So... like... am I dreaming? Did this episode actually freakin' happen? I cried, I laughed... watching "The Sign of Three" was a singularly unique experience and I've already gone back to watch parts of it over and over again. The plot... well, it's unlike any plot we've seen in an episode of Sherlock thus far. The case isn't the important part at all - it's very much centered around the characters, and in particular the beating heart of this episode is the friendship and love between Sherlock Holmes and John Watson.
Brief summary... John is getting married, he asks Sherlock to be the best man, Sherlock takes this very seriously and gives a long, complicated, sometimes insulting and sometimes sweet best man speech. Along the way we get hints at a case which all comes to a head at the wedding, as Sherlock is forced to work quickly to save the life of John's old friend Major Sholto. Sherlock manages to save him, and the wedding continues on peacefully. At the end, we learn that Mary is pregnant.
I'll commence with a very brief paragraph that mention the few flaws I've found in this episode. And they are minuscule problems in comparison to all the brilliance, trust me. First of all, I didn't like the Irene Adler cameo. I just didn't really like her in Series Two, either, and if anyone wants to hear the reasons why just go ahead and message me and I'll talk about it. Also, there was this line towards the end where Sherlock tells John: "get your wife under control," and I just knew that freakin' Moffat had written that line and it just made me mad. Like, Sherlock is totally allowed to be an insensitive jerk, but if he was annoyed with Mary, he could have just said "Mary, get yourself under control," instead of having it be this weird misogynistic comment thrown in to an otherwise amazing scene. On the same note, I found it insulting that John's explanation for the "Mayfly Man" was that he's a guy, so of course he wanted some one night stands. Like, really? Boys will be boys, they want to sleep with women and they'll do any old horrible thing to get into bed with one? That was just a really eye-roll worthy moment for me.
Okay, but that's now out of the way. Last review I went character by character, and I suppose that for some of the smaller characters I'll do the same thing. But then when it gets to John and Sherlock, I think I'll just talk more generally.
So, first of all, Lestrade. How awesome is it that this guy dropped everything to help Sherlock, even though he was missing out on a crazy work opportunity to do so? I love this man, and I love his unconditional love for Sherlock, even though Sherlock continually refuses to so much as learn his first name. Lestrade looked about ready to kill Sherlock when he turns to him in during the wedding speech: "Scotland Yard, have you got a theory?" I also like that Sherlock acknowledges the importance and legitimacy of Lestrade and police work in general. When he's making his big deduction during the speech, he looks to Lestrade to help shut down the building.
Molly! Correct me if I'm wrong, but Molly Hooper seems to be the only character on this show who is considered part of the regular cast who doesn't have an ACD canon equivalent. What I love so much about her is her resilience. She could have been just the random chick in Bart's, but now she's such an important part of the show. My favorite Molly moments of the night all seem to center around her concern for Sherlock. For one, she seems really worried about what will happen if Sherlock is the best man. She talks to Lestrade and Mrs. Hudson about it, because she just assumes it's going to be a disaster. The other best Molly moment was at the very end, when Sherlock left the wedding early. John and Mary don't even notice, but Molly does - she looks at him and sees how sad he looks when he thinks no one is watching. Remind anyone of Reichenbach? Molly sees Sherlock in a way that no one else does. Like, I'm not even a Sherlolly shipper but that is some adorable stuff. Oh and we can't forget the moment in which Molly says to Sherlock "and we're having quite a lot of sex!" Can you picture Series One Molly doing that? Me neither.
Mrs. Hudson. Her conversations with John and Sherlock were so sad and so important to the episode as a whole. She continually reinforces this idea that the wedding is going to irrevocably change Sherlock and John's relationship, and we can see in their reactions that neither of these boys wants that to happen. We got to learn a lot more about her husband in a conversation she has with John. Turns out he ran a cartel. Quite something! I love how John is in denial that his wedding will change anything. He insists that he'll always been friends with Sherlock. When Mrs. Hudson talks to Sherlock about her best friend and how she never saw her after the wedding, my heart broke. You can just tell by the look on Sherlock's face that he's terrified of the same thing happening to him and John. Just after Mrs. Hudson leaves the room, Sherlock looks sadly at John's favorite chair in the flat. Ouch. My heart. Mrs. Hudson also had one of the most golden lines in the entire episode. As Sherlock is busy deducing, he asks who someone would want to kill at a wedding. Mrs. Hudson responds "I'd say you're a popular choice at the moment, dear." So much sass. I love this woman a lot and her presence in the episode was very important.
Mycroft! Not enough Mycroft. Never enough Mycroft, really, but there was less in this one than the last. The conversation he had with Sherlock on the phone was another one of those conversations that reinforced the idea that this marriage is going to change things between John and Sherlock. It broke my heart a bit when Mycroft said that he was sure to be seeing more of Sherlock from now on. This was sad for so many reasons. First of all, it again focuses on Sherlock's obvious fear that he's going to lose John once he's married. Secondly, it gives us another hint at Mycroft's loneliness. The way he said it suggested that he didn't mind that Sherlock would be around more often. Even though their relationship is so full of antagonism, Mycroft misses having his brother around. The Holmes brothers do indeed share a special sort of bond, and another instance in which that is made clear comes when Sherlock is trying to solve the case at John's wedding. Sherlock's "mind palace" takes the form of a large court room, and at one point Mycroft appears as the judge, lording his position of power over all others. He tries to encourage Sherlock, forcing him to think and solve the crime. He is in fact not successful, and Sherlock then turns to John for help, which I thought was really sweet. Regardless of the lack of Mycroft, this episode still continued to enforce the idea that these brothers have a very strong - if strange - relationship.
Okay so now for a few other really impressive elements in this episode.
The cinematography was gorgeous. I'm not an expert in these things by any means. I don't really know what I'm talking about or what to look for. But seriously, it was awesome. The selective use of slow motion, the cuts between the flashbacks and Sherlock's speech, Sherlock's mind palace stuff... I suppose I'm not even just praising the cinematography here, but rather the editing in general. This was not a linear story, and the editing was really interesting. This was a story all woven around a central moment - that of Sherlock's best man speech. Each scene contributed to that speech and tied back to it in some way. I enjoyed all of the cuts between the different scenes. Visually and mechanically, this episode was a treasure to watch.
The mystery of the case itself. This episode had three separate cases that all became one case at the end, did you notice that? First we've got the mystery of Bainbridge, the guard at Buckingham Palace who was found nearly dead in the shower. Then we've got the Mayfly Man thing. Both of these stories are told through Sherlock's best man speech. He tells the first to praise John for saving lives, and the second comes along with the hilarious tale of their drunken stag night. And then, both of these cases fold into the same one, which is the one concerning Major Sholto, which we got hints of along the way. I just loved the way that virtually nothing was wasted - all of these crimes came together and allowed Sherlock to come up with the answer. They were good cases, too, full of mystery and intrigue. I liked the way Sherlock talked to all of the women who had been conned by the Mayfly Man, and how the pieces of the puzzle continued to appear throughout. It was very well done. Despite the fact that this episode was very much not case-oriented, the cases that we got were extremely interesting and well presented.
Now onto the part of the review where I just take little moments I adored and squeal about them for a bit. Pretty much all of these will be about John and Sherlock's relationship, or about Sherlock's character more generally.
- Janine, the bridesmaid. I loved all of her exchanges with Sherlock. She was, in general, just an "ordinary" girl, but in his efforts to be well behaved for John's wedding, Sherlock actually gets to talking with her. I liked the way she treated him like any normal person, and the way that he was able to loosen up and actually share some things with her. It's particularly heartbreaking that she's the one who he shows his dance moves to, and then later on the dance floor she smiles at him to thank him for finding her a suitable dance partner. This leaves Sherlock all alone. Awww. At one point during the reception Janine says "Can I keep you?" and Sherlock responds "Do you like solving crimes?" to which Janine asks "Do you have a vacancy?" The shot then cuts to John. This really broke my heart, to be honest. Poor Sherlock, wondering if John is going to abandon him. Later in the episode Sherlock says, quite casually to Janine, talking about John: "Loves to exaggerate, you should try living with him." This also hurt - Sherlock making a joke about living with John when he's never going to live with John again!
- Sherlock threatening David, Mary's ex! This scene was fantastic. It showed how serious Sherlock was taking his best man duties, as well as how much he sincerely cares for John and Mary both. His creepy smile was hilarious.
- Sherlock and the little kid, Archie. Sherlock treated this kid like an adult, and the kid respected him for it. I loved the scene when Sherlock showed Archie pictures of crime scenes, and it's so wonderful that it all came back later. Archie was the one who made the connection between the Bloody Guardsman and the Mayfly Man, after all.
- One of the most adorable scenes in the whole episode was when Mary and Sherlock watched John and Major Sholto interact. Sherlock's jealousy was palpable. He couldn't stand seeing John interact with another friend. He's already nervous about losing John and this moment was one where felt real despair. Mary grabs his arm and simply says: "Oh Sherlock, neither of us were the first, you know!" I love that Mary acknowledges how much John cares about Sherlock... it's almost like the three of them are in an inclusive relationship!
- John asking Sherlock to be best man! If this scene didn't make you cry with its amazingness, then you are a stronger person than I. I love how exasperated John gets as Sherlock doesn't understand. And then we get this quote:
"Look, Sherlock, this is the biggest and most important day of my life." ("Well...") "No, it is, it is. And I want to be up there with the two people that I love and care about most in this world." ("Yes") "Mary Morstan," ("Yes") "and... you."
I swear Sherlock just shuts down when he hears this. All the blinking... ugh I was tearing up a bit. He looked like he was about ready to burst into tears himself. When he finally does manage to get some words out, they are disbelieving. Sherlock can't even comprehend the fact that he could be John's best friend. I love that once John realizes this, he instantly reassures him: "of course you're my best friend."
- From this part of Sherlock's fantastic speech, we go into the next part, which starts off with Sherlock saying he can't congratulate John, because he thinks weddings are stupid, and it's all a waste of time, blah blah blah. And then we get the already oft-quoted moment that I will never ever be able to stop smiling about:
"The point I'm trying to make is that I am the most unpleasant, rude, ignorant and all around obnoxious arsehole that anyone could possibly have the misfortune to meet. I am dismissive of the virtuous, unaware of the beautiful, and uncomprehending in the face of the happy. So if I didn't understand I was being asked to be best man it is because I never expected to be anybody's best friend. And certainly not the best friend of the bravest and kindness and wisest human being I have ever had the good fortune of knowing. John, I am a ridiculous man, redeemed only by the warmth and constancy of your friendship. But as I am apparently your best friend I cannot congratulate you on your choice of companion. Actually, now I can. Mary, when I say you deserve this man, it is the highest compliment of which I am capable. John, you have endured war, and injury, and tragic loss (so sorry again about that last one). So know this - today you sit between the woman you have made your wife and the man you have saved. In short the two people who love you most in all this world. And I know I speak for Mary as well when I say we will never let you down and we have a lifetime ahead to prove that."
That quote pretty much speaks for itself. I had to write it out in full. It was just that amazing. We get John telling Sherlock he loves him, and then we get the reverse. I can't stop watching John's face during this speech. He looks so disbelieving. You can see the moment where John realizes exactly what Sherlock just said, and he starts tearing up. Waaaahhhhh.
- Then we've got the HUG! John says to Mary: "If I try and hug him, stop me," and Mary replies (bless her heart): "Certainly not." I love that Sherlock doesn't understand all the emotion, and so he immediately turns to John to ask if he did it wrong. This points to a lot of different things. Firstly, Sherlock continually looks to John as the authority on human emotions, and he relies on John's judgment in these matters. Secondly, Sherlock really really wanted to get everything right, so when he asks "Did I do it wrong?" he's afraid he's messed up and ruined John's day. The hug is so sweet. Everyone claps, everyone's sniffling... oh man. I want to be watching this scene for the rest of my life.
- We move to the next part of Sherlock's speech, where John's blog plays a central role. I liked the list of strange cases they've been on, because it shows that the two of them have been through so much, and also that their idea of "normal" is in dealing with all of these absurdities.
- Another one of my favorite scenes was the wedding planning, wherein Mary, John, and Sherlock sit around the flat discussing seating charts and napkin folding. It showed the normalcy of these three people spending time together. Some favorite parts: the list of people who hate Mary, Mary calling Sherlock out on his lies ("I'm not John, I can tell when you're fibbing," "Okay, I learnt it on Youtube"), and of course Mary's manipulation of John and Sherlock! That little thumbs up to the both of them was the moment when I fell irrevocably in love with Mary Morstan. Don't kill her, Moffat! Even though this was a funny, lighthearted sort of scene, it still made me rather sad in some ways too. As Mary points out to John, Sherlock is trying really hard at this being best man business because he's terrified. Terrified of what, you might ask? Well, of messing up John's wedding day, sure, but also of the wedding happening in the first place. Throughout the episode several characters bring up the idea that this wedding will irrevocably change Sherlock and John's relationship, and we know that Sherlock is distressed by the possibility.
- The scene on the bench with John and Sherlock was another good one. Jeez, I'm pretty sure every scene in this entire episode was a good one. Sherlock refers to Sholto as John's "previous commander," basically implying that Sherlock thinks of himself as John's current commander. And then there's this quote: "The thing about Mary, is she has completely turned my life around. Changed everything. But for the record, over the last few years there are two people who have done that, and... the other one..." John then turns around and notices that Sherlock is gone. "is a complete dickhead." That's an overused joke, but it still got a chuckle out of me!
- John's Doctor In Charge moment! Hot. He calls Sherlock nurse! I also love that in his speech, Sherlock is using this entire story to praise John for saving lives! "The best and bravest man I know and on top of that he actually knows how to do stuff." I love that Sherlock is willing to tell the story of a case he didn't solve, all so that he could praise John.
- The Stag Night! I could write an essay on all of the things that were awesome about this scene, but here's the highlights: the tech version of the Sherlock theme while they're out at the pub. The staircase part - "I have an international reputation." Sherlock calling Mrs. Hudson "Hudders." The forehead name game. Knee touching. "The game is... something." "On?" "Yeah, that, that!" Sherlock's drunken deductions in the apartment, particularly the use of the terms "deaded" and "sitty thing." John's lovely line: "he's cluing for looks." Lestrade bailing them out in the morning! "Can you whisper?" "Not really!" Oh man. Drunk Sherlock and John is everything I never knew I needed in life.
- "I will solve your murder, but it takes John Watson to save your life. Trust me on that, I should know, he's saved mine so many times and in so many ways." Need I say more? Gah, all the love in this episode. It nearly destroyed me with its sweetness.
- John Hamish Watson. I love that Sherlock deems John's middle name important enough to remember. The detail with the birth certificate was precious. And I love this sequence of deduction. Sherlock comes to this realization in the space of a second. In his head, he says "The Mayfly Man. The Mayfly man is - " and then it cuts back to Sherlock offering a toast to John and Mary, and he finishes with the phrase "here today." Brilliant!
- "Depth and complexity of his jumpers." Yup. Also, the use of the phrase "Vatican cameos" to warn John was a nice touch.
- When Sherlock is in his mind palace, Mycroft tries to talk him through his deductions, but it isn't working. Eventually he bursts out - "Not you, not you. You. It's always you. John Watson, you keep me right." That, coming from Sherlock Holmes, is pretty much a declaration of love. He's saying that his brother, who taught him how to deduce in the first place, is not the person he turns to when he needs help. That job goes to John forever more.
- One of my favorite Mary moments was when Sherlock runs off to save Sholto, and John kisses Mary and runs to follow. Then Mary just gets up like - screw that, I wanna come! And follows both of them.
- The scene outside of Sholto's door was another great one. Another awesome deduction moment for Sherlock. But in particular, I liked the drama queen thing, and how Sherlock kisses Mary on the top of the head. And then we have Sherlock saving Sholto's life. For once, Sherlock solved the murder, and saved the life, and it was the perfect way for all of this to turn out. And of course another amazing quote: "We wouldn't do that, would we? you and me? We would never do that to John Watson." To me, this definitely suggests that Sherlock has contemplated suicide before. Or at the very least was willing to just give up and let death come. But, because he knows it would hurt John, Sherlock doesn't do it. Oh my God. This episode is destroying me.
- Sherlock composed a song just for John and Mary and then played it on the violin! Their dance was slow, drawn out, and very special. It was a good place for the episode to take a beat and just give us Mary and John in wedded bliss.
- And then we've got the vow. See, if the next episode weren't ominously title "His Last Vow," I would just think this whole vow idea was cute. Sherlock promises to always be there for John and Mary. But because of the next episode, I'm really worried that something is going to happen that forces Sherlock to break that vow, or to go to dangerous and extreme lengths to keep it. Here's the quote: "So, here in front of you all, my first and last vow. Mary and John. Whatever it takes, whatever happens, from now on I swear I will always be there, always, for all three of you..."
- Yup! Three! If Moffat kills Mary Watson in child birth I will freak out. But I loved Sherlock telling them that they're already the best parents in the world... that was really sweet but also so sad, because it again enforced this idea that Sherlock is afraid of becoming unneeded.
- Jesus, you know what makes the ending so sad? Earlier he freakin' said he's always been secretly fond of dancing, and then when the time came, he didn't have anyone to dance with! And even before that, Mrs. Hudson said that it's sad to leave a wedding early, and then he freakin' leaves the wedding early! Whyyyyy!
Okay, that was quite the list of moments that I enjoyed. As you can probably tell from this review, I was a big fan of this episode. It really was a love letter to John Watson from Sherlock Holmes. I know some people might be nonplussed, because that episode was certainly not your typical fair for a show like this. But in my book, it was exactly what I wanted and needed.