After a frightening and nearly catastrophic stumble in its first episode of season three, the BBC’s “Sherlock” regained its very sound footing and came back better than ever with “The Sign of Three.” This second of three 90 minute movies literally hit the ground running Sunday night on PBS with arguably the most entertaining and wholly satisfying episode to date.
Cleverly centered around Sherlock’s (Benedict Cumberbatch) best man speech at John Watson’s (Martin Freeman) wedding, “The Sign of Three” provides both the expected and unexpected in a character driven story containing not one but two first-rate mysteries that is appropriately appalling, beautiful, amusing and thrilling. Sherlock’s painfully inept and harsh opening remarks lead to a recounting of cases smartly told through interwoven flashbacks. One involves an unsolved locked room attempted murder and the other concerns a woman who believes she went on a date with a ghost. The story also manages to take a cue from Freeman’s movie “The World’s End” by sending Sherlock and John on a morbidly epic pub crawl along a path of murder sites. And, as always, there is much more here than first meets the eye.
Cumberbatch is at his tragically awkward yet brilliant best. Though he smiles one time too many, everything is played out with such sincerity and high quality that this tiny criticism is easily dismissed. Character traits of this modern day Sherlock remain firmly rooted within the original source material and two marvelously surprising instances of his violin music spotlight that.
Amanda Abbington (Freeman’s real-life longtime partner) charmingly provides John with a smart and strong wife as Mary. Freeman convinces both Sherlock and viewers that the detective duo will remain inseparable. And Sherlock beautifully sums up John’s worth by pointing out that he “can solve your murder, but John can save your life.” Even so, the final shot ultimately and fittingly finds our hero alone. “The Sign of Three” leaves fans hungry for more yet downhearted that only one episode remains this season.