Sherlock, shark-jumping, and the casual viewer

Feature Andrew Blair 7 Jan 2014 - 07:00

Alienating viewers, water-skiing over sea predators... Andrew sifts through some of the criticism aimed at Sherlock's third series

Sherlock has a hefty internet presence (two percent of which is people telling you Elementary is  better whilst the other ninety eight percent are sharing pictures of animals dressed as the central characters). It has now had the zeitgeist imprisoned in a special cage for three years, occasionally letting it out to dance. If you laid out all the .gifs the show has inspired from end to end you would have missed the point of .gifs.

The show is therefore difficult to avoid. Here, there, articles everywhere. Thus, it is not a huge surprise to find it being used as link-bait, using the tenuous excuse of some people disliking it on Twitter (because that's rare). After The Sign of Three, The Guardian asked if Sherlock has 'jumped the shark?'. It was their most viewed TV & Radio article at the time of writing.

'Jump the Shark' is an overused, worn-out term that has become a synonym for 'Some people don't like it anymore', but it is more emotive than asking a simple question. It's also disconcerting that the options beneath the question imply aggression and vitriol on behalf of the viewer.

If you think that Sherlock has lost its way, then you can vote for 'Yes – Steven Moffat hasn't got a clue', as if he's the only show-runner and had more than a partial writing credit on one of the two episodes so far. However, Moffat is a convenient focal point, especially as there are already people blogging about their dislike of his writing in fandom (Not so much Mark Gatiss and Steve Thompson, neither of whom has show-run Doctor Who yet). So far, so hindering.

The other option is to say 'No – it's a mystery that people didn't like it'. It's so obvious it was great, that everyone who disagrees must be wrong. It's so cool when everyone adopts that position. We're not far off just saying 'If you didn't get it you must be thick', which is another comment that does the rounds in the wake of an episode of Whatever It Is We're Arguing About Now.

Fandom, as ever, is full of passion, attachment and shades of grey - but drawing battle lines is easier than stirring enthusiasm, and so everything gets to be a conflict. Something can't simply be good on its own merits, it has to be better than something else. 

In this case, something can't simply have been a bad episode, it must be the show entering terminal decline because some People on the Internet said so, even though said people are a tiny, tiny fraction of the overall viewing public.

It's true that series three has been different to the previous two, and that some people have expressed disappointment with this. You can see why they might. So far it has not adhered to the previous formula which was ultimately similar in style to many detective dramas – a standalone mystery to solve.  What made it distinctive for many viewers were the characters, so instead of sticking with this pattern The Empty Hearse was a fun - if slight - romp attempting to resolve loose ends. The Sign of Three spent its time investing in the characters - developing Sherlock, refining everyone else - and stealthing in a plot at the very end.

It's laudable to attempt something different, even if the end result isn't successful. You might disagree, but then if humanity hadn't tried new things we might still be living in non-bat-themed caves (The worst kind of caves). Stories need new tweaks and tropes, otherwise we may as well just  watch 'Arrival of a Train' on loop for the rest of our lives.

The changes in Sherlock come from an assumption by the writers that the fans know these incarnations of the characters, a have stuck with them through two series and a painfully long break, so why not reward the faithful with a little bit more characterisation? This isn't great news if you were watching for the mysteries, but it's brilliant if you want to see Drunk Sherlock. When Cumberbatch pirouetted last night, the cynical part of my brain said 'They only did that for Tumblr', and the 'Doug from Up' part of my brain replied 'Well, that was nice of them'.

In reaching out to fandom, series three has demolished the fourth wall. Now, some people like the fourth wall.  They regard it as a shield against what they perceive as the smugly clever, protection against the in-jokes and geeky references appeal to some and irk others. "By smashing this layer of protection with special hammers", say some critics (we're paraphrasing here) "Sherlock is in danger of alienating the casual viewer."

The position of the casual viewer is interesting with regards television as a whole. Sherlock is a serial with recurring characters and themes to explore, it doesn't just press the reboot button at the end of each episode. It's based on famous stories and characters who have been around in various interpretations since 1887 across movies, television and radio. The books  are still taught in English classes and bought in electronic and paper form across the English speaking world. There is room to assume, therefore, that a casual viewer might have a passing familiarity with the characters, and so not offer them a hopping-on point three series in.

This annoys people – sometimes you just want to turn your brain off, and not watch something that involved - but realistically a TV show doesn't have to please everybody. Sherlock might seem, by virtue of its requiring investment and familiarity, to be putting off casual viewers, but overnight viewing figures for The Sign of Three are up on the previous series' second episodes. This series seems to be bringing in more people than it is shutting out. It won't be much of a relief to anyone who preferred the previous format, but currently the programme-makers are being vindicated.

Which begs another question: what if Sherlock “jumps the shark”, and the audience keeps growing? Then it would make sense to keep going down that route, even if it's being decried as cliquey. After all if the clique is nine million strong, they can probably get away with it without needing casual viewers. With On Demand services enabling broadcasters to simulate boxsets and allow longer form storytelling, UK TV makers are embracing this method of storytelling. It'll be interesting to see how His Last Vow plays out, whether it makes concessions to the casual viewer, and how popular it is as a result.

Maybe people like jumping the shark after all.

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I don't really understand all the negativity towards Sherlock right now. Yes it's been different than previous seasons, but it's still been really great television, and isn't that what we hope for when we tune in?

It was the same with The Time Of The Doctor, people are just so eager to criticize all the time and it seems a shame that it's the negative voices that shout the loudest on the internet.

But as you point out here Andrew, the viewing figures speak for themselves, and it's the viewers who Moffat/Gatiss/Thompson are making the show for, not the bitter 'worst episode ever' saddo crew!

It has became so big that the show has a huge target on it's back, like Doctor who. It's strange what it's being attacked for as we are a nation who loves to look down on 'dumbed down' tv even while soaps take most of the early evening time slots and are given their own award shows..ahem. But no Doctor Who and Sherlock have both been accessible to anyone who wants to access it but have given nods to fans that only fans need, casual viewers can just switch off those parts.

Look at some of the abuse Who got because they felt with the regeneration limit, it was done quickly without getting bogged down in fan nonsense and the casual viewer only needed to get that it was help from the time lords.

With Sherlock the last two episodes have been good but I did want a bit more of a mystery in the second one but that's fine it isn't fan service to create a character episode, it's just moving the characters on, something the intellectuals criticising the show now claim they want to se more of.

In short it's just the usual keyboard warriors who mistake their opinion as fact

Its three episodes every two years. It has a stellar cast who frankly could be
doing bigger and better things for more cash. Moffat saves his best writing by
a country mile for it. So honestly, don’t moan and savour some of the best
television going because you might not get another a series.

How I wish most TV shows had the problem of running out of McGuffins 6 episodes in so they resort to doing character studies instead.

For me, character is always the more engaging part of any story (with the exception of Gerry Anderson-esque engineering porn) and I'm always happy to see a show dabble in playing with it's characters, even if it does nothing for the larger narrative.
I can totally understand the people that haven't enjoyed this series so far because of it's lack of a decent mystery to be solved (I had a colleague a while back that didn't like New Who because it focused on the characters rather than the monsters and "the monsters are the whole point" apparently) because that's what got them hooked,

With all that said, I do wish that Pendleton Ward would hurry up and create a new villain in Adventure Time, a whole series of doing characters studies mostly on background characters (or even one shot characters) is starting to grate.

The negativity comes from the fact that people are expecting more in-depth mystery and not getting it. The previous two series have challenged people's intellects from start to finish of each episode, but that's just not happening in this series, because the stories are more character based.

However, whether or not this is a good thing depends on why you like Sherlock. If, like me, you like to mystery to take up the bulk of the story and you like being outsmarted by the writers, then this series is likely to disappoint.

However, if you like the comedy-drama side of Sherlock, then this series is fantastic and even exceeds expectations. So although this series doesn't have what I want personally, what it does have is very, very good. My feelings are mixed, but I fully appreciate why some people love the series so far and would agree that some of the criticism is far too harsh.

Well, I liked it. I liked the first episode of this season and loved the second. I think that one of the greatest things a writer can do is take his own work and reinvent it. I believe that people criticize everything, no matter what. As Sherlock himself put it: everyone is a critic! I am a fan, I followed the series from the start and hope we will seeing more of it in the future.

I've got to say that I thought The Sign of Three was fantastic TV. I rate it as the best episode of Sherlock so far and one of my favourite pieces of TV ever. The highlight was drunk Sherlock and Watson. I'd pay money to see an entire series of them trying to solve crimes whilst out of their faces - absolute genius!

In my humble opinion, I have found this series to be really dull and all the hype surrounding it is a bit perplexing. I haven't even managed to get through the whole of the second episode yet, because it was just really tough going and couldn't hold my attention. Most disappointing tv so far this year, although to be fair, we are only 7 days into the year.

I don’t think Sherlock has “jumped the shark”. I like the term, but think it should be retained for when a show has run its natural course and the writers have had to extend its life. That isn’t the case for Sherlock.

An episode like The Sign of Three wouldn’t have been a problem if the show ran for 8 or 22 episodes a season, but it doesn’t. It was fun in parts and did build characterization wonderfully, but when we only get 3 episodes every 3 years an episode like this feels like an over indulgence by the creators.

I can see why it appealed to some, but for me it almost felt like a bottle episode.
I’ve found both episodes of season 3 meandering and unfocused. This is a TV show about Sherlock Holmes, so yes I do expect it to be a mystery of the week.

God forbid that silly things like characters might get in the way of a TV show. Sherlock has always been a silly romp that just happened to have a mystery at its centre.

All that has changed with this series is that the character beats are now in the foreground whilst any mystery plays out behind them. I don't think that's a bad thing.

I really don't like this notion that The Sign of Three was some sort of throwaway episode that would be fine in a show that ran for months with a tonne of episodes. It was great television and shouldn't be dismissed as being mid-series filler just because it dared to be funnier than it was mysterious.

The term "jumping the shark" is so horrendously misused these days. It did not originally mean that a show was on the wane and nobody liked it anymore. The episode of Happy Days when the Fonz jumped over the shark in the water skiing competition was, in fact, regarded as the best episode of the series at the time. "Jumping the shark" simply meant that this was the series' pinnacle and they had failed to match this episode for the rest of its run. It didn't meant that it was crap after this point. Nuking the fridge, however ...

Agree with your first part (about Sherlock) but think there was alot at fault in the final script of The Time of The Doctor that made Matt's last episode abit of a let down.

Extremely well put. Similarly I have mixed feelings on it. Those who think criticism is unfair should simply accept some people
like it, some don't. Everyone's entitled to their view and to shout it
from the rooftops as they wish. Interesting that as with Moffat's recent Dr Who, he's focussing less on the underlying story, and more on Sherlock/the Doctor. Whereas I could still enjoy this, Matt Smith's recent stories were similarly a sore disappointment to many. Let's face it, there was nothing anywhere near as silly and ludicrous in this episode as for no reason whatsoever hanging out of the tardis (as opposed to being inside it) on the way to Trafalgar Square via helicopter.

Loved the "Sign of Three". All the character work such as taking familiar characters and putting them in unfamiliar situations was refreshing and cleverly executed. What's more it gave the characters (particularly John and Sherlock) far more life than they'd had before - they became three dimensional rather than two. I feel a far greater connection with the duo now I know what they're like when angry, drunk, happy, choked-up, embarrassed, frantic, flirting, dancing, etc. And I was just as teary as the guests when Sherlock's speech finally got back on track and was lauding John. I do like a good mystery, but I'm far more enchanted when a series surprises me like this last episode did.

I think that's all down to personal preference. My only real gripe with The Time Of The Doctor was I thought it should've been longer, otherwise the positives far outweighed the negatives for me.

I try to apply that to everything and that's definitely how I'm feeling about Sherlock, there is much more to it than just the depth of the 'mystery of the week'. Overall each episode has been thoroughly enjoyable.

BTW - I always thought "Jumping the Shark" and "Nuking the Fridge" meant the writers had taken things a step too far in terms of plausibility. My go-to example being the Jack Sparrow/Davy Jones swordfight up the mast of the ship, with no hands, during a storm, while being sucked down a whirlpool.

The biggest problem with Sherlock is that there are only three episodes per series. So, if they do want to do something a bit different, that takes up 33% of the entire season. I know that they are feature-length episodes and obviously, the cast are hard to pin down right now, but adding a fourth and even fifth episode would allow things to be padded out a bit more, allow a decent arc.

Note, I'm not panning the series at all. Have fully enjoyed episodes seven and eight as much as the previous six! :-)

it meant that was the moment that the show changed for the worse, not necessarily it's pinnacle. the jumping the shark scene is regarded as too ridiculous and quite out of character for the Fonz, they changed the show with that scene into almost a parody of itself and that is what JTS means.

I don't think Sherlock has JTS it just went off in a different direction to explore the characters, but it has missed the main mystery element IMO, it doesn't meant the show has changed or descended into parody

Its still better than 90% of the crap thats on TV these days, but I feel for me that its lost its way. Too much of a change from the previous seasons. I think the law of diminishing returns clearly applies here and that they should stop on a high before it gets much worse

They are doing bigger and better things for more cash. Heard of The Hobbit? Star Trek 2?

Sherlock has always been about the mystery, far more so than the characters. That's as true of this version as any previous one.
The first two series were fantastic, but as crime solving mysteries go, Elementary - which is only a cheap remake of Jonathan Creek, has far more oomph. We don't need Holmes + Watson : an unrequited love story.

"running out of McGuffins 6 episodes in"
There were 4 novels and 56 short stories. That Gatiss and Moffat have decided that they somehow know better than ACD and change the format to be about character and only character, and ignore the crime solving aspect to the point it's merely a background very sad.

Yep, but I think the point was they could be off doing more of that, and not bother coming back to Sherlock. The fact is they like doing it, they seem to be a great team, and they are turning out a quality product.

I'm hanging fire on judging the second episode because it does seem odd that they setup the big bad guy at the end of episode 1, but then episode 2 totally avoided the arc. I wouldn't be surprised if episode 3 revisits plot points from episode 3. I'm not adverse to some character development, but ep2 did seem to put the detective work to the background, which I think may be deliberate. As much as I loved the episode, and I laughed a lot, it would be a waste of 90 minutes if it has no repercussions on episode 3.

I thoroughly enjoyed the episode, and laughed all the way through. On the subject of new comers, this was the first episode my wife has watched, and she really enjoyed it. It now means we can revisit series 1 and 2, which is nice. So it does seem that new comers can still enjoy the episodes without fully understanding the back story. The episode seems very stand alone, with no connection to the first episode regarding the big bad in specs at the end, although I think this may be intentional and in ep3 there may be references back which tie the episodes together.

One thought though SPOILERS! The murderer planned everything very cleverly, testing out his method of murder, canvassing the household staff, using the homes of dead people to cover his tracks, all very very elaborate.... but he didn't cotton on to Sherlock Holmes, the most celebrated and famous consulting detective in the world, being the best man at the wedding where he would carry out his plan! Was he stupid to think he could beat Sherlock, or was he there to test Sherlock, maybe a rehearsal for something bigger in ep3?


Is one a biscuit and the other a reality show?

Each to their own, but I tune into a TV show about a detective to watch some detecting. While the first two seasons weren’t without fault, they were what I wanted from a TV show about "the World’s greatest detective”.
I don’t generally have a problem with Moffatt – I much prefer his tenure as the Doctor Who show runner over RTD and I am a big fan of Gatiss’ work, but this season of Sherlock just isn’t doing it for me. Hopefully the final episode will be a return to the previous format.

I think the important difference between those two is that 'Jumping The Shark' refers to changes and sequences made ostensibly to improve ratings, whereas 'Nuking the Fridge' refers to changes and sequences that form an integral part of the plot; both undermine the structure of the story for the worse, but the motivation being different. I think that's the difference, though I could be wrong.

Whilst i didn’t enjoy the "case" in The Empty Hearse (a terror plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament perpetrated by just 1 Politician and a train driver?) I do feel that perhaps we’re all looking in the wrong direction.

There’s a third episode to come, and *spoiler alert* as some of us know, the “big bad” is a blackmailer who has committed to destroying all Sherlock holds dear.

Do we not feel that the impact of that story would be lessened by not at least having some exploration of the actual characters of Sherlock and John? Once we are invested in the relationship, the thought of it being at risk will seem all the more important. And if they make His Last Vow a 2 part story into season 4, the tension would be ramped up even more.

Sherlock dropping his guard and letting John into his life COULD be seen, by those who wish to do him harm, as a weakness. After all, if Sherlock still didn’t care about those around him, what power would a blackmailer have?

He's done a fair amount of detecting. It just hasn't been the thrust of the story. I like that this version of Sherlock is a show about a detective rather than a detective show.

Also, the way they've been building the characters and the trailer for next week suggests that whatever the shady Magnussen guy is up to, it's gonna get real hardcore.

There's an interesting interview from the LA times back in 2010 with the guy who wrote the shark jumping episode of Happy Days. I'd post a link to it, but I just did that as part of a longer reply to a previous post and got the 'this post is awaiting moderation' thing... and then it got zapped. So thanks for that DoG.

Anyway, if you google 'Jon Hein in defense of happy days', you should be able to find it.


I think sometimes we just have to accept a slight dramatic implausibility like that in the same way we accept that Sherlock can solve nearly any crime. If people in the world of "Sherlock" didn't think they could either beat him or go under his radar, there would be no crime at all. Given the fact it's not sci-fi and is set in a broadly similar London to the one in our world, we have to assume there are a lot of people in this fictional universe that don't expect to be caught by Sherlock.

We are also given the fact that the intended victim doesn't come out in public much and is presumably living in a hidden location, details of which the murderer doesn't have access to. The initial "locked room" of the guardsman had managed to stump Sherlock, so I'm not sure it's particularly implausible at all to suggest that he simply thought that he had the capacity to outwit Sherlock. Especially if we accept that he knew Sherlock was involved in that initial case and he hadn't been caught by the wedding.

I'm really starting to think that Internet Fandom is the worst thing that can possibly happen to a show. The reactions you see are just ridiculously over the top, a bad episode becomes the certain doom of the show, anything someone doesn't like becomes a personal attack on those that created it and god help you if you're a dissenting voice. Have actually found myself actively avoiding on-line forums these days as they're such depressing places.

My favourite part of Sherlock has always been the mystery behind it. I've always had a mixed view on the show, with too many average episodes and in my view the very first remains the best, but I have enjoyed this season so far. But that's it. I've enjoyed it. There's no thrill, no rush, no clever, cheering, punching the air moments. It's been funny and heartwarming but at this stage of the game, when you only get 3 episodes and two of them aren't really plot driven, it feels like a little bit of a waste if I'm honest.

Time of the Doctor should have cut out all that opening nonsense with the family and turkeys and being naked, which added nothing to the story and made me question how this could be defined as drama. But that said, the story didn't need more time as the focus wasn't about how exactly did the doctor use his ingenuity to defeat the threats to the alien town (for no reason whatsoever called Christmas). Because he's invincible and did it with a simple wave of the sonic. Again.

For me the 1st two series were the best thing on TV since Life on Mars (Dr Who aside natch!) and I was really looking forward to this series. Personally it hasn't disappointed at all and I feel confident saying that as a fan of the original books. For me it meant a really interesting take on the differences between crime then and now. Yes the Sign of Three was different however I have enjoyed the previous episodes so much that I trust the writers enough to feel there was a definite point to turning the story that way and I feel we will see the outcome of that soon enough.

The biggest problem I had with the latest Sherlock is that Sherlock used to be a genius, solving crimes with his vast intellect, powers of deduction and observation. Now those attributes are reduced to identifying potential sexual partners for a bridesmaid while Sherlock is barely capable of looking at a room of wedding guests and identifying the blatant potential target and the obvious culprit.

He gone from genius to idiot in two years.

Who watches Sherlock for weddings and stag dos? If this was a 12-20 part series you could enjoy the occasional wacky episode to explore the characters a bit but we get three episodes every two years. I'd rather they hadn't bothered.

If they had 12 episodes to explore the characters quirks, then I'd be merrily laughing along with the others, but with just one episode to go in this series, I feel seriously short changed.

Nice :)

"It's true that series three has been different to the previous two, and that some people have expressed disappointment with this"

The first episode this time was like switching on EastEnders to see Pauline Fowler* running around solving violent murders for half an hour. It might be good, but wasn't what I was in the mood for when I watched it. In short, it's somewhat of a cuckoo's egg this time around. Imagine buying a Kitkat to find a Flake inside. Or a squash ball.

"so why not reward the faithful with a little bit more characterisation?"
Or alternatively, reward them with more of what they liked about the show in the first place.

*I've not watched EE for donkey's years. Does it show?

It's revelling in it's own cleverness atm, like a pig in poopy.

Next thing is they'll be off to Benidorm for an episode, always the sign of a failing franchise!

So far I have enjoyed Series 3 quite a bit. "The Empty Hearse" was the first episode since "A Study in Pink" that I have liked at all.

Considering you can barely move for not-remotely-true, link-baiting online articles these days, Den of Geek's thoughtfulness on topics is much appreciated. Keep it up.

I agree completely with the sentiment expressed by a number of posters below - the problem is that with a limited run, too much deviation can mean you'll never actually get round to doing what people tuned in to see in the first place. It's not that I don't enjoy the humour or attempts to show characters in unsual settings, it's just that neither of this series' episodes have presented us with anything resembling a truly interesting mystery as a central focus of the story and, with only one more episode left (and, honestly, do we actually expect there to be a series 4 given the two leads' increasingly successful film careers), it feels like this series hasn't really got going at all. I can't be the only one to have wished we'd seen a bit more of the Case of the Hollow Client or the Case of the Poisonous Giant (I think that's what Sherlock called it), both of which sounded and looked more interesting than the mysteries we've had so far this series. Fair enough to say this is a show about a detective, not a detective show, but can we please see a bit more actual detecting (aside from by way of a neat party trick).

All these articles miss one crucial thing - that Moffat and Gatiss are self-declared geeks and fanboys themselves, of Sherlock Holmes among others. They've always described their writing of Sherlock as 'fanfiction'. The 'casual viewer' is a blip on the radar to them (mostly because they know such a thing doesn't matter, they are not the core audience, and are a blip on the radar of anyone who knows what they're doing). In this day and age with the internet, culture is fracturing and splintering and global. 'Niche' is the new mainstream. If someone creates something with enough passion and talent, it will find an audience, sometimes a big one, sometimes just big enough to sustain itself. Remember when Marvel comics were 'niche'? Exactly. The geeks already inherited the earth when you weren't looking.

Since when 'character development' = 'going from genius to idiot'?

I must have missed a memo...

But he lost the battle, it was only with the intervention of Clara and the Time Lords that he won. Otherwise The Daleks would have killed him and, presumably, the town.

Other than that I think the biggest annoyance for me was the blink-and-you'll-miss-it regeneration and the fact that Tasha Lem seemed like a cheap knock off of River Song. Otherwise not a bad episode but nowhere near as tense or as exciting a regeneration as David Tennant's.

Good article. That Guardian piece was ludicrous clickbait fodder. I think it's laudable that they've gone in a different direction this series - they could easily have just done another set of complex standalone mysteries like the first two, and I'm sure they would have been excellent, but instead they've opted to capitalise on the huge amount of affection and goodwill that has developed for this iteration of the characters, and the relationships that have formed. Some may see that as mawkish and self-indulgent (although to be honest I'm happy with self-indulgence in January - God knows it's nice to have something as richly detailed and fun as Sherlock to look forward to in this most miserable of months, although I have my suspicions that it's all going to come crashing down in episode three). I just see this as a different take on the detective, one that's not 100% devoted to crime-solving, and is instead seeing what makes these two fascinating characters tick, and exploring what it would be like for someone like Holmes to tackle other problems. How many adaptations of Sherlock Holmes have there been over the years? Why should they all follow the same template?

Like a certain Mr Plinkett, some people don't like things that are different. That's fair enough. But I think that Sherlock should be applauded for going in such a batty, divisive direction in its third series. It means they're not resting on their laurels, and they're exploring the universe in a new way, rather than just presenting us with endless labyrinthine criminal plots.

Basically, I'm loving it!

Wonderfully and politely put. I have mixed feelings too. I think the change was too sudden for me and I am still adjusting.

It's like in 'The Reichenbach Fall' - 'The press will turn. They always turn and they will turn on you', only add broadly understood fandom to the press and you'll have what is happening now. Everything massively successful will encounter bashing some time into its existence (just look at Doctor Who and the beating it gets).

BBC's Sherlock has always been a story about the detective with clever mysteries thrown into the mix, not a dumb procedural. This series the creators decided to flesh out the characters some more and the procedural crowd is stirring up some s***. I understand they might not be enjoying it, but tough. I'll continue to enjoy the series immensely.

And the 'alienating the casual viewer' argument is bloody ridiculous. I have friends who have no contact with the internet fandom and they've loved all the 8 episodes. It's a lazy jab at writers from people who just didn't like it and want to find a sacrificial lamb.

I was coming to say this. I don't thing Sherlock was aimed to the casual viewer. Of course, a casual viewer can absolutely tune in and enjoy (Sherlock Holmes is well-known enough to know the basics, and the show itself isn't exactly cryptical), but I don't think they are the main target audience.
I also think that both Moffat and Gatiss see this show as a personal project between friends. I think they started Sherlock mostly because it was something fun to do, and that they didn't expect such a huge success. It must have been a bit overwhelming, and even with my mixed feelings about this series, I applaud them for trying new things and exploring their characters further. They are still writing fanfiction about the books, movies and TV shows they have always loved, and since the whole team seems to enjoy the show, I think they are still on the same page as they were with the first series.
They should just ignore all of us (the whole audience) and keep on as long as they can with the spirit they started this with. Sometimes success is absolutely detrimental.

I'm the opposite, in Sherlock I love the characters the most, so I adore if they get more character development. That's why I have a problem with Moff's Doctor Who, where I couldn't give a flying toss about the underdeveloped paper-thin characters and ergo (pardon my Latin) don't care about the plot. When I love the characters and there are brilliant actors performing on screen, I could watch them planning the wedding the whole 90 minutes. The plot just doesn't matter (as long as it still makes sense). That said, the terrorist plot in The Empty Hearse was indeed only a background to the proceedings, but I thought the mystery in The Sign of Three was brilliantly thought out. What about 'The Reichenbach Fall'? The whole episode surrounds the destruction of Sherlock's reputation and his feud with Moriarty with 'the abducted children' case taking a back-seat. If that's not character-centric, I don't know what is. People are acting as if characters taking a front seat in Sherlock is something new, which it isn't.

I understand that since you like the mysteries best the current series might not be to your liking, but if we had a rehash of the past two series' format, the show would start feeling stale. I applaud the writers for trying out new things and I don't feel it's a 'waste of time'.

wasn't much, but there was a blink-and-you'll-miss-it continuation and without wanting to spoil it, i reckon it should tie in with one of the major points of this second episode...

I don't think they've so much 'fleshed out' Cumberbatch's Sherlock as given him a complete personality change.

Gone is the "on the spectrum" style cold and brilliant genius, replaced by weak quips and "hilarious" drunken vomiting.

It's not the lack of a 'standalone' case that bothered me about the episode, it's the fact he doesn't feel like the same character that totally captivated in the first two series.

The first ep of series 3 was a warning bell, but I wrote that off as him just coming back up to speed and being a bit messed up by being on his crusade for so long.

The second ep, though, just felt infantile in places. Closer to Eastenders and FHM than the brilliant and, above all, mature show we'd had previously. The occasional laugh in the first two series was implemented with great contrasting effect, but it felt jarring and out of place this time round.

My wife, who loves the show more than I do, was asking me to turn it off halfway through. She was bored rigid by it, which was a pretty damning indictment for me.

I thought at times it felt more like a bad Doctor Who episode (and there've been a fair few of those since it returned, even though the show on the whole is great) than a Sherlock episode at all.

I thought The Sign of Three was a beautiful, well thought out episode. I thought the characterisation of Sherlock was wonderful, giving him some redemption to the awful way he hurt Watson by making him believe he was dead. Also showing his self-aware attitude to who he is and being content with who he is was a joy to watch. This episode solidified the connection, the love and friendship between Sherlock and Watson. I loved the humour and several point made me laugh aloud. The language flowed majestically as it does in every episode and I hope there is more to come in the coming episode. CAN.NOT.WAIT! Fingers crossed they decide to make season 4!

If it is not broken, WHY for gods sakes try to fix it
Then again its one of those shows, you can have an opinion as long as it is in favor of whatever Moffat & Gatiss get up to

I wasn't the biggest Reichenbach fan tbh but I thought it was a good episode. I liked the mystery in Sign a lot more than the Empty Hearse but my point is mainly in a three episode series about a detective, you risk alienating some of your audience if you dedicate two of the three episodes to largely comedy and character pieces without a great deal of plot behind it. I thought Sign of Three worked really well but on the back of the Empty Hearse, I'm just missing some actual deductions, because in truth, not much of what Sherlock has done so far has been even remotely impressive.

Well, I kindly disagree. Moffat himself has stated that they're telling the story of an anti-hero becoming a hero, so it's understandable that Sherlock will slightly change as time goes on. John Watson has had a massive influence on his life, as people we meet have such influence on our lives, so Sherlock can't be all the time as he was in 'A Study in Pink'. He's still a genius, but a genius who wants to make an effort at forming normal human bonds, as he finds life more 'fun' that way. And he states it clearly - with John he functions at his best (it's like The Doctor and the companion situation, where the companion sometimes sees something The Doctor overlooks).

During the wedding he was a fish out of water, not on his usual playing ground, that's why he acted slightly out-of-character. It wasn't a situation he's ever been in before. Only when he realised someone was going to be murdered at the wedding, he got back his mojo (just look at him searching for the murderer at the reception - confidence and determination we know and love from previous series).

The comparison with soap is baseless, IMO - I haven't seen an episode of soap in my life, where the emotional touches would be so subtle, expertly performed and so not in-your-face. The same with Doctor Who - two entirely different shows, with different tone. Besides, the characters in Doctor Who are paper-thin at best, whereas Sherlock boasts rounded, interesting characters, which you could watch without a need to see any plot at all. And I think it is the characters that made the series the hit that it is.

The Sign of Three was funny, I wholeheartedly agree, but for me it packed a real emotional punch. I felt sad after finishing it. Properly sad. On the rewatch I've realised it is a sad episode with a comic relief, so basically what you've described above (The occasional laugh in the first two series was implemented with great contrasting effect...). Under all the fluff there is a dread of Sherlock's of being left alone again. It permeats this episode. And he indeed is left alone and excluded, so we may see a comeback of the Sherlock you like in episode 3.

You felt challenged by the mysteries? The mysteries in Sherlock make no sense whatsoever, imo, and were always just the skeleton on which to hang the character stuff. I won't deny that I did prefer the darker tones of the previous two series to the lighter one we're given now, especially as the change was a bit sudden for my taste, but I hope we'll get there....

Sometimes the internet is just wrong. Sherlock series 3 and the popularity of that video of Russell Brand on Newsnight are two such cases.
Personally The Sign Of Three might be my favourite episode of Sherlock. I come back each week for the main characters and their interplay and these two episodes deliver that. But The Sign of Three also has a compelling mystery woven into it's ongoing silliness. It's so slight at first you don't notice it, but when it gets to 30mins in and you think "there's not even been a murder yet," there has been and the important clue has already been dropped. In fact The Sign of Three does something that the series 2 opener also did well: it gives us way more information than we think by disguising it as jokes, something Moffat is really good at.

Yes, its a bit silly at times, but Sherlock and Watson getting drunk is hilarious and really develops the relationship. The internet is right that a lot of this stuff wouldn't have happened in series 1&2, but then 3 seasons in, I would be worried if the relationships and characters hadn't changed and they hadn't become more aware of their feelings after 3 years. Maybe some casual fans wont appreciate the in-jokes but a lot of the jokes are funny regardless.

One final point, how do you stage a scene set in an internet chat room? Watch The Sign of Three, that's how!

I had the same problem. In the restaurant scene in TEH they've turned him into a slapstick!parody of himself. I don't call that character growth. His forte has always been the cold intellect and I don't like him all mushy. Arrogant and haughty Sherlock always made me laugh. "Humanised" and vulnerable Sherlock is a sad thing.

For the record, there was an episode of Happy Days where a guy LITERALLY jumped over a shark, and it was the BEST ONE!

Agree. But the ratings seem to disagree with us as both new episodes had the highest viewer count ever. That should probably worry me.

I tend to look at every series of Sherlock as one story (hell, I look at it all as one story. I'm watching episode 9 on Sunday!), so I'd wait with my criticism until His Last Vow airs. The focus on characters is obviously building to something (considering Lars Mikkelsen's role and Sherlock's vow), so maybe after the last episode we will see the whole picture. It is obvious to me that the writers want to throw Sherlock's relationships into a sharp belief, so that whatever happens in episode 3 makes emotional and narrative sense. In a yesterday's interview with Chris Evans Moffat has stated that the 'light' tone of the previous two episodes leads to something 'slightly darker'.

The Empty Hearse was designed from the beginning as a 'reunion' episode, Sherlock getting back into the game, so I wasn't even expecting some brilliant plot, but I loved the one we got nonetheless, even if it was a little cheeky and repetitive. I wouldn't say Sherlock hasn't done anything impressive - the deduction in The Sign of Three was utterly brilliant (and beautifully realised as well). And the 'explanation' of the fall (whether you think it's true or not) was very good as well. At least I was impressed by how long Sherlock and Mycroft were working on Moriarty's fall.

I'm sorry that you're not impressed so far, but maybe try reserving your judgement until you've seen His Last Vow. Maybe then it will all make sense for you.

All good points with which I largely agree. But part of what I was lamenting was the repeated defence of the town by the doctor over the centuries, how will he do it, being a great idea actually, was a potential source of great drama. But....skirted over. The conclusion you're right about, but adding that the knockout blow was the magic of the regeneration energy destroying the dalek ship. Billy Hartnell would turn in his grave I expect....

As far as I know Mofftiss have said that they've already mapped out S4 *and* 5, so I think we'll get them. I'm interested in The Elephant in the Room. ;-)

I have no doubt that episode 3 will be very different in tone and I have no doubt they're building up to something, I just kind of wish that along the way the plot had been a bit stronger. I thoroughly enjoyed both episodes but I was just a little underwhelmed, the plot has taken a back seat to the characters and humour which isn't always a bad thing but twice in a row in a three episode series, it just seems a little plot light, although I appreciate that His Last Vow will probably flip that on its head slightly.

It's all about opinions at the end of the day, and I'm not the sort of troll type who has a go at people (or downvote them) for their own tastes.

I just felt incredibly disappointed by it. I completely accept that Sherlock will "slightly change" as time goes on, but would you really consider his behaviour on the stag do to be a "slight" change to the character we've seen previously?

Aside from anything else, do you really see Sherlock as the binge drink, pint-chugging type, regardless of situation? I know he had his calculation (the fact he needed an app for keeping count of it also felt out of character, although I appreciate that was more as a visual 'in' for the audience). The Sherlock I've been watching would have known something was up the second he started to feel a bit drunker than he 'should' at that point. :)

Sherlock went into that restaurant full-of-himself and haughty, confident that his little joke will make John fall into his arms immediately. It was also a reference to canon, where Sherlock appears disguised as a bookseller before Watson, so Gatiss didn't make this up. What's so slapstick about it? We see that Sherlock hasn't got a clue about human interactions, as he always did. When John doesn't react the way he predicted (where's the slapstick in this scene?), he starts to fibble. Wouldn't you fibble if your friend reacted that way to your misjudged joke? Sherlock's a human, not a freaking robot. It's normal that he feels something, even if he often keeps it inside. You say vulnerable, I say more realistic. He's still arrogant, rude and cold, but he makes an effort to not be an ass to people who helped him greatly (like Molly).

Couldn't agree more. Character development should be cleverly integrated into a plot, like it has for the past two series'. Turning on the telly to 'The Empty Hearse' was like being ambushed and having the character's shoved down our throats like an unwanted Brussels Sprout.

I agree that it's all about opinions and I fully respect yours :) I'm just trying to show you my point of view.

We don't know how many drinks John slipped into the cylinder and getting drunk varies from person to person (I am completely drunk after two glasses of wine and I'm Polish, so according to stereotype I shouldn't be such a lighweight ;)). When you intake that much alcohol at once, you don't even realise when you've got drunk (believe me, I have experience ;)). Sherlock presumably has never drunk so much alcohol in his life and such people will get drunk in a blink of an eye (again, my own experience).

He was prepared to be a little tipsy (he said to Molly that he wants him and John to be 'lightly' drunk, still in command of their senses), so he was drunk nonetheless. And I see a stag do as something he wanted to do for his best friend as a best man, but he's still awkward as hell at first. Just like the wedding, it is the first time he has to do something like this,

When you are drunk, aren't you a different person? I think everyone is, because all our inhibitors break down. Sherlock's did too. Almost everyone's stupidly laughing when they're drunk, reckless (him picking a fight in a bar) and ready to do anything idiotic. So for me that wasn't out of character, it showed another facet to Sherlock's personality.

BTW, another point I wanted to make is that I think, if anything, the episode was *more* likely to bring in the casual viewer, as it was quite 'surface level' for the most part.

If anyone is likely to be alienated, it's more going to be the dedicated fan, I reckon. ;)

I thought that, too. The formula works just fine, why go all sitcom-y now? Otoh, it's nice if they're not just sitting on their laurels, but try to do something new. Sadly, it didn't work for me. But that doesn't mean I hate the Mofftiss guts now.

Well, I thought the execution was slapstick-like, the painted on moustache, the French accent, even jazz hands etc. And for the rather serious subject of telling your best friend he has wasted two years of his life mourning you, when about 30 or so other people knew you were not dead at all, I've found the handling too humorous for my taste.

I think they really missed a trick as Peter Capaldi should have turned up at the end with the turkey, with Clara trying to blag it was the same boyfriend.

Although I really like Johns wife as a character I think the sword of Damocles is hanging firmly over her head for the third episode and killing her off would return the series to its darker roots....and then some.

Check out john watsons blog- all the cases are on there! Would have liked to have seen a bit more though

The Empty Hearse was the equivalent of ST:TNG's The Best of Both Worlds. The audience anticipation, the spectacle and major storyline.

The Sign of Three was the equivalent of ST:TNG's Family, the next episode to the above, a different kind of story at a personal level.

If you had steak every day it would get boring, sometimes you want a pizza.

Totally agree, whilst enjoyable Time of the Doctor was overstuffed.The nakedness added nothing to the story nor did cooking the turkey in the TARDIS whilst other thins such as the suffering of the townspeople over the 300 years was glossed over.

Read Flowers for Algernon.

But joking aside, yeah, it isn't.

It wasn't a blink-and-you'll-miss-it regeneration. It started in the church tower where the Doctor used some of the regeneration energy to destroy the Daleks, it then continued healing the Matt Smith body making him younger again. It then finished with the Smith to Capaldi transition. Compared to say Eccleston to Tennant it was longer overall with just the final transition to Capaldi was a 'snap' effect with the long regeneration phase preceding it

Both character development and comedy should be smartly integrated into the episode (like it has done for the last two series), rather than making it the centre of the episode. Both episodes of the current series have felt like we're being force-fed the characters and the comedy like a Brussels Sprout at Christmas.

The figures may reflect those who tuned in expecting something similar to the past two episodes not those who will tune in for another series. I feel a bit like that with Homeland. I stuck with this season because I kept hoping it might improve but next year I will know better.

It was enjoyable but felt more like a comedy sitcom or family drama than Sherlock Holmes. In jokes and playing to fandoms are fine in small doses but not two weeks in a row and not so obviously.The actors acting was good and the dialogue witty and sparkly but it just felt a bit like it had lost its edge. It did feel like there was more padding than detecting.

I would argue that what we have seen so far should have more mass appeal as it did not demand a lot of concentration, was funny almost bordering on farce at times and Sherlock was a much more accessible,lovable character. So it's not so much about people not understanding or even being over critical or speaking out. It comes down to what you like and whether the changes meet with those expectations or preferences.

I can understand that it is a pet project but this is a state funded organisation and they are paid to provide a television series. I love both of those men but using this as an argument against those who are critical really does not work for me. I think that it is unlikely that the BBC will cancel it with the current viewing figures but how it is received does provide guidelines for future programming.

I don't understand these comments, saying that people are going over the top about it being the worst episode ever, it was Sherlock's worst episode. It was okay, had plenty of great stuff but was overlong, lacked focus, substance and was self-indulgent. The only people going over the top are those staunchly defending this episode, saying that reviewers are *insert expletives here* and that is deserves a 9 or 10/10. It was good but flawed. Disappointing yet entertaining.

My thoughts on this season so far are mixed. In The Empty Hearse, I felt somewhat betrayed as a fan that enjoyed the show as what it was in the first two seasons. In that episode, we got shoddy characterization, overwrought directing, a plot that indicates that they were barely trying, and some really cheap jokes that were meant to please the fans. Let me tell you something--as a diehard fan, I wasn't pleased. I previously thought that I watched Sherlock for the mysteries and cases, but I have realized since that I'm really in it for the exploration of John and Sherlock's relationship. That's why I loved The Sign of Three, because it's given us the deepest exploration of Sherlock's character yet, something that is bound to make His Last Vow even more painful than it would have been otherwise. After much thought and discussion, I've come to the conclusion that it's heartbreaking to see Sherlock do what he does in the episode. A commenter on another article said that Sherlock would never go to a wedding (paraphrasing). In a way, that's true, but just as Sherlock presents himself to the wider world as the man in the funny hat, he has presented himself as a cold hard machine to everyone that knows him--after all, that's why he keeps calling himself sociopathic when he clearly is not. I think he was taught from a young age, from Mycroft, that emotion was a weakness, something that he articulates in A Scandal in Belgravia in the satisfaction of besting Irene Adler. However, in The Sign of Three, we see that he still thinks of her, suggesting that he still feels something for her despite having lost the game. In this episode, we see Sherlock's mind envisioned as a courtroom, presided over by Mycroft, but Sherlock forcefully casts him, and all the ruthless coldness he embodies, aside in favor of John's morality, and that helps to solve the case. Sherlock is admitting to himself, whether consciously or not, that emotion can exist beside logic in his arsenal. Whatever we see of Sherlock from now on will be a much more intimate picture of him, a much clearer picture of the character he really is, and that gets me really excited. I do think The Empty Hearse made a mockery of this sentiment, though, having John ultimately get over it in what must have been just a few days, and then having the rest of the episode be a disjointed mess with a weak plot. I guess the word I would use for it is scatterbrained. However, this is my message to the showrunners: Don't be afraid of innovation, but remember that this your show about a detective, and you did this for yourselves, and not for the fans. I, and others, will ultimately thank you for this.

I understand how the rampaging monster that is the Sherlock fandom are in part to blame for the way the third series has been written. When you're the writers of a super-hit TV show and everyone who watches it says 'We ship Sherlock and Moriarty', you're going to work with it. But I think there is a time to acknowledge a bad episode. Doctor Who has them every now and then, and Merlin had them almost every week. This week, the pacing was a bit off and the story line was weak, which is a shame.

Yes, the fandom is hideously annoying and very vocal about their love or hate of different weeks it is really only because they love the show. They love the integral mystery and suspense and fun of it, and when a particular episode compromises that, they have the right to speak out. It's ok for people to think that it's jumping the shark because they may well be right. No one knows yet.

Firstly, anyone who uses the term "Jump the shark" should be punished by being forced to jump over an actual shark, with a weight tied around their ankle.
Secondly, ... actually no, I'm not even going to waste my time arguing. I wish DoG would stop encouraging the ever increasing pool of moaners, bitches and idiots amongst The Nerd Kingdom.
I'm tired of reading complaints from people who
A) Need every detail explained to them (but complain anyway)
B) Write a show off after 1 episode because it's not what they want. As if they're the greatest writing talent of a generation and everyone else who loved it is wrong.

You all know the type, opinionated mouthbreathers who talk only to hear themselves speak.

All the negative articles are around because we have negative lazy media companies and Sherlock is wildly popular.

Moffat understands this and has ,long made it clear he ignores internet fandom and certainly doesn't write for it. that's 100% the right thing to do.

I was not trying to use it as an argument against those who are critical. I am critical myself, I am not entirely on board with the new tone, as I have said in another article. I am just saying that I don't think it was conceived with the casual viewer in mind and that, since it worked well with the original concept, they should keep that up.
Since they have included a number of winks to the internet fandom, they are clearly thinking about the audience now, and since that seems to be the main focus of the negative criticism, ignoring the audience seems to be a plausible solution to what some viewers consider a problem.
The "pet project" was just my reason to consider that it was never conceived with a casual viewer in mind. The format (three episodes of 90 minutes) also suggests some kind of niche approach, I think.
IMO, Sherlock is a bit like the shows based on Jane Austen, which the casual viewer can enjoy but have a clear target audience in the many fans of the writer and the previous adaptations (mostly P&P 1995 and 2005).

After re-watching the episodes, I found a lot more hidden beside the comedy than on my first watch. I think that the sudden change of tone had me so shocked that I missed almost everything else. Upon rewatching, I've enjoyed them more, but I felt like you at the beginning.

What!? The whole basis of this series has been devoted to fandom! Sherlock getting drunk, Sherlock getting emotional with John, Sherlock kissing Moriarty - the writers are relishing in their fans love for the show, and that's exactly what's getting in the way of focusing on an actual plot line.

*2 episodes - Out of a series of 3.

Right, they *should* step away from fandom, I think, and concentrate on what they do best, but, sadly, I think they're reading too much fanfic.

"A Scandal in Belgravia was the twistiest crime-caper yet, but it was spilling with character moments, and I think the fusion is where the magic happens."
I think you nailed it! kudos!

I loved this episode. Not as much as TGG, ASIB, or TRF, but I enjoyed it more than last weeks TEH, as we had more of a mystery - namely how were all these cases / events connected. There were subtle hints to a bigger mystery (and as such, I'd encourage a second viewing for those who didn't like the lighter moments). And my god, we got some brilliant (if unexpected) comedy.

What I've found clever so far is how the writers have characterised Sherlock since his return. He's let John in, he's allowed himself to care and it's compromised him. Before the fall, Sherlock and John had the relationship of commander and soldier (I believe they even referred to that in this episode). They were fiercely loyal to one another, brothers in arms if you will and each would have laid down his life for the other. They still have that relationship, but they also have a real friendship now, with all it's commitments, truths, banality and emotional exchanges and that's something that Sherlock has never had with another human being before. Thus, the business of having a real friend is detracting from Sherlock's single minded focus towards the science of deduction. As a fan of everything Sherlock Holmes, I find that piece of character development intriguing.

In TSOT the Sherlock from series 1 and 2 would have solved the cases he mentioned in an instant. He would have been more perceptive to some of Mary's more stranger comments / reactions and he may have been able to connect the occurrences of episodes 1 and 2 to the bigger picture. Alas, he hasn't and this is going to have an impact in episode 3.

However, we saw Sherlock choose 2 seemingly disconnected cases to mention in his speech, only to find that they were connected to a planned murder at the wedding. This is a sign that Sherlock's genius isn't gone, it's just sleeping, because his subconscious had worked out that these cases were connected to Major Sholto before he had.

I can't help wondering if the events of the first two episodes that seemed insignificant will come back to bite Sherlock in episode 3, e.g. what were the various secrets that the women wouldn't tell him? Does a certain blackmailer know about them? I think (I hope) we're going to get a spectacular payoff in episode 3 from the clues laid down here.

Anyway, at least those posting here who didn't enjoy this episode are rational and well mannered. Some of those posting in supposedly 'highbrow' publications just come across like Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons. And if one more person uses the phrase 'jumped the shark' ... you just know that those people clamouring over themselves to throw it onto a discussion board and settling back in their chairs chuckling at their 'ingenuity' - a bit like ... well ... Comic Book Guy really.

This isn't aimed specifically at you, Nick

"I don't like it, so it's rubbish"
I keep seeing this attitude everywhere I go. It's a mark of arrogance and stupidity to be quite honest because it completely ignores objective criticism.
A few months ago I watched 2001 :ASO. To be quite honest, it bored me stupid. I found it overly long and empty, almost pompous and I didn't enjoy it. Afterwards, I went online to talk about the film, listed my personal grievances and gave it a fair review, pointing out that it has enormous scope, creativity and ideas and is nothing short of revolutionary considering it's era.
My point, if it's not clear, is that personal taste is not an accurate measure of quality, so can we please have some f**king objectivity on the internet? You're geeks, you're meant to be intelligent.

Fans and 'internet fandom' are very different groups. The total number of regular online posters about ANY show can be measured in the dozens, or hundreds at most, millions watch the show. The show is aimed at the millions, not the dozens.

What they do best is, and always has been, character and dialogue.

But why would they expect that? That's not what ANY version of Sherlock Holmes has ever been Holmes isn't Poirot, the mysteries are never deep, not complex and people have always read Doyle's stories for the character of Holmes, not the plots.

That's a fair argument, but I didn't say it was rubbish. I just disagree with your point about 'writing a show off after one episode because it's not what we want'.

The writers/producers have altered the show for 2 out of the 3 episodes and therefore I think it's fair enough that people like myself are left a little short-changed after the plot-driven episodes of the previous series'.

Plus, I doubt a comments section wouldn't exist if we didn't discuss things from a subjective point of view.

There's room to be subjective if it's balanced by a fair eye. Criticising something purely because it's not to your personal taste is silly.

Just as a note, here's the definition of subjective: "based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions."

The problem the show has is its limited episode run, uncertain production schedule, and availability of the stars. A weaker episode in an American series which runs to 24 episodes is no big deal. So such a show can experiment with less risk.

If you can only produce 3 episodes every 2 years, then one bad episode is a problem, two could be a disaster. So experimenting with the format is a far more risky exercise. If it goes wrong, the series will be tainted by those bad episodes for the massive gap until a new series is made.

This isn't a series that attracts casual viewers, so that argument is discarded. What we are seeing here is character development. We are given two episodes told from Sherlock's point of view, when it is usually from John's own viewpoint. That means we get to see some of the damage that two years away has done to this man. And, for the discerning viewer, we can see the undercurrent of pain, both present and to come, below the humor. I'm extraordinarily psyched about how these two episodes have gone, but I also worry as to what will happen in the next installment and just how bad it will be. Because we know it will be, per The Great Moff himself. And considering the popularity of these actors, it may be another 2-3 years before we see Sherlock again.

My issue with this run involves not so much any potential alienation of the 'casual' viewer (although to place a pseudo-hierarchy on the viewership of this kind is in itself a risky prospect), rather the tonal shift between Seasons Two and Three. Despite the familiarity of its procedural format, Sherlock's second series was a master-class in how to continue a hit detective drama, so it's only natural that when we suddenly shift out of the detective realm and near-wholly into the fields of character drama, the transition was going to be jarring. All of the cases presented in Season Two were just as complex and layered, if not moreso, as those which we have seen play out over the past week, yet accomplished the remarkable simultaneous feat of developing the characterisation of the series' leads at the same time.

In contrast, Sherlock's writing team now seem so focused on appealing to the aforementioned Tumblr/.gif-crazed division of their fandom (see the Sherlock/Moriarty snog or our hero's sudden drunken foray) that the intelligence of their past narratives has fallen by the wayside somewhat. Had you asked me in 2012 what my personal favourite drama was at present, Sherlock would have certainly made a formidable case (pun fully intended) for my choice, but two years later, sadly nothing could be further from the truth. The Sign of Three was superior to The Empty Hearse, at least, but still only matched Season Two's weakest episode, Hounds, rather than Scandal and Reichenbach. His Last Vow needs to be something pretty special in order to do so, and even then, I have a feeling that Season Three will end up ranking as my least favourite run of the series so far.

Nevertheless, diversity of opinion is what keeps TV and its various dramas thriving, so I'll gladly acknowledge that this is just one man's humble view, and hope that a lot of readers are thoroughly enjoying this particular season.

"Sometimes the internet is just wrong"? Herein lies much of the current problem with that aforementioned cesspit of critical (though I use the term lightly) dialogue and debate. Any opinion on a piece of entertainment is just that, an opinion, purely subjective and thus neither 'right' nor, as you put it, "just wrong". Using definitive terminology such as "x is hilarious" and "maybe y won't appreciate the in-jokes" can come off as bigoted and extremely condescending respectively, regardless of whether or not you believe that the general consensus among viewers is as such.

I am NOT trying to be pedantic or to tell you in any way, shape or form how to conduct yourself on the interwebs, rather I just want to point out the slight hypocrisy of dubbing the internet as "just wrong" and yet refusing to believe that you can be wrong (although no such clear-cut boundaries of 'right' and 'wrong' exist in how to approach a programme, casually or critically) too. Such is the curse of the internet that the words "in my opinion" seem to have been virtually erased from our vocabulary, and while this works in terms of reviewers such as you, I or Andrew establishing a confident argument about a piece of entertainment, at the same time it can neglect the fact that all of our words are subjective and are by no means the definitive interpretation of said piece.

I suppose it depends how we define "casual viewers", of course, because it's hardly inconceivable to think that a fair proportion of the viewers who contribute to the regular 10-12 million ratings for Eastenders, Strictly Come Dancing, Call The Midwife and the like also contribute to Sherlock's similarly remarkable ratings. Any of us can be a "casual" viewer, I suppose, depending on the attention we pay to the show in question, unless said viewer can only be defined by watching specific shows such as soap operas and 'reality' programmes.

Personally I adored both episodes of this series, and I'm a long-term viewer. The really interesting thing though is that my aunt, who is French and lives in Belgium and has never heard of Sherlock (though she knows who Sherlock Holmes is) was in the UK for New Years and happened to see The Empty Hearse.

I believe she watched it on her own, so no-one else was explaining it to her. Not only did she absolutely love it, she assumed that is was a standalone feature film and I had to explain to her that it was one of a series and the 3rd season at that! In no way did she feel excluded by perceived in jokes or pandering to fandom. She just really enjoyed it. I've now lent her my DVDs so she can enjoy the previous episodes as well.

I may be wrong but personally I don't think that I've seen any comments online from actual casual viewers who felt alienated, just long-term viewers theorising that casual viewers might feel alienated, and newspapers who like to stir things up and make mountains out of molehills...

I don't think what Nick has said necessarily contradicts you, though. To be subjective with a 'fair eye' doesn't mean that we have to ignore our personal taste in our criticism (or praise) of a piece of entertainment. You can criticise something because it's not to your personal taste, in my opinion, so long as you have evidence to justify why it can be perceived as underwhelming AND so long as you understand that yours is by no means the only opinion out there.

What I often find interesting with regards to reviews is how much hindsight has an impact on our reaction to films, TV episodes etc. Just as you mentioned about 2001: A Space Odyssey coming off as dull despite its scope and its profound innovation within the context of the era of cinema in which it was first distributed, I'd say the same of Avatar- putting out any negative statements about the film's narrative was almost regarded as churlish at the time of release due to the groundbreaking nature of its special effects, yet now there's a lot of skepticism about the film in spite of its technological advances.

Well, you may be correct in that our definition of "casual viewers" may differ. I think, from my aspect, that a series that makes only three episodes a season and took two years between airings of seasons 2 and 3 wouldn't attract anyone who wasn't already invested in it. Now the amount of investment is another issue. That would range from Sherlock Holmes fans who only read the Canon and watch various versions of Holmes & Watson ~to~ fanfiction readers and writers, artists, and even those who can actually make a living off of Holmes through the various entertainment arts. But that may be more a case of what I hear from others in person and on the Net. Unlike other series, I've only heard from those viewers with a strong interest in the subject or the series.

I'm a long-term viewer, and from what I've heard, a lot of 'casual' viewers who *didn't* spend the last two years reeling in anticipation of the solution to Sherlock's fall have enjoyed this season a lot more than I have. There's nothing wrong with that whatsoever, and I wonder if in jumping onto the bandwagon of supposed casual viewer alienation, the newspapers are missing the point of a growing discontent that I've noticed from many seasoned fans with the show's new direction. That said, I'm not trying to discredit your (or indeed your aunt's) view on this series, glad you're having a fun time with it!

The only bits I didn't like were the brief awkward moments during the speech. And that was just because I don't like awkward comedy. Vatican Cameos!

Yes, but. Theres the entirely casual viewer, and there's the obsessive internet fanboy who debates the show endlessly online, but neither of these is the target audience. the Target audience are the millions of fans who watch and enjoy, but don't trawl the internet for spoilers and nitpick the scripts to pieces. The total number of people that do this, worldwide, is tiny compared to the overall audience. we are NOT important!

The answer is actually very simple: Stephen Thompson. 'The Blind Banker' was bad. 'The Reichenbach Fall' was better than his previous effort, but still quite lame and this is his third outing.

I think there were over 200,000 tweets/hour(!) during the showing of the last episode and even more for the first one and I have no idea how many tumblrs are devoted to this series as there are, in fact, too many to keep track of, so I think a few dozens or hundreds really doesn't cut it. This fandom is huge. And very vocal.

Which are the senses that art is trying to appeal to, so I think it's a bit fair, no?
I do agree, a lot of internet discourse is worthless, but I disagree that that's any reason not to say a subjective thing. The best discussions challenge our own beliefs and opinions and, through opposition, can teach us why they hold them. I'm not saying the Den of Geek comment section is a life-changing experience or anything like that, but while I loved the Sign of Three, I don't think reaction is just "the inevitable backlash." Media exaggeration of the reaction, possibly, but this series is doing something genuinely and noticeably different to its predecessors, people are quite within their rights to react in different ways, and I think that's something worth talking about. There are less interesting voices in the discourse, but there are less interesting voices in any discourse! I tend to disregard a post when they start waffling on about "the writer's ego." I'm sure many people would skip past a lot of the bollocks I come out with. But I don't think this is a discussion that would need nor particularly benefit from much objectivity.

I try to let the 'Doug from Up' side of my brain always have free rein when watching television.
Guaranteed maximum enjoyment! :)

Actually, the last thing in the Universe I want to see is drunk Sherlock. Or drunk anyone. You obviously have to be a British alcohol enthusiast to think a drunken man (not so much woman - we're predictably Victorian about women behaving disgustingly) vomiting on the carpet is (a) the height of comedy and (b) the highpoint of characterisation. When is the BMA going to realise the problem isn't the cost of alcohol but the privileged position of drunkenness as the ultimate mark of being a good bloke in the British psyche.

Don't worry. We're being softened up for a pretty grim third episode, I feel.

Holmes reveals his character through the plots.

Twitter is a bunch of worthless brainfarts. All sane people should absolutely ignore it, always

Nonsense. Its far from a purely British thing. Are you a tiresome American puritan?

So the answer is he's written 2 of the very best episodes? Good.

I suggest you look up what jumping the shark and breaking the fourth wall actually mean, as Sherlock has done neither.

Jumping the Shark does not mean "some people don't like it any more" - it means the show has done something wildly over the top, totally unfitting to its setting. It refers to an event in US TV, where in the TV show "Happy Days" they had a cliff hanger where one of the characters was out water skiing and suddenly jumped over a shark.

As for breaking the fourth wall, while the fake solutions were certainly put in as a nod to the massive fan speculation, and would certainly only be appreciated by those who followed the mass of speculation over the two year break, this is not breaking the fourth wall. Breaking the fourth wall is where one of the characters directly acknowledges the existence of a world outside of the fictional one. When a character winks at the camera, or acknowledges they exist within a fictional framework (South Park and Family Guy do this all the time, so did Never Say Never Again)

While the playing with the audience may be a nod and wink from the writers, this is never done within the fictional world, it is entirely self contained and no fourth wall has been scratched, let alone smashed as described within the article.

You express yourself so elegantly! Even if one does not like twitter, it's still a great survey tool.

I disagree with both your and Andrew's definition of "jumping the shark". That only happens when a show takes such a ridiculous turn as to cancel the suspension of disbelief (often in a desperate effort to retain audience share), alienating all but the loyalest viewer. This series of Sherlock hasn't come close to that.

Good response. Thank you.
To be fair I grouped the internet into one single voice (based on the handful of people who post in comments sections that I disagree with. I hate when people do that, so I'm sorry) and called them the 'internet' to make it easier to bang on about my opinion at them.
Obviously everything I posted was my own opinion and totally subjective based on me assuming people had the same awesome taste as I do (that time it was just a joke). Of course my opinion can be wrong (I think Bounty's are the best chocolate in a box of celebrations, my opinion counts for nothing), but when you're arguing a case for the defence, it feels like an own goal to admit that. I started with "personally" and "I come back each week" which I hoped gave the impression that "hey, this is just what I think." and "maybe y fans wont appreciate the in-jokes" is just my interpretation of the comments I've read about the episode. The sentence was there to acknowledge that other opinions are out there but here's mine.
I figure if I'm quite strong with my opinions it may be more persuasive, interesting and mildly amusing and hopefully people will post their own equally valid opinions back at me.
Anyway, I got off subject, what did you think of the sign of three?

I thought we were all using the term 'Nuking the Fridge' now?

You've worded my feelings precisely; I couldn't have said it better.

I know when the regeneration started etc, I just mean that I was quite excited to see the face-morph between Smith and Capaldi. I know that's a dumb thing to be disappointed about but considering that more or less all of the previous Doctors have had that sort of face-morph effect within the golden glow, I was just a little gutted that we didn't get to see it.

This is EXACTLY how I feel about it. Thank you!

Elementry is tosh, proof that the Americans don't know how to portray him on screen. I think Sherlock is amazing and is finely acted. Jonny Lee Miller couldn't act himself out of a paper bag, and Lucy Lui is just offensive.

The fourth wall hasn't been broken yet. Though, all the meta-commentary and pandering to the fanbase during this series has been more than embarrassing. Yikes!

Lol I took me a few seconds to get that. Yeah, Lead-lined my arse!

Well, I guess it depends how you look at this. If I consider just S3 as a whole (without taking into account s1 and s2), I can say It was ok. Not great, not even that good, but something I could watch once, find it entertaining, but not particularly memorable. If I consider it as part of tv show Sherlock with previous seasons taken into account, then I didn't particularly like it. 3 episodes, 2 of which were (in my opinion) weak, or if not weak then...lackluster does not make a strong season. 3rd episode was decent, certainly an attempt to get back to the basics with a villain, anti-hero, drama and suspense, but it does not deliver strong punch as say the the R. Fall, and Great Game. It would have, had they skillfully built up as they did in previous seasons (though it should be taken into account that Magnussen isn't as big of a villain in cannon as Moriarty is so making him into one may not be the best idea). The problem with this season was that there were elements of great writing, but overall didn't have a strong plot. The beauty of The Study in Pink and RF was that even as singular episodes they were strong. They have great plot, character development (per single episode) and a strong conclusion which makes them quality episodes on their own. Not so with s3 episodes. Which is a shame, so I hope whatever they do with s4 is more like s1. Cross your fingers!

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