As you may have guessed, I was a huge fan of the series when starting to watch the third season. The expectations were quite high, especially to see how the cliff-hanger would be solved… And once again, what a huge disappointment! There was a special little episode before this season aired that played with those expectations: a character within the show was shown trying to figure out how the cliff-hanger would work, creating crazy theories the way the show’s fans did during the two-year absence. It was a huge let-down to see how this was taken to the actual episode too, making the joke tiresome and annoying. In fact, the actual solution to the cliff-hanger is not completely explained! Creators said that it was part of the fun, but… I found it quite up-setting.
The first episode tells the dumbest story possible in the dumbest possible way. It focuses on making the jokes and forgets about the detective stories. Of course there is a puzzle that Holmes has to solve, but it has one of the least compelling solutions ever in the show. There is a bomb that he has to defuse and this is supposed to be a huge deal because of the way it is presented, but the freaking machine has an on/off switch, only Sherlock says nothing as a prank. Really? REALLY?
There is a little gem in this season, which is the second episode, the only one that actually feels like a genuine detective story. Most of that tale happens during a wedding, and that gives it a focus that the show tends to lose in most of its episodes (due to their excessive runtime). The mystery is quite compelling too, as it is one of the few throughout the entire show that can be solved by us, the audience. The killer is in that wedding; the clues we have are the same as the ones Sherlock has… Maybe we’ll not be as clever as he is, but at least we can try, which is a lot of fun. I did solve it, by the way.
The season ends with one of those episodes in which we know from the very beginning who the bad guy is, which is, quite honestly, a terrible idea in a detective show. The only thing the sleuth has to do in those is prove that the bad guy is a bad guy. There is no mystery, so it falls flat and ends up not being compelling. I do like how the episode ends, though, as Sherlock does something completely un-Sherlock-y (patent pending) but for very good reason. Can’t say much more without spoiling the experience.
Overall, season three begins to have the major problems that turned Sherlock into a bad TV show. Bad pacing, a way too obvious over-stylization that relies on editing and forgets about good scriptwriting, an exaggerated focus on character arcs that never come to a good end… And even more importantly, it starts getting tiresome. It brings nothing new to the formula, and seems to place the responsibility of liking the show on the fans of the characters. It’s fun because it’s Sherlock, but let’s be honest: it’s not a great Sherlock. 6/10
THE ABOMINABLE BRIDE
Just kidding, let’s talk about this in-depth.
This was a special episode filmed to fill in the large 3-year gap between seasons three and four. It was meant to be something different, made with the fans in mind: taking Sherlock back to the Victorian era. It sounds great, so I was very much hyped to watch it, hoping it would put the series back on track after the highly irregular third season. But… nope.
Moffat had the chance to do what he does best in The Abominable Bride, he could write a story that worked independently, with story arcs that opened and closed within a 90-minute runtime. He is good at that! But hey, why not make this episode happen inside modern-day Sherlock’s mind, which he has to do in order to because a mystery he has to solve is vaguely similar to something that happened over a hundred years ago? Sound terrible, right? It is.
This special episode has a lot of nods to fans, which are pretty cool. The way Holmes and Watson meet during the Victorian era is a re-enactment of what happened in the very first episode, which brought a smile to my face. There is a scene that happens in the Reichenbach falls, too. There are nice moments, indeed. And the mystery that Victorian Holmes has to solve is pretty interesting too.
The way the mystery is solved is not that good, though. The solution is clever, but then Sherlock is presented with a moral choice that is unsubstantial and cheesy. The script tries to be funny and play with the fact that happens in the 19th century, but it achieves nothing due to the lots and lots of clichés that are thrown into the mix: Watson finds a drawing of a mobile phone drawn by Sherlock, implying he was way ahead of his time. Is that really the best thing you can come up with?
This is one of the worst episodes ever. The reason behind this is as simple as this: the focus is off. Moffat and Gatiss focus on the stuff that doesn’t work, stuff that tries to tie every single episode together, that lets nothing exist by itself. Nothing can be simple nor pure, it must be overly complicated and pointlessly connected to something else. Those links are never too clever, either, resulting in an infuriating experience that wastes the great chance the writers had to make something unique.