The second episode of the third season of BBC’s Sherlock, which aired on North American networks last Sunday, Jan. 26, is billed by many as a love letter to John Watson. “The Sign of Three” explores the relationship between the two leads and is expertly framed as Sherlock’s (Benedict Cumberbatch) best man speech to Watson (Martin Freeman) at his wedding reception. This is one of the best written episodes of the entire series, as it masterfully weaves together plot points from the distant past, recent past and the present into a singular continuous story surrounding Watson’s wedding.
Of course it wouldn’t be Sherlock without some sort of scandal, but the mystery of the Mayfly Man falls secondary to the exploration of the central friendship. The episode explores Watson’s marriage as marking the end of an era and chooses to simultaneously celebrate that era and acknowledge the changes to come.
Equally comedic and moving, the episode seamlessly transitions between recounts of John’s drunken stag party, planned by Sherlock — a sequence I had to watch multiple times because of its pure hilarity — and a haunting tribute to Watson as “the bravest and kindest and wisest human being” Sherlock knew. Needless to say, a few tears were shed.
While the majority of the first episode was spent catching up on what was missed over the two years, this second episode focuses more on looking forward. While nothing drastic occurs in the plot — at least drastic in terms of what we’ve come to expect from Sherlock — it serves as a sort of intermediary period for Sherlock and Watson as they transition into a series of new beginnings, in both their lives and relationships. The way that the plot weaves from various past events to the present allows both the viewers and the characters to reflect on what Watson’s marriage really means to Sherlock. The scene surrounding Sherlock’s violin composition at Watson and Mary’s reception pays perfect tribute to Sherlock as a man and Sherlock as a friend.
This entire hour and a half feels anticipatory — as if it’s a resting period in preparation for the season three finale on Feb. 2. Based on how season three is shaping up, I can only wait eagerly for “His Last Vow.”