The third season of Gatiss and Moffat’s creation is a step below its predecessors. Not because it’s bad but because the writers set the bar so high with their first two seasons, that anything did afterwards would be shallow in comparison. Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch) returning from the dead sets the pace this season, especially after John (Martin Freeman) punches him in the face for showing up in a restaurant franticly smiling as if nothing has happened. Two years have passed, John is engaged to his fiancé Mary Morston (Amanda Abbington) and Sherlock turns up happy as Larry.
He’s rather silly, quite selfish and in his own words, a “high-functioning sociopath.” The writers have managed to balance Sherlock’s amusing return with the incoming terrorist attack very well indeed. Many stylistic elements have come back and work in the shows corner, not to forget to mention Sherlock refusing to shut up. There are times when you want to do what John did, and give him a good boxing in the jaw. Once Sherlock has quenched his egotistical thirst, we are back in business. In “The Sign Of Three” or John’s Wedding, Sherlock begins to “feel” things. He shows us his vulnerability. But this episode is a mystery within a mystery where Sherlock is out to stop a murder as well as make a best man speech that makes everybody nervous.
The events in “The Sign Of Three” set the tone for “His Last Vow” which is a throwback to the greatness of seasons one and two. Each episode is essentially a film as they sit at ninety minutes. But having only a short season means that the time between the episodes is unaccounted for. We don’t know what occurs between the stories and the characters’ day-to-day activities. These are characters like Molly (Louise Brealey) and Rupert Graves’ Lestrade. In Abbington’s Mary, the series has its most important female role. I’d say this is progress for this show as the BBC drama has often found trouble in telling narratives about women.
The gaps between seasons are substantial. The death of Sherlock Holmes left John alone to grieve but also to grow as a character and a human being. John was always in the shadow of Sherlock and it left the question, who is he without him? The show leads onto introduce the parents of Sherlock (Cumberbatch) and Mycroft (Mark Gatiss). It explores the childhoods of the brothers while introducing the season’s big bad, Charles Magnussen, played by Star Wars Rebels’ Lars Mikkelsen (Grand Admiral Thrawn). Beyond Moriarty (Andrew Scott) and Magnussen, the real villain is Sherlock’s mind palace which the show continues to represent well, so audiences can see what goes on inside the head of the world’s consulting detective.
All in all this a wonderful season. It doesn’t touch season one or season two, but it’s still a great season with my favourite episode being “The Sign Of Three” To watch Sherlock under strain like that shows us his humanity. He met his match in Moriarty and more than his match in Magnussen. With great performances, excellent characters and a plot that truly makes you think, season three shows us there’s more to Sherlock than amazing deductions and running rings around Scotland Yard.