Assuredly one of the best things a TV show can do is to conjure an element of familiarity with the viewer, giving them a sense of reality and presence within the storyline. From the beginning of last night's Sherlock I was happily one of such viewers as commonplace buildings owned by the University of Bristol flickered from scene to scene playing host to the high-functioning sociopath that many have grown to love. But as the storyline progressed I could not help but find myself growing frustrated. Not least by the seemingly dumbed-down pace of the pre-watershed episode but more with what appeared to be the most torturously drawn out escapade that could have easily been an extremely enjoyable mini-episode. With what should have been another instalment of a high octane thriller of murder mystery and intelligent deduction hastily depreciated into an extensively dull and hand-held journey through Holmes and Watson's relationship.
Where I can appreciate the fact that this episode was meant to be a grand monologue of Sherlock's perspective on conventional ceremony and traditional banalities, it loses substantial credit for it began to just assume that it was ground-breakingly clever. Complacency is the ultimate enemy of any from of entertainment and if future episodes are anything like the one last night, then it is likely what will lead to Sherlock's real death. Falling into the trap of overused formatting 'The Sign of Three' elected to follow the basic structure of murder mystery: firstly to nominate a grand occasion, the wedding; secondly to nominate a unique yet slightly obvious target, the injured commander; thirdly to introduce elements of previous loose ends, the murdered guardsman, the invisible weapon, and the date with a ghost; fourthly to suggest a suspect, the cameraman; and finally (and most criminal of all) to have one long expose of everything despite the key components lying right in front of you.
What is so bad about the formula which the writers of Sherlock chose to tediously follow is that it systematically removed the two themes that all Sherlock episodes had thus far been so unique in delivering - viable misdirection and believable yet creative methods of murder. The lacking of the former was epitomised when Sherlock began to survey the audience of his speech for possible solutions to his problem. With suggestion ranging from a midget to suicide we were presented with attempted comedic theories as to how the guardsman was murdered and thus deprived of an actual misdirection. For me, that deprivation successfully sucked some of the fun out of what most of us watch Sherlock for: to try to guess the right answer before our friends and family, and most importantly, before the end. As for the lack of a creative yet believable choice of weapon? A delayed injury was a great idea, but it does not take much to have trouble believing that a man trained in combat would have no indication of what being stabbed would feel like.
Since the storyline began to present itself as a slug, with much awkward encounter between Sherlock and humans, I was left with naught else to do but slump back into the sofa and ride it out. Watching recycled similarities with the first season play out in front of me, the lack of originality meant that time slowed to a crawl. One of the most recognisable and therefore irritating similarities that was made was to do with the murderer bearing a distant resemblance to the very first episode's villain - the taxi driver. Someone who is supposedly always out of plain sight or is paid little attention to, the taxi driver much like the cameraman is always hidden behind a prop. This provoking little thought toward their relevance and subsequently what originally made the first episode so magnificent. But just because it was great before does not mean that it will be great again, years on, especially when the supposedly unassuming murderer is thrust into your vision in an almost threatening capacity. Furthermore invoking frustration was the murderer himself possessing an awe-inspiring contradiction. This being his want to avenge his brother by killing the man that led to his death, but by in 'rehearsing' such an act murdering a completely innocent guardsmen, who likely was the same age as his brother. This effectively making him as bad the one he is trying to get rid of.
I do not claim that I can write better, I just say that the writers can and that they have. Complacency is the enemy and recycled formula is its friend. Acclaim, much like funding, is revocable and it is not in my interest to lose such a brilliant program. The writers would do well to murder people more creatively, rather than murder creativity.