A Study in Standings: Ranking the ‘Sherlock’ episodes

SHERLOCK (Image Credit: Robert Viglasky/Hartswood Films for Masterpiece)

SHERLOCK (Image Credit: Robert Viglasky/Hartswood Films for Masterpiece)

I rang in the New Year as any good nerd should, by sitting on my couch and watching the third installment of the hit BBC crime drama Sherlock. Seven months later, BBC One rocked the world by announcing via Twitter that Sherlock’s hiatus after Season 3 wouldn’t be quite as long as the gaps between the previous seasons — a special will air before three new episodes. “Shooting on the #Sherlock special will begin in January 2015, with the series shooting later next year. #221back,” read one of the tweets. Catch up on your Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and see if you can guess which stories will be adapted for the new season. For now, let’s look back and revel in the mysteries of the deerstalker-wearing sleuth of 221B Baker Street.

9. The Blind Banker

Personally, I don’t think there really is a bad episode of Sherlock, just ones that aren’t as good. Of all the stories and mysteries done in the series, this one is the least intriguing — Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch) faces off against Chinese smugglers and uses a book cipher to solve the case. Besides the few funny moments that are always in every episode, ‘The Blind Banker’ doesn’t have much going for it.

empty_hearse_theory8. The Empty Hearse

All this episode has going for it is the montage of theories of how Sherlock survived the fall. Each of Anderson’s (Jonathan Aris) theories were fascinating, with one most definitely referencing fan fiction. You know which one. The Guy Fawkes allusion was great for V for Vendetta fans, but the case in this episode was thoroughly lacking in comparison to the scenes between a revived Sherlock and a mustachioed John Watson (Martin Freeman), which always makes for some of the best moments in the series. It was a very welcomed and awaited episode but one that just didn’t knock it out of the park.

7. The Hounds of Baskerville

This is the most frightening episode of the entire series, with the scenes of a hallucinating John in the lab and a petrified Henry Knight (Russell Tovey) at home inducing the most anxiety. Some say the reveal is anticlimactic, but I think they are just confusing the term for realistic. It’s not as lavish as some of the other mysteries Holmes and Watson face, but it is quite memorable and nightmare worthy.

6. His Last Vow

The recently Emmy nominated episode features Holmes’ standoff against Season 3 villain Charles Augustus Magnussen (Lars Mikkelsen). This episode is very well written and delivers more than one jaw-dropping moment (Mary’s true identity! Sherlock running through his mind palace!), but as villains go, Magnussen could never compare to Moriarty. The threat never felt as imminent and was nowhere near as intriguing. The reveal of Mary’s true identity was more interesting than Magnussen. What put this episode over ‘The Hounds of Baskerville’ was its final scene: “Miss me?”

5. A Study in Pink

The new adventure of Holmes and Watson began its reputation of television excellence from its first moment. The first episode does a phenomenal job in introducing every character, the tone of the show and Sherlock’s deduction abilities all the while playing out a really intense and thrilling mystery. It is simply amazing all the way through.

ireneadler4. A Scandal in Belgravia

The Woman. The scenes between Sherlock and Irene Adler (Lara Pulver) are some of the best in the entire series. The sizzling chemistry calls for such tension, comedy and heartbreak. The case in this episode never stood a chance at peaking our interests as we were all mesmerized by Pulver who dominated the screen as the dominatrix who was “SHER-locked.” Plus, Cumberbatch walks around Buckingham Palace with only a sheet on; you can’t beat that.

3. The Sign of Three

This was by far the best episode of the third season. John and Mary’s (Amanda Abbington) wedding served as a time to humanize Sherlock, hear about a montage of cases, see a drunk Holmes and Watson stumble through a case and fall in love with Mary (just in time before she rips your heart out in ‘His Last Vow’). Sherlock’s best man speech brought tears to not only the wedding guests but also to millions worldwide. Though the bromance has been in full swing for years now, ‘The Sign of Three’ developed John and Sherlock’s relationship tenfold through Sherlock’s speech and by giving us a glimpse of what their daily life is like running around solving cases. This episode was also the first to show Sherlock’s mind palace, and what a treat it was! Instead of muttering and eye twitches, we saw Sherlock physically sift through possibilities while Mycroft (Mark Gatiss) shouts at him and Irene Adler distracts him with a cameo.

2. The Great Game

The first season’s finale did a great job in introducing Moriarty’s (Andrew Scott) psychopathic nature. He tests Sherlock’s abilities time and time again in very high stakes terms — people of all ages sat with explosive vests on while Sherlock had a few hours to figure out each case. Scott nearly steals the entire episode from the very capable Cumberbatch, who embodies Holmes with such finesse, in the final pool scene, which ended up being a cliffhanger that wasn’t resolved until nearly two years later. Talk about leaving the fans wanting more.

moriarty1. The Reichenbach Fall

The episode that rocked the Sherlock fandom to its very core and had them theorizing for two years. This was the big standoff between Sherlock and Moriarty. Sherlock rises to fame, and Moriarty intended to not only take it away but also to make sure Sherlock could never rise again. Just as easily as he opened the vault in the Bank of England at the same time he broke into the place where the Crown Jewels were kept, Moriarty planted doubt in nearly everyone’s mind to make them think Sherlock was a fake. It all boiled down to that rooftop scene that fans surely watched nearly a hundred times. Moriarty threatens to kill the people Sherlock loves unless he kills himself, leading to that heartbreaking final phone call with John. It was thrilling from the first to the last minute — a minute that revealed Sherlock hadn’t actually died after leaping off the roof. In other news, we also got this great moment from Greg Lestrade (Rupert Graves).


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Meryl Gottlieb - Junior WriterAuthor

Meryl Gottlieb
Meryl is a currently a junior studying journalism at the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University who hopes to be an entertainment journalist. If she’s not busy watching yet another TV series or listening to the soundtrack of the newest Broadway musical — she admits she’s addicted — then she’s blogging about them or chatting about them to anyone who will listen. Check out more from Meryl Gottlieb on TDQ…


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