Previously on Sherlock, we discovered that half the adorable duo was not dead, and John had gotten himself engaged (to a woman, which caused Mrs Hudson much confusion). We were left with an unsolved mystery – John’s kidnapping and the motive for it, and possibly a new baddie – the blue-eyed man with spectacles glimpsed in the episode’s final scene.
This week’s chapter starts eighteen months ago, with Lestrade and his detective partner Sally (I-Hate-Sherlock) Donavan after a gang of robbers who constantly outsmart them — a good deal easier with Sherlock out of the picture. Newspaper headlines scream about the about the cops’ cluelessness. Finally, in the present, Lestrade is about to crack the case (wonder if a revived Sherlock helped?) but he gets a text telling him there’s an emergency at Baker street. An exasperated Sally, who still hasn’t learned, says, “It’s him isn’t it?” Lestrade misses his shot at glory, rushing to Sherlock’s side, only to find that Sherlock summoned him in search of funny anecdotes about John. The wedding’s on and Sherlock faces the biggest challenge of his career — being John’s best man.
Speaking of career challenges – try recapping a show whose flashbacks have flashbacks. Flashbacks of less than one minute will heretofore be referred to as “flashettes.”
The big day wedding starts with Mrs Hudson bringing her boy his morning tea. He’s not usually awake when the tea arrives, and never before thought of where it came from.
“Your mother has a lot to answer for.” Mrs H tells him.
“I know I have a list. Mycroft has a file.”
Wonder if we’ll be learning more about the parents?
Outside the church, after the ceremony, the maid of honor has mistaken the world’s greatest detective for her new gay best friend, and is using his freely offered deductive powers to scope out men to do sex with, though like poor Molly, clearly she’d rather do it with Sherlock. Speaking of Molly, she’s one of the familiar faces at the party, along with her new beau. Mr. Still-Not-A-Psychopath-Tom, with whom she’s having lots of sex — or at least that’s what she tells Sherlock in a flashette. Other Baker street regulars like Lestrade and Mrs H are at the wedding as well. As part of his duties, Sherlock reads cards from the absent, who include John’s sister, Harry, who we’ve never seen and Stamford, who introduced Sherlock and John.
One attendee whom Sherlock never met before is Major James Sholto, Watson’s former commanding officer, or as Sherlock puts it, Watson’s previous commanding officer. When Mary tells Sherlock that John refers to Sholto as the most unsociable man he’s ever met. Sherlock is visibly hurt that he is not John’s one true unsociable love. “Really? He’s the most unsociable?” Mary reminds him that neither of them was John’s first.
Mycroft is a no-show. Remember all that sibling rivalry and tension from last week? It’s still there. Sherlock calls Mycroft about his absence from the festivities. Mycroft teases his brother about how they’ll be seeing a lot more of each other now that John is getting married. He also asks him if he remembers “redbeard.” This rattles the Great One, but we hear no more about it — at least for this episode.
Uh-oh. It’s time for Sherlock to make his speech.
He starts out stammering, then insults everyone, but it turns out he’s only trying to point out his own unpleasantness, rudeness and assholery, also his shock that he would be anyone’s best friend, let alone the best friend of “the bravest, and kindest and wisest human being” he’s “ever had the good fortune of knowing.” From then on it’s elegance and grace, and when he’s done there’s nary a dry eye in the house. He has no idea why people are moved. It’s on to funny stories about John, which is actually a review of cases referenced on John’s blog. These are mostly based on the Conan Doyle canon, except for “the elephant in the room” wherein we see the boys run upstairs to the Baker Street flat, greeted there by the sound of an elephant’s trumpet.
Sherlock describes a particular case, which we then see in a flashback. (Told you it was confusing.) A young soldier in the Queen’s guard gets the strange sense that he’s being watched. Why him? This fascinates Sherlock.
The boys arrive at Buckingham Palace to talk to the soldier, but they can’t see him until he’s off duty. We watch him enter the shower, and see blood pouring out of the stall. John examining the body, realizes he’s still breathing and saves his life. It’s a locked room mystery that Sherlock still hasn’t solved, but his point in recounting it is that while Sherlock tried to find a murderer, it was John who saved the victim’s life.
There’s another anecdote about John’s stag night, which is Limey talk for a bachelor party. Planning it is the duty of the best man, who in this case was also the only attendee besides the groom. The theme was a drink on every street on which they’d found a corpse. Ah good times, and a nice shout-out to The World’s End, which is the greatest movie since Shaun of the Dead. Do they get drunk? Oh yes, they get drunk.
The boys wind up getting back to Baker street early enough to take on the case of a nurse who thought she dated a ghost. Turns out a man was using the flats and identities of recently deceased men to date women he’d met on the Internet. The motive was a mystery to Sherlock, but John imagined the “ghost” was married and needed a hideaway. Sherlock told the tale to illustrate how essential John’s people reading skills were to their success. (But John, as we are about to learn, was wrong.)
A comment by the child ring-bearer, a budding Sherlock-fan, and maybe future Baker street regular, leads Sherlock to begin to connect this case to the one of the soldier. Physically, Sherlock’s still at the wedding giving his speech, but mentally he’s making deductions that lead him to conclude there is both a potential murderer and a victim at the wedding. The victim-to-be is Major Sholto, but the murderer could be almost anyone there. How will it be done? It’s already been done! The murderer stabbed Sholto in the back using a very thin skewer – so thin the victim didn’t feel it. The tightness of the belt in Sholto’s military uniform is keeping him alive, but once Sholto loosens his belt he’ll bleed to death. The delayed action will help the murderer get away. The Queen’s guard case was a rehearsal. A painless stabbing and a belt keeping the victim from immediate death? Sounds about as plausible as there always being an off button on bombs, or a squash ball stopping a pulse, but we’ll go for it.
Lestrade locks down the scene, but not before Sholto sneaks back to his room, prepared to die that night, but Sherlock convinces him that John’s wedding night is not the time, and the major allows John to save his life. The wedding photographer — the man nobody notices, the “ghost” who seduced all the ladies in some complicated way that got him closer to Sholto — was the attempted murderer.
It’s back to the reception, where Sherlock deduces that Mary is preggers, which is something John didn’t know yet and is a bit annoyed to have missed, being a doctor and all. As Sherlock points out, he and Mary already have plenty of experience parenting Sherlock. The happy couple dances to a tune composed for them by who else?. Then as the next number begins and all the guests are enjoying the party, a solitary Sherlock leaves. The bridesmaid who so wanted him, and with whom he almost sort of connected, is now dancing with one of the prospects he told her about, and we get a look on Sherlock’s face that maybe he’s a little sorry about that. John and Mary, busy dancing with each other, don’t even notice he’s going. The only one who does is Molly, and even she doesn’t try to stop him. Yet, there’s a bit of wistfulness to his leaving, a sense that maybe he’d have stayed longer if anyone asked.
What can we deduce about what’s to come? It turned out the flashback cases were connected to the attempt on Sholto, and the clues were in front of us, but as Conan Doyle said about Watson, we see but don’t observe. What else did we miss, and will it have anything to do with John’s kidnapping and the mysterious blue-eyed man? With only one episode to go in the season, it better.