TV Review: Sherlock – Season 3 Episode 2: “The Sign of Three”

Last Updated on August 5, 2021

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EPISODE: "The Sign of Three"

SYNOPSIS: Sherlock faces his biggest challenge of all – delivering a Best Man’s speech on John’s wedding day! But all isn’t quite as it seems. Mortal danger stalks the reception – and someone might not make it to the happy couple’s first dance. Sherlock must thank the bridesmaids, solve the case and stop a killer!

REVIEW:  The return of SHERLOCK last week to U.S. audiences was a welcome return for everyone's favorite incarnation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's detective.  While "The Empty Hearse" did get bogged down in the reintroduction of Benedict Cumberbatch's sociopathic investigator, it did set up an interesting new villain in the closing seconds.  With Moriarty gone, Holmes needs someone with his level of intelligence to go to task with.  But, this middle episode of the third series skips Charles Augustus Magnussen (Lars Mikkelsen) entirely and devotes the story to the wedding of James Watson and Mary Morstan.

As the episode got underway, I was initially disappointed that there would be no mystery in the episode, but the conflict inherent in Holmes losing his best friend to wedded bliss would most assuredly offer some moments of character development for the socially inept Sherlock.  Whether it is Sherlock using his deduction skills to help the maid of honor Janine (Yasmine Akram) find the best one night stand, warding off Mary's too eager male friend David, or showing the child of another friend crime scene photos, he seems to be unable to escape his primary occupation even during a social event.  Seeing Sherlock in such a way provides several smiles and laughs for the viewer but not much beyond that.

SHERLOCK is often looked at as being Benedict Cumberbatch's show and all about his character, but with this third series, the focus is beginning to shift from Holmes being a self-absorbed loner who doesn't understand the repercussions in faking his death to now realizing that the friendship between him and Watson is more important than a working relationship.  In the Guy Ritchie films and even in the CBS series ELEMENTARY, Holmes is threatened by Watson's relationships outside of their own and works to undermine them, especially Watson's romance with Mary.  I fully expected that to happen on SHERLOCK but we are instead treated to seeing Holmes accept that his friend is moving on, honoring that, and maybe even finding some happiness himself.

I did begin to worry when Sherlock's best man speech began.  At first, it was a typical Holmes monologue replete with self-centered and socially innappropriate comments about Watson, but then it became a way to segue in references to cases the two had investigated.  As we began to see a series of flashbacks to recent cases involving a mysterious attack on a Royal guardsman and a Catfish case involving a nurse, I started to think the episode had gone off the rails.  Neither case is given a resolution and seem to serve only to illustrate the relationship between the detective duo.  But, seeing Holmes drunk and unable to deduce much of anything is a highlight.  But, in a ninety minute episode, almost an hour of the running time seems devoted to an overlong toast.

That is when the real magic happens.  It turns out that while "The Sign of Three" is a brilliant way to flesh out the main characters, it is an amazing narrative trick that ties together the potential murder of a wedding guest with these unsolved cases.  Sure, it requires a large suspension of disbelief, but it works.  Even when we think Holmes may have been stumped or recalls a case that seemed to be a throwaway wast of time, watching him tie it all together is a sight to behold.  Once again, Cumberbatch has nailed the Sherlock Holmes role unlike anyone else.

If "The Sign of Three" is lacking in anything, it is a connection to the tease at the end of "The Empty Hearse".  I wish there was a consistent flow of subplots through the short season, but if prior years are any indicator, we are sure to see them collide in next week's finale, "His Last Vow".  This episode sets up a lot of possible threads: will Sherlock find romance now that Irene Adler is gone?  Will the deduction that The Watsons are expecting a baby add another wrinkel to the mix?  Will Sherlock remain the third wheel?  Most importantly, will Sherlock still have Watson by his side now that his best friend is married and moving on with his life?  I hope we find out soon.

VERDICT: 10/10

SHERLOCK is notorious for having one or two knockout episodes each series with one major disappointment.  So far, "The Sign of Three" is the highlight of this run.  It combines character development, comedy, and not one but multiple mysteries for Holmes to solve.  Moffat and Gatiss give Benedict Cumberbatch a slew of emotional range in this episode and he pulls it off brilliantly, showing that there are few actors who can play a sociopath as charmingly as Cumberbatch.  Upon repeated viewings, I am sure more and more will come to view this as one of the best episodes in any series of SHERLOCK.  Next week's finale has a lot to live up to.


"His Last Vow" –  A case of stolen letters leads Sherlock Holmes into a long conflict with Charles Augustus Magnussen, the Napoleon of blackmail, and the one man he truly hates. But how do you tackle a foe who knows the personal weakness of every person of importance in the Western world? Premieres February 2nd on PBS.


About the Author

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Alex Maidy has been a editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. A Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic and a member of Chicago Indie Critics, Alex has been's primary TV critic and ran columns including Top Ten and The UnPopular Opinion. When not riling up fans with his hot takes, Alex is an avid reader and aspiring novelist.