Sherlock 3×02 Review: The Sign of Three


The following article may contain spoilers.

The middle episode of Sherlock seasons is traditionally less connected to the general plot and framed more as a standalone episode. We had The Blind Banker and The Hound of Baskerville before this and while there were bits at the end of each that teased the seasons big bad, the rest of the plot had very little to do with it. This stand alone focused on John Watson’s wedding, much to the chagrin of those who aren’t fans of the Mary/John relationship, but to the pleasure of those who have welcomed her with open arms. It was primarily a character driven episode that gave us insight into how John, Sherlock, and Mary will work as a trio moving forward. I feel that it sets them up with a lot of hope, even though there is a bit of loneliness on Sherlock’s end.

At the wedding Sherlock once again seems to have a habit of working his way into John’s personal moments with his partners at times that others would deem inappropriate. When the photographer attempts to take a photograph of the bride and groom Sherlock doesn’t take the clue to leave the scene and sticks around as though he should be part of the moment. It takes a more direct approach to get him to quite literally step out of the picture. This is a behavior that’s been around since The Blind Banker when he makes himself a surprise third on John’s date with Sarah. It can be interpreted as simply not understanding ‘people’ or a bit of awkwardness at not being the most important thing in John’s life at that exact moment. I choose to interpret it as the latter. For a long time Sherlock was the most important thing in John’s life, but during his two year absence Mary has appeared. She’s not like John’s other girlfriends, though. She’s much more important to him and while Sherlock seems to recognize that, he doesn’t quite know how to react.

SOT2Sherlock’s best man speech quite predictably makes the entire crowd uncomfortable, but I honestly wouldn’t have had it any other way.  It was pitch perfect and very ‘Sherlock.’  It began with a technical deduction of the situation filled with awkwardness and Sherlockian rudeness, but it wrapped up with Sherlock accurately conveying just how important John is in his life.  It made me tear up just like all the characters on screen were doing, though Sherlock is obviously quite confused about how his simple stating of facts can cause people to get so emotional.  The speech also emphasized Sherlock’s acceptance of Mary in John’s life, which isn’t something that he really has a habit of doing with John’s partners.  He typically resents John’s girlfriends very openly, but he seems to actually like Mary to some degree.  He likes her as much as Sherlock is capable of liking people other than John.  I read his acceptance of her as genuine.  Mary is important to John and John is important to Sherlock, therefore he took great efforts to give her a chance and seems to genuinely like her by the time the wedding happens.

The episode not only affirms that Sherlock has mostly accepted Mary, but gives Mary a chance to win over the hearts of segments of fandom that hadn’t already embraced her. Mary plays John and Sherlock off one another in an attempt to get them out of the flat and onto a case. It works. The two take off on a case together without Mary proving that their adventures together can continue even with her presence in their lives. Mary understands their need for one another and instead of reacting with jealousy as previous girlfriends have done, she fosters their relationship. But she doesn’t just blindly step out of the way and slip into the shadows. When Sherlock reveals that he can tell who hates her simply by looking at how they seal their envelopes she asks him to tell her more. Like John, she is impressed by Sherlock’s skill and understands his need to show off. And hey, she gets something out of it too. She can place all the people who hate her in the worst possible seats. Mary and Sherlock’s friendship is blossoming and it warms my heart.

SOT4The episode’s plot seemed slow and a bit off for a good portion of it, focusing primarily on character driven scenes than any actual plot points, but about an hour into it things clicked and the story took hold. I knew from the trailers for the episode that there would be action at the wedding, but I hadn’t quite expected them to drag it on for quite so long before kicking into gear. When the case finally gets underway shortly before the end of the episode we see Mary jumping into the fray right alongside John and Sherlock. While standing at the door the three bounce off one another in what seems to be a workable crime solving trio. As next week is our finale, I’m not sure if we’ll have much of a chance to see this new dynamic develop, but it could prove quite interesting if it were given time to grow.

The episode overall was also quite silly. We had John and Sherlock performing drunken crime solving, the aforementioned awkward yet touching best man speech, and the surprise interruption in the wedding that saved a man’s life. But it was also incredibly sentimental at times. The ending in particular caused me a lot of emotions. In typical Sherlock fashion he deduces that Mary is pregnant before she or John are aware of it. Sherlock seems flustered by his own deduction, but vows to protect them with his life. This further cements that Sherlock is part of their family unit. However, when the bride and groom have their dance and everyone else on the dance floor pairs off, Sherlock is left alone. His confusion and look of rejection was heartbreaking.

SOT3While Sherlock is certainly an essential part of both John and Mary’s life now, sometimes he will have to let them have a husband and wife moment. Likewise Mary will sometimes have to step aside to let them solve a case on their own. Mary seems to accept stepping aside a bit easier than Sherlock does, but for Sherlock, John is pretty much his lifeline. He even says so himself. “I will solve your murder, but John Watson will save your life.” John keeps Sherlock grounded and without him he seems a bit lost. Sharing John Watson is going to be a struggle for him, but given time the trio should be able to make it work. Time, however, is not something Sherlock fans have. We only have an hour and a half more story to wrap up the season.

Overall I very much enjoyed this episode, but I can see how for those that dislike Mary it would be an absolute nightmare. The episode essentially sets up Mary as a workable part of John and Sherlock’s lives and has endeared me to her even more than I already was. I appreciate that her inclusion does not erase John and Sherlock’s powerful relationship. I appreciate that she accepts it, fosters it, and can both step out of the way and be a part of the action as the need arises. In my eyes Mary is perfect, but Sherlock’s loneliness on those rare moments when he has to step out of the way stings a lot. But for John Watson he seems to be willing to learn how to deal with it. For John he would learn how to do anything.

Author: Angel Wilson

Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. They earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. They have contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. They’ve also written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. They identify as queer.


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8 thoughts on “Sherlock 3×02 Review: The Sign of Three

  1. I loved Mary in the first episode and am looking forward to watching this one. I find it very unfortunate that people will let a ship get in the way of enjoying their show just because things aren’t going their way.

    1. It is unfortunate. I don’t even thing she really “gets in the way” of John and Sherlock at all. Sherlock is a bit dejected at the end, but there’s so much potential for them to work together as a trio. I don’t view her as a problem, but some people disagree.

      -Admin Angel

      1. It’s really amusing how fangirls will talk about feminist issues and gender equality, but let a women get in between a slash ship and the claws come out!

        1. Agreed. Thankfully the anti-Mary crowd is a lot smaller than I was predicting. Nobody I’m following on Tumblr or Twitter has said a bad word about her. I’ve only come across hate in the tags and even that is pretty minimal. I’m pleasantly surprised.

          -Admin Angel

  2. Don’t know why some fans are against Mary…..this might come across as rude to some (that’s not my intention), but as far as Tv show canon goes (till now) John is not gay. I’m not saying he might not be in love with Sherlock, but that love is different and i really liked that Mary understood that kind of love and instead of being jealous she actually allowed him to partner with Sherlock….there’s no denying that John is also the most important thing in Sherlock’s life (and maybe now Mary is on the list as well, but not that high)…the connection that John and Sherlock share is real, the tv show acknowledges it, the characters acknowledge it…so why can’t we be like Mary and understand that instead of disliking her for coming in between a ship…and not just coming in between, but marrying John (you can’t come between harder that that 😉

    So, yeah, i hope i got my point across…in the tv show: the bond is there, but it’s different from the (how do i put this?) homosexual bond that some fans want….but it’s true that the bond is eternal (has been there since the creation of these characters by ACD and other incarnations)…so why not appreciate that fact and enjoy the show and try and understand what the characters share? Maybe that’s what the writers wanted to show too with Mary being all understanding, etc

    On another note, i know the season will likely end in a cliffhanger, i just hope it’s not one where Sherlock has to chose between saving John or Mary life, or John having to chose between Mary and Sherlock. (have a feeling the writers might go there…they evil 😉

  3. I think the anti-Mary sentiment was always a minority, even among shippers. I should know, my girlfriend is one! And even then, it was before we’d actually seen Mary in action. I don’t think fear that a romance will ruin the dynamic of a show is something that is specific to shippers either. Quite often it does ruin a show. Look at House. The House/Cuddy thing absolutely destroyed what used to be one of my favourite shows.
    I think Sherlock has done it right. Mary is lovely, and supportive and funny. And most importantly she understands how much Sherlock and John need each other in their lives, even if most other women would find it a bit weird! There’s nothing for any viewer to worry about there, be it shipper, bromancer or simply a classic Holmes & Watson solve cases together fan like my father. I’m more a combination of the latter 2.
    The lightness of this episode (combined with the final shot of Sherlock) makes me worry what’s coming next though. I think the series will end on a pretty devastating note.

    1. I agree entirely. I’m typically not a fan of typical heterosexual romances on screen, but they did it beautifully. I’m a fan.

      I’m definitely afraid about the next episode. I don’t know much about what’s coming (despite having written articles on spoilers), but I know what the creators of the show are like and I’ve seen them in interviews. I’d brace for tears. I expect it to be rough.

      -Admin Angel

  4. Honestly, I just found this to be the best episode of Sherlock yet. It was a perfect balance of hilarious interactions and poignant speeches that perfectly encapsulated why these two are the best of friends. Who knew that my favorite episode of Sherlock would be the one where the mystery (or in this case, mysteries) was a mere B-plot.

    Plus I loved that this season has shown a more emotionally vulnerable Sherlock. I admit to being a little skeptical of the first two seasons (while certainly still loving it), due to the sheer invincibility of Sherlock. That final scene where Sherlock leaves the party after failing finding to dance way was a smart of showing the problems that comes with being Sherlock Holmes. While he may be ridiculously clever, his insane level of thinking makes it really hard for him connect with others and vice versa.

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