I suspect the way this season is organized (at least so far) is to feature an overarching plot about the relationship between Holmes and Watson, first with the reunion and now with the separation anxiety as Watson gets married. The mystery stories thus feel secondary. In this episode, the mystery cases are presented as flashbacks and while they do draw together into affecting the present at the end, you can’t help but feel the the mystery and solving of that mystery is the primary plot of each episode.
Admittedly, I can’t be sure that I’m remembering the first two season incorrectly (I said I’d rewatch them but haven’t yet), but I thought the episodes in those were built more around a case with the Holmes-Watson relationship being along for the ride, and Season 3 is thus the other way around. Even the preview for episode 2 made it sound more about Watson’s wedding and a murder just “happens” to take place and ultimately, and it’s hard to argue that Sherlock’s touching best man speech is the the big emotional climax of the entire episode (which occurs with 2/3 of the episode’s running time still left).
Some specific scenes of note:
The intro scene (@0:02:45) involving Lestrade rushing to what he thinks is Holmes in distress felt more like Elementary (Wikipedia/IMDB) than Sherlock, especially since Jonny Lee Miller’s Sherlock seems to do something like that in every episode, often to Joan.
I quite liked the dialogue Mrs. Hudson had throughout the episode. It really helped flesh out her background and character with a sort of irreverent humor that I strongly associate with Sherlock.
The back and forth between Sherlock and the little boy Archie (@0:11:10) was also cute, obviously for portraying Sherlock as essentially an hyper-intelligent but otherwise overgrown child.
The petty jealousy Sherlock exhibits to Mary Morstan at the wedding after Watson goes to greet Major Sholto (@0:14:15) was also a high point of the episode for me, although I’m biased because it just further played to the homoerotic overtones of the Holmes-Watson relationship that I find so amusing. Still, Mary’s line, “Neither of us were the first, you know”, was hilarious.
At 0:15:10, Sherlock calls his older brother Mycroft and a series of visual transitions with alternating scenes wiping left and right and soon with a “behind a glass pane” sort of effect. I’m wondering: is there any symbolic significance to this or was this just a flashy transitioning effect that was done just because it could? Anyone know?
What I felt was one of the more tedious parts of this episode was the entire stag night sequence. I imagined a drunk Sherlock to be a lot more funny but it ended up being a slurry contrived mess. It’s hard to imagine Sherlock and Watson receiving a client, much less proceeding to investigate that client’s case, in the state they were in which.
If you think about it, that state also lasted an awfully long time regardless of how much of a lightweight we imagine them to be. Watson snuck in an extra shot, and even if we presume they simply started drinking wildly after that, completely deviating from Sherlock’s plan of moderated 443.7ml chemistry flask intake of beer, leading to Sherlock’s drunk fight in the nightclub getting them kicked out. Then they had to get back to 221B Baker Street, had their nap on the stairs before Mrs. Hudson found them, played their guessing game, listened the the client’s story (why did she call on them in the middle of the night anyway?), traveled to the dead man’s apartment, and stumble around before vomiting. They weren’t drinking throughout this time, so they should’ve been recovering, not getting worse.
Anyway, I was also a bit confused by the significance of Mycroft being in Sherlock’s mind as he realizes the Mayfly Man has a murder plot for the wedding. Is it just to give co-creator and writer Mark Gatiss more screen time or is Mycroft being set up to mean something important in Sherlock’s life (more than just the “smart one” of the two)?
Overall, this episode was better than the season opener, even funnier, by way of even more wit than one-off gags like Holmes and Moriarty suddenly kissing.
…but the 4th star is only because of Holmes’ incredibly touching Best Man speech and his vulnerability and isolation implied in the final scene.
Really, so much of what makes Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock so lovable is his various facial expressions, such as his stunned silence upon realizing that Watson considers him his best friend…
…and much of it is also owed to the color of his eyes, which often appear to be a sort of frightening emptiness: