Tuesday, January 14, 2014

S3E2: The Sign of Three - Service and Set Up

John, Sherlock and the Elephant
According to iPlayer, this episode is one hour, twenty-six minutes long, the first thirty-two full of engaging often humorous moments between the characters.  It's Sherlock at his borderline personality disorder best.  

"The Sign of Three" serves a variety of functions.  It assures the fans that Sherlock and John are closer than ever.  It reveals more background of the characters and plants seeds and set-ups for Episode 3 (His Last Vow).  And it services the fans in a Sherlockian  "flirtation" with the head bridesmaid and the Johnlockian antics of the boys during a 20+ minute long version of John's bachelor party, consisting of Sherlock and John sharing a drink in every street where they have discovered a body. 

Debauchery by the numbers.
They repair back to Baker Street where John ends up on the floor between Sherlock's open knees, his hand on Sherlock's thigh.  Screencappers and photomanipulators everywhere salivated in delight.

But before this could lead to what so many insist is the inevitable conclusion to a night of lowered inhibitions between them,  a client appears.  The drunken investigation leads to Sherlock passed out with his butt high in the air for John to admire.


There is a great deal of character development and backstory in this episode and the audience would have been quite a bit happier with a case that suited this tone.  Something akin, perhaps, to Sherlock solving the disappearance of Bluebell, the glow-in-the-dark rabbit.  And, what with taking up probably two-thirds of the show with non-case activity, one would think the case, itself, would be interesting and tightly written.
sigh  Without retelling what should have been left in the bin, let's simply acknowledge that stabbing someone in the back does not produce an abdominal wound, and no matter how well-trained to ignore distraction or how tightly one wears their belt, they surely notice when they are fatally skewered.  And for a show that includes the line "What do we say about coincidence?"  "The Universe is rarely so lazy," the coincidence of the woman who once dated the murderer showing up in Sherlock's flat - are writers often so lazy, then? 

Sharing interests.

Surely, they will put Benedict up for the BAFTA for "His Last Vow."  But it will be a huge mistake.  This is the episode, the Benedict Timothy Carlton Cumberbatch Master Class in Acting as Artform.  Benedict Cumberbatch has created the most complex and truly three-dimensional character ever seen in any form of theater.   Only he could take this peripatetic version of a human by multiple authors and weave a stunningly seamless and perfectly believable character from the disparate threads he's been given.

"Why are you all doing that?  John?"
Martin Freeeman is a wonderful actor, a "Spencer Tracy for the new millenium" kind of an actor, and as fine as there is in any normal world.  But normal worlds are sometimes made extraordinary by the presence of the mysterious: that which we can hardly believe exists.  Benedict Cumberbatch, while always present to other actors, hovers just above them all, inhabiting some plane of existence in performance others only occasionally glimpse, and most don't know exists at all.

Sherlock is powerfully confident intimidating Mary's old flame and perfectly at ease treating a child as his equal.  He is confused by laughter and frightened by tears, calling out to John when his audience responds so inexplicably during his wedding speech.  Sherlock is jealous and desperate to please, he is cold, dangerous, brilliant, focused and absolutely clueless.

The BAFTA-winning moments.
He is perfectly Alpha and totally vulnerable.  Yet, he is all of a piece and not one of those things rings false for even a split second.   This role in the hands of any lesser actor would simply be a mess of contradictions.  But this actor, through intelligence and enormous talent, discipline, and inspiration, determination and courage, makes Sherlock a living breathing human being.  In reality, the Sherlocks of the world are unlovable, friendless, and never anyone's best man.  But this one, created in the genius of this actor, makes believable the mystery and miracle of love from and for Sherlock Holmes.


Rage and sarcasm and smugness don't need an actor of this caliber.   Serviettes do. In this moment and all like it, art resides.

Benedict Cumberbatch is breath-taking.   

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