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.
Dry your tears, guys, cause we got a case to solve. Part 2 of his speech is more “action-based” as Sherlock tap-dances between his Mind Palace and the reception, piecing together the plan of the Mayfly Man. With the steady counsel of Mind Palace Mycroft, Sherlock realizes that some shit is about to go down right in the middle of the “night do.” “Vatican cameos” type shit.
With the help of morbid little Archie, Sherlock solves “the who the what the why the where the how” of both the attempt on Bainbridge’s life and the eminent danger to Major Sholto. None of that really matters though, except that, in the chaos, Sherlock and John correctly identify each other (with Mary’s agreement) as total drama queens. Then Sherlock talks the borderline-suicidal Sholto out of his room and into medical attention by reminding him of their mutual respect for John. (“But not at John’s wedding. We wouldn’t do that, would we?”) And while “not bleeding out during the salad course” is an extreme of what bad behavior won’t be tolerated at this occasion, it’s clear that there was no chance that Sherlock was ever going to blow that speech or pick the wrong place setting or compose a first dance that wasn’t fully “road tested” and flawless. This man feels SO MUCH, you guys. My heart hurts.
All the warm fuzziness and “squishy cuddles” make the gloomy foreshadowing in the episode so much worse. “The end of an era,” people keep telling us. “It changes people, marriage.” “Best friends forever, we always said that.” “John and Mary, domestic bliss.” Sherlock makes himself so vulnerable in this episode. He may not be interested in the traditional Best Man/Bridesmaid hook-up, but he still makes a connection with Janine. They’re friends, so quickly. It’s lovely and normal. He spends the whole wedding chatting to her about her potential targets (“Can I keep you?”), because he’s nervous and making casual deductions help him to make it through. But he also actually shares something with her about himself. Sherlock Holmes loves to dance. And, to my knowledge, it’s the only activity that he’s ever expressed gives him pleasure. He plays the violin to help him think, but dancing is just for fun. And who even knew he approved of doing anything for no other reason except that it feels good? The BrOTP is strong with these two, especially when he acknowledges her whooping support of his song by tossing her his boutonniere. He’s so exposed and happy in that moment, you can feel the the other shoe just waiting for the perfect moment to drop.
I will never be able to hear “December 1963” ever again without mentally curling up in a ball. After alerting John and Mary to their pregnancy – with the most sincerely joyful smile we’ve ever seen on his face – Sherlock just deflates. Nothing tragic happens – it’s only one moment where he doesn’t know where to go or who to talk to. If this happened to any one of us, we’d pull out our phones and pretend to text until we found an in somewhere. But he’s so fragile and new to this that it feels like failure. So he leaves, with Mycroft and Mrs. Hudson’s warnings ringing in his ears. And Molly’s the only one to see him go.
- The Mary conundrum deepens in this episode, especially in her mysteriously absent family and her reaction to the telegram from “CAM.” Charles Augustus Magnussen, I presume?
- Mary’s awesomeness also deepens in this episode. She continues to play her boys like a fiddle and I worship her a whole lot.
- I will never understand why we’re expected to believe that a stone cold fox like Lestrade is single and drinking sad all of the time. “He’s a man, and good at it,” after all.
- “Your mother has a lot to answer for.” “Hm, I know. I have a list.”
- “The Sign of Three” was the second consecutive episode with a hair ruffle and I think Joel McHale has some competition for the title of Mr. Fanservice.
- “Grown-ups like that sort of thing.” “Why?” “I don’t know, I’ll ask one.” Of course, Sherlock is good with children. Because he treats them like adults and there’s nothing kids respond to more.
- If we are ever to see John’s alcoholic sister Harry, I agree with the Tumblr casting suggestion of Queen Catherine Tate.
- “He’s the most unsociable?” “Oh, Sherlock. Neither of us were the first, you know.”
- Mycroft’s workout pants. How can I go on?
- Possibly my favorite thing Sherlock’s ever said to his brother: “There should always be a specter at the feast.” Also, I need a text alert of Mycroft disgustedly drawing out the word “miiiingling.”
- Notice the subtle OTP imagery of Molly having a casual discussion while drilling into a corpse’s skull, followed by Sherlock doing the same while torching a eyestalk. MFEO, people.
- “People are basically FOND.” – Sherlock skimming the remainder of the lame telegrams.
- “And contrast is after all god’s own plan to enhance the beauty of his creation, or it would be if god were not a ludicrous fantasy designed to provide a career opportunity for the family idiot.” And then we get a reaction shot of the vicar, so I think this the work of the same cameraman who panned over to Justin Timberlake right after Madonna tongue-kissed Britney Spears at the VMAs.
- “Did I do it wrong?”
- I demand a full episode for the case of “The Hollow Client.”
- HEY, DEAN THOMAS, HEY.
- “Your previous commander, Sholto.” “Previous commander.” “I meant ‘former.'” “‘Previous’ suggests that I currently have a commander.” “Which you don’t.” “Which I don’t.” “‘Course you don’t.”
- Is this guy not aware that there are doctors in the army?
- Current sexuality:
- While there’s never enough Molly Hooper to satisfy me in any episode, Louise Brealey made the most of Molly’s embarrassed/horrified reactions to Lestrade and Tom’s bonehead theories. I don’t think Tom’s going to be around for much longer.
- Tom might be an idiot, but he’s a part of Molly’s growing confidence. I love how she challenges Sherlock now, and you can see how he respects her for it. Also, I’m taking the fact that she made a point of bringing up her sex life to see how he’d react as more confirmation that the kiss is canon.
- Good call on that Rihanna cue, because no one has found love in a more hopeless place than John and Sherlock.
- “Tall?” “Not as tall as people think.”
- I don’t know what’s better: the noise drunk John makes when he points at Sherlock or how sympathetic and sad Sherlock looks when Tessa tells her story.
- “Out of my head, I am BUSY.” What’s that you were saying about Sherlock being 100% asexual?
- “Oh, Sherlock, what do we say about coincidences?” “The universe is rarely so lazy.”
- “I could go on all night about the depth and complexity of his…jumpers.” I bet you could.
- “Imagine someone’s going to get murdered at a wedding. Who exactly would you pick?” “I think you’re a popular choice at the moment, dear.”
- Crackfic dream: Molly and Mary getting their own musical number.
- No, actually, my current sexuality is John Watson forcefully kissing his new bride before going off to be awesome.
- “Do you always carry handcuffs?” “Down, girl.”
- “How did he notice before me? I’m a bloody doctor.” “It’s your day off.”
- “Well, we can’t all three dance – there are limits.” Not in fan fiction, thank god.
- “You look sad. When you think he can’t see you.” Molly always sees. THIS HAS TO MEAN SOMETHING.
And just like that, we’re 2/3 of the way through Series 3. How do you think Sherlock’s going to take this social setback, readers? Is Mary going to break John’s heart? Will Mycroft ever lose that last 5 pounds? Leave your thoughts in the comments.