I high bar has already been set before the first week of 2014 is even out as I can’t imagine many things on television, or film, topping the 90 minutes of entertainment the marriage of John Watson delivered. These first two episodes of the third series seem to be far less concerned with plot and far more focused on character and the show is all the better for it. The relationships, performances and characters are why people tune into this show and The Sign of Three even knows the best parts about the plot on Sherlock; the process. Never have we got to see Sherlock’s process so wonderfully visualized as the creative team thrillingly puts us into the mind process of Mr. Holmes. Everything is pieced together beautifully, that’s not a surprise, but we’ve never been so privy to how Holmes’ mind works like we did this week. Using Sherlock’s speech as the focal point of the episode and bouncing back and forth in time seems like quite a stretch for a ninety minute runtime, but they make it seem effortless. Most every flash helps us understand the way Sherlock works and how those important people in his life support him. It’s a masterfully crafted episode, but I haven’t even got to the best part of it; this is one of the best comedies I have seen in some time.
The show has always been funny, but this episode is almost entirely played for comedy and the results are hilarious. Every joke, every look, everything works, and Cumberbatch and Freeman get to show off their expansive comedic talents. Freeman has a history of comedic chops, but Cumberbatch continues to surprise with his comedic timing and range. The script is fantastic material for the two to work off of, but it’s the chemistry and performances by these two that take it over the top. The stag party scene was the only element to the episode with a weak point, it went a smidge too long, but everything that became prior to its length was so fantastic that I could hardly care less. It isn’t just the stag scene though, so much of the episode just keeps giving us comedic gold and it is a sight to see watching the cast knock it out of the park. I really love the way they have integrated Mary as well, as her relationship with Sherlock is quickly becoming one of my favorite things about the show. She is helping unlock another layer of Sherlock and Cumberbatch is playing it wonderfully. Mrs. Hudson is also used to her best this week, providing plenty of laughs, as we get to know so much more about her character than I ever expected; she has quite the history.
Sherlock’s speech was also the most touching moment yet on the show as it is written with wit and love delivered in a way that only Sherlock could do. Cumberbatch just nails the first phase of the speech, mostly uninterrupted, but watching Freeman’s face react is nearly as enjoyable the display Sherlock is putting on. Again Sherlock seems far more aware of others’ emotions this season, something I’m all for, and they even make the inevitable wedding meet cute for Sherlock work wonderfully without remotely disrespecting the character.
The Empty Hearse was a great return for the show, but The Sign of Three is settling into some wet cement at the top for the show. Series 3 would have to take a drastic turn in its final episode to not easily take the crown as the best series yet for the show and I can’t wait till next Sunday to see what they have for us.