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Following last week’s somewhat overzealous return of Masterpiece Mystery on PBS’s Sherlock, things settled down a bit in this week’s “The Sign of Three.” While there was a lot of nonlinear storytelling to keep the show jumping around, the creators did pare down on the use of the stylized sequences in the show. What resulted was, perhaps, the most fun and enjoyable episode of the series to date. However, it also highlighted the clear differences between this season and previous seasons of Sherlock.
In “The Empty Hearse,” Sherlock and Watson’s relationship had taken center stage and relegated the mystery aspect of the show behind the curtain. And while “The Sign of Three” did give the mystery a little more importance it has become clear that season three will maintain its focus on the two friends and their evolving relationship. This is not to say that previous seasons neglected to show how the two were growing on each other and becoming friends but the mysteries were always the driving force for the narrative. This season the ratio has flipped as their relationship is now the narrative’s focus and the mystery is the extra entertainment.
“The Sign of Three” served as the chief piece of evidence for this fundamental focal shift. In it Watson is getting married to Mary, who was only just introduced in the previous episode, and has asked Sherlock to be his best man. Sherlock has accepted and what follows is an episode split multiple ways both in structure and in plot.
Basically, “The Sign of Three” constantly shifts back and forth between the present day wedding and multiple flashbacks brought on by Sherlock’s best man speech. Sherlock giving the speech in the first place is pretty hilarious as he is known more for his aloofness than his ability to gush. Replete with jokes, heartfelt sentiment, and two unsolved mysteries Sherlock’s speech was very well done and showed a side of him no one would have expected throughout the first two seasons.
The show was also split narratively. The first half or so was focused more on the preparations for the wedding. Sherlock interviewed a child usher, which Sherlock traded crime scene photos for the kid’s cooperation, and an ex-bf of Mary’s who Sherlock made sure to put in his place. He practiced dancing, began composing a violin piece for the wedding, and helped Mary with napkin folding and seating arrangements.
Seeing Sherlock doing all these things kept the episode very lighthearted, specifically because it felt so out of character for him. When coupled with his somewhat flirtatious banter with the maid of honor as he used his skills of detection to help her pick out a person to hook up with after the wedding it was all fun and oriented around Sherlock’s relationship to the soon to be married couple.