The Watsons Get Hitched! Sherlock‘s “The Sign of Three”

Well. That might be the funniest and most heart-rending hour and half of television I’ve ever watched.

Seriously, I think I’m going to cry. But that is what happens at weddings, right?

Spoilers for “The Sign of Three.” Comments may also include spoilers for the rest of the season.

Sherlock, The Sign of Three, John

To attempt to make this all work out in a short recap, I’ll try to be as linear as possible. Sherlock helps John and Mary plan their wedding, but starts getting nervous because Mrs. Hudson is insistent that marriage will change everything. This seems less than likely as Mary and Sherlock are conning John into going on cases by making John think that he and Mary are conning Sherlock into going out on cases. It is the sweetest thing.

The case they go out on features a young guard at the palace who thinks he’s being stalked by someone who keeps taking pictures of him. He’s played by Alfie Enoch, who was Dean Thomas in the Potter films. Dean Thomas is found stabbed in impossible circumstances, and presumed dead until John realizes that he’s still breathing. Sherlock has no idea how he was hit—case unsolved.

Sherlock, The Sign of Three, John

Sherlock, The Sign of Three, John

Sherlock, The Sign of Three, John

Sherlock, The Sign of Three

The next case crops up during John’s stag night, which is just John and Sherlock and oh my god, that’s amazing, why did they decide that it would be a good idea for just the two of them to go out, John, do you have any real friends? Sherlock has the whole thing down to a literal science (that he worked out with Molly’s help, bless), which is awfully sweet of him until John ruins it by slipping them both shots with their beer. They get comically wasted (GO HOME, SHERLOCK, YOU’RE DRUNK), play the twenty-questions game to staggering results, then get a client but fall asleep in the middle of her story. She wakes them to explain that she had an affair with a ghost, and they go to said ghost’s flat. Then Sherlock wanders around in a drunken haze and vomits on the ghost’s carpet. John and Sherlock wake up in lockdown and are bailed out by Lestrade.

Stay classy, Greg. Oh so classy.

John and Mary’s wedding arrives. It would seem that Sherlock screened all of their guests and had talks with anyone who might become a problem (such as an ex-boyfriend of Mary’s and the ring bearer). He makes his best man speech, which starts out a mess and rapidly becomes the most moving declaration of love and well wishes that a friend could give, which is more impressive because he’s Sherlock Holmes and not good at any of those things. He tells the guests about those former cases, all the while praising John for saving lives and being the person who keeps him on track. John hugs him, which Mary was supposed to keep him from doing, but she knows better because she’s perfect.

Sherlock, The Sign of Three, John

Then Sherlock realizes that a murder is going to take place at the wedding.

So he waylays his best man speech while he makes his deductions among the crowd and finds that John’s old army commander is the target. (He got a troop of young men killed years back and receives regular death threats.) Sherlock then realizes that all their cases have been connected; the “ghost” was dating women in the commander’s employ to find out where he would be, then rehearsed his murder on the poor guard. He’s the wedding photographer. His mode of murder was stabbing through the uniform, something that the victims didn’t notice until they removed their belts and began to bleed out. (Not sure if that actually works, but who cares?) John’s ex-commander goes into his room and decides that he will die there, but Sherlock talks him out of it—they would never do that to John Watson on his wedding day.

Sherlock, The Sign of Three, John, Major Reed

The detective plays his self-composed wedding waltz for the happy couple, then makes a very important vow to protect the both of them. Or rather, the three of them. He reveals to the couple that Mary is pregnant. While everyone dances the night away, he walks off into the night.

We continue to see Sherlock loosen up emotionally, and the ways in which that makes him more vulnerable than he used to be. He forms a fast friendship with Mary’s Maid of Honor—he becomes her wingman, even reveals to her that he loves dancing and happens to know a bit too much about ballet (please tell me he took lessons as a wee one)—but after he sets her up and finds himself abandoned on the dance floor, he quickly excuses himself from the reception. It’s heartbreaking to watch him make the effort and still find himself the odd man out, but it’s also realistic for any person who finds themselves awkward and outcast in the company of strangers.

Sherlock, The Sign of Three, Jeanine

We get an even firmer grasp of John and Sherlock as the unbeatable duo, the ways in which they have still yet to show just how much they matter to each other. We find out that Sherlock is not the first abrupt, difficult man John has tied himself to; his old commander is what we might call Consulting Detective Version 1.0. It’s that similarity that allows Sherlock to get through to him when Major Sholto is thinking of letting himself die—they’re both honorable men who love John Watson.

On the detective’s end, his place in this refitted life is even more foggy. Sherlock’s more protective of John than ever, as we can see from his careful consideration about every aspect of the wedding; Sherlock of prior seasons would have never made himself available to this task at all. His confusion in trying to figure out who John’s best friend (and best man) might be is hilarious—he drinks tea with an eye in it!—but also depressing as all get out. For him to know that the man wanted him back from the dead, to hear that declaration in the bomb-rigged tube car during “The Empty Hearse,” and still not know that he is the most important person in John’s life next to Mary speaks volumes about just how off-base his understanding of human relationships still is.

Sherlock, The Sign of Three

Sherlock has so far to go—so thank goodness Mary Morstan is there now to help him. Because damn, if this woman has not immediately figured out exactly who both of these men are, exactly how the three of them fit together, and what each of them needs individually to be happy. She is the one who knows that Sherlock can solve the case at their wedding because its emotionally immediate—something no one has managed to articulate to him before. And the moment that Sherlock tries to shut her down out of fear, John calls him out on his bullshit and he pulls it together. Hell yeah, Team Baker Street!

Really, this episode is such a whirlwind, and I can’t complain about a thing. It’s full of love and hilarity and drunken adventures. I am probably going to watch it another eighty times before I can let it go.

Sherlock, The Sign of Three, Mary

Things to talk about that would make this review too long, so I’ll just shout out to them:

  • We saw Sally Donovan! And she seems totally fine and still on her game. Which is great, but can we ever find out exactly what made her hate Sherlock so much in the first place? Because there still seems to be unexplained stuff going down there.
  • WHERE ARE MY ENDLESS GIFS OF MYCROFT ON A TREADMILL?

Sherlock, The Sign of Three, Mycroft

  • Mycroft tells his little brother to remember Redbeard—are we meant to guess that this was Sherlock’s name when he was small and wanted to be a pirate? Because too cute, send help, forgot how to breathe….
  • We finally find out what the deal was with Mrs. Hudson’s husband. Wow. Mrs. Hudson, you are so hardcore. You will still be at Baker Street long after everyone has gone because you are indestructible. (And you have the greatest hat.)

Sherlock, The Sign of Three, Mrs. Hudson

  • Harry Watson, where are you? I will never be happy until we meet you. It’s important.
  • Sherlock organizes things in a head-theater. Of course he does. It makes the Mind Palace look like a tiny spanner in the middle of a vast toolkit.
  • Mary can tell when Sherlock is lying. Mary, you have to stop being so wonderful. Stop.

Sherlock, The Sign of Three, Mycroft

  • Sherlock has a head-Mycroft. YES. This makes all the sense. We’re getting the impression more and more that Mycroft is responsible for training Sherlock’s brain the way we see it now. (Oh my god, their childhood. The more we get a sense of it, the more awed/terrible I feel.) So when Sherlock can’t quite reach answers, the Mycroft in his head pushes him in the right direction. This is probably the real reason why he thinks of him as “his arch enemy”—his big brother is always the part of his mind that crops up when he’s out of his depth.

Sherlock, The Sign of Three, Irene

  • Sherlock has a head-Irene. Who distracts him when he is trying to work. *giggles*
  • That explicit dialogue reference to “The Sign of Four” where Sherlock tells John that he “cannot congratulate” him on his marriage, which is exactly what Holmes said in the canon. Such a lovely tip of hat, along with the upturned meaning of The Sign of Three for this tale.
  • Other favorite canon reference—the cigarettes in the persian slipper instead of tobacco. At least we know he’s not sashing the more serious stuff there.

Sherlock, The Sign of Three

  • Poor Molly. Her embarrassment over Tom’s stumble is just precious; it doesn’t look like her Sherlock replacement is working, despite her assurances. And I would like her to make Sherlock uncomfortable by talking about sex all the time.
  • Ugh, it was just pointed out to me that Mrs. Hudson tells Sherlock that story early on about her Maid of Honor saying that her marriage to Mr. Hudson marked the “end of an era” and how the woman left early during her wedding reception, which is EXACTLY WHAT SHERLOCK DID. And now I’ll never be cheerful again.

And now to things that worry me: While it’s sweet that John and Mary are expecting, this set off my warning bells for the new Mrs. Watson. First off, it’s rare that shows deal with the everyday minutiae that’s involved in baby-raising unless that’s part of the point of the show. We know from Sherlock’s deductions that Mary is a liar about something, and we also know that whoever was threatening John’s life in the last episode directed their attack at her; she was the one who received the scary texts, not Sherlock. In addition, Mary Morstan was not with John Watson forever in the canon; we know that he buries her, though Doyle never explained the nature of her death. We also know that the title of the next episode is “His Last Vow,” likely relating to the vow that Sherlock just made at the wedding to be there for the Watsons at all costs. Moffat has also promised that the cliffhanger for this season is going to be more of a doozy than what we suffered in 2012.

UPDATE: In additon, one of the wedding telegrams came from someone named CAM. So Charles Augustus Magnusson, likely. It’s the telegram where Mary’s called “poppet” and the sender says “Wish you family could have seen this.” You assume Mary’s face falls at mention of her family… but it’s probably not that. Not even close.

Sherlock, The Sign of Three, John, Mary

Which makes me very concerned that Mary’s life might be in jeopardy. And the tiny Watson as well.

Ugh, I don’t know that I can make it to next week. Help?


Emily Asher-Perrin lived her whole life for the moment when John Watson asked Sherlock Holmes if he was a pretty lady. You can bug her on Twitter and read more of her work here and elsewhere.

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