This past Sunday, the BBC series Sherlock wrapped up its third season, and as usual, it was another exciting, fun-filled three episodes, even if some may feel that the mysteries themselves were less interesting this season. It was by far the most character driven season yet, with nearly every episode revolving around the love and friendship between Sherlock and John Watson, which has always been the heart of the show and so that didn't bother me in the slightest. My one complaint is that Sherlock himself may have been a little too softened this season, as his obvious and now verbal devotion to his friends and family put him as far away from the "high functioning sociopath" characterization as you can get. I grade each of the three episodes below:
3x01 "The Empty Hearse" (Inspired By: The Adventure of the Empty House, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)
Sherlock comes back from the dead in the premiere, in a very meta episode that has a lot of fun making fun of the fans obsession with poring over how he could have possibly faked his own death two years earlier. We see several different scenarios play out, each with some insanely ridiculous and unlikely detail that pokes holes in the individual theories. We also get to see Benedict Cumberbatch dress up and act as a French waiter in order to surprise Watson with his reappearance, which turns out to be a horrible idea, as Martin Freeman pulls off genuine shock, anger and trauma at the hoax he was subjected to (especially when he learns several others were in on it all along, including Molly and Mycroft). Finally, we are introduced to Mary, John's new fiance, who comes across as a funny and lovable good sport, who accepts Sherlock for who he is and is actually into the case-solving, in a welcome departure from her personality in the Holmes stories. John's anger lasts until Sherlock saves him from a fiery death when he's placed under a burning bonfire by a mystery villain, but things are good between the boys after that as they stop a potential attack on the London Parliament (an event that Mycroft called Sherlock out of hiding for in the first place). The mystery is very sidelined in this one, as most of the airtime is devoted to repairing Sherlock and John's relationship, as well it should, and we never really get a satisfactory answer as to how Sherlock did in fact, fake his death, but that's probably for the best anyway, right? I mean, why spoil the fun of guessing?
3x02 "The Sign of Three" (Inspired By: The Sign of the Four)
A very unusual and clever episode that takes all kinds of twists and turns throughout (I didn't even realize that we were going to get a mystery in here until 2/3 of the way in!). John and Mary are getting married, which provides for all kinds of hijinks as John asks Sherlock to be his best man, and of course as such, Sherlock is forced to perform the duties of the role, including making a speech and throwing the bachelor party. Hilarity ensues, as we actually see Sherlock and John getting drunk and attempting to solve a case while wasted (there's nothing more hilarious than Benedict Cumberbatch stumbling through Sherlock's mind palace). The structure of this one is different too, as nearly all of it takes place during Sherlock's neverending best man toast, with various flashbacks to pieces of other cases that seem not to have anything to do with each other (almost like a clip show of episodes we haven't seen). But eventually there is a point to the random cases we're shown, as it leads Sherlock to solve, in the moment, the threat of a potential explosion at John's wedding involving one of the guests, who turns out to be an old military buddy of Watson's. Loads of character and relationship moments in this one, including the adorable continuing love between Sherlock and John, but also his budding friendship with Mary, and even Mycroft points out that Sherlock is softening up lately with his expanding circle of actual friends. There's also a cameo from Irene Adler (Lara Pulver), who makes an appearance inside Sherlock's mind, where it's hinted she shows up often (please bring her back next season, guys!). The ending is exceedingly sentimental, if heartwarming, but I have to admit I'm getting a bit concerned with how much Sherlock has been humanized this season- he's almost a different person altogether (although it is showing off Cumberbatch's comedic skills more than ever before- anyone who's familiar with him purely as a villain will be surprised at how funny he often is as Sherlock).
3x03 "His Last Vow" (Inspired By: The Adventure of Charles Augustus Miverton)
The finale of the season was by far the most mystery focused, as the episode starts off with the villain, Charles Magnussen (played with delicious glee by Lars Mikkelson, brother of Mads, in case anyone knows them) threatening a government official by licking her face in a pretty disgusting cold open. We then go on to see that some time has passed since John and Mary's wedding, with Mary now visibly pregnant (as Sherlock called in the last episode), and John getting bored with suburban life and itching to get back to case solving. He even maneuvers his way into a drug den, where it turns out Sherlock is hiding out undercover, which bugs John because he hadn't been included in whatever his plan was. Sherlock is after Magnussen on behalf of the government official, which is extremely dangerous, and he's even faking a relationship with Mary's bridesmaid from the last episode in order to do it (she's Magnussen's personal assistant). It's truly bizarre to see Sherlock pretending to be dating someone (John nearly keels over from the shock), but that's all pretty much over when they break into Magnussen's building, and Sherlock finds, to his horror, that Mary is involved with Magnussen somehow and has been hiding her secret agent past from both he and John. The blindside about Mary is the character driven news in this one, as she tries to cover herself by shooting Sherlock, who only barely recovers, and exposes her for what she is to John, who's supremely betrayed by this. All of them spend a Christmas vacation at Sherlock and Mycroft's parent's house (the two were introduced this season as embarrassingly normal thorns in Sherlock's side), where John finally forgives Mary, but Magnussen strikes again. His high tech glasses reveal the pressure points in his rivals, and he realizes John is Sherlock's (he's the one who trapped him in the burning fire), while also revealing that he keeps no records of anything they can use against him. Sherlock does the only thing he can, and shoots Magnussen to protect John and Mary from treason charges and Mary's secret past. As his punishment, Sherlock is spared a trial by his brother and instead sent into a likely fatal MI6 mission in Eastern Europe, but at the last possible moment, who should announce his return to all of London but Moriarty, who may have faked a death of his own. We leave this one on a cliffhanger, but it's a pretty damn good one, and definitely for me, the best episode of the season. I don't know when the show will be back, but as always, I'll be there when it does, and looking forward to its no doubt spectacular return.