Usually a television show tries to maintain a consistent tone during its life span but, much like its main character, BBC’s Sherlock never ceases to surprise people. And, again much like its main character, those surprises aren’t always good surprises. Sherlock‘s third season took the series in a bold new direction, but forgot about what made viewers fall in love with the show in the first place.
Season 3 didn’t ease into fresh waters, it jumped into them with wild abandon. Episode 3.1 started out with a ridiculous and false explanation as to how Sherlock was still alive at the end of season 2, and how he faked his death. Apparently the creators thought that performing this trick once wasn’t enough, so the episode saw a few more explanations, all of which poked fun at fandom theories. The best example is Sherlock and Moriarty leaning in for a kiss, a reference to a part of the Sherlock fanbase that enjoys shipping these two characters. It was all very meta and a departure from seasons 1 and 2, seasons which were concerned with presenting interesting cases and having Sherlock and Watson figure them out. There was humor present, but comedy wasn’t a goal: it sprang from the friendship between Sherlock and Watson, and the chemistry between actors Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. Instead, this time around, we got various out of character moments for Sherlock and a friendship that lacked spark, despite Freeman’s wonderful performance.
Another problem was the lack of a real adversary. Moriarty was out of the picture, so one would think that coming up with a new nemesis would’ve been a priority. Apparently not: 3.1 missed the opportunity to introduce a new threat. The episode saw the return of Sherlock to London, but an important case took a backseat to the other shenanigans, reducing the presence of an evil mastermind to a brief pre-credits scene. The second episode forgot all about this man lurking in the shadows and when 3.3 finally properly introduced him, there wasn’t enough time to make him anything more than a generic villain. Instead we got a mess of an episode which bordered on the absurd, another inconsistency: seasons 1 and 2 weren’t realistic by any stretch of the imagination, but they were well conceived and well paced. Nothing was sloppily thrown into the mix, there was an attention to detail that made everything plausible and a “less is more” approach made the episodes fly by. Season 3 all too often tried to disguise this lack of depth and direction with flashy effects and dodgy camera work, but it didn’t succeed; it only made the decline in quality more apparent.
Sherlock season 3 failed to be interesting, smart and exciting. It was a dull and messy affair that buried Sherlock while it was desperately trying to celebrate the detective’s triumphant return. 4/10