Season 3, Episode 2: The Sign of Three
Posted by Sage
We are gathered here today to watch this man, THIS man, and this woman firmly establish themselves as the finest adventuring trio since three little Gryffindors knocked out a mountain troll in the girls’ bathroom.
During “the dark times,” as the two-year hiatus must be known, the Sherlock fandom had to survive on crumbs of information. In the summer of 2012, Gatiss and Moffat gave us three, one-word clues to Series 3: “rat,” “wedding,” and “bow.” While two of those were infuriatingly cryptic, it was a decent bet that “wedding” would refer to the canonical nuptials of John Watson and Mary Morstan. That celebration was never “seen” in Conan Doyle’s stories. And, while I don’t agree with Moffat very often, I have to echo his childhood frustration with Sir Arthur keeping what must have been one hell of an interesting party “off-camera.” Everybody loves a wedding. Especially a wedding that has Sherlock Holmes YouTubing serviette tutorials.
It may have been John and Mary tying the knot, but the wedding itself was The Sherlock Holmes Show. They didn’t seem to mind much. No one minds when the overactive ring bearer runs onto the floor and interrupts the first dance or gets a little icing on the Maid of Honor’s dress, do they? They just let the little guy have a good time and tucker himself out. Sherlock showed unusual self-awareness when he assured an expectant John and Mary that they’ve already had plenty of practice parenting him.
The structure of this episode milked every last drop of goodness from throwing your characters a big ol’ church wedding. (I don’t know what a linear episode of Sherlock would even look like and I don’t think I want to.) We got it all – from a Johnlock perspective, of course – from the Best Man ask to the stag night to the episode’s centerpiece: Sherlock’s toast. That toast, just so you know, only put into words the love for John Watson that figures into every one of Sherlock’s actions in “The Sign of Three.”
With Sherlock composing wedding waltzes and threatening Mary’s admirers, how can we reconcile this man with the one who callously threw himself back into John’s life with barely an apology for his absence? Simply this: Sherlock knew how he felt about John. He hadn’t the slightest idea that John felt the same about him. He truly did not know. The concept that he is someone’s best mate literally breaks him for a moment. (“Yeah, it’s getting a bit scary now.”) He usually can’t stop yammering. Now, he can’t even speak. He drinks eyeball tea. And it’s “surprisingly okay.”
From that moment, the Best Man is full-steam ahead to give John Watson the wedding he deserves. Look at my precious angel, sitting in a pile of napkins shaped like the Sydney Opera House, insisting, “That just sort of…happened.” Or helping Mary sort out the seating for the friendly and unfriendly relatives. And we can’t forget about him pretending not to notice John sneaking extra shots on their private (!) stag night.
You heard me .There’s no way Mr. Consulting Detective didn’t realize that the groom-to-be was dismantling the hangover-free alcohol consumption plan he’d carefully constructed with Molly Hooper. (Sidenote: Though she was offended for a moment that Sherlock assumed that she had “practical” experience with drink, Molly is the most normal and social of any of these weirdoes, so it was a good call.) He knew it. He just thought: “Sod it. I’m getting drunk with my best friend.”Also, a beer-meter didn’t work for William in Can’t Hardly Wait and he was a also a genius. Don’t challenge the beer gods to a fight. You will not win.
And thank goodness for that. John Watson’s stag night will go down in my personal TV-watching history as one of THE most delightful sequences ever to reach my eyes and ears. A DUBSTEP SHERLOCK THEME was composed for this, for heaven’s sake. There’s no bad mood that cannot be immediately cured by Holmes and Watson narrowly avoiding a bar fight only to end up cuddled and giggling on the Baker Street staircase before getting burned for being total lightweights by their sweet, old landlady. And let’s appreciate the “Sticky Head” game that they play, not just for the lolz (“Am I the current king of England?”), but also for the immense amount of flirting going on.
You can read it as overtly romantic and sexual if you like, but I’m just impressed that a show like this allows a (at least outwardly) platonic male pair to be this physically close without qualification or excuse. Yes, John does tend to exasperatedly announce to certain characters that he actually IS straight, thank you very much. You can’t blame him for being frustrated with Mrs. Hudson, since she insists on ignoring him and living in her own reality where Johnlock are totally doing it all the time. (Can’t blame her either.) What matters to me is that he never feels the need to make that announcement when he’s putting his little feet on Sherlock’s chair or grabbing hold of his knee to keep from sliding to the floor or – apparently – practicing his wedding waltz with him. They are close, in a way that female friends have been allowed to be forever.
It just gets better when a client (“Nurse?? Cardigan?”) shows up and we’re treated to some drunken deducing. Unable to resist the case of the ghost boyfriend, Sherlock and John go “clueing for looks.” And we find out that Sherlock’s the kind of super-genius who forgets the word for “chair” if he’s shit-faced enough. Playing drunk isn’t easy, though it looks to be so. Though I’m appreciating his face on a near daily basis at this point, I’m especially fond of Martin “Fuck you, I’ve won a BAFTA” Freeman’s expression when John expects a high five for remembering the words “crime scene.”
Having royally bombed that one, the case Sherlock brings up in his Best Man speech features more sobriety and less vomit. It is, however, still unsolved. Out of all the stories he could have shared, Sherlock Holmes – who can’t stop going on about his international reputation even when he can’t remember what it’s for – chose “The Bloody Guardsman.” He chose the case where he failed and John – who always keeps him right – did something extraordinary.
“John, I am a ridiculous man. Redeemed only by the warmth and constancy of your friendship.”
Sherlock’s speech was everything we hoped: awkward, poignant, and a fitting tribute to John and to Mary. He did it. He manned-up and joined the world officially, with all of his friends looking on. I’ve seen criticism that wonders why these people stick with him, despite his many faults. But there’s an aspect to friendships and romantic relationships that those critics are ignoring, and that is: are you needed? Everyone wants to feel that. And those closest to him know that Sherlock, despite his natural inclination to shut people out, needs them very much. Looking on while he takes off his “highly functioning sociopath” security blanket, Mrs. Hudson and Molly and Lestrade aren’t just reacting to what’s happening between him and John, they know they were all a part of this.