Review: Sherlock Season Three, or a Beautifully Cinematic Presentation of Steven Moffat’s Inability to Create Permanent Plot Points


We love Sherlock. Yes, we do. During the last four years, we’ve swooned while taking in Benedict Cumberbatch’s exquisite cheekbones and marveled over how they curve over murder scene minutiae. We’ve squeed as Martin Freeman’s puppy-dog eyes search for humanity in a sociopath. And let’s not forget our pure excitement as we experienced the intrigue, the unforgettable thrill of the unlikely suspect, and the overall gorgeous visuals.

Sherlock, without question, is a phenomenal series.


There are a lot of bones to pick with season three. True, season two had its letdowns (i.e. Irene Adler and how her comparable powers of deduction in the books were skewed for the series and used mainly for sex. I’m not exaggerating. She’s made into a dom. Which, yay for sexual power, but boo for flagrant objectification and villainization of sexuality), but season three is revealing a tendency to jump the shark. And whose fault is that? I lean toward blaming Steven Moffat. I base this on his recent colossal plot holes that are currently sinking Doctor Who like the luxury space liner Titanic.

The first encounter we have with this is in episode one of this season, “The Empty Hearse.” I would attach a red banner screaming the word SPOILERS here, but there isn’t anything to spoil, considering the writing is lazy to the degree of resolving nothing. Seriously. Sherlock survived his plummet, as we all know having watched season two, and he didn’t tell Watson about his survival until an arbitrary moment two years later. How did Sherlock survive his fall? No explanation. Why didn’t Sherlock tell Watson about faking his own death? No explanation.

Yes, I understand the thematic ploy of placing us in Sherlock’s London and making us wonder how he did with the rest of the lot, but considering that the point of Sherlock Holmes is sleuthing out the impossible truth, I’m going to go ahead and call Moffat and Gatiss on lazy writing.

Spoilers follow.

However, episode three, “His Last Vow,” is where it gets ridiculous. Not only do the writers (*cough* Moffat) display a complete inability to hold themselves to permanent story lines, like keeping dead people dead (not referring to Holmes here), but they also utterly abandon the fun of Sherlock Holmes. What I mean is that they throw away the standard of creating brilliant alternate solutions that involve deduction and capture, instead resorting to typical action hero violence. When Sherlock Holmes has to solve a case by shooting a guy in the head, you know the point of the character is being ignored. You can say that he did it because he loved John all you like, but he could’ve found another way. He’s a genius, for Christssake. LAZY WRITING.

And then there was the last five minutes. I won’t spoil it for you, but the writers can’t commit to a single thing. Not death. Not exile. Not even a shift in location. It’s horribly frustrating and punctures Sherlock‘s ability to thrill. Why worry about anyone dying or going away when you know it’s going to be reversed?

Granted, I’m admittedly a little excited that they brought back a certain character, because now they can honor the books more.

Now, season three wasn’t all terrible. Episode two, “The Sign of Three,” was absolutely joyful. Sherlock giving a best man speech is hilarious in and of itself, but the framing of that episode along with its humor, terror, and tenderness is enough to soothe my fangirl rage and lull me back into the smoke and mystery of Sherlock Holmes and his trusty partner, Dr. John Watson.

Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman are drop-dead amazing in their respective roles. Their growing chemistry is palpable, honest, and mesmerizing. Additionally, Amanda Abbington (Mary Watson) is more than formidable in her acting. She’s fierce! Plus, I do have to admit that I love her character arc; no matter how crazy it became, I still adored the ever-loving crap out of it.

Finally the show is, of course, gorgeous. I don’t want the cinematography to provide an excuse for the lazy writing, but the sweeping shots of London and the feverish brightness of Sherlock’s Memory Palace are drool-worthy. I actually was physically calmed by the clear, color-saturated visuals. Like, get some scientists up in here and research that.

So, despite the disappointments, I still would urge you to watch Sherlock season three because it’s beautiful, there’s a lot of fun to be had, and there are some delightful unexpected suspects. And, who knows, maybe all of the unexplained plot points will be revisited and dealt with in the next season. I have hope.

Score: C+

One thought on “Review: Sherlock Season Three, or a Beautifully Cinematic Presentation of Steven Moffat’s Inability to Create Permanent Plot Points

  1. I couldn’t agree more. I’ve always been a big fan of BBC Sherlock since Series 1, but something about this season’s story line really didn’t gel with me.

    I think “His Last Vow” was a real low point for the show. Bringing back a dead character, yes for the better, but clearly death means nothing in BBC Sherlock and that just ruins the immersion. I thought the story of that episode itself was incredibly poor though. Plot twists that were more like a bus suddenly doing a 180 turn in mid air, you certainly notice it as a twist but its just not right. It wasn’t Sherlock Holmes to me. There were no crimes that he was solving really. There was a revenge feud, a clever newspaper baron and a knock off of V for Vendetta. That’s not Sherlock Holmes, why make such poor stories when the original books have such a wonderful wealth of material that could be used?

    Perhaps after the events of “His Last Vow” we’ll see it return to being Sherlock Holmes. I hope so. I’ve enjoyed this series, but I don’t think it has been Sherlock. A bit too much “Sherl”, not enough Holmes!

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