Sherlock: “The game is… something.” John: “…On?” Sherlock: “Yeah that, that!” The stag night sequence. If you’ve seen it, just relive it for a moment. Welcome to the new Sherlock, which seems to be 80% a romantic comedy (and now everyone’s thinking of Martin Freeman in Love Actually, you’re welcome). ‘The Sign of Three’ takes place at the reception of John and Mary’s wedding, although it’s structured around Sherlock’s hysterical Best Man speech, as he tells short anecdotes of previous cases – allowing the audience to see brief flashbacks – which turn out to be building sinisterly to an event not on the wedding schedule. As Sherlock says, “Let’s play murder”.
Although there is a case in the last quarter of the episode, this second instalment is largely character focused as Sherlock gives an awkward, hilarious and heartbreaking speech which serves to reinforce the regard in which he holds John (and Mary), despite the differences in their personalities. In ‘The Empty Hearse’, Sherlock came across as more emotional and sympathetic, a trait which continues here as Sherlock reveals that John taught him how to “save the life, not solve the murder”. As such when Sherlock realises one of the wedding guests is in danger and retreats to his Mind Palace (featuring Mycroft), he ignores his brother’s urging to identify the murderer, and instead focuses on identifying and protecting the intended victim.
This season I was a little thrown by how willing to show his emotions Sherlock seemed, compared to the previous series, but Sherlock’s newfound empathy, plus the focus on the relationships in his life rather than a series of cases, highlights the writers’ decision to show less of the detective’s detecting, and more of his character. A lot of this episode highlighted the development of the relationship between Sherlock and Mary as well as John, and her involvement in the climax of the action made it clear that – whilst not coming between their friendship – she was very much part of the team.
Sherlock Series 3 has been the most cheerful series so far, and as such the trailer for the third and final episode looks absolutely terrifying. Mark Gatiss has tweeted that “sometimes somebody has to die”. At least it can’t be Sherlock again…