**FAIR WARNING: SPOILERS**
IF YOU HAVEN’T WATCHED THE FIRST TWO SEASONS OF THE BBC’S “SHERLOCK”, OR HAVEN’T SEEN THE FIRST EPISODE OF THE THIRD SEASON, PLEASE DO NOT READ THIS.
Sherlock: Series 3, Episode 1 “The Empty Hearse”
OK, sorry about the huge disclaimer at the top of the page. We hate spoilers at Free For All, and Sherlock is one of my favorite shows and I wouldn’t want to spoil a moment of it for even my worst enemy.
When We Saw Him Last…
At the end of the final episode of Sherlock’s second season, we see Sherlock jump to his death after “confessing” that the media was right, it had all been a magic trick. We see John standing at Sherlock’s grave asking him for one more miracle: to not be dead. The final shot pans back to reveal to the audience, though not to John, and Sherlock is indeed alive.
The Boy’s Are Back in Town
Fast forward two years. John has gone back to practicing medicine full time, is in a serious relationship, and has grown a magnificent mustache (I refer you to the photo above). In the two years since Sherlock’s death, John has worked very hard to move past losing his best friend. I imagine that losing someone you are close to, who is near your own age would be devastating. Losing someone close to you near your own age who is also a genius would make it even worse. This is what John Watson has tried to move past since we saw him last, and by all accounts, he’s done a pretty good job. What he doesn’t realize is that all of his hard work moving past this tragedy has been for nothing.
For the two years following his “death”, Sherlock Holmes has been rooting out and destroying the remnants of Moriarty’s criminal network, the only certain way of keeping the ones he cares for safe. He returns to London at his brother, and co-conspirator, Mycroft’s request. The city is under threat of a terrorist attack, and Sherlock’s talents are needed. The thing that Sherlock didn’t count on was “real life” moving on without him. Life, and John Watson, have in fact moved on despite his absence and we see John ready to propose to his girlfriend Mary and move towards a quiet, more normal life in this world without Sherlock.
I appreciate the way that the writers of Sherlock chose to deal with the reunion of Holmes and Watson. In the original stories Doyle kills Holmes off, but does it in a way that was not intentional on Holmes’ part, and where no one ever saw the body. He did this because he no longer wished to write Sherlock Holmes stories. But in this alternate universe in which these stories take place, Sherlock conspired with his brother Mycroft to fake his own death in order to save his friends. This infuriates John. He spends the better part of this episode being angry with Sherlock for not having told him that he was alive. By the end, Watson forgives his friend and realizes that he needs him in his life, that he is not cut out for living an ordinary sort of life.
This season of Sherlock has two main themes happening simultaneously. The first is Sherlock learning to relate to people and evolving as a character. I have seen some people on the Internet complaining that they don’t like the fact that the show runners are “humanizing” Holmes, but I disagree for two reasons. One is that if you go back and read the original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stories, Holmes starts out as a character that you could barely stand to be around, then an as the stories progress he gets better and better at relating to people. The second reason is that Sherlock Holmes is a genius, and as show co-creator Steven Moffat states, it’s really difficult to write and portray a genius who doesn’t learn. He’ll never be “normal”, but he will learn and get better at relating to people.
The other theme of this season of Sherlock is seeing the consulting detective forced to deal with “real life” more than we’ve seen before. Before Holmes meets Watson, he lives a unique sort of life where he keeps to himself, has no real friends, and really only interacts with people when he has to, and when he does the results are not good. In this third season we see Sherlock dealing with these same things, but thanks to his friendship with John, he is learning how to navigate these waters a bit more smoothly.
I have seen two of the three 90 minute episodes of the third season of Sherlock, and I love it. There have only ever been a few shows where I felt like the people writing that show where writing it just for me, and this is one of them. I know they aren’t writing it just for me, but the dialogue, the plots, the acting, it all feels like it was written with me as the target audience. I give the first episode of
“Sherlock” airs on PBS’ Masterpiece on Sunday nights at 10PM.