WARNING: SPOILERS FOR SERIES THREE SHERLOCK
The second episode of Sherlock series three, “The Sign of Three” is being highly acclaimed as one of the lightest and most warmhearted episodes in the history of the show. Personally I would like to ask how anyone who watched that episode saw anything but loneliness and heartbreak. Tumblr is describing “The Sign of Three” as a love letter to John Watson, and it is unerringly accurate. As the best man at John’s wedding to Mary, we see a consulting detective throw all his genius and intellect into living up to the most important job he’s ever been given– that of John’s best friend.
In “The Empty Hearse” there were moments between Sherlock and John that felt cheap – primarily because they couldn’t express themselves after the horrors of “Reichenbach.” Sherlock had legitimate moments between Molly and Lestrade because they made it clear to him how they felt toward him (Molly fawning, Lestrade hugging). But with John, he knew they were friends, but it never occurred to him that he mattered as much to John, as John does to him. In the train scene when he begs for forgiveness then covers it up by being a big twat, it’s more evident than ever it was his way of hiding his feelings to not overburden someone else with them. But then we have John declaring Sherlock his best friend and asking him to be his best man, and Sherlock shuts down for minutes on end. It’s a funny moment in the midst of his speech where he elucidates his thought process to the wedding guests while John looks on perplexed as it wasn’t how he recalled it. Because while Sherlock thought he was still functioning, he’d just checked out, the precious hard drive crashed at the shock of anyone saying “I want the two most important people who I love the most in all the world with me.”
And after that we see a new Sherlock. One who has a best friend, is loved, and has permission to express his own vulnerabilities and feelings because they are reciprocated. It’s gorgeous and heart breaking. As the best man speech continues Sherlock is brutally self-aware, stating:
“The point I’m trying to make is that I am the most unpleasant… rude, ignorant, and all around obnoxious asshole 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 asked to be best man it is because I never expected to be anybody’s best friend. Certainly not the best friend of the bravest, and kindest and the 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.”
He’s directly requoting John’s words to him in the train in “The Empty Hearse,” that at the time he had laughed off with “I didn’t know you cared.” Moments later, he tells John:
Again at the end of the night, he makes his last vow,
“Mary and John. Whatever it takes, whatever happens. From now on I will be there for you.”
Suddenly we see a Sherlock who is not only proving he has a heart which he has so ardently disdained in the past, but is wearing it on his sleeve. For anyone who might find it out of character, they clearly haven’t been paying attention to the subtle, but incredible character development we’ve seen of Sherlock over the last three series. It’s only further proved by all the hilarious ways Sherlock throws himself into the wedding planning– from learning how to fold napkins, interrogating the wedding party, devising the seating arrangement, and agonizing over his best man speech. Not to mention the funniest scenes in all of Sherlock history, in which the crime solving duo get pissed, prove themselves lightweights, and still take a case that lands them hungover in jail the next morning. All this occurs while we see Sherlock’s inbox is full of cases he’s ignoring in order to be the best best man in all of history. It’s a beautiful reversal of everything you expect when you make an alleged sociopath your groomsman.
Of course it wouldn’t be Sherlock if there weren’t crimes and deductions, and naturally the best man’s speech takes its turn recounting the cases they’d been on over the last six months, and then turns into “pre-murder deduction hour” when it becomes apparent a murder is imminent at the wedding itself. While not up to the usual crime-wimey moments of episodes past, it is a perfect representation of the entire episode– Sherlock focusing not on his own brilliance, but rather using it as an example of how valuable and pivotal John is to the “Work.” He even goes so far as to tell a tale about one case which he had not solved, something he had thrown a hissy fit over when John had blogged about it in the past.
However, while there may not have been a whole lot of mystery to “The Sign of Three,” it did its job in setting us up for the final episode of the series, “His Last Vow.” For one, when Sherlock was reading the telegrams from well wishers, one said:
“Mary, Lots of love, poppet. Oodles of love and heaps of good wishes from CAM. Wish your family could have seen this.”
The fandom is already speculating CAM to be the known villain of episode three, Charles Augustus Magnussen, the blackmailer whom Sherlock loathes most. With Sherlock’s final deduction of the night, that Mary is pregnant (as in he saw signs of three of them), and Arthur Conan Doyle canon stating that Mary dies, we can speculate that something big, bad, and heart breaking is in store for Mary and baby. Creators Moffat and Gatiss have stated that this finale is even more traumatizing than “Reichenbach” (is that even possible?) and they’ve already planned Series 4, which means we know John and Sherlock live, but will the newly ringed Mrs. Watson and baby do so as well?
Angsting over the potential break-up of the Watson family will have to wait until next week though. For the next six days we’ll be reliving every moment of the hilarious, heart-rending, brilliant perfection that was “The Sign of Three.”
Now I need a hug after thinking about Sherlock leaving the wedding early, realizing that everything changes, and with a baby on the way, there won’t be much room for Sherlock in his life.