Sherlock Season 3 Was An Entertaining Filler
Three episodes, approximately 261 minutes and nearly two years worth of waiting later Sherlock has come and gone.
Now we wait.
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The fact that Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch are finding themselves cast in more and more movies means that the time available to shoot episodes of Sherlock in between is even less. Expect it to be an equally long wait for season 4 so let’s start trash talking this season passed before the desperation and withdrawal symptoms kick in.
Season 3 was great, don’t get me wrong, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was entertaining with the right blend of drama and comedy; that perfect balance the show-runners know how to blend into each episode. What it lacked was any real narrative or character progression to give us somewhere fresh to start with in season 4.
Essentially, Sherlock is going to be in the exact same place as he was at the start of season 2. More or less. Hear me out before you start plotting various ways to execute my not-fake death.
In case you haven’t guessed it by now, there are going t be spoilers. Very explicit spoilers. If you don’t want your eyes assaulted with that then bye bye, I hope you enjoyed the introduction. If you’re still here then come on, dear reader, the game is afoot.
Despite being a rollercoaster ride across three episodes, the minute the ride stops and the endorphins wear off your head might still be spinning but it becomes very apparent that under the surface season 3 was lacking in its narrative. A whole lot of things happened but effort was misplaced and not a whole lot stuck.
Let us begin at the beginning because the beginning is the best place to begin.
Episode 1 kicked off and Sherlock was back with as much wit, humour and exasperated Watson as ever. Oh and Sherlock had just put the icing on Moriarti’s farewell cake by dismantling his network. Now, Sherlock Holmes is a detective, the detective in fact, and that means he should be solving mysteries and unravelling the unknown but the biggest unknown in the first episode of Sherlock season 3 is just why so much time was wasted on doling out theories explaning the faked death at the end of season 2.
Sure, it was fun to watch all these scenarios play out but they took up way too much time with no real purpose to their existence other than gratuitous fan-service and padding. Not that the episode needed padding. The actual case that brought Sherlock back to London is barely an afterthought, something involving terrorists and Guy Fawkes and a train bomb. It serves as a very dull backdrop to some good character moments.
The episode closes with a glimpse of the villain who you know will a major role to play in the third episode. I’ll get back to the villain tease later.
Episode 2 is always a bit of a filler episode, an isolated case that does nothing to move the plot forward. It was no different this time around. Watson’s wedding was highly entertaining and looked set to change up the Sherlock-Watson dynamic permanently. However, in a season that was primarily filler material you could skip The Sign of Three and you wouldn’t be missing anything really. That’s hardly a good thing when you only have three episodes to a season.
Then the finale is upon is on us and we finally get to meet Magnussen. This guy is so deliberately weird and inherently bad that he could easily have been cast as a Bond villain. Underneath it all is the genuinely interesting possibility of a great villain. In Magnussen Sherlock could have had a passive enemy who’s very existence made him dangerous. He could be everything that Moriarti isn’t, a fresh mental sparring partner for Sherlock who would test him in more cloaked ways. Alas, we ended up with a villain who had all these unnecessary quirks heaped on him.
If episode 1 had spent less time dabbling in conspiracy theories and more time on establishing Magnussen as a villain in a more precise and calculated way then the season may have been better for it. Of course, what’s the point of devoting that time to a throwaway villain?
I’m all for Magnussen exhibiting his control with silly things such as flicking Watson’s face. That’s one eclectic way to get your power trip going but he’s trying too hard elsewhere. Not even the Joker would lick someone’s face to determine what perfume they’re wearing. It’s things like that which are completely out of place.
After watching the finale I couldn’t help but feel that the villain was somewhat shortchanged on screen-time but it turns out he gets just a little bit less than Moriarti in season 2. The defining differentiator here is how that screen-time was used.
Ultimately, I’d wager that half of Magnussen’s scenes are perfunctory attention-grabbers rather than something with a little more substance to them. Understandably some of them are to establish exactly the type of guy we’re dealing with here but it’s not all necessary.
Also, all the as yet unexplained randomness surrounding Mary Watson is absurd. It could also be seen as a very elaborate deus ex machina by which to get rid of her. Make no mistake, in all likelihood it seems as if everything will be reset to zero for season 4, including the wedding we devoted a whole episode to.
The ending of season 3, despite what your me say about it being filler fluff, is great. Magnussen pushes Sherlock so far in laying his pressure points bare that Holmes stoops to murder. He is then flown off to God knows where and we could be starting the next season with something very different. Not to mention a Sherlock who has had to atone for his crime and feel the full repercussions of it.
Then Moriarti shows up. An entire season undone in a single minute.
Reset to zero.
I absolutely adore this specific incarnation of Sherlock Holmes’ most notable adversary so it was with equal parts glee and disappointment that I looked at the screen and listened to it repeating over and over again, “Did you miss me?”
I can’t wait to see more of Jim Moriarti but he’s the safe option. You don’t want too much of a single villain, especially when they’re this good. Otherwise they lose their lustre. This is why Heath Ledger died, so that they could never milk the Joker.
Suddenly Watson’s marriage may as well be over, the bad guy is dead so there’s no chance of a repeat appearance, there never was a vault for anybody or anything to abuse and Moriarti is back. It’s basically season 2 but with more facial hair and a possible morphine addiction. Sherlock will likely get off more or less scott-free because he’s desperately needed to fake his death again.
Everything from season 3 has suddenly been undone.
There is a silver lining though so stop crying and put down the pitchforks.
If anything, this season humanised Sherlock and more than anything showed the many “pressure points” of the enigmatic detective. It could then be that Moriarti comes along and is disappointed by what has happened to Sherlock since last they met. Akin to Mr J in the recent Batman story arc Death of the Family he may then try to “fix” the detective. Hey, that term applies to both Batman and Sherlock!
That’s just one theory but it would take something along those lines to definitely give season 3 some purpose and value alongside the first two seasons.
Sherlock season 3 was incredibly entertaining and while a whole lot happened, a whole lot was done to undo it. Very little has stuck and don’t be surprised if when season 4 starts (10 years from now), it’s as if season 3 was little more than a glorious filler.
You waited almost two years for a few hours of filler material, get ready to wait another two years for something more substantial.
Like Watson’s moustache season 3 was a bit of a surprise at first, rather fun to look at and suggested that things have changed in a peculiar way but alas the change was all too reversible. It was undone with the ease of shaving some fuzz off your face.