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Sherlock Hemlock
Posted on Tuesday 7 January 2014 at 10:57 am

Sherlock Series 03 Episode 02: The Sign of Three

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I watched Sign of Three on Monday morning but just didn't have a chance to write anything until now. I'm not sure my thoughts on it are as fleshed out as on Empty Hearse, but I know I enjoyed it a great deal more. My complete episode ranking thus far, best to worst, is now basically:

Definitely #1 and #2:
Series 01 Episode 03: The Great Game
Series 02 Episode 03: Reichenbach Fall

Somewhere in the middle but not sure on the exact preference order among them:
Series 01 Episode 01: Study in Pink on rewatch, mixed some with the unaired pilot
Series 02 Episode 01: Scandal in Belgravia
Series 02 Episode 02: Hounds of Baskerville
Series 03 Episode 02: Sign of Three

Definitely the worst three, in this order:
Series 03 Episode 01: Empty Hearse
Series 01 Episode 02: Blind Banker
Series 01 Episode 01: Study in Pink the first time I watched it

Before I get going on my thoughts on Sign of Three, here's a couple add-ons for Empty Hearse now that I've had more time with it in my head.
  • I've seen a bunch of people having issues with Sherlock being mean and not showing the character growth they'd expected in this one. I have no problems with that. He's still not very good at reading cues ahead of time, though he is getting a tiny bit better. He's just gotten better about caring when someone points out that he has hurt someone, and he still shows that here. Also, two years without John... who know how much he'd have reverted.

  • The more it's been there, the more I dislike the Holmes parents as portrayed. I think it was the way Sherlock discussed his mother in Sign of Three, telling Mrs. Hudson that he has a list of things for which his mother must answer and Mycroft has a whole file. It just doesn't fit the way they talked about her in Study in Pink, getting all defensive with each other over which one upset Mummy more. The mother portrayed and discussed in series 3 isn't someone they'd either one care if they upset and I don't like that.

Moving on to Sign of Three...
  • In both previous series, each of the three writers has been credited with one of the three episodes. Interesting to note this episode credited all three writers.

  • Love the speech and the framing of the flashbacks, stories, cases, etc! It worked really well for me at mixing plot and fun with the emotional and character-driven aspects of the show, which was of course one of my big problems with Empty Hearse. This is the main reason I liked the episode as a whole.

  • I didn't like the drunk case solving. I can't exactly say what was going on there that I didn't like (beyond all we saw was John throwing Sherlock's system off by one shot each which wouldn't have either of them in the states they were in), but it just didn't ring true for me.

  • I loved all the stuff with the women in the chamber and with John and Mycroft popping in-and-out of Sherlock's head. You can totally see how Mycroft taught and trained a little Sherlock, how a little Sherlock always had to deal with his big brother's disappointment and being berated by him, and how that both helped and completely screwed up Sherlock and their relationship. I'm less convinced by the retconning ofJohn throwing out his middle name to Irene Adler even though he hates it and won't tell it to anyone, but I can roll with little things like that.

  • Loved the 5,001 little Conan Doyle canon shout outs in all the cases. I'm looking forward to rewatching and seeing how many more I can notice. I was honestly surprised by the "Giant Poisoner" or whatever that was. When they announced "Sign of Three" as an episode name, I had a friend comment, rather sarcastically, something like "Oh, goody. I can't wait to see what they do with the pygmy assassin from Sign of Four." to which I replied "I thought the Chinese gymnast in Blind Banker was their take on the pygmy assassin so I doubt they'll do anything more with it." I still think the Chinese gymnast is based on the pygmy assassin, but I guess they decided to do something more with it anyway.

  • I wish we'd got more about Donovan once Sherlock was back from the dead.

  • Was I the only one not at all surprised by the "all three of you... oops! I meant two! I can't count!" bit?

  • From the moment they announced they were doing Mary Morstan, I wasn't expecting her to make it through the series. I'm still not expecting her to live to the end of episode 3. I think her canon story as an orphan with a massive but unknown inheritance is going to come into play in the final episode and it was her the dude was interested in at the bonfire, not Sherlock or John. I'm fully prepared to be wrong, I just think the hints are there.

  • There's a decided pattern to the three episodes in each series, thus far. The first is something important from Conan Doyle canon with impact on the characters and a hint at something big for a further plot. The second is in some ways filler. It isn't a major case and it doesn't have as much to do with the big series-long evil. The third is a wild ride of action, massive case(s), and massive baddie. There are some slight variations here and there, but the basic pattern holds, I think.

I guess that's it for now. I'm sure there were other ideas bouncing around in my brain yesterday, but I can't remember anything else. I woke up with a massive headache that I'm still somewhat trying to get to go away, so I'll blame any brain farts on that.


Unsentimental Fool
unsentimentalf at 4:35 pm on 07 January 2014 (UTC) (Link)
There's been a huge amount of character development (to the extent that very little of my fic would work with newSherlock. Which is not a problem- that's what drama is meant to do). If people want Sherlock to be cuddly they are watching the wrong show.

Being as I am graced with a beloved mother not a hundred miles away from the portrayal of Sherlock's I don't have a problem at all with Mycroft and Sherlock being both hugely protective of and dreadfully irritated by their parents! That didn't ring false to me at all.

I loved the way this one was presented, too. On, and I don't think "Hamish" was retconned- it was in the original Scandal in Belgravia.

I think this one, and last week's, were both a great deal of set up for next week. There are so many elements that have been introduced but haven't been properly used yet Most of it is about Sherlock's attachments (and possibly Mycroft's goldfish), so I guess it's going to be dark and distressing. My guess is that Mary will live, though, mainly because she dies in canon and it's way too obvious. (Also she's wonderful.)

Hope your headache improves!
bratty_jedi at 4:39 pm on 07 January 2014 (UTC) (Link)
I agree that there has been character development. I just apparently disagree with much of fandom as to exactly what that character development has been. I don't see any of Sherlock's behavior in Empty Hearse as out of line with the way in which I see his character as having developed.

His name was in the original Scandal. Making it into something he never wants to say after he'd already dropped it out so casually is the retcon.

My guess is that Mary will live, though, mainly because she dies in canon and it's way too obvious.
Living but losing the baby is a possibility that has occurred to me, but I think the writers here will eventually discover the same thing Conan Doyle did: it just isn't as much fun without John and Sherlock living together at Baker St.
Unsentimental Fool
unsentimentalf at 5:18 pm on 07 January 2014 (UTC) (Link)
I'm with you there- it all seems pretty consistent to me.

I see what you mean about the retcon now, though I'm not sure anything John said was casual in that particular encounter- he was clearly remarkably shocked! Which will probably do as justification if one were needed :-)

Conan Doyle wasn't terribly interested in Mary as a character, of course, particularly not after he'd married her off. I think the Sherlock writers could probably make a reasonable attempt at dealing with an ongoing three way dynamic if they wanted to. Whether people would like it or not is a different matter. Personally I don't think more "terribly tragic John" will work at all so I rather hope we keep Mary for that reason among others. (Of course Conan Doyle didn't concern himself with small matters like grieving over prematurely dead wives, but I don't think Sherlock can be quite so blase!)
bratty_jedi at 5:22 pm on 07 January 2014 (UTC) (Link)
Of course Conan Doyle didn't concern himself with small matters like grieving over prematurely dead wives, but I don't think Sherlock can be quite so blase!
Totally with you there! I can honestly see the writers going either way on this one. I'm coming down a bit more on the side of they'll kill her, but I won't be overly shocked if they don't. As with everything Sherlock versus original canon, I'm mostly interested in how they play with whatever choices they make and can't wait to find out. :)
Wine gums, envy, pieces of rainbow
qwentoozla at 2:26 am on 08 January 2014 (UTC) (Link)
I agree with your assessment of Sherlock's character development... I think he's obviously changed a LOT, but he's hardly going to magically stop being mean and clueless sometimes! I think his character development is more obvious and believable because you can see him making an effort despite that tendency.

I'm still not sure what to think about his parents... I can definitely see your point: upsetting their parents doesn't seem like it would be a concern for them.

I wish we'd get more Donovan too. And I wasn't surprised by Sherlock's deduction of Mary's pregnancy either.

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