It’s the last place we could ever imagine Sherlock Holmes unless some kind of really crazy case is involved. In “The Sign of Three”, Sherlock is asked to do the hardest thing he’s yet to do: write a best man’s speech at John and Mary’s wedding.
It’s a genius way to combine unusually touching moments with what fans crave most: Sherlock and John at work. Though it breaks the regular rhythm that fans are used to in Sherlock, the episode gives more of an insight into the dramatic duo’s personal lives; especially Sherlock, whose feelings have always seemed so nonexistent.
As the wedding preparations begin, Mrs. Hudson walks in on Sherlock practicing his waltz (though it’s later revealed he was instead composing a piece to perform during John and Mary’s first dance). A mysterious figure then crops up: a military friend of John that Sherlock has never heard of (James Sholto, played by Alistair Petrie). Considering his demeanor, viewers can already assume he will be involved in something sketchy sooner or later.
The episode jumps back and forth between past and present, as Sherlock recounts his favorite cases with John to the audience during the wedding reception. His speech, apart from being utterly hilarious, also touches each viewer’s heart, as the seemingly emotionless detective explains why John is his best friend and is adorably nervous at speaking to such a large crowd. It’s a side of Sherlock we never get to see, and we absolutely love it.
He then tells the case of The Bloody Soldier in great detail, as if baffles him as much as his audience. It features the Queen’s guardsman who was suspicious that a photographer was stalking him, and was later found dying in the locker room shower with a wound in his side. Only an invisible killer could have pulled it off, as the door was locked from the inside, and Sherlock urges the others to draw their own explanations. Though he seems to be frustrated at the unsolved case, however, he brings the topic back to John, explaining how preoccupied his friend was with the dying man’s life, and how grateful Sherlock was for his selflessness.
Perhaps one of the greatest scenes in Sherlock history then takes place, as we watch the crime-solvers get drunk out of their minds. Their wasted alter-egos prove to be the funniest side of them viewers have yet to see; Sherlock throws up in the middle of trying to solve a case and John can only giggle in response.
Things get serious, however, as Sherlock realizes that the bloody soldier’s killer is the photographer that had been stalking him–and that it’s the same man that is presently documenting John’s wedding. A chase ensues, as the two know that Sholto is in danger, and go to his hotel room. Turns out the photographer (the “Mayfly Man”) had killed the soldier by using the soldier’s belt as a weapon, inserting a dagger into his side which made it lethal only when removed. He had used the soldier as a test for his real victim (Sholto), and Sherlock has to convince the man to not take off his belt and end his life–not at John’s wedding.
Once the mystery is solved, the after party commences, and Sherlock plays his beautiful waltz during John and Mary’s dance. As he takes “his last vow”, however, he reveals a bit too much in saying he will protect “all three of them”. He’d already put together the puzzle and deduced that Mary was pregnant with John’s baby. As viewers try and recover from this sudden news, Sherlock searches for someone to dance with, but later leaves the party and disappears into the night.
The episode, though lacking a definite purpose, was a personal favorite of mine, if only because of the superb character development involved. It’s hard to think, however, that the season finale is right around the corner, and producers will have to wrap up the entire season in an hour and a half after such anti-climactic events. Fans can only hope that the finale is something that will hold them over until the next season, perhaps a decade or longer, or maybe until Steven Moffat decides to give us more of our favorite BBC crime show. Score: 10/10.
Nataly Capote/A&E Editor