ve been happy with his characterization. I will agree the writers are far too obsessed with Holmes. Almost to the point of mockery. This is also why some of their cases don’t work out. They’re telling the story from his pov, but they’re not smart enough to do it. The story only works when it’s seen through Watson’s lens.

      I think I commented on this in the review, but part of what I hated about this season was how dull everything was, and it was dull purely because nothing surprised me. SO much showboating. Someone above said it felt like the writers were clapping each other on the back and that’s the impression I got. There was a lot of grandstanding with absolutely no thought or effort put into the writing. So disappointing.

      I sometimes think (and this goes for Sherlock, DW, even SPN) that audiences aren’t as smart as they were ten years ago. They don’t want to think about their television. They want to come home, sit down in front of the television and unplug. Have you seen the film Idiocracy? (if not, do, it’s amusing). That’s pretty much where we’re heading. Stupid people. Breeding. Controlling our media. We’ve saturated ourselves to the point of stupidity, so now we’ll buy anything, so long as we don’t have to think about it.

  5. fish eye no miko
    January 19th, 2014 at 20:33
    Quote | #9

    Yeah, I’m done with this series. I nearly quit after ASiB, but I stuck with it for a bit longer. My reasons for jumping ship have both to do with actual things in the show (Oh, look, another “psychopath” [rolls eyes]) and the fact that there are things I’ve decided I want out of the show that it clearly has no intention of giving me. Which, yeah it’s not made just for me; but just as the shows writers have the right to craft the show as they see it, I have to right to decide I don’t like that they’re doing and thus stop to watching it. As it was, I have not seen HLV, nor do I intend to.

    • admin
      January 19th, 2014 at 20:53

      Bravo, well said. I too am done with the series. It’s not what I want from an adaptation and it’s not what I want from television. Why annoy ourselves?

      • fish eye no miko
        January 19th, 2014 at 21:01

        Exactly.

        The sad thing is, I’m afraid what I want–unquestionably canon Sherlock/John; not just “subtext” or “bromance”, etc–won’t happen in any adaptation for awhile.

  6. Rachael
    January 20th, 2014 at 11:45

    It’s been great coming back and seeing all these posts agreeing Series 3 is tosh – a rare spot of sanity on the Internet. One of the most aggravating things about it is my friends (most of whom haven’t read the books) absolutely loved it, and won’t hear a word said against it.

    I’ve been a Holmesian since I was twelve – over half my life. It hurts that Gatiss, Moffat et al think the views of a handful of groupies somehow matter more than fans who have known and loved these characters for years. Yet they don’t respect them, either; the Empty Hearse seems made up of misfits (and don’t get me started on their depiction of Anderson’s mental illness). I particularly hate the ship teasing; being gay myself, I always saw Holmes and Watson as something to aspire to- two smart, brave, heroic guys who just happen to be in love with each other. Since the show runners have made it abundantly clear that they’re “just friends”, nods in this direction come across as cheap gags. I had the distinct feeling that they were mocking shippers with that short sequence in The Empty Hearse – strange considering Mark Gatiss wrote it.

    It doesn’t help that the portrayal of gay characters has been dodgy to say the least: Moriarty (say no more), Irene Adler, who despite identifying as a lesbian fell for a man (apparently bisexuals don’t exist), John’s alcoholic sister (who has yet to make an appearance), the shifty pub owners in HoB- the list goes on and on. Though perhaps in a world where every man and his dog is a (self diagnosed) sociopath, maybe they’re not so bad!

    • admin
      January 20th, 2014 at 19:04

      I chose not to touch on the more problematic elements contained in this series, mostly because I didn’t feel this was the right venue for it (I save that for my tumblr), but yes, all of this. While I have seen quite a few younger fans come forward to defend or praise this episode, it’s not just the older Holmesian fans who were offended/disappointed. There’s been quite a lot of backlash outside mainstream media for Moffat’s treatment of women, his utter disrespect for the gay community, and worse still, his pandering to fangirls while at the same time mocking them.

      Moffat is not the right person to be writing a series with decent representation. More like the exact opposite. Apparently all he cares about are gay jokes, trashing on women and filling the world with psychopaths/sociopaths. The guy’s a hack and it’s distressing to think he has this level of control over characters I love.

  7. Bookworm
    January 21st, 2014 at 11:02

    I totally agree with your assessment that their ego inflated beyond their writing abilities. I too think that they should keep Sherlock’s past mysterious. What was great about the show was the tightly wrapped plot and characterization that intriguing and left room for imagination. When they start showing too much of his past, such as his image as a kid, or his parents, it doesn’t leave any ambiguity or room for people to imagine what their parents must have been like. Overall, this series was a complete disappointment. After waiting anxiously for two years, I can’t believe this is what we got. I hope the next series improve and you will be reviewing them even if they suck just to give a critical view on a show. I was wondering why do you think the writing was of such low quality this season? Do you think now that they know how successful the show is, they are no longer trying? Or did they run out of ideas? Also I am puzzled as to why 10 million people tuned in to watch the series even though it was bad television.

    • admin
      January 21st, 2014 at 12:32

      Your questions are challenging ones, and I’m not sure I can give an adequate answer. I do think writing quality has a tendency to wane over time for a number of reasons. Lack of ideas is certainly one, but mostly I think a lot of what I saw this season was just writers being overconfident. They weren’t writing with care because they didn’t think they had anything to prove. They just assumed they were entitled to praise, money and ratings, so the same level of effort wasn’t put into the process. As for people tuning in, the average viewer is an idiot. I don’t mean that to be insulting, because half of what I watch I watch uncritically. I watch to unwind. To turn my brain off at the end of the day. The disconnect comes when you have people tuning in for mindless television and people tuning in wanting literary value. Sherlock may be entertaining mindless television, but it’s lost all claim to being an intelligent, thought provoking show.

  8. AX
    January 21st, 2014 at 12:53

    Finally, an objective review that sees the flaws of Series 3. Although undoubtedly excellent, a significant part of Sherlock’s glory is fuelled by the frenzy of fandom, who tend to ignore problems with these episodes despite the fact that they are fairly obvious. Thank you for this and hope you continue to write quality content on this blog.

    • admin
      January 21st, 2014 at 14:06

      I’m pretty fortunate, being removed from the fandom, so I’m unbiased when it comes to fan reaction. I have and will continue to view any and all adaptations from the viewpoint of a Holmesian. S3 was unworthy of the Sherlock Holmes name.

    • fish eye no miko
      January 21st, 2014 at 14:16

      I’m kinda curious where you “hang out” in fandom? The forums I’ve been reading have PLENTY of criticism for S3 (and problems with the series over all).

  9. January 22nd, 2014 at 19:52

    Just a quick note to thank you (and all posters) for this interesting and intelligent conversation. I quite enjoy your thoughts. I had looked for various reviews after the conclusion of the series 3 and could only find accolades. I was wondering if I was mad or unduly critical because I just didn’t think it was even remotely brilliant. I am reassured by your confidence that there will be no baby in Series 4. Ugh, the thought of Sherlock Holmes and nappies is just too much to stomach.

  10. January 22nd, 2014 at 21:57

    I must confess that I continue to take issue with the series 3 depiction of Mary. While you have suggested Mary is “an integral part of the Canon” and that a modern wife would be “more involved in her husband’s affairs”, I would beg to differ. Although I have not read most of Doyle’s work for a while and only now dip into the stories, I would suggest that Mary is an incidental character, designed, in part, to facilitate Doyle’s efforts to extricate himself from the stories, and in part, as a narrative device to highlight the complexity of the Holmes/Watson relationship. I find that series 3 Mary is too large and to dominate for the relationship between the two characters. While I appreciate that modern spousal relationships are different from what they once were, I maintain that Mary is more of a narrative device than a character of substance. i would suggest that by suggesting she has any significant part in the Holmes/Watson dynamic is to deviate too far from the integral story elements. In my mind, the story is, and should remain, about Holmes and Watson. Series 3 Mary introduces a kind of sentimentality (which may be modern but not necessarily apt) that dilutes what is rich about the dynamic. No, I have to disagree. While I appreciate there has been much discussion about Moffat’s depiction of female characters in his writing, I think the easy embracing of the series 3 Mary character is more of a conflagration of of ideals and exceptions of Moffat;s writing than it is about canon or good story-telling.

  11. JL82
    January 23rd, 2014 at 16:01

    As a U.S. viewer, I have yet to view beyond Empty Hearse,so I have been very careful about how much of this I have read, as of this date, to avoid “spoilers.” However, you expressed, under your Empty Hearse heading, my problem with the episode and, I have come to realize, with the series in general: Sherlock is being TOO mean here. And so is Watson. I think there has been far too much hostility between them throughout the series. I can remember no other adaptation where they physically fight with each other. While Sherlock Holmes has always had his…issues, he always showed the best side of himself to Watson. And I admit I’ve been probably been biased by reading too much slash fan fic where Holmes waxes poetic about Watson’s appeal and desirable qualities, and I don’t need him to be a saint, but here, it’s like he’s MORE messed up than Holmes (look at how quick he is to punch someone out, Sherlock or someone else he’s working with, over a verbal insult.) That means he doesn’t have much to offer in terms of stabilizing Holmes.

    In other adaptations, including canon, most of their violent acts were in the name of protecting each other.

    I admit I was actually hoping to see Watson display some of the glee he displays in canon at Holmes’ return. (Too much slash fanfic, again.) But I absolutely could not follow his emotional progress here: he puts on a big “I’m not going back to you” act, which is understandable, but he drops it and forgives Holmes WHEN HOLMES TRICKS HIM AGAIN (on the train, and I personally think this trick was almost meaner than the faked death.) My mind was boggled further by the fact that Sherlock Holmes could stand there and laugh at the idea of Watson being in danger (again, on the train.) We all know that Watson in danger is the one thing that should truly upset Sherlock Holmes.

    The only explanation I have for why John became more forgiving after the train episode is, he was reminded that life with Sherlock was genuinely dangerous, and that, therefore, Sherlock’s last two years might have been even more dangerous, and therefore it was legitimate for Sherlock to shield him from some parts of it?

    The idea that all along Sherlock was playing with Moriarty…that he was using Moriarty’s slander campaign to trap Moriarty in some ways makes things worse from John’s point of view – Sherlock told him a lot of lies even before faking his death. On the other hand, I do like the twist, in a way: I don’t like a villain whose whole agenda is to “get” the hero or protagonist. I want Sherlock to be accomplishing more when he stops a bad guy than just saving himself.

    I quite agree about how the writers are treating the viewers by not really telling us the true solution to The Fall. The audience should be told. But I rather like the idea of Sherlock not telling everybody in-universe – to drive crazy those at Scotland Yard and elsewhere who didn’t like him. And make them wonder if just maybe, there was something supernatural going on. I always feel that when Holmes fakes his death, (in canon too) there could be an additional motive, teaching the Yard a lesson: “Let’s see how you like it when you’re out of your depth and I’m not there to help.”

    As for not telling John, I can actually believe in him not wanting to know: he may PREFER to think in terms of miracles in the supernatural sense.

  12. JL82
    January 23rd, 2014 at 16:03

    I know that Admin here likes to close comments after a relatively short period of time to cut down on spam.

    For those of us that may want to continue talking after comments have closed, check out Sherlock dot boardhost dot com. I have been posting over there; there is a LOT of analysis of everything Sherlock going on…and we could use more slashers over there…they seem to be outnumbered by the “Sherlock loves Molly” and “Sherlock did it with Irene after he saved her” people.

  13. JL82
    January 23rd, 2014 at 16:09

    For the first two seasons it seemed like the writers were teasing us Holmes/Watson slashers. Now it seems like they’re going out of their way to shoot us down – show both guys as hetero.

    Although, when Watson goes to Mrs. Hudson to tell her about Mary, the phrasing of, “I’m moving on, I’ve met someone,” sounds like he’s moving on from losing a spouse or romantic partner. Because a female romantic interest or fiance wouldn’t typically be a substitute for a male best friend…unless that friend was Sherlock Holmes.

    I also couldn’t believe (again, only seen Hearse) that Sherlock and Mary didn’t have more sense of rivalry with each other over John. I think that rivalry would exist even without slash: even if Holmes doesn’t want Watson in any sexual sense, he wants to be Watson’s first priority in life and wants Watson to always be around when he (Holmes) needs him. Mary, for her part, should see that a guy who jumps when Sherlock Holmes calls won’t make the attentive boyfriend/husband to her.

  14. JL82
    January 23rd, 2014 at 16:20

    Benedict Cumberbatch has a…female following. (That’s putting it VERY mildly.) I sometimes think the female characters who have taken an interest in Sherlock are sort of mouthpieces for that following.

    • fish eye no miko
      January 23rd, 2014 at 19:26

      Actually, if you watch Moffat’s run on DW, you’ll see that nearly EVERY woman the Doctor runs into expresses attraction to him. Now note that the episodes of “Sherlock” that have featured women taking an interest in Sherlock have been written (at least partially) by Moffat.

  15. JL82
    January 23rd, 2014 at 17:16

    Did anyone catch the “mini-sode” “Many Happy Returns”? (Boy, do they know how to torment us!) Lestrade delivers to John a supposedly-unedited version of a birthday video Sherlock made in the past when he couldn’t be there on John’s birthday, but it’s clear that actually, the video has been RE-edited so that Sherlock’s reference to “not being there” is about the Hiatus.

    And we see Anderson’s “Empty Hearse” movement (cult?) of people who believe Sherlock could still be alive. Now, it bothered me that, if a pro-Sherlock cult of any kind was going to exist in universe (either a “I know he faked his death” movement or a “I know he was innocent) movement, that John didn’t get involved. Wouldn’t you think he would find that therapeutic, and a way of staying connected to Sherlock? I firmly believe that when Granada’s Watson becomes a police surgeon during the Hiatus, it’s his way of hanging onto his life with Holmes.

    I knew Sherlock’s name would have to be cleared. I think it might have made a better third season if Sherlock had to clear his name after coming back, but even if that was going to be taken care of during the Hiatus, I’m a bit surprised John didn’t take part in it, as much for his own therapy as for Sherlock’s sake. Something to live for, connected with Sherlock.

  16. JL82
    January 23rd, 2014 at 17:24

    Sherlock not telling John he wasn’t dead is reason enough for John to be angry, but there is actually a bit more going on:

    1) Sherlock was there to hear John’s graveside speech, so it’s not just, “Sherlock should have known how I would feel,” it’s “Sherlock actually knew how I felt.”

    2) The whole smear campaign by Moriarty was part of Sherlock’s plan, so Sherlock told John a lot MORE lies, beyond faking his death.

    3) Many people had to be in on Sherlock’s plan. And yet John wasn’t. That means Sherlock Holmes has chosen people, other than his Watson, to trust. That implies John is not the person he’s closest to (regardless of how Sherlock feels in his heart.) I think this may be what bothers John the most.

    Did anyone catch, though, the significance of Sherlock’s words, “It’s all a magic trick,” in the flashback? In the original episode, it sounded like the confession, “I’m a fake genius.” Watching Hearse, it’s clear he was saying, “The suicide you are about to see is going to be faked.” But did Sherlock honestly believe John would catch that? (And in fact, I wonder if the writers even knew at the time that that second meaning was going to be there. And I wonder if they really know how Sherlock did it.)

  17. JL82
    January 23rd, 2014 at 17:32

    Nekosmuse wrote: You can’t outsmart Sherlock Holmes, and when you try, it only highlights your inadequacies.

    Actually, one other quibble I have with the series is that Sherlock regularly runs up against people who are (almost? appearing to be?) as smart as he is. (Irene and Moriarty). And I think Mycroft almost upstages Sherlock, in the sense that a lot of the brilliant gambits are actually Mycroft’s (like the death-faking plan), so therefore, it’s Mycroft’s brilliance at work.

    Now, obviously, Sherlock needs to face people and problems that will challenge him…but the problem with surrounding him with so many other smart people is that his brilliance doesn’t stand out, and for the jerkiness to be offset enough that people like (or take an interest in) Sherlock, or see him as some kind of special phenomenon, his brilliance needs to stand out.

  18. JL82
    January 23rd, 2014 at 17:34

    I know we’re not discussing House on this blog, but you do know that the House finale involved House and Wilson literally riding off into the sunset together, at the cost of everything else in their lives, don’t you? After that, I felt like, “well, there’s hope for the 2010 Sherlock and John.”

  19. JL82
    January 23rd, 2014 at 17:39

    Bear in mind that in canon, Watson may have forgiven Holmes for the deception partly because he realized that Holmes viewed Watson’s marriage as Watson leaving him.(Though he doesn’t have that excuse in Granada.)

  20. JL82
    January 23rd, 2014 at 19:43

    Did anyone catch how the cases Sherlock worked on in The Empty Hearse were nods to his faked-suicide scheme? A book called “How I Did It,” and then “It’s a fake?” And when Sherlock was viewing the Underground: “How did he jump? How did he escape and nobody saw him?” But they’re doing too much of that now…every other line is a nod to something else in the series.

  21. JL82
    January 24th, 2014 at 16:22

    I wasn’t sure if it would be ok to post an actual link here, but search Wikipedia for “The Illustrious Client,” and you’ll see the picture that ran with that story when it was first published in Strand. The picture is the slashiest thing ever…it’s the opening scene, the aftermath (afterglow?) of the Turkish baths, but I would defy ANYONE who has seen it to say it DOESN’T look like Holmes and Watson are just plain in bed together. I am surprised it isn’t being used on this site.

  22. JL82
    January 24th, 2014 at 16:28

    There is a fascinating essay by Michael Walsh, included in the Sherlock Holmes in America anthology, about how everyone in canon with “Mor” in their name (representing a particularly ethnicity, Irish, I think), in canon, is evil: Moriarty and Moran, of course, but he also includes….

    MORSTAN: and he makes the following statements:

    Mary Morstan is”the good side of Colonel Moran”

    – When Watson marries Mary, Holmes’ world is shattered.

    – Mary is Holmes’ most deadly enemy, against whom he is most powerless

    – Mary’s death brings Holmes back to life.

    Walsh was writing based on canon, not BBC. He’s not saying Mary is meant to be an evil or unsympathetic character, just that she is Holmes’ enemy.

    Walsh never says anything about homoeroticism, but what can he be saying, besides, that the worst thing an enemy can do to Sherlock Holmes is to deprive him of Watson? It’s like Walsh knows Holmes is in love with Watson – without knowing he knows that!

    Remember how in the decoding of EMPT, you said Holmes’ account of his encounter with Moriarty and his reason for disappearing afterward are implausible? Seeing Sherlock NOT tell John how he faked his death made me wonder if canon-Watson invented the implausible account of the Hiatus himself, for publishing…and Holmes really didn’t tell him what happened.

  23. JL82
    January 24th, 2014 at 16:49

    I wonder for what percentage of the BBC series audience is this their only experience with Sherlock Holmes? I’ve seen a few exchanges that go like this:

    First poster: I can’t believe Sherlock didn’t let John know he wasn’t dead.

    Second poster: Well, that’s because it happened that way in canon.

    First poster: I haven’t read canon.

    I also know one or two dedicated Sherlockians who won’t watch this series because they’re purists. I don’t know that I can be a slasher and still claim to be a purist, but I suspect, if this series were the sum total of my knowledge of Sherlock Holmes, I wouldn’t be a slasher…I find it hard to reconcile the relationship as portrayed with slash. With Victorian media I could believe that things were going on behind the scenes that were a far cry from what was shown, because that’s how the era was. In today’s media climate, writers can be pretty blatant about sex, so it’s harder to believe that they are using subtext.

    • fish eye no miko
      January 25th, 2014 at 14:49

      Interesting… there are fans of Sherlock/John fans do argue that the writers are using subtext, etc…

      But, yeah, I’m with you; in this day and age, if they wanted to make them a couple, there’s no reason they couldn’t just… make then a couple. But more than that, not only do they not do so; when they do show them in relationships, or at least attracted to someone, it’s invariably a woman (yes I know Sherlock’s “relationship” with Janine was fake; my point stands. AFAIK, nothing says that character didn’t have been a man). This isn’t just, “they’re not a couple”, this is, “they’re totally into women, 100%, no homo!”

      • JL82
        January 25th, 2014 at 15:27

        I think in Seasons 1 and 2 the writers teased the Johnlock shippers…but in this season they are going out of their way to shoot them down.

        Having only seen Hearse and not the other two episodes, I am still confused about what the bonfire scene meant (and for a moment I thought it really WAS a dummy in the fire and John was faking being in danger to teach Sherlock a lesson). But with all that was wrong with that scene, I would have kind of expected followers of this site to squee a bit…because it WAS Sherlock Holmes going through fire to save Watson.

        But in general, I feel like this Sherlock and John don’t like each other much.

  24. JL82
    January 25th, 2014 at 17:57

    admin :I chose not to touch on the more problematic elements contained in this series, mostly because I didn’t feel this was the right venue for it (I save that for my tumblr), but yes, all of this. While I have seen quite a few younger fans come forward to defend or praise this episode, it’s not just the older Holmesian fans who were offended/disappointed. There’s been quite a lot of backlash outside mainstream media for Moffat’s treatment of women, his utter disrespect for the gay community, and worse still, his pandering to fangirls while at the same time mocking them.
    Moffat is not the right person to be writing a series with decent representation. More like the exact opposite. Apparently all he cares about are gay jokes, trashing on women and filling the world with psychopaths/sociopaths. The guy’s a hack and it’s distressing to think he has this level of control over characters I love.

    I’m glad other people are having the same objections I’m having…too many of the usually-good characters are sociopathic/psychopathic (including the often-idealized John Watson and Holmes to a greater extent than usual, even though Sherlock Holmes canonically didn’t have great social skills); the guys’ relationship with each other is too hostile; the show tries too hard to prove that they (Sherlock and John) are in fact hetero. (If the series was set in the original era there would be a much better excuse for hiding a gay relationship and only hinting at it, since people HAD to do that back then.)

    Re Irene: Interestingly, over on the BBC Sherlock fan forum, people are commenting that they liked the Irene of canon much better. She 1) turned out to not really the bad guy, she had been wronged by the King, 2) she wasn’t really out to blackmail or embarrass him; there was some suggestion he was trying to do it to her 3) she actually outwitted Holmes, and didn’t need to be saved by him. There was a feeling that Moffit and Gattis’ character was a “demotion,” down to damsel in distress versus the original.

    I didn’t mind that ultimately, Irene’s sexuality was shown to be HER weakness, not the men’s. I prefer that to “being hyper-sexed makes a woman powerful.” I don’t give Moffit and Gattis this much credit, but, Irene’s downfall sort of said, “being hot for a guy makes a woman less strong than she could be and gives him power over her.” There are a couple of Agatha Christie novels with endings that go like that: the murder victim is a beautiful woman with a reputation for seducing men and manipulating them, but ultimately we learn that most of THEM manipulated or cheated her in some way (often financially), and it’s implied she’s kind of addicted to excitement and attention. As Hercule Poirot says, “She didn’t fatally attract men, men fatally attracted her.” That’s kind of what happened to Irene.

    Christie wrote at a time when women who had sexual affairs outside of marriage were still considered evil by many; nowadays there’s a lot of media that portray it as empowering, or at least hip. I didn’t mind seeing it shown as “bad for the woman” for a woman.

  25. JL82
    January 25th, 2014 at 18:08

    admin :Oh, absolutely Watson is the heart of the Canon. He has always been the heart, with Holmes the brain. I think that is why their partnership works so well together.
    I actually appreciate the treatment of Watson in this adaptation, though mostly because I still live in fear of getting another Nigel Bruce. True, this Watson is occasionally used to further the plot, but most of the time I’ve been happy with his characterization. I will agree the writers are far too obsessed with Holmes. Almost to the point of mockery. This is also why some of their cases don’t work out. They’re telling the story from his pov, but they’re not smart enough to do it. The story only works when it’s seen through Watson’s lens.
    I think I commented on this in the review, but part of what I hated about this season was how dull everything was, and it was dull purely because nothing surprised me. SO much showboating. Someone above said it felt like the writers were clapping each other on the back and that’s the impression I got. There was a lot of grandstanding with absolutely no thought or effort put into the writing. So disappointing.
    I sometimes think (and this goes for Sherlock, DW, even SPN) that audiences aren’t as smart as they were ten years ago. They don’t want to think about their television. They want to come home, sit down in front of the television and unplug. Have you seen the film Idiocracy? (if not, do, it’s amusing). That’s pretty much where we’re heading. Stupid people. Breeding. Controlling our media. We’ve saturated ourselves to the point of stupidity, so now we’ll buy anything, so long as we don’t have to think about it.

    You don’t think they made Watson a little too close to sociopathic/psychopathic territory himself? Maybe I’ve read too much fanfic in which Holmes verbalizes his idealized perception of Watson (because he’s in love, of course), but it just seems like there’s hostility between them and it turns physical (as in violent.) THAT never happened in any other adaptation – where they turned violent or threatened violence mostly to protect each other.

    I also don’t need to see so much of Mycroft. I think Sherlock is becoming too much Mycroft’s – not employee or minion – exactly, but taking his cue from Mycroft rather than working and being smart on his own.

  26. JL82
    January 25th, 2014 at 18:10

    I guess I mean to say, usually we see Watson as a nicer, more normal guy than Holmes who can bring some stability to Holmes’ life (though granted, in earlier eras the potential for combat to cause mental health issues was not acknowledged), but this John doesn’t seem to have a softer-enough personality compared to Holmes to balance Holmes out.

  27. JL82
    January 25th, 2014 at 18:11

    I am also glad I am not the only one who finds scenes to be disjointed and the show to be choppy. I felt stupid for not being able to follow.

  28. JL82
    January 25th, 2014 at 18:14

    I’ll be honest: I didn’t really follow Seasons 1 or 2, (because of all these issues and not wanting this to be what I thought of when I thought of Sherlock Holmes) but after seeing a clip of the VERY end of Season 2, I had to find out how they would play the reunion scene, just because others versions I’ve seen, especially Granada’s, are so UTTERLY slashy.

    • Oliver Katt
      January 28th, 2014 at 22:58

      Just curious. Given that you didn’t follow the first two series, you appear to have some strong opinions on series 3. Are you not at somewhat of a disadvantage to provide meaningful comment? It seems to me that what is most meaningful is the trajectory of the series and how series 3 failed to continue the developed trajectory.

  29. JL82
    January 25th, 2014 at 18:28

    And in canon, while generalizations about women, which we would consider sexist, are certainly made by the male characters, including Holmes, there are very few women characters who are truly bad people / unsympathetic characters. Most are shown to be either smarter or morally better than the men surrounding them.

  30. JL82
    January 25th, 2014 at 19:54

    I remember when I first found this site, shortly after DTS was completed in 2007 or so. Back then, I don’t think there were nearly so many people talking about the possibility of Holmes/Watson. You (Admin) admitted that it got you blacklisted from Sherlockian societies…now it seems like it comes up everywhere, but I’m not sure it’s in a good way…usually it’s a joke…it’s…cheapened…the idea somehow.

  31. JL82
    January 26th, 2014 at 08:44

    Rachael :At last, somebody who shares my opinion of this most diminished of returns. At times I wondered if I was even watching the same show- where was the heart? The characters we’ve grown to love? T

    This question, whether it’s the characters we’ve grown to love, is actually something I’ve been asking about this series all along, compared to canon and Granada.

  32. kete
    January 26th, 2014 at 11:59

    Agree with nearly all points made. This series robbed SH of his dignity by making him a slapstick parody of his S1/2 characterisation (waiter, wedding planner) and of his enigma (parents). And yes, it was funny – but not the kind of funny I expected on this show. Sherlock has always had its funny moments, but they did not stem from ridiculing the main character.

    I’m very disappointed. I will watch S4, but I’m not waiting with baited breath as I did up to now. I expect the ratings to drop next time, because viewer count this time had nothing to do with S3, but with the expectations raised by the formerly excellent S1/2.

    Such a pity, such a waste. 🙁

    • Oliver Katt
      January 28th, 2014 at 22:29

      Agree with your observation. Although funny, positioning holmes as a comic figure made me cringe in embarrassment at times. There were points when I actually had to look away. So much for good television.

  33. JL82
    January 26th, 2014 at 14:10

    Do you think it would have been a better third season if Sherlock’s name had not yet been cleared, and he still had to work on doing that?

  34. JL82
    January 26th, 2014 at 15:00

    @ admin – but regarding “pandering to fangirls,” fangirls, at least the ones who write fic about a Holmes/Watson relationship, tend to idealize one or both of them, usually Watson, which this series certainly doesn’t do.

    • Oliver Katt
      January 28th, 2014 at 22:41

      Having read thousands of words of fanfiction on this show (although never written any) I’d say that fanfic is an entirely different and incomparable genre. It may be based on elements of the show, but in my mind, it is stand alone and at times extraordinarily brilliant. “Fangirls” as you characterize them, are not necessarily the same thing as fanfic authors. Moffat’s “pandering” is to a subsection of fans and, quite frankly, a mistake and a disservice to a largely intelligent audience.

  35. JL82
    January 26th, 2014 at 21:38

    @ admin – I now kind of wish I had waited until tonight to comment…I am surprised you didn’t like this episode more, because, while it went far afield from both canon and the series so far…IT WAS ALL ABOUT JOHN AND SHERLOCK’S RELATIONSHIP. You even got a shot of them waking up on the floor/stairs together. I wish John weren’t getting married, but nowhere in this series have I seen more love between them, and they even used that word. I think they were both more human than usual, too.

  36. JL82
    January 26th, 2014 at 22:06

    This is not my quote, but it’s from another forum and I just had to share it here:

    “Seriously this whole thing looks like a threesome wedding, and not just because John and Sherlock turned up in partnerlook. First Mary, John and Sherlock are greeting the guests, with the bridesmaids behind them, then Sherlock and John tell each other how much they are in love, then Sherlock makes a lifetime vow and then he throws “his” bouquet.”

    And then there was that part where Sherlock thought he could be in the photographs with the bride and groom.

  37. JL82
    January 26th, 2014 at 22:50

    I can’t believe you didn’t love what Sherlock had to say about John and their relationship.

    Before I watched Sign of Three, I was aware that Sherlock was going to say a lot of nice things about John, including John making him a better person. And I thought, “But this Watson doesn’t have that to offer. He has too many demons of his own to have any thing to offer in stabilizing Sherlock.” But this episode changed my mind.

    In all fairness, the marriage is canonical, and we’ve been a bit spoiled by getting adaptations that write it out (i.e., Granada.)

    • Oliver Katt
      January 28th, 2014 at 23:26

      The salient element is not the expression of sentiment, but rather the marked and unexplained character deviation between the series 2 and series 3 Sherlock character. Expressions of love are always sweet – in romantic fiction – but I question whether it fitting here. While I agree that Watson’s marriage is canonical, the “wedding” is not. The wedding focus panders to a kind of sentimentality better suited to a different kind of story – perhaps one figuring Huge Grant.

  38. JL82
    January 30th, 2014 at 19:13

    Regarding turning Sherlock into comedy… in the Sign of Three, what I see going on is that Sherlock really doesn’t care for such social events as weddings, and is out of his depth, but this time, he decided to try really hard, because of how he feels about John. And in the midst of it all, he’s succeeding in making brilliant deductions, so that ability is still there and not reduced to a joke. The getting drunk did bother me just because I don’t like substance abuse portrayed as harmless fun, and both John and Sherlock seem vulnerable to getting addicted to anything, but I like to think that Sherlock learned a lesson about what alcohol could do to him…not to mention, what will it do to his reputation as a great detective if those clients spread the word? At least they didn’t end up in bed with strange women (ALMOST with each other, I think.)

  39. JL82
    February 6th, 2014 at 21:47

    The thing that is boggling my mind is John Watson giving the time of day to, let alone continuing to be married to, someone who SHOT SHERLOCK HOLMES. I can buy his willing to be married to someone who had that…career…in the past. You could even think about it as his marrying a female Sherlock…but now she has SHOT SHERLOCKShouldn’t he be turning on her with his own gun, or bare hands? A few years ago he punched someone out just for insulting Sherlock.

    You start to realize that Sherlock did everything he did from that point on to protect Mary FOR JOHN’S SAKE. But that would mean John still has to love Mary, because if he doesn’t, than Sherlock doesn’t need to protect her for John’s sake.

  40. JL82
    February 6th, 2014 at 22:01

    Sorry, I accidentally posted. Even more mind-boggling is, when John confronted them both out after the shooting, it seemed to be Sherlock he was angry at it.

    Sherlock’s motives with regard to Mary make more sense. Aside from John still loving her, Sherlock apparently saw that she could be useful to him. Sherlock is perfectly capable of working with anyone if there’s something in it for him and his agenda. And it’s actually canon-faithful, to the extent that Sherlock Holmes did cover up for the original Milverton’s killer, even if he didn’t befriend her.

    I have mixed feelings about the original Milverton (because I wanted that society to stop being so hypocritical…if he publishes everything, then everyone who is hiding something will see that so is everyone else hiding something), but yes, Mikkelsen played it brilliantly, so that I ended up really hating this CAM and wanting one of our boys to just take him out…UNTIL it turned out that he really had no solid information on anyone. Doesn’t it seem like Sherlock could have ruined him just by going back and telling the government officials, “Guess what?. You don’t really have to kowtow to this guy because he really has no evidence at all!”

    There is a subtle brilliance to Sherlock’s “sentence” that only we shippers can truly appreciate: it is true that what he’s going on is a suicide mission…but the real punishment? He’s likely to never see John Watson again. What do you want to bet Mycroft understands that?

    Of everything that happened this season, the LEAST surprising was Moriarty’s return. After all, if Sherlock could pull off such an elaborate faked suicide, Moriarty is smart enough too. And it’s a great moment for Moriarty to come back, because, much as Sherlock came back when his name was cleared, Moriarty is back at a time when much of what he claimed about Sherlock has been shown to be true. I’m not entirely sure that Sherlock didn’t stage Moriarty’s return to get himself off the hook, either.

  41. JL82
    February 6th, 2014 at 22:16

    @ Oliver Katt – you make a fair point about me not being in a position to compare with the other seasons. The points I am making have to do mostly with comparing to other adaptations. My reason for not wanting to follow the series at first would sound weird to anyone but dedicated Sherlockians: I didn’t want my mind-palace (hard-drive?) cluttered with different Sherlock-verses (and I’m glad Admin used that phrase about deleting a scene from the hard-drive – makes me feel less weird). But I particularly didn’t want in my hard-drive a Sherlock-vers this dark with so much psychopathy and dysfunction, and the two people I am shipping hitting each other or staying married to people who shoot the other. If the names Sherlock Holmes and John Watson hadn’t been attached to these characters I doubt I would ever have watched these plots or, if I did, cared about these people.

    This series has raised the question for me about what makes the remarkability of Sherlock Holmes? In the original era, his disregard for social convention, ability to snark at people of high rank, and even his crime-solving methods were genuine novelties (science was new, most people weren’t educated). Now, we’re always hearing that all young people today are rude, narcissistic, and have no regard for social rules. Whether or not that is true, there are certainly in the media enough anti-heroes and characters who can’t get along with other people or have relationships that that no longer seems novel. Especially in the crime genre. And while not everyone has Sherlock’s deductive or crime-solving abilities, advancements in science, technology, investigation methods, and information gathering make Sherlock Holmes seem…not so unique. This series actually introduces a lot of people who are either as smart as he is (Moriarty, Irene, Mycroft), or operate like he does (CAM, in some ways). Half the time, Sherlock seems to be either working for Mycroft or trying to impress Mycroft. There are two Holmes brothers instead of one unique Sherlock. And you question whether Sherlock and Mycroft are any better than anyone they’re going against…although for most of the last episode I was convinced that CAM, at least, was worse than them.

  42. JL82
    February 6th, 2014 at 22:27

    I’m not sure I agree that seeing the parents rob Sherlock of his enigma because I didn’t see anything with them that would have made Sherlock (well, either son) the way they are. It has been implied in previous seasons that Mycroft had more to do with raising Sherlock than the actual parents, (the “I’ll be mother” exchange – and I’m beginning to think Sherlock’s biggest “issue” may be his relationship with Mycroft) but here, the parents seemed to be genuinely loving and well-meaning.

  43. JL82
    February 7th, 2014 at 21:10

    Although I see what you’re saying about the stupidity, sexism, etc, this is NOT the show I would recommend to “not have to think about your television.” I find it very complicated to keep up with, and very hard not to analyze…but maybe that’s just me and I’m not a typical viewer.

    I think if this show were all the familiarity I had with Sherlock Holmes, I might not have become so convinced that Holmes was in love with Watson.

  44. JL82
    February 16th, 2014 at 19:29

    It was pointed out on another forum that Mary is one of the more normal-looking women on television, and now she turns out to be…what she is…although sexy Irene wasn’t so much different.

  45. Sarina
    March 9th, 2014 at 11:45

    You are back! AAaaaaaaaaaa! I’ve waited so long for this event… I’m gonna start reading your review of season 3 now! 😀 😀 😀 I’m just so happy I can’t even fathom it!
    If you remember me (hopefully), let me tell you I’m gonna bother you in email over arguments/discussions about several topics about this new season very soon!

    Until next time. 🙂

  46. Rutegar
    March 16th, 2014 at 23:39

    So … apart from the appalling finale to the first season on ELEMENTARY, what is your opinion of the show’s development ?

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