I review a whole season rather than individual episodes, so there is a chance of spoilers. If you haven’t watched the whole season yet, stop reading now!
I think the Sherlock Holmes books are overrated. Controversial statement I know but it is because I watched Mark Gatiss and Steven Mofffat’s tv series Sherlock before I gave the books a proper read that made me come to this conclusion. The issue is that the first season presented a Sherlock who took on almost impossible cases, baffling to almost anyone else, but managed to solve them in a shocking, clever and “slap-your-forehead, that’s-so-obvious” sort of way. I thought this was the case with the books as well but when I sat down to give Sherlock Holmes a read, I found a character that wasn’t presented with baffling, incredible cases at all but more just a standard run through of basic detective work. The stories were decent, the characters very good, but the clever cases he was trying to solve didn’t seem that difficult.
This is the problem with Sherlock’s third season. After the fantastic finale, there was a huge case to solve (or at least explain) – how had Sherlock done it? How had he managed to fake his own death so convincingly? The answer it turns out, is “we don’t know.” They very cleverly presented us with red herrings and half-baked theories, mocking the internet-fever that had been raging since season 2 left our screens, but when we actually came to the final explanation, or at least what felt like a final explanation, it left me feeling dejected and a little cheated.
It was with this episode that I realised that Sherlock had stopped being about the cases and had started being about the characters. The first episode wasn’t about the explanation on how he faked his death, or the terrorist plot that brought Sherlock back from the dead, but about Holmes and Watson. It was now a drama about the relationship between the eccentric detective and his faithful sidekick, not about a brilliant detective who solves ridiculous cases.
This isn’t so much a criticism as a disappointment. As a drama about Sherlock and Watson, the series is fantastic. Cumberbatch and Freeman play their parts so naturally that they embody both their characters with ease. The show also handled the first meeting of Sherlock and Watson brilliantly, very funny and poignant at the same time. It demonstrated what Moffat and Gatiss are best at. The season then continued to give us great moments like this, from Watson’s hilarious stag-do, to the greatest wedding speech ever, down to the final moments of the season overall. As a show about a complicated but brilliant friendship, very few compare.
I watch it for the complicated and very clever cases though. The first episode let me down. The resolution to the dramatic finale was so poor and cheap that it infuriated me. The second episode fared much better and although a huge amount of suspension of disbelief was required, the wedding speech and the case that followed were interlinked and weaved together so fantastically that you couldn’t help but be impressed. It felt like the Sherlock of season 1.
The final episode peaked too soon. The revelation half-way through was a real “rug-pull” and I doubt anyone could guess it. It just about made sense and led to a great finale but not one that truly ended the season on a high. It was all too tidy and slightly weak compared to what we have come to expect.
I still love the series. I love the characters, they are what make the show so successful, and I realise why the creators have decided to focus more on their relationship than on the cases they have to solve. Some may argue that it was always about their relationship and I can agree with that in some respect too, but the cases they solve, the glue that holds each episode together, is getting weaker and weaker and cracks are beginning to show. Whether it’s some fresh writers or a move away from the stories in the books, something has to shift.
Overall, I still enjoyed this season of Sherlock but I realise that I enjoy it for different reasons now. Its stopped being about the cases he solves and how clever Sherlock is and more about the complicated relationship between Watson and the great detective. It’s a shame because the part of the show I enjoyed the most feels like it’s being pushed to the side.
Best Episode – The Sign of Three; An episode that focuses much more on the case to solve. Has the stag-do in as well!
Best performance – Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock
Should there be another season? – Yes, especially with the return of an old villain.
Season Rating – 4
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)