Sherlock Season 3 Review

Spoiler Alert: While I will avoid spoiling events of this season, I am going to assume that if you’re reading this, you are familiar with the events of the past two seasons.  If you haven’t seen the first two seasons of Sherlock, then the short version of this review is as follows: go watch Sherlock right now.  Seriously, stop what you’re doing and go watch it.  Stop reading this review, close out of this window, and go watch it.  Are you back, yet?  OK, then let’s get on with the review.

For those of you reading this in Great Britain, yes, I know season 3 wrapped in the UK about a week ago, but I wasn’t able to get this review out then, so I figured I should at least talk about the season before it airs in America…and what a season it was.  It’s not often that a show can maintain the same level of quality throughout its lifespan (you need look no further than Dexter to see that) but Sherlock is one of those shows that manages to stay just as intriguing and just as exciting in every season.  Although it isn’t flawless, Sherlock is without doubt one of the best shows on TV right now and for good reason.  The writing is fantastic, the acting is phenomenal (in particular Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayal of Sherlock Holmes), and the source material is expertly adapted to suit modern times.  Season 3 carries on that tradition for the most part, but there are some things that I feel keep it from being as good as the last two seasons.

My greatest concern going into this season of Sherlock was how they were going to explain how Sherlock survived his fall at the end of the last season.  Trying to explain how someone survived their apparent death can be extremely difficult and, if you don’t do it correctly, it can come off as just being a ridiculous excuse to bring back some character.  Fortunately, the explanation behind Sherlock’s “demise” made sense and, even if it wouldn’t have worked in real life, it was believable enough for me to buy it.  Granted, it takes quite a while from them to actually explain everything, but regardless I could tell that the writers put a great deal of thought into explaining things when they were putting the script together.  The same could be said for the rest of the script this season; the writing is just as good as it has been in the last two.  That being said, it does take the focus away from the crime-solving aspect of the show in favor of further developing the relationship between Sherlock and Watson.  Although, there are still crimes to be solved this season, most of the first two episodes is dedicated to its main characters.  While I don’t feel that it was poorly executed (I think just the opposite–it was nice to see a more human side of Sherlock this time around) it took away from some of the intrigue that the last two seasons had in spades.

However, the final episode introduces the main villain of the season Charles Augustus Magnussen, a man who deals in blackmail and served as an excellent replacement for Moriarty with a presence that just might rival that of Sherlock’s old foe.  Episode 3 is when the plot really starts to get interesting (not that the first two weren’t interesting) as Sherlock must, once again, use all of his skills to take down one of the greatest threats he has ever faced.  Indeed, the episode managed to deliver some truly exciting moments as well as some plot twists that I don’t think you’ll see coming (What else would you expect from Stephen Moffat?).  This episode kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time and I was wondering how they were going to carry things over into the next season.  But, as it turned out, the season had an ending that I thought could have been better.  Don’t get me wrong, it got me excited to see season 4, but it really made season 3 feel less like the beginning of a new story arc and more like a mere set up for next season.

Sherlock season 3 is a welcome return to Baker Street with the same great writing and acting of the previous two seasons.  It had plenty of memorable moments, did a much better job with the middle episode than has been in the past, and had an ending that will be sure to keep people wanting to see what happens next.  But, at the same time, the choice to put a greater focus on Sherlock and Watson’s relationship early on took away from some of the intrigue that the show is known for (though the final episode partly made up for this) and, as such, it took the season a longer time to establish the main conflict.  In the end, I suppose the best way to describe season 3 is a natural progression without escalation.  While the character development and story feel like a natural continuation of what had been done the previous season, there was no sense of escalation in terms of the main villain.  Sure Magnussen was an imposing figure and sure, he posed a great threat, but because he wasn’t introduced until the final episode, he wasn’t able to establish himself enough to feel like a greater threat than Moriarty.  Despite my few complaints though, I enjoyed season 3 immensely.  The advancements made with the characters’ relationships and the short time with Magnussen was well worth any problems this season had.  If you haven’t already, I highly recommend you watch season 3 of Sherlock; it’s an experience you won’t want to miss.


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