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Sherlock: 302 “The Sign of Three” Spoiler-Free Review


Cult Fix presents our spoiler-free verdict on Sunday’s episode.

Sherlock has definitely changed. Not just the titular character, but the show itself. This was evident in the third series’ opening episode with less of a focus on having one big central mystery and more of an emphasis on the growth of its characters. This process continues in The Sign of Three, an episode which, appropriately, is really all about change.

This episode sees Sherlock and John taking on one of life’s biggest milestones – marriage (or murder, just slower as Sherlock would like to compare it to). John is tying the knot and has predictably but unwisely chosen Sherlock as his best man. Rather than a scene or two on the wedding and preparations, it instead dominates the episode. A lot of the running time plays out unlike any Sherlock episode we’ve seen before. In fact it could be an extended episode of a sitcom. If that last sentence scares you, don’t worry it’s a very good sitcom, just maybe not quite what you expect from an episode of Sherlock. We get scenes of the various wedding arrangements, Sherlock working on his speech, a disastrous drunken stag do and then the wedding itself.

A lot of the action is told through flashback during Sherlock’s best man speech. If you are in it purely for the mystery you’ll be disappointed initially. You’ll find yourself wondering when Sherlock is going to actually solve something, rather than just pick apart the wedding guest’s foibles (humorous as that is). Fortunately, several mysteries eventually present themselves. While they at first appear be quite scattershot in nature, most eventually come together into a pretty compelling whole. It’s just not immediately clear that the episode is working towards a bigger picture. It can feel a little haphazard at times and that may reflect the fact it’s been written by all three of Sherlock’s writing team (Moffat, Gatiss and Thompson).

At this stage it’s a hard to talk about just how good Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman are without repeating yourself. Fortunately this episode does allow the pair to explore some new territory. We arguably get to see a more human and warmer side to Sherlock that we’ve ever seen before. His best man speech is just as funny as you might expect but it’s also very touching. And if you’ve ever wanted to see John and Sherlock on a drunken bender you’ll be very happy with the results.

The direction in this episode deserves special mention as it is superb. While the opener had its moments it’s Colm McCarthy who ups the game. Some of the most impressive scenes take place in a surreal courtroom (with a surprise guest), but many scenes throughout are incredibly stylish and inventive – just wait until you see Sherlock’s intoxicated vision. A couple of shots are a little distracting (a phone call between Mycroft and Sherlock overdoes things a little) but overall this is a visual treat.

The thing is, as much as this episode isn’t really a ‘traditional’ Sherlock, it’s still a fabulous episode. It’s hilariously funny and touching with superb acting all round. It’s not perfect and some may resent the initial lack of a big case, but for everyone else, you can ask for little more.


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  • TardisBoy

    Oooo this episode is sounding more and more amazing. I for one don’t mind the fact they’re now focusing on character driven stories for Series 3, rather than focusing on the “big cases” and the mysteries that need to be solved by the duo. It’s exactly what the show needs IMHO – a nice change, and it will be very beneficial for the characters and allows them to grow; which in turn allows the show to get even better and not stagnate.

    And Sherlock and Watson on a drunken bender? I’m sold.

  • The Oncoming Hurricane

    This sounds absolutely brilliant, to be quite honest.

  • YouNeverWouldYouCoward

    I can’t wait for this! It’s going to be so fantastic and enjoyable! Really, really excited! There should be more episodes a year! It goes too quickly. After next week it’ll all be over. Sherlock speech- This is going to be AWESOME!

  • Calebxy

    I’m not sure I’m liking this less case-focused direction they’re going in. Hopefully they’ll all still be brilliant, though.

  • kete

    Suddenly I’m dreading Sunday. I don’t like the new direction they’re taking it, sorry. I liked it fine just the way it was. In fact I fell hard for that show and now I’m viewing it with suspicion. I didn’t like Lovering’s style, it missed all the grace and elegance of McGuigan’s direction.

  • 4th Jack

    I hope it does go back to the ‘traditional’ Sherlock. Because at the moment it seems that the show is trying to feed Tumblr fans. The writers will never let Sherlock and John get together as it’d be a cheap insult to all of Conan Doyle’s books. Anywho, I’m rambling. For me, Series 2 is still the best. Not saying Series 3 is awful. It isn’t. Sherlock is still great television. Perhaps the best. But once shows get popular, they try and go bigger, losing their ‘traditional’ aspects. I hope this doesn’t happen to Sherlock as I truly care about it, and its well being. I found several things disappointing about the last episode. The writing was a bit off. Mostly the comedy, to be honest. I didn’t think it worked as well as the Series 2 comedy, which was quick, witty, and fast paced. The music didn’t match some scenes, unfortunately. There was something about it that didn’t quite work. Now before everyone gives me hate comments, just hear me out. The writing was still great, and the music was still great, but because I had my expectations SO high, I was slightly disappointed. This isn’t fair for a show like Sherlock, or any show for that matter, as there will always be good and bad episodes. Not all of them will be at their best. So, overall, the last episode was FANTASTIC, but not the best episode of Sherlock there has been. I have every faith this series will pick itself up though, and I want it to continue forever….

  • The Doctor, Islington

    While I agree with others that I dislike the new direction, it makes sense.

    Now is the time for Sherlock to try new things, to experiment a bit. Series 1 was the standard Holmes fair, Series 2 the battle against Moriarty, and Series 3? Series 3 is the recovery of Holmes and Watson’s relationship, a perfect time to humanize Holmes. He’s a different man now, and if he’s going up against a new foe soon, this is really the only opportunity to explore that.

    So, while I prefer Series 2, I am perfectly fine (and encourage) Series 3 as the “light” series. In the past episode, we learned more about Sherlock than we did in the past two series combined – that’s very exciting.

    • HAL likes cheese

      Couldn’t have put it better myself.

  • A_Persom

    Visual Treat?

    Surreal Courtroom?

    Stylish and Inventive?



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