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    Sherlock: Season Three Blu-ray Review

    Blu-ray BBC TV Reviews

    Feb 08 2014 03:55 PM | Matt Hough in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
    After another two-year gap between seasons, BBC’s Sherlock returned with its two leading players now international film stars but fitting once again comfortably into the guises of the updated sociopathic consulting detective Sherlock Holmes and his devoted friend and blogger Dr. John Watson. Even more than in the first two seasons, the plots of the three made-for-television films that comprise the season are more densely packed than ever frankly requiring multiple viewings to see how their intricately connected pieces fit together to make a complete story arc for the season. That very complexity has turned off some viewers, and some of the complainers do have a point: at what time will the series’ co-writers/co-creators realize that they (and their creations) can be allowed to breathe a bit and be less afraid of needing to pack every single moment of their films’ running times with cascading incidents and conundrums.

    Title Info:

    • Studio: BBC
    • Distributed By: N/A
    • Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
    • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
    • Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
    • Subtitles: English SDH
    • Rating: Not Rated
    • Run Time: 4 Hr. 30 Min.
    • Package Includes: Blu-ray
    • Case Type: keep case
    • Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
    • Region: All
    • Release Date: 02/11/2014
    • MSRP: $39.98

    The Production Rating: 4.5/5

    This thick plotting for the season can be easily glimpsed in “The Empty Hearse,” the first of the season’s three films. Of course of monumental interest is the explanation of how Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch) managed to plunge to his death at the end of season two and yet remain alive to continue his sleuthing. The episode offers three possible scenarios, none of which proves to be the definitive explanation, typically allowing the great detective to keep his methods sometimes to himself. But we are introduced to some new characters along the way – primarily John Watson’s (Martin Freeman) fiancé Mary (Amanda Abbington) – and come to realize that favorites from previous seasons like Molly Hooper (Louise Brealey), Mrs. Hudson (Una Stubbs), Mycroft Holmes (co-creator Mark Gatiss), and Anderson (Jonathan Aris) are going to play more important roles in this season’s installments. As for the mystery itself, Sherlock is alerted to an underground terrorist network at work leading to a potential move to blow up Parliament which Sherlock must handle all the while dealing with his friend John’s huge feelings of hurt and abandonment over the two year deception of his death, a strangely artificial crime scene that doesn't ring true, and John’s strange abduction and near immolation during a Guy Fawkes celebration (a mystery that isn’t cleared up until the third episode).

    Plotting is even more complexly intricate in “The Sign of Three,” an installment that ostensibly revolves around Watson and Mary’s wedding and reception (where an uneasy Sherlock must deliver a tortured best man speech which is likely one of the highlights of the season) but which naturally evolves into a murder in progress under the noses of all the celebrants. In ferreting out that there’s a murder to be committed and then to deduct who the guilty party is, Sherlock must constantly leave the party in his mind and journey back to a previous murder which he and John couldn’t solve, his and Watson’s drunken revelry for their own stag party before the ceremony, interview a number of people who seem tangentially to be involved somehow in the day’s events, and, of course, deal with Sherlock’s preparation for his speech on the big day and his aggressive protection of Watson by grilling all of the couple’s acquaintances who might prove to be potential problems. Again, it’s an overly busy and frenzied episode which nevertheless reaches a satisfying conclusion.

    And the third episode “The Last Vow,” in which Sherlock makes good his promise to Mary and John to guard their safety and security with his life if necessary deals with the threat of master blackmailer Charles Augustus Magnussen (Lars Mikkelsen), takes the trio on a winding and sometimes horrifying journey into revelations of past deeds and personas that should possibly have remain buried forever. It’s an eye-opening, darker episode with major twists and turns, a new Baker Street Irregular for Sherlock (Billy Wiggins played by Tom Brooke), and with the hint that we’ve yet to hear the last from Jim Moriarty (Andrew Scott).

    Performances by the two stars are comically and dramatically richer and deeper than ever before given the major shifts in dynamics over the course of previous episodes through these three new ones. Watson’s sense of betrayal and anger is played out in countless emotions that cross Martin Freeman’s face in their reconciliation scene in the first episode and which he works to a fare-thee-well for the remainder of the show. Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock is a constant maze of deception and misdirection actually convincing the viewer at one point that he’s in the throes of heterosexual passion and on the verge of a marriage proposal of his own before his single facial expression alerts us that we’ve been conned and that the game afoot is not what we’ve suspected. Amanda Abbington’s Mary turns out to be far more complex and dark than early moments led us to believe, and Mark Gatiss as Mycroft gets several face-offs in each episode with brother Sherlock that prove him equal to the task of matching the wit and cunning of his more famous younger sibling. And the malignant evil that is Charles Augustus Magnussen is sheer genius in the person of Lars Mikkelsen who honestly makes one's skin crawl whether he’s licking a woman’s face, urinating in Holmes’ fireplace, or insinuating eternal blackmail against any and all who stand in his way.

    Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA

    The widescreen television aspect ratio of 1.78:1 is brought forward into these transfers, but unlike previous season sets, these episodes are presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. As such, the transfers are much more consistent in appearance with excellent sharpness and solid imagery throughout. Color is somewhat desaturated and yet deftly handled in each film, and contrast constitutes a great advance from the look of the previous two seasons on Blu-ray. There was some momentary flashing with close line structures on a doorway, but otherwise, no visual artifacts were glimpsed. Each film has been divided into 8 chapters.

    Audio Rating: 4/5

    These transfers offer lossless audio for the first time with DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mixes. David Arnold and Michael Price’s very individualistic music for the series gets the most obvious spread into the surround channels, but there are ambient sounds that get placed in both the fronts and rears on occasion, too. Dialogue has been concisely recorded (though sometimes spoken very fast which might require rewinding or subtitles) and has been placed in the center channel.

    Special Features: 3/5

    The Fall (13:57, HD): co-creators Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat along with Jeremy Lovering, cast members Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, and Louise Brealey, and assorted members of the crew detail the elaborate preparations to reenact the various renditions of the fall which play such a major role in the first episode of the season.

    Fans, Villains, & Speculation (16:33, HD) Gatiss and Moffat talk about their process for coming up with ideas for the shows while the cast talks about their characters and their journeys through the three-episode season. The great international audience for Sherlock is also discussed with fans offering their own words of praise for the show.

    Shooting Sherlock (14:04, HD): the three main cast members (Freeman, Cumberbatch, Abbington) along with cameraman Steve Lawes and members of the special effects team discuss the elaborate preparations for filming the moment in episode three when Sherlock is shot by a surprise gunman.

    Promo Trailers: Atlantis, Doctor Who, Burton and Taylor, and Luther: Season 3.

    Overall Rating: 4.5/5

    A complex but deeply diverting third season of Sherlock TV-movies make up this highly recommended box set. There is nothing else quite like the structuring, pace, look, or tone of this series, and this new Blu-ray edition finally offers an advance on picture and sound quality offered during the PBS broadcast versions of these marvelous and engrossing mysteries.

    Reviewed by: Matt Hough
    Support HTF when you buy this title:


    Thanks for the review, Matt. But...


    1080p? Are these episodes slowed down to 24p like the recent Doctor Who releases?


    If so, there's got to be some way to send BBC a message to PLEASE STOP DOING THAT. It's an awful way to present native 50i material.

    I've got the first twonseasons on American blu ray and haven't noticed a problem.

    I've got the first twonseasons on American blu ray and haven't noticed a problem.


    The first two seasons were presented in 1080i; this one is 1080p, but I didn't notice any problem with the change from i to p.

    There shouldn't be any technical problems, although The Day of the Doctor has some audio problems which may or may not be related to the pitch-correction (the SFX and music sound flanged when downconverted from 5.1 to stereo).


    The slowdown effect is more felt than noticed, and I guess it annoys me more than most people. Slowing the framerate from 25 fps to 23.976 fps stretches the runtime out by about 4%. It's basically the opposite of the traditional PAL speedup on 24fps material, although in my opinion, it's worse. It causes the action and performances to feel, for lack of a better word, "groggy."


    I'm no expert on this, but from what I've been able to determine, BBC had a method of converting 50i to 59.94i that I believe involved duplicating individual fields instead of full frames, and it was working great. It still yielded 1080i, but at least you had proper cadence and the correct speed. This new method allows you to have 1080p, but the trade-off is that the show runs slow. Personally, I'd much rather have it at the right speed, even if it does have to be interlaced.

    I found this season to be a different tone entirely than the previous two seasons.  It actually pulled me out of the shows a couple of times.