(Read all three reviews)
I didn't want to review only one episode of Sherlock so I've waited until all three aired. I have to admit; mentally I couldn't have hyped it up anymore than if Benedict Cumberbatch came round to waltz with me on the rooftops of Athens itself. And because of that delusional fantasy the first episode, "The Empty Hearse", underwhelmed. It was structured oddly and it's like they (the BBC) have hired a new writing team or done something like spiked the coffee with stupid-pills.
The actors were acting their little socks off as the experts that they are but honestly - the material was actually very weak. ONLY Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman could have pulled this episode off. I'll never know how it left the writers room. Having said that - there were highlights.
1. Sherlock's disguise as a waiter
2 Watson punching Sherlock (all times)
3. The fan-explanation of how Sherlock 'died' in "The Reichenbach Fall" (end of season 2) where Sherlock and Moriarty had romantic boy-feelings for each other. Yes, hardcore fans may have groaned but I kind of like how 'Aware' of itself in the real world that the show it. It almost gives 'The Show' its own character.
In my opinion however this episode still contained too much 'fan service' and at points was perhaps too aware of its 'unreal tv status'. It was very self-referential. Some other reviewers have described it as a 'Smug' return but I have recently rewatched the first few seasons and it was always a confident series.
The cast (all of them - special nods to Una Stubbs, Rupert Graves, Mark Gatiss and Louise Brealey) resumed their chemistry and I think I'm falling in love with Mycroft. He's in it just the right amount to keep him interesting, smart and amusing.
The actual mystery in the episode was seriously lacking. There basically, looking back, wasn't one. In fact with the current political climate in the UK, perhaps suggesting blowing-up Parliment wasn't the wisest suggestion in a political climate where normal people on the ground can't afford to stay warm, pay rent, get a good job or get ill.
But! It was the first episode back and we did wait two years for Sherlock to resurrect so maybe it needed that time to re-establish relationships and answer the millions of fan questions that the season 2 finale raised. However one warning for viewers: Sherlock personality isn't quite written right. He does have total OOC (out-of-character) moments and the dialogue really isn't very clever.
Best Quote: Sherlock Holmes: Killing me is so two years ago.
The second episode was dreadful. I'm sorry but it was. It's called "The Sign of Three". Creatively I understood the need to 'mix up' the narration status quo, but in reality - don't do it with a flagship tv series. That’s why BBC3 exists - for bizarre narrative experiments and puppets -sometimes both. The episode summary goes something like this - Holmes prepares for his role as best man at Mary and Watson's wedding. His speech, initially bizarre, turns out to be a moving tribute to his friend whilst he also contributes two anecdotes of recent cases, both unsolved. (Stolen from IMDB.com).
1 Sherlock and John drunk and then in a prison cell.
2. That's it.
The sheer lack of cohesion and substance is both over and underwhelming. Sherlock Holmes should NEVER narrate his own mysteries - any hard-core Original Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle fans can tell you that. Because the beauty of Sherlock IS that we are observing it through John's eyes. The viewer IS John, not Sherlock. Sherlock's brain is clearly wired different and the entire premise hinges on watching him through the eyes of others. The wedding speech was well acted and read but not written. I don't want to know how Sherlock thinks, I want to work it out in the same way John does - the very way that keeps mystery, charm and intelligence weaved throughout each story with a dash of humour.
The best part of the second episode was the end. The ultimate reveal wasn't in the unsolved cases but lay with Sherlock himself as Benedict Cumberbatch somehow managed to convey Sherlock as the brilliant sleuth we all know and the lonely, isolated person that he is. When Sherlock leaves the wedding early, we all know that his real connection to the world and other people was through John. I nearly cried as he walked away.
Best Quote: Sherlock Holmes: Imagine someone's going to get murdered at a wedding. Who exactly would you pick?
Mrs. Hudson: I think you're a popular choice at the moment.
"His Last Vow" - the finale episode Rocked.
This episode was well worth waiting for. It was fascinating and well written. "Lady Elizabeth Smallwood is one of many victims of master blackmailer and media tycoon Charles Augustus Magnussen and asks Holmes to retrieve some incriminating letters for her- (stolen straight from IMDB.com)" Lets start with the bad guy.
Charles Augustus Magnussen. Played by Lars Mikkelsen. I have seen this actor before but didn't realise it until now. He played the role of Magnussen with the same flawlessness that Sherlock plays his violin. He was equal parts smart, dangerous, sinister and creepy. Then theres the subtext...clearly elements of Magnussen were based on Rupert Murdock (the only man in the world that managed to make the word 'Rupert' dangerous) eg. In the opening scene, Magnusson was giving evidence at UK Government inquiry concerning his influence on British Prime Ministers past and present. Murdoch gave evidence at The Leveson Inquiry in 2012 and denied influencing the policies of former Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair.
When Magnussen almost burned John Watson in the first episode, I didn't really care. When he merely touched Lady Elizabeth Smallwood my skin crawled. THAT is a sophisticated bad guy who ultimately wasn't or couldn't be outwitted by Sherlock Holmes. Hell the only option probably was to shoot the guy. My only tiny half-gripe is this; I liked that Sherlock was a suspected sociopath not that he was one. This episode has clearly separated Sherlocks humanity from his mind palace and whilst we knew that Watson was probably his only human connection - by the end of this episode it made it firmly clear that Sherlock is DEFINATELY a Sociopath and that Watson is DEFINATELY representing the humanity side of things. It almost lifted the complexity of the characters away leaving only two base characters with limitedscopes. But - maybe that’s not a bad thing.
Sherlock's Drug Addiction.
Then at the end of the episode we have Jim Moriarty. Blood- dee -hell. That man just can't seem to die (which is ironic considering the worry over Sherlock's mortality for the past two years). I don't actually want more Jim Moriarty (I know that he's Sherlock’s Arch Enemy) - He was crazy and then he was so crazy he killed himself to win. That's fine. Let him go. With his supposedly final act he was truly shocking - he prized winning over living. Fantastic Villain. But it had a good ending. Leave it. Or get whoever mainly wrote Episode 3 (His Last Vow) to write ALL of season 4.
This episode SAVED Sherlock and has guaranteed my return to viewing it's next season but I know the first episodes put off a lot of viewers (just check the numbers and you'll see) so I suppose my final request to Sherlock fans is to skip to that last episode and see what YOU think.