SciFi Weekend: Sherlock Season 3 In Review


Now that the series has completed in the United States, I can discuss season three of Sherlock without spoiling it for American viewers who did not download it when the series first aired. There are major spoilers for those who have not seen season three yet.

The season was far more meta and fannish compared to the first two seasons. The first episode, The Empty Hearse,  played with fan reaction to the cliffhanger by showing various possible solutions as to how Sherlock survived the fall. The episode also concentrated on how a world in which this Sherlock is real would react to Sherlock’s apparent death and rumors that he has survived.

Apparently Sherlock did fool Moriarty’s people who were watching to see if Sherlock went through with jumping. Unfortunately the explanation concentrated on fooling Watson, but the more contrived it was to fool Watson, the greater the chance that one of Moriarty’s men should have seen something to tip them off that Sherlock was faking his death.

The relationship between Sherlock and Watson, along with their relationships with women, was also a major theme of the season. Sherlock sure misjudged how Watson would react to seeing him alive. Although Mrs. Hudson, in one of many amusing scenes in the episode, was surprised to see that Watson’s fiancé was a woman, there was very good chemistry between John and Mary. This was partially due to Mary being played by Martin Freeman’s wife Amanda Abbington. We learned later in the season that Mary is not exactly what she seems, but in the end that actually makes her a better partner for a Watson who is spending time fighting crime with Sherlock (once we move beyond awkward events such as Mary shooting Sherlock later in the season).


The Sign of Three was again more about relationships than a classic Sherlock Holmes story. Sherlock faced one of the hardest tasks of his life–writing the best man’s toast at Watson’s wedding. Sherlock often looked awkward, and at times I felt like I was watching Sheldon Cooper. Besides the talk about John as a friend, Sherlock brought up past cases, some of which were unsolved. In the end this was all tied together as there was an attempted murder at the wedding, and a previous unsolved case provided the information to figure out how to stop it. Unfortunately the method of the attempted murder was not very realistic.


His Last Vow was the best episode of the season, and many have called it the best of the series. It was the most like a conventional episode, but relationships between both Sherlock and Holmes with women played a key part. Sherlock’s relationship was established to obtain information, and we learned the truth about Mary’s past with the CIA. Lars Mikkelsen did as wonderful a job playing  Magnussen as his brother does playing Hannibal.

I found the ending with Magnussen to be somewhat disappointing. Sherlock could not get the evidence to convict Magnussen, or stop him using conventional means as the information was all in his head, so he had no solution but to shoot him. Besides not being an entirely satisfactory ending, I find it hard to believe that Magnussen would have allowed Sherlock into his home without checking for a gun. There were other situations solved too simply this season, such as Sherlock stopping a bomb by hitting the off switch (after playing with Watson).

Moriarty Miss Me

As punishment for murdering Magnussen, Sherlock was sent on a mission to East Europe which was predicted to result in his death in six months. This sentence was changed when Moriarty’s face showed up on screens all over England with the question, “Miss Me?”

Fans will be speculating over this cliff hanger just as they did over the cliff hanger over how Sherlock survived the fall. There are many possibilities, but we might not find out the answer for two years.

I always found it questionable that Moriarty would devise a plan to kill Sherlock in which he would not survive to enjoy seeing this, or anything else. Moffat has claimed in interviews that Moriarty is really dead, but we know Moffat lies, or that Mark Gattis might have different ideas. Maybe we are to take this on face value and Moriarty really did fake his death. Moriarty and Sherlock are often parallels of each other. In that way it might fit to have the question between one season be how Sherlock faked his death, and then move on to how Moriarty faked his death.

There is another variation on this which I like. At one point in The Reichenbach Fall, the Moriarty character claimed to really be an actor named Rich Brook and that Sherlock invented Moriarty. What if he was partially telling the truth. Maybe the person we saw kill himself really was an actor, perhaps really named Rich Brook except one working for Moriarty, and was coerced by the real Moriarty into killing himself. I can more easily see Moriarty coercing someone else into pretending to be Moriarty and killing himself than I can see the actual Moriarty committing suicide.

It is also possible that the suggestion that Moriarty is alive was a complete hoax. Perhaps another villain, or one of Moriarty’s men, arranged this and plan to commit future crimes in Moriarty’s name.

Sherlock might have arranged this as a backup plan in case his initial plans to get the evidence against Magnussen failed and he wound up getting arrested.  A more likely possibility is that Mycroft Holmes was responsible. It has been established that he has considerable technological abilities. It was also established earlier in the episode that he did not want to see his brother go to his death in Eastern Europe. This could have been his way of ensuring that Sherlock would be brought back home.

The Past Week In Conservative Stupidity

Over a year ago Bobby Jindal warned that Republicans “must stop being the stupid party.” They have not been doing particularly well at following his advice. To extrapolate this to the conservative movement, this week provided two more examples of what can only be labeled as stupidity dominating conservative conversation–the intentional misinterpretation of the Congressional Budget Office report on the Affordable Care Act and reaction to Olympic coverage from Russia.

This is not to say that all conservatives believe these things or are stupid. However, the prevalence of stupidity does seem to have increased tremendously in the conservative movement and Republican Party in recent years. Even ignoring the easy targets such as Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann, the caliber of conservative discourse generally seen today is far different from what came from past conservatives such as William F. Buckely, Jr., who also fought to keep the Birchers and other predecessors of today’s Tea Party out of the GOP. Barry Goldwater might have many views which liberals find objectionable, but he also warned about what would happen if the religious right took control of the Republican Party. Even Ronald Reagan was not so foolish as to oppose any tax increase or to prevent increases in the debt ceiling to allow the Unites States to honor its debts.

It is understandable that some conservatives might have been misled by the initial headlines on the report from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. Many journalists, overly influenced by conservative arguments and lacking adequate understanding of health care policy, initially were inaccurate in their coverage. Once the report was more fully evaluated, it was clear that the CBO report actually showed that there is no evidence of an increase in unemployment due to the Affordable Care Act as Republicans had been predicting would occur.  Instead the portions of the report on employment showed that Obamacare was projected to be successful in one of its goals--saving people from the “insurance trap.”

Until the Affordable Care Act came into effect many people continued in jobs they did not want because they would be unable to obtain health insurance if they left their current job. Under the Affordable Care Act, health insurance is no longer tied to employment. Now people are free to retire at an earlier age if they desire, instead of waiting until age 65 when they qualify for Medicare. They are also free to leave large corporations to work for small businesses, or perhaps even start a business of their own. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation wrote about projections for an increase in entrepreneurship and self-employment last May. The CBO report confirms that they were correct. This can help boost the economy.

While an initial mistake regarding this might have been unintentional, there has subsequently been many corrections. Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post,  corrected errors in reporting in writing, “No, CBO did not say Obamacare will kill 2 million jobs”.  Kessler concluded with saying, “we award Three Pinocchios to anyone who deliberately gets this wrong.” also corrected the misconceptions.

As some people leave jobs they no longer want or need, their jobs can open up for others. In testimony before the House Budget Committee, CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf confirmed that the CBO report suggests the Affordable Care Act will reduce unemployment. Even Paul Ryan corrected fellow Republicans on this point. Besides reducing unemployment, the CBO report showed that, while Republicans had been demanding an end to the risk corridors in order to agree to an increase in the debt limit, the risk corridors actually wind up saving the government eight billion dollars. The CBO projects a deficit of $514 billion in 2014, representing three percent of the Gross Domestic Product. This is down from 2009 when deficit was at 10.1 percent of GDP, and more in line with the average size of the deficit compared to GDP over the past forty years.

Conservatives are rarely willing to give up on their criticism of the Affordable Care Act even when contradicted by the facts. They continue to repeat fallacious arguments about death panels or their false claim that Obamacare constitutes a government takeover of health care. Finding that those who received cancellation notices from insurance companies generally received better coverage at a lower price under the Affordable Care Act did not end their claims of people supposedly losing their insurance under Obamacare.

Conservatives remain unwilling to give up the argument about people leaving their jobs, spinning it to suggest that the Affordable Care Act encourages people to be lazy parasites on society instead of working, ignoring the actual types of people this is likely to affect. Conservatives have been presenting “horror stories” of people allegedly harmed by the Affordable Care Act which typically turn out to be untrue once the details are examined. Finally we are seeing newspaper reports emphasizing the positive aspect of freeing people from the “insurance trap.”

While conservative columnists such as Ross Douthat fear that Obamacare will lead to a “strong work disincentive while looking at a population of childless, able-bodied, mostly working-class adults,” these are not the type of people I am seeing as benefiting by freedom from the “insurance trap.” If the health care debate is turning into one of anecdotal cases, I’m thinking of an affluent friend who, because of health history, cannot obtain insurance on the individual market so his wife has been working full time in a job purely for the health insurance, even though they have no need for the income beyond the benefits. I have a patient who was left without insurance when her husband retired in his early sixties and then struggled to pay her medical bills. As of January she finally has comprehensive coverage she can afford. These are the types of people who are benefiting from the supposed disincentive to work under Obamacare.

In theory there is a risk that “able-bodied, mostly working-class adults” might have less incentive to work, but I hardly think that providing affordable health care is enough to do this on a widespread level. Far more able-bodied adults are not working because jobs are not available. Besides making more jobs available, the Affordable Care Act can help relieve this problem in another way. In addition to freeing people to retire in their early sixties or leave jobs held solely for the insurance, people will be able to start small businesses without losing health insurance. In Republican-speak, this should also be beneficial to the economy due to making more “job creators.” The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation wrote about projections for an increase in entrepreneurship and self-employment last May. The CBO report confirms that they were correct, and to a greater degree than previously projected.

Conservatives were wrong about this argument, and now appear stupid, and dishonest, when they continue to repeat the same mistakes. I spent more space on this first example than intended, but in retrospect this is an important point which deserves repeated explanations as long as conservatives are claiming that this positive aspect of the Affordable Care Act is somehow undesirable.

The second example is bizarre outrage from the right wing over the video below which comes from NBC’s coverage of the Olympic games:

Their objection is to this line: “The empire that ascended to affirm a colossal footprint; the revolution that birthed one of modern history’s pivotal experiments.”

This is being spun by right wing bloggers as praise for Communism, including by FoxMarco Rubio, along with other conservatives commenting, does not appear to understand what pivotal means. The word refers to points which are critical or vitally important. The Russian Revolution was a pivotal point in their history, along with the history of the world. Similarly, Hitler’s rise to power was a pivotal moment. Both 9/11 and Katrina were pivotal moments during the Bush years.  The computer problems during the first month of the exchanges has unfortunately become a pivotal moment for the Obama administration. The word pivotal says nothing about whether the events were good or bad.

This was one line in a video narrated by Peter Dinklage as introduction to NBC’s sports coverage of the Olympics. If this was a political documentary we would expect information on the horrors of communism. This is unnecessary, and probably out of place, in sports coverage, especially if they desire to be polite and avoid criticism of the host country over a political system which has been overthrown (even if the current regime is repeating many of the same mistakes as under Communism).

I suspect this is outrage is partially motivated by the desire of conservatives to falsely paint liberals as socialists or Communists, such as with the absurd claims that a moderate such as Barack Obama is a socialist. To the conservative mind, the mainstream media represents liberals, especially when they fail to differentiate the evening commentary shows on MSNBC from the rest of NBC. There are rare examples, such as the absurd argument I noted a couple of weeks ago at Salon to nationalize the news media, but putting aside such outliers, there no meaningful interest in Marxist-style socialism or Communism on the left. In contrast, I would think that today’s Republicans would love modern Russia. Between its homophobia and substitution of a plutocracy for a working market economy, Russia has become an example of the end-result of the Republican platform.

Cross posted at The Moderate Voice