Monday, June 2, 2014

BBC Sherlock Season 3 Episode # 2 "The Sign of Three" - Recap and Review

Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes with Alfie Enoch as Bainbridge, the bloody guardsman in BBC Sherlock Season 1 Episode 2 The Sign of Three

At the end of The Empty Hearse”, Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) and John Watson (Martin Freeman) are back in business at 221 B Baker Street for new cases. A mysterious figure was seen, watching the recorded video of Sherlock rescuing John Watson.

Detective Inspector Greg Lestrade (Rupert Graves) and Sergeant Sally Donovan (Vinette Robinson) have been working hard to solve a series of bank robberies. Just as Lestrade is about to make the arrest, he gets a phone call from Sherlock, asking for his immediate presence at 221 B.

Overriding Sally's objections, Lestrade rushes to Sherlock's apartment with heavy backup, in attendance. Concerned by the urgent nature of Sherlock's request, Lestrade is prepared for almost any contigency.

But to his surprise, Sherlock merely asks for his assistance to draft the Best Man's Speech at the wedding of John and Mary Morstan (Amanda Abbington). This scene sets the tone for the rest of the episode: a fun and light one, featuring a Sherlock as we have never seen before.

Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman and Amanda Abbington as best man Sherlock Holmes, John Watson and Mary Morstan in BBC Sherlock Season 3 Episode 2 The Sign of Three

On the D-day, Sherlock makes a very interesting speech, comprised of recollections of previous cases and their stag night among other details.

Some of these cases include The Poison Giant, The Matchbox, The Mayfly Man, The Bloodied Soldier, The Elephant in the Room, The 3 husbands. The Poison Giant is a reference to The Sign of the Four. The Matchbox alludes to The Thor Bridge, in which Dr Watson mentions in passing about Isadora Persano.

The one involving the Mayfly Man is the most significant one from plot perspective and occupies a significant amount of screentime.

Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as Sherlock Holmes and John Watson in BBC Sherlock Season 3 Episode 2 The Sign of Three

Sherlock and John get heavily drunk during the stag night. Sherlock almost comes to blows with another bar patron. Back at 221 B, Sherlock and John play the game of 20 Questions, with Sherlock being Sherlock Holmes and John being Madonna. This scene has couple of great Canonical References via the questions asked by Sherlock.

A client, Tessa (Alice Lowe) shows up, asking for Sherlock's assistance about a mysterious man she dated. Sherlock passes out at the apartment, where the Mayfly Man dated Tessa. Sherlock and John end up in jail and are bailed out by Lestrade.

Another case is that of the Bloodied Soldier, that Sherlock leaves unsolved.

As Sherlock continues to deliver his Best Man Speech, he hits upon a clue to solve the Mayfly Man case. Sherlock discovers that the Mayfly Man is present at the wedding itself and is about to murder someone.

Martin Freeman and Amanda Abbington as John Watson and Mary Morstan in BBC Sherlock Season 3 Episode 2 The Sign of Three

Sherlock deduces that the intended victim is Major James Sholto (Alistair Petrie), John's former commanding officer. Major Sholto has been living in anonymity following the deaths of several men under his command.

Sherlock captures Sholto's potential killer, Jonathan Small (Jalaal Hartley) the substitute photographer for the wedding.

Click on the link below to buy your copy of Season 3:

Based on the novel, The Sign of the Four (SIGN), this episode has been written by Steve Thompson and directed by Colm McCarthy. Steve has made some significant changes to the original story - In SIGN, Major Sholto was the friend of Mary Morstan's father, Captain Arthur Morstan. In this adaptation, it is John who has served under Sholto. Similarly, Jonathan Small in SIGN, wanted revenge on Major Sholto and Captain Morstan for stealing the treasure that duly belonged to Small and his three Indian friends. Here, Small is hellbent on killing Sholto for the death of his brother. Small cleverly works up his way among Sholto's workforce, by dating the women as the Mayfly Man until he figures out that Major Sholto will be attending John's wedding. Small even practices his modus operandi on Bainbridge (Alfie Enoch) to make sure that his actual murder attempt on Sholto is completed successfully.

This episode is a big step up from the previous one,
The Empty Hearse.

Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes in BBC Sherlock Season 3 Episode 2 The Sign of Three

Benedict Cumberbatch gets to show his versatile acting talents to great success. Sherlock's reaction to Molly's description of her physical intimacy with her current boyfriend, Tom (Ed Birch) is hilarious. Despite taking on the role of the Best Man and delivering the speech against his own wishes, Sherlock does an amazing job.

As John Watson writes in A Scandal in Bohemia: “It was not merely that Holmes changed his costume. His expression, his manner, his very soul seemed to vary with every fresh part that he assumed. The stage lost a fine actor, even as science lost an acute reasoner, when he became a specialist in crime. Full credit to Benedict for bringing life to these immortal lines of Arthur Conan Doyle. 

Benedict's rapidfire delivery of the line: “The who, the what, the when, the why, the where?” in response to Archie's theory about the invisible man was amazing.

Benedict Cumberbatch as best man Sherlock and Yasmine Akram as Janine the bridesmaid in BBC Sherlock Season 3 Episode 2 The Sign of Three

Benedict has a good chemistry with Yasmine Akram as Janine, the bridesmaid. I liked his confession of his love for dancing and the subsequent little “dance routine he performs for her.

I also liked his quick jump over the table. He projects Sherlock's physical vitality effortlessly. As John Watson writes in The Sign of the Four:
He mounted the steps, and, seizing a rafter with either hand, he swung himself up into the garret. Then, lying on his face, he reached down for the lamp and held it while I followed him.

Martin Freeman, Una Stubbs and Amanda Abbington as John Watson, Mrs Hudson and Mary Morstan in BBC Sherlock Season 3 Episode 2 The Sign of Three

The rest of the cast get their own share of the limelight.

Rupert Graves (when he bails out Sherlock and John), Una Stubbs (while explaining her whirlwind romance with Mr Hudson to John), Louise Brealey (during the aforementioned scene with Sherlock).

Alice Lowe makes a great guest star. Hope to see more of her in the upcoming season(s).

Mark Gatiss as Mycroft Holmes in BBC Sherlock Season 3 Episode 2 The Sign of Three

However, it is Mark Gatiss who steals the show as Mycroft Holmes. His scenes with Sherlock, where he mentors him about coincidences and especially, his advice to narrow it down” were simply superb. It is a great choice to expand on Mycroft's screentime and Mark completely justifies this decision.

Click here to read all the Canonical references in the episode. 

Click here to read all my posts about BBC Sherlock.

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Image Sources: Hartswood Films, BBC Wales, Masterpiece theater

You might also like:

Canonical Nods in "The Empty Hearse"
Canonical Nods in "The Empty Hearse"
Canonical Nods in "The Sign of Three"
Canonical Nods in "The Sign of Three"


  1. I enjoyed the lighter tone of this episode too :) although I think all 3 writers were credited here...

    1. Thanks Wendy for stopping by. Yes, this was a very fun episode.

      I checked the IMDB page again. Steve Thompson has the writing credits. Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat have the producer credits as they usually do.


    2. As GK pointed out, the credits clearly spell out the names. Wish the IMDB page was as helpful.


  2. I too preferred this to episode 1 but still found it rather lightweight in comparison to series 2. I find Series 3 a little too much like a sitcom for my tastes. Both the leads were on great form here though.

    1. Yes, despite the improved episode, the third series still pales in comparison to the previous ones. And yes, both the lead actors were even better in this season.


  3. PS: I think Wendy's right and recall seeing all 3 names in the opening credits.

    1. I stand corrected. I checked the opening credits too.

      Somehow, the IMDB page is not that clear.


  4. I agree; this episode is a big step from the previous one, but It is my favorite thus far.

    1. Yes, this is one of the best episodes. I especially love the interactions between Sherlock and Mycroft, as well as Cumberbatch's performance as John's best man Sherlock.


  5. I do believe it is Mark Gatiss who always steals the show! That man is an absolute genius.

    Out of all the episodes thus far, my favorite is definitely The Sign of Three. It has a notable growth in Sherlock's maturity levels (commenting to Lestrade how he hoped he didn't go too much trouble rushing over), and it has the best of his friendship with John. I absolutely love their incarnation of Mary (BRILLIANT!), and, as we've both already said, Mycroft is genius.

    The one thing I don't quite buy is how the wounds were inflicted to commit the murder. Is that even possible to be stabbed and not know it?

    Glad you enjoyed this episode so much, and I do hope you enjoy the final episode of the season to the same degree!

    1. Agree with you, Carissa about Mark Gatiss. He is a very talented writer and actor, among many other caps he wears.

      Benedict Cumberbatch gave one of his best performances as Sherlock in this episode.

      As for the wounds, it definitely stretches the limits of credibility.

      I enjoyed "His Last Vow" and will be posting the review soon.


  6. I know that Sherlock's speech was written by Moffat. Not sure how they split up the writing otherwise.

    The's mostly the part "getting stabbed and not noticing it" I wonder about...the part with the delayed bleeding works...that's how Sissi died.