I don’t watch TV. I used to watch TV when I was a kid, back when there were decent shows for youngsters my age to watch, but over the past several years, I just haven’t found anything compelling enough to grab my attention… that is, until I was introduced to Sherlock a little over a year ago. Once I started, I watched both seasons 1 and 2 over the course of about a week, and although there were a couple episodes that didn’t quite live up to the high standard set by the others, the show as a whole appealed to me because it was intelligent, intriguing, and just downright excellent. At long last, season 3 of Sherlock has premiered on televisions across the U.S., and while it was not quite what I expected, I would say it actually surpassed my expectations.
In seasons 1 and 2, Sherlock made a gradual progression from a cold, calculating sleuth to a man who actually cared about people, and that character growth has been one of my favorite facets of the show. What I appreciated most about season 3 is that Sherlock’s growth as a person is more or less the foundation that these three episodes are built on. In fact, the second episode, The Sign of Three, may have been my favorite episode of the entire show because of the ways Sherlock expresses how his friendship with John changed him, and then in the finale, His Last Vow, Sherlock goes to extreme and even shocking measures to protect John. Sherlock’s actions in that regard are actually all across the board morally, and while the show does not necessarily condone what he does, it does a great job of showing the depth of his love for his friend. Sherlock remains an incredibly compelling character in this season, and that was definitely season 3’s greatest strength.
Unfortunately, this character development does come at the expense of other aspects of the show that past seasons thrived on. For the most part, the mysteries are definitely not as strong as in past seasons. That’s not to say they were poor, but after the brilliant mysteries of seasons 1 and 2, these just don’t quite measure up, especially the fairly standard terrorist strike scenario in the first episode, The Empty Hearse. Even so, the episode is wholly engaging and entertaining, especially during the hilarious scene where Sherlock meets up with John again for the first time. More time is also given to visual demonstrations of Sherlock’s “mind palace.” These scenes provide for some well-done special effects sequences, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that they tended to overstay their welcome in the screenplay.
So there are definitely a few noticeable flaws with this series, but there are far more strengths than weaknesses. Each episode is brilliantly crafted in almost every way. The script is smart, sharp, and often downright hilarious, and the acting is simply spot-on. Benedict Cumberbatch plays an incredibly compelling Sherlock yet again, and the rest of the cast brought their A-game to this season as well. The returning cast, especially Martin Freeman (John Watson) is as good as ever, and the new members absolutely nail their roles. Amanda Abbington enters the scene as John’s instantly likable yet somewhat mysterious girlfriend, and Lars Mikkelsen (Magnussen) portrays a villain as creepy and intelligent as we should expect to enter the scene in Moriarty’s absence. The whole series is brilliantly shot and edited as well, with many scenes that are a delight to watch simply because of the creative ways they are displayed on screen.
In the wake of such excellence as the first two seasons of Sherlock, it would not have been surprising for series 3 to fall short. However, it’s clear that creators Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat love the source material too much to allow that to happen, and the rest of the cast and crew did an absolutely brilliant job on nearly every aspect of this season. The mysteries may not have been quite as intriguing, but the relationships among the characters and the continued growth of Sherlock into someone more human make season 3 the best and most compelling season of Sherlock yet.