Wednesday, 22 January 2014

The Watcher - Sherlock, Series 3

by Stefan Harkins
Episode 1 - The Empty Hearse

Finally I return to the keyboard, hot on the heels of one Sherlock Holmes' reappearance on our screens. A welcome rebound for the infamous deerstalker-clad detective.

How did he survive the Reichenbach fall? It’s a question that’s been on all our lips since 2012 and The Empty Hearse doesn’t bury the lead! Right off the bat we are taken back to that fateful day on the roof of St Bart's Hospital and an explanation is given... or is it?

This episode is all about Sherlock’s return and as always our great detective's understanding of the' emotions of other people is wonderfully off - the timing of his return couldn’t have come at a worse moment! We’re meeting Watson’s soon to be fianc√© Mary Morstan, played by Freeman’s real-life partner Amanda Abbington, who perfectly compliments the dynamic of the show and doesn’t feel like a third wheel between Holmes/Watson.

I loved the evolution of forensics officer Anderson into a guilt-ridden conspiracy nut, reflecting all the fans ideas and theories behind the return of Sherlock! 

Once the main plot is underway we hit both action and wit at full speed. Watson and Sherlock’s days are spliced together with humorous effect; the investigation into the underground (or is that Underground?) terrorist plot as well as the usual quick side cases and a motorbike chase with Mary in tow to save a slightly singed Watson! There's also a nice cameo appearance of a very ordinary - dare I say, boring? - couple on the Baker Street sofa who turn out to be the Holmes boy’s parents, portrayed by actors Wanda Ventham and Timothy Carlton aka Mum and Dad Cumberbatch! All of this does mean that the main plot ends up feeling a little left by the wayside, but for me as the series seems to re-establish itself as a show about the titular protagonist and the people who orbit him, rather than the cases themselves.

Episode 2 - The Sign of Three

If you thought the first one was funny... well this one is a laugh a minute! It’s the day of the Watson/Morston wedding and of course Sherlock is best man - what could go wrong?!

It starts with us following Lestrade; he's been  trying to capture a certain band of criminals for years now and when he finally has his moment, guess who calls? Sherlock, in need of some assistance with his speech! Felt it was a lot of setup for that single joke but hey ho, maybe it’s a precursor to a future episode. 

Overall this episode felt a bit frantic and a tad disorientating - what with all the jumping back and forth on the day’s timeline - but overall I loved it, there is mystery, humour and bromance! The stag do was particularly hilarious, with Sherlock and Watson playing the Rizla Guess Who game before trying to investigate a case while rather drunk. Sherlock’s usual visual deductions end up going a bit askew - chair seat leather sleeeeep!

Echoing on what I mentioned about the previous episode, this series so far has shown that it has become a show about a detective and not a detective series.

Episode 3 - His Last Vow

Secrets, betrayal, shock and awe - it’s all in this one! A lot darker than the previous two episodes, but still manages to squeeze in a couple of laughs.

We meet the very Lecter-esque Charles Augustus Magnussen (played brilliantly by Lars Mikkelsen), the one villain who truly turns Sherlock’s stomach. He is a media mogul-type who utilises the power of information to pinpoint the ‘pressure points’ of others in order to blackmail them and stay untouchable. He’s like a Bond villain, but in a subtle way he's a lot more chilling! A definite reflection on modern day fears of surveillance and the abuse of personal data.

Surprises galore for us and Watson, as Holmes has apparently not been seen for months, until he suddenly turns up in a drug den! Apparently he’s been in hiding and he also has a girlfriend! And the icing on the cake - Holmes household at Christmas! An unusual mix of a maths genius mum, a quirky dad and an odd moment of sentiment from his brother Mycroft! Also thrown into the mix is Sherlock’s new drug den buddy William ‘Bill’ Wiggins, a junkie with a knack for deduction. People familiar with the original Arthur Conan Doyle stories should recognise the name as the leader of the Baker Street Irregulars. 

We hear a lot more about Magnussen than we actually see, though what we do see is unnerving - face licking, fireplace urination and continually flicking Watson’s eye.

I don’t want to give too much away but the final confrontation doesn't quite go to plan, there are some great uses of the ‘mind palace’ in order to survive, and not just for Sherlock.

Everything changes but then again everything stays the same. All threads are resolved but we are given a glimpse of something which suggests hope for more to come.

One line in particular I’d like to end on - 

“The problems of your past are your business. The problems of your future are my privilege.” 

OK, call me a liar, it has to be -

“Did you miss me?!”

Stefan Harkins is still thinking about the beautiful almost-kiss...

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