I used to love this show so much, but two awful episodes in a row would have driven me away if the third hadn’t saved it. The actors are still superb, but this episode wasn’t even a hot mess. It was a cold mess. Here’s my live blog (well, it was live at the time) of the episode, followed by my notes:
I’m trying to keep an open mind, I really am, but Sherlock is an absolute selfish bastard again, this time to Lestrade before the titles. Now he’s rude to Mrs. Hudson. Is this supposed to be funny? It’s not funny. They both deserve better.
The wedding is fun. The bridesmaid is excellent. I love Mary. Extra credit because Amanda Abbington is Martin Freeman’s partner of fourteen years, and he’s wonderful when he talks about her.
This thing has no plot.
Why do the people who are writing this series love public humiliation? I mean I’m annoyed as all hell with Sherlock but I don’t find humiliating him funny. What happened to this season?
Okay, the moment with the best friend bit is lovely. And then he’s just a dick again.
Is there ever going to be a plot in this? Because the Sherlock-gives-a-horrible-speech is going on too long. And then he makes the damn speech about himself. Here’s a clue, Sherlock: IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU.
So he’s been a dick for an episode and a half to set up a speech?
I can’t believe nobody has yelled, “SIT DOWN” yet. This is just awful. And now a series of stupid jokes about titles.
The bit about Sherlock helping with the table cards is fun. Anything with John and Mary is fun. But there’s no plot here, there’s no antagonist here, thirty-two minutes into an eighty-five minute episode, this thing is a mess. Give Mary a series; love her manipulating both of them, but really, thirty-two minutes before there’s a case?
Freeman and Cumberbatch are so good, even with this garbage. Amanda Abbington is delightful. Mary is such a tough character to keep from being a Mary Sue, and she gives her so much life and light.
Thirty-nine minutes to get a body. Standard obstructionist commanding officer; trite.
Oh, John gets to be in charge. Excellent.
And now we’re back to the wedding. Why hasn’t somebody beaned Sherlock with a champagne bottle?
Molly’s so pretty with all the flowers.
I would cheer if Rupert Graves smacked Sherlock. Not Cumberbatch, I love Cumberbatch, but Sherlock yes.
This speech will never end.
I want a series with Molly (“We’re having quite a lot of sex”) and Mary. Each week they kick Sherlock in the nuts. Sometimes Irene makes a cameo with the riding crop.
You know the people who wrote this mess are really good writers. Well, Moffat is. I’m not even sure Gatiss helped with this, there are no interminably long chase scenes. Unless you count the bachelor party.
What the hell is this stupid game? No, I don’t care what the game is, what is this supposed to do in the plot?
Oh, good, drunken detecting.
This is just embarrassing. It’s a bunch of writers playing clever boots. NEVER THINK YOU’RE CLEVER. The minute you do, you’re just writing rubbish. And evidently watching this has made me British.
It’s not funny. It’s supposed to be funny, but it’s not, which is the worst, much worse than thinking you’re serious and being inadvertently funny.
Okay, Mr. Hudson running a cartel IS funny.
One hour in, it’s finally good. Great mystery, love the women he’s interviewing. This is the stuff I watch Sherlock for.
Oh, fuck, we’re back to the wedding. This is excruciating. That part I liked: One minute.
The. Longest. Best. Man. Speech. In. The. History. Of. Weddings.
Lovely moment with Irene. There’s another good three seconds.
Too late on the milking a good speech. This is dumb. Sherlock’s being an idiot. If it turns out to be John’s old boss, this will officially be a total loss. Never mind, it’s already a total loss. Cumberbatch should sue.
If he’s a genius, why can’t he remember Lestrade’s first name? Stupid joke.
This is so awful. This is amazingly bad. How can you make Benedict Cumberbatch look bad? I’ve never felt so sorry for an actor.
Oh, they’re going to kill the commanding officer. An hour and a half to do that? Somebody tell me the last episode is better than the first two of this season.
“There’s a headless nun in it for you.” Great line.
I love Mary. I love how much respect they’re paying her. They’re getting Mary exactly right.
So “The Sign of the Three” is Sherlock, John, and Mary?
Good for John for the Drama Queen line.
Oh, good job on the impossible murder. Although the music is trying to make me care, and I don’t, because this episode has squandered most of its real estate on dumb jokes so I never got emotionally involved.
The photographer is a call back to the cabbie? Except that whole episode was about the cabbie, and this is an afterthought.
This is another episode I’ll never watch again, inspite of Mary and Molly and Irene. We need a British Birds of Prey.
She’s pregnant? THAT’s the “Sign of Three”? The awful romance novel They’ll-Be-Happy-Because-There’s-Going-To-Be-A-Baby ending? Kill. Me. Now.
This thing will never end.
Oh, no, wait it just ended. Not with a bang, but with a whimper of self-pity because the bridesmaid and Molly are dancing with Others. It’s because you’re a dick, Sherlock.
Such marvelous actors wasted. The Argh cut of this would be Irene and the headless nun and probably Molly saying “We have a lot of sex.”
• Every good, clear plot has a protagonist (hello, Sherlock) and an antagonist (uh . . . the camera guy? I dunno.) Since the antagonist shapes the narrative, if you don’t have a strong one (or one at all for most of the story) your narrative goes all over the place like spilled BBs.
• Every good, clear plot has a single through line upon which the subplots are hung, and it should be the strongest plot. A horrible speech that never ends is not a plot, it’s a comedy routine that’s not funny. Several different fragmented mysteries are not a plot, they just tear the story apart. A horrible speech begun a third of the way through the story that references fragmented plots is narrative abuse, the result of a writer or writers who think their right to be clever supersedes the right of the reader/viewer to an enjoyable story. (Did Sherlock write this?)
• Charming, witty vignettes cannot carry a narrative that rests on anti-charm, they only serve to emphasize how charmless the main story is, and to make readers/viewers start fantasizing about narratives centered on the people with charm and wit. Really, really, REALLY do not drop the most interesting antagonist the series has ever had into the narrative for a naked two-second cameo in which our protagonist admits he thinks about her; it’s like waving sparkling water in front of someone dying of thirst and then yelling, “Psyche!”
• If you’re going to use flashbacks (don’t), use them constructively to draw parallels between past and future events not to illustrate an interminable speech. A good use of flashback (not that there are any) clarifies the narrative structure with some kind of visual aid (Person of Interest‘s calendar, Arrow’s color of light change).
• If you must use flashbacks (no, really, don’t), use them to reinforce the structure and frame the narrative clearly. Forty-two flashbacks (I didn’t count, I’m guessing) just chop the story into incoherent mincemeat. “Where are we now? When are we now? Who’s on first?” Not even Doctor Who screws with time like this, and that show uses time like a chew toy.
• Don’t assume I’m emotionally involved when you haven’t spent any time to involve my emotion: if I was supposed to get all verklempt at the end with the senior officer, you have to invest me in his fate, not just play emotional music over the scene. My greatest emotional moments in this came from my outraged sympathy for Lestrade in the beginning and my happiness at seeing Irene. Okay, and the bit with the kid and the headless nun. I loved that.
• Never end a story with a baby unless the story was about trying to get a baby. You might as well put little hearts over all the “i”s in the script and do the credits in pink ribbon. Especially don’t do it so you can get cute with the title. Also, John is a doctor and Mary is a very smart, athletic woman who pays attention to her body, so there’s no way they would have needed Sherlock to tell them she’s pregnant. That moment was the absolute nadir of the series so far.
Observation: Moffat kneecapped Doctor Who by making the stories about the Doctor’s angst instead of about the Doctor being the Doctor, going to different places, meeting strange people, and saving them. And now he’s doing it with Sherlock, making one episode about Sherlock’s return to John with detective interruptions and this episode about Sherlock and John’s relationship and how marriage will affect it, with detective interruptions. Thank god the third episode is not about Sherlock becoming an uncle, or I really would have lost it.