Monday, January 13, 2014

A Negative Review: Sherlock Series 3 Sucks


Sherlock recovered. Sherlock did not.

Undoubtedly, Steven Moffat's most consistent failure as the producer of Sherlock is his total inability to let characters face the consequences of their actions. In and of itself, this would not be a ruinous flaw (it is still a pretty bad one), but unfortunately, Steven Moffat is also fairly talented at writing characters into corners from which they cannot possibly escape. The point of raising the stakes in a given show is to give the action resonance; in this regard, Sherlock has had several highlights – during the first episode, where Sherlock is about to swallow a deadly pill; in the third episode, where Watson is made to wear a suicide vest; and in the sixth episode, where Sherlock fakes his death. As the audience comes to see the consequences of these actions, all of those consequences contribute in some meaningful way to the emotional resonance that comes with such high tension and stakes. However, with the onset of series 3, this completely stops being the case.

Moffat has a thing or two to learn about high stakes and dramatic resolution – you can't simply raise the stakes in one episode, siphon the corresponding rise in tension for (the intended) effect, but then forget to follow through later on. And by saying all of this, I am trying to show that it's insulting to the audience when a character who just pretended to kill himself and not tell anyone can immediately reconcile with his best friend, whom he kept out of the loop for two years, and avoid any sort of emotional complication. But maybe this is just a John Watson thing, because the latter is the same man who also immediately forgives his serial killer wife without so much as a second thought. Going further, we observe also that Sherlock wears plot-armor when he murders Magnussen, because his exile is rescinded (according to himself) 4 minutes after it begins – and in a true twist of irony, it is so rescinded because Moffat decides he doesn't like the idea of Moriarty being gone from the show anymore, despite having killed him, and, as a result, the build up and resolution of the series 1 and 2 villain is destroyed. It's just such garbage. Characters forget all the nasty things they've done to each other at a moment's notice, and there is no continuity between the episodes on an emotional level. And worst of all, it's become the status quo – so much so that fans of the show are overlooking things in favor of Benedict Cumberbatch playing drunk for a few minutes.

But enough with the structural bullshit; let's have a look at the plot lines on a more basic level. The first episode of the third series is fine, more or less, aside from the deus ex machina ending – and honestly, who really cares, because Sherlock Holmes is the corporeal manifestation of the term anyway. In fact, the first episode is actually quite good – even though it allots most of its time poking fun at the fans of the show, knowing such jokes will be lost on viewers a few years from now, the episode still manages some interesting scenes, with a good bit of character stuff for Watson and his wife, then later Lestrade and Mrs. Hudson and the rest of the cast. The point here is that in lieu of giving the viewer a detective story, the first episode of series 3 at least gives the viewer something

This cannot be said of episodes 2 and 3. The physiological impossibility of the would-be murder, which makes up the crime of episode 2, is so absurd that it escapes description – and clearly, up until that second episode, Sherlock was a show that knew how to handle impossible-to-explain scenarios: don't bother. Yet, long after the viewer has guessed the target, as well as the rest of the relevant information, Sherlock goes into another tirade that no one still around still cares to hear, and the whole thing ends up reeking of poor planning – why is it that the crime/mystery component of a detective show is relegated to the last 20-30 minutes? Perhaps the saving grace of the second episode is that, indeed, no one really cares about Major Sholto, so no one questions the implausibility and unnecessary level of complexity of the whole scheme to murder him. And it's not as if Sherlock is incapable of delivering interesting characters and quickly letting the audience familiarize – as far as the first and second episode of series 3 are concerned, Mary Watson is a pretty good character. Instead, what we're left with is some bizarre dubstep remix of the main theme, and editing so choppy it seems to symbolize Moffat's nervous breakdown; seriously, what the hell is up with using the main theme with some stock Windows Movie Maker transition to go between scenes?

The pinnacle of disappointment in series 3, however, comes in the form of the third episode. It's pointless to focus on such plot holes as why Magnussen's men frisk Sherlock and Watson in the latter's apartment, yet miss the gun permitting the plot to advance in the second encounter; yes, it's unnecessary to focus in on the fact that Mary could have merely knocked Magnussen out before shooting Sherlock to avoid having to do the latter entirely; and certainly, I could go on, but the list is probably as long as Mary Watson being a serial killer is ridiculous. Instead, let's consider the idiocy of Magnussen's plan: we are shown that Mycroft's men (and women? That lady who's in charge? The show never bothers) are aware of Sherlock's involvement in the Magnussen ordeal. Supposing Magnussen is as important to Mycroft as he says, then assumably, the MI6 would keep close tabs on Sherlock and his doings – and yet, despite this being as blatantly obvious as it is, Magnussen manages to foresee Sherlock's entire plan, yet gloss over the fact that being the media mogul he is, and even by his own admission, he has no credibility nor proof with which to implicate Sherlock in his national secrets blackmailing-scheme. Who would believe Magnussen? Who would support Magnussen? The squad of MI6 operatives, under the sole discretion of Mycroft, who has no reason to back Magnussen up? Clearly, the latter can already have any one of these characters killed, but apparently doesn't care all that much because even after learning that Mary Watson is the assassin, he does nothing – and similarly, "nothing" is what would happen if Sherlock had merely let Magnussen live; Mycroft  is the most powerful man in the U.K., so surely he has the power to forego charges in the event that Magnussen miraculously manages to prove anything actually took place (a mere 20 minutes before this, Mycroft exercises a similar power when he instructs 3 characters to "forget they ever saw anything"). With that in mind, what did Magnussen really want? To urinate into a fireplace and poke Watson in the face? Why does he care, at all? Why do we? Why did Sherlock even have to kill Magnussen then, in front of everyone, if he was never going to jail anyway? What was the rush? Magnussen had the potential to be the sole villain to ever beat Sherlock, but ended up becoming a cardboard cutout of a Bond villain.

In truth, Magnussen is only even a villain because Sherlock tells us so; he is bad because people say he's bad. There is not a single scene showing him blackmailing anyone, except for some odd bits of humiliation. The worst thing he does is place Watson in a bonfire, but considering the history of this show, this hardly qualifies him as an evil-doer in the face of Moriarty and serial-killer-cabby. Certainly, Magnussen is a  bad guy, but is having the means to blackmail someone necessarily indicative of the eventuality of doing so? An entire episode (series 2, episode 1) revolved around such a character, who had an unrealistic amount of power, yet never once used it – how is Magnussen any different? Why is Magnussen so bad? Why does Sherlock hate him so much? Magnussen is merely a plot-induced villain acting as some kind of amalgamation for all of Moffat's unused villain tropes: a more literal use of the then-cool visual cellphone interface, a sociopathic stare, enormous wealth, and an empty room that everyone expected to be full of stuff (oh, by the way, Moffat, nice going, you idiot – where does Magnussen keep all his nebulous memorabilia, such as the letters?). In fact, compared to Sherlock, Magnussen seems quite the saint: Sherlock lies to everyone he meets, forces an apology out of someone at bomb-point (then laughs about it), sees other characters as tools, and constantly talks about not caring for anyone else in the world. Basically, it's underwhelming to have a sociopath label another character a sociopath and expect it to carry weight.

Anyway, add to this the character assassination of Sherlock having a girlfriend, the fact that we're going to have to deal with a baby in the next series, and you come to realize that Magnussen is the embodiment of Steven Moffat and that fireplace he urinates all over is actually the show.

32 comments:

  1. Thank you.
    No seriously, it feels like this show has slipped into the mire and nobody had taken notice. There are so many fans out there shouting that this was the best series by far that I sometimes wonder if I watched something else by accident.
    The visual direction/dream sequences/mind palace/childhood symbolism rubbish was so abstract and so very DIFFERENT from anything in the previous seasons that at first I was sure they'd changed productions directors or writers.
    To watch a 'touchy feely' episode verging on a rom com and hear the protagonist declare himself a sociopath minutes later... Look it up on wikipedia people - its only the start of the nonsense.
    The most impressive deduction done this season was performed by a homeless drug addict *sigh*

    ReplyDelete
  2. I wanted to see a crime being solved and not imagining Sherlock (which many women imagined Benedict and not Sherlock) having a boner in the bath with his girl and Watson watching like a dumb one. Sir Conan Doyle, would be turning in his grave by now with season 3 of Sherlock. Too much marriage stuff and too much personal stuff. Mary should've been killed off, so as to keep the wheels turning for Sherlock & Watson do some crime solving. Alas !!! this turned out to be a soap opera & not a clean detective series.

    ReplyDelete
  3. THANK YOU. I am so glad I'm not the only one who thought this series (especially the finale!) was so so weak. Moffat writes like a schizophrenic at times, I swear.

    ReplyDelete
  4. The show tries too hard for comedy, instead of solving crimes and showing us how quickly the mind of Sherlock works. The resolution from end of prior season was not believable. I turned off the TV after the first 60 minutes and will no longer waste my time watching future episodes. Solve that mystery Sherlock...

    ReplyDelete
  5. Nice to see some enlightened individuals for a change, and yes unfortunately the last season of Sherlock was so bad it is indicative of how British TV is becoming Americanised, who now cares for plot and story when you have special effects and twists to the incoherent plot. It is a dumbing down of society and the fact that only a small hand full of people object to this tripe proves my point.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If you hadn't noticed, Moffat is not American, and he's always been a crappy writer. One look at Jekyll will reveal his generic template, in all its glory (or is that ignominy). Moffat wrote Coupling, an awful romcom. And don't get me started on how he has damaged Doctor Who beyond repair.

      Let's address the real problem, Moffat is a hack. He didn't get that from America, he got it from being talentless.

      Delete
  6. Moffat is and always has been about style. He simply does not care about plot and character development. Unfortunately he is not alone in that.
    That's why I watch more and more old movies and less and less new TV.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Agreed. Although I did like episode 2, structurally it was pleasing, but 1 and 3 were spazzy cut-and-paste jobs. More focus on a case, please! Let the cute adorn a well-formed case, not have the case adorn all the cutesy stuff. Understatement of feelings is way sexier, it's what drew me to Sherlock. All the harping on "friends" "friends" "friends <3" Maybe real friends do that all the time, I wouldn't know, I don't have any real friends and maybe I don't have any real friends because I can't go around oo-la-la-ing my "friends <3 friends <3 friends <3". But then, that's all the more reason I was attracted to Sherlock in the first place.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thank you for writing this. You touched on most everything I despised about this past season.

    The thing that irritated me most was that they should NOT have developed character relationships. The show thrived so well on it's premise- a high functioning sociopath and an adrenaline addicted man out tackling cases. All this relationship stuff completely ruined the season, not to mention it all felt so sloppily pieced together. Just stick to the damn cases, no need to delve further into the characters- they're meant to be just as they were created, not develop into some love stricken characters out of a Shakespearean tragedy.

    Sherlock wasn't being Sherlock anymore. And oh do I agree on the girlfriend bit- I'm not one of those "tumblr fandom" types but it honestly annoyed me that they had Sherlock get a girlfriend, and that he talks so normally and unlike his dart-like speeches with excellent precision. If he did end up having a romantic encounter, how do you NOT set it up with Irene Adler. HOW. And on to his talking- he didn't talk and act how Sherlock acts, it felt like he was honestly clueless throughout the 3 episodes, not understanding what was going on but, hey guys, it's totally cool, he'll just magically be able to enter his mind palace and pull some shit out of it to automatically figure something out.

    Overall, it just felt like "a couple shows for the fanboys" instead of some actual, hardcore detective work. If they don't get back to the style of 1 and 2 in the 4th season then you can count me out of watching anymore repeats of the garbage that was the 3rd season.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thank you! It's a relief to find I'm not the only one who thought series 3 was dreadful for all the reasons you've articulated above.

    I was beginning to question my sanity with the way all the critics were raving about it yet, for the life of me, I couldn't see what they thought was so wonderful.

    I agree with all the comments posted here. Not holding my breath for series 4.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Honestly, it's not like Sherlock was ever faithful to the original stories (contrary to what some people say, Sherlock being a sociopathic dick and Watson being the perpetually befuddled sidekick is not how they were originally characterized. That's a direct rip-off the House/Wilson dynamic - Holmes and Watson were actually fairly civil and respectful gentlemen with a strong friendship, not Watson constantly bemoaning his friend's lack of tact and sensitivity. And seriously what the heck is up with Sherlock being portrayed as socially awkward? He was never like that in the original stories - somewhat quirky, yes, socially awkward, no), so I was always prepared to judge the show as the fluffy entertainment it was. However, season 3 managed to somehow fail even despite my abysmally low standards, which says something about how much of a shit writer and producer Steven Moffat is.

    ReplyDelete
  11. the more i watch and think about series 3, the worst i regard this series. it indeed sucks, and agree with you on the last 2 episodes entirely.

    this series pretty much damaged the reputation of the show, and it shouldn't even be produced. the series 1 and 2 left such good impression to audience, and they should never be followed by such a bad one. i could still accept Empty Hearse, but not the other 2, especially the last one which made Sherlock so unacceptably stupid and ordinary, who's no longer the brilliant minded Sherlock we know and love. and even worse, the writer made him a cold blooded killer, not self defence or in immediate danger, which by itself totally ruined Sherlock's image. i really start to think what's a point of this show anyway, where is the super genius and super smart detective who we know as Sherlock?

    i totally feel now that this Sherlock show should just end at series 2, and leave the rest of stories for people to imagine, and anything coming from our and audience minds would be better than this series.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Beautifully put. Season 3 was such a massive disappointment on every level.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Brilliant review of the season, almost exactly same as i felt about it. The 1st episode was still fine, but the second really didn't deliver. I hoped it was only a one time setback but as the author himself notices the 3rd episode was even more disappointing. All those meaningless travels through Sherlock's mind, a totally missed opportunity on Magnussen and a cherry on top was Moriarty's return from the dead. I understand he was a great villain, but this is a perfect sign that the creators are having problems with a lack of ideas. Back in earlier seasons there was always so much happening it wasn't easy to keep up and now we have to witness all these supposedly dramatic conflicts between characters. But these conflicts don't deliver at all and are only here to make an episode longer. So, this season was a serious letdown. And if the first episode of season 4 doesn't give us back at least a part of what we saw, I can't believe I'm saying this, but I might even say goodbye to this show, which was so enjoyable for the first two seasons.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Just like everyone else, I am relieved to see that I wasn't going crazy and that season 3 is actually that bad. I kept on asking myself "Did they change writers?"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My god i kept saying that exact same thing, ask people i know.

      Delete
  15. Yes, yes, and yes. The thing I find most disturbing about season 3 is how there was no massive outcry against it. The recent season is made up of fan-pandering trash, but many of the fans seem to have enjoyed being pandered to. It's hard to fight this kind of lazy writing when people don't seem to notice the difference between intelligent scripts and crap-tabulous ones.

    ReplyDelete
  16. It was just awful. I had high hopes after the first 2 seasons. It just really sucked. I'm not sure why it is rated so highly. Am I missing something?

    ReplyDelete
  17. I found the first two seasons to be barely watchable. I only watched because my wife seemed to enjoy the show. A couple of episodes were pretty good, but that was about it.
    Then came season three. Horrible!!! Can there truly be a 4th season after this H-bomb exploded?
    Not at our house. Episode one was the second to the last straw. Episode 2 was the last straw for me. Episode 3 was the final straw for my wife.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Can we talk about the fact Sherlock is now for some reason a cold blooded killer? And the reason why? He found someone smarter than him.

    Truly the least Sherlock move ever. This show shouldn't even be called Sherlock anymore.

    ReplyDelete
  19. THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH FOR THIS!! Season 3 was nothing short of garbage. My best friend and I watch it together and we could not believe it! THIS is what we get after waiting two years?! That is what we get for being so hyped for season 3? 3 episodes that felt like a parody, like the writers slapping us in the face and go "Haha, you expected something great? Well joke`s on you!"

    I was beyond disappointed and so was my friend. After episode 1, we almost stopped watching! And yet so many people praise it. How? How is THIS the best season so far?!! In which sick, twisted parallel universe was this the "best season"? It was SH*T!

    Anyway, I am willing to give Season 4 a try. But if it is as bad as this...sorry than count me out.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Thank-you everybody for your comments and critiques. They hit it right on the dot. Season 3 was a disappointment but I think it pandered to the fanbase who either didn't know or only just have heard of Sherlock Holmes. As a longtime Sherlock Holmes fan I found that this show was catering to a completely different audience than myself. At first it was cool but the Watson/Holmes dynamic so much resembles the House/Wilson and even the Don Draper/Peggy Olsen relationship arcs -- destructive and even tragic. It never came close to resembling the happy cohesive relationships of previous Sherlock shows or movies. The Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law movies were altogether much better and even developed in comparison to the a show which had more hours of shooting and a better budget. Ridiculous antics which won't work because well look how long they delayed their 4th season....kinda of an indication that they have really run out of ideas for their show. Pathetic.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Episode 1 is OK, except of course it could not explain the end of season 2 (sorry, I'm from US). But at least it was fun and pleasing to the fan base.
    Episode 2 is very good. The plot holds and the wedding is beautiful.
    Episode 3 is half and half. The ending is very strange. How can that guy just remember everything in his head. He would have been killed a thousand times. I'm feeling such a big plot hole may be intentional for some thing in Season 4. I really hope.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Episode 1 is OK, except of course it could not explain the end of season 2 (sorry, I'm from US). But at least it was fun and pleasing to the fan base.
    Episode 2 is very good. The plot holds and the wedding is beautiful.
    Episode 3 is half and half. The ending is very strange. How can that guy just remember everything in his head. He would have been killed a thousand times. I'm feeling such a big plot hole may be intentional for some thing in Season 4. I really hope.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Season 4 is coming out soon. And rumor has it Mary will die. Please oh please oh Lord let it be so. Kill off that stupid ass character. Season 3 was a gigantic disaster and an utter disappointment. Watson went from being a respected intelligent character to being everybody's bitch. And by that I do mean everybody's bitch !!! It pissed me off so much because I loved him in the first season. He helped Sherlock so much to the point that Sherlock looked lost without him. In the 3rd season Watson looks like a troll, Sherlock practically humiliated him and Watson just took it and continued being Sherlock's sidekick after being lied to about Sherlock's death. Also that scene of Sherlock speaking French was cringe worthy. The WORST scene in the entire series. And then Watson being Mary's bitch was disgusting too. He didn't even care to see Mary's record and forgave her jus like if nothing had happened. Literally every character in the show flicked Watson in the face and he didn't do anything about it. I lost all my respect for him, for Sherlock's character and for the writers who brought Moriarty back, totally betraying the audience who had followed from the very beginning. After reading the comment section, I'm glad I'm not alone in this sentiment.

    ReplyDelete
  24. I am very relieved to know that others thought season 3 sucked. It seemed as though they were literally taking a whole bunch of random Sherlock fanfiction stories and turning it into a tv show. I really hope Mary and the baby will not be in season 4 or I'm done watching. In season 1 and 2 it was fun to watch Sherlock and John go solve cases together. I loved the way they portrayed John in the first two series but in season 3 they pretty much made him look like an idiot who was having a hard time keeping up with everyone else, which I hated. I liked it a lot better when they had John being an actual help to Sherlock and John was able to figure out things before Lestrade could, and as Anonymous wrote Sherlock looked lost without him.
    Another thing that totally made me loose respect for this show was the way Sherlock approached John after being 'dead' for two years. He completely humiliated John at the restaurant and how the hell was he expecting John to ask? Also I hate how Sherlock is so OOC I mean come on him and Janine was a stupid pairing. Honestly if it were up to me Sherlock wouldn't be in a relationship, John would live in Baker street, and there would be no more Mary or the baby!!!
    If John doesn't end up back at Baker street in Season 4 I'm done.
    here's a few other things that sucked about this they think the mustache jokes were funny (they arent), anderson is now a Sherlock crazy fan. I mean the comedy i laughed at in seasons 1 and 2 were jokes directed at Anderson. Nothing was funny in season 3 and I would have been fine if they would have ended the series at 2.

    ReplyDelete
  25. I really can't stand this show period. But it does get worse evey season.and the fanserve is just sickening.

    ReplyDelete
  26. I really can't stand the show period. And it just gets worse every season. P.s the fanservice of this thing is sickening

    ReplyDelete
  27. Season 4 is out and based on the first 2 episodes, it looks like season 4 is going to be even more downhill and bizarre(eg: last 5 minutes of S04 E02) then season 3.
    Rip Sherlock. Season 1 and 2 were the best.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Who the hell wants to see a wife and a baby take up screen time in a sherlock story.Stop aiming for an audience that's not there.Play to the nerd guys that have never been laid, and will never have kids.Way to ruin a show.

    ReplyDelete