Ranking Every Episode of Sherlock A Couple Months Late

It’s odd how little I’ve talked about Sherlock on this blahg, given that it’s one of my favorite shows with one of my favorite casts. Because every episode plays a bit like a movie, I really enjoy comparing them against each other, if only in my head. Now I’m going to write the comparisons down, though, because I haven’t written anything here in quite awhile, and that should be rectified.

Before I start, though… If you haven’t watched Sherlock, it would be very silly to read this, and you should go watch Sherlock right away, because it’s quite wonderful. There are nine episodes, each 90 minutes long, and all are loosely inspired by some Holmesian story or another. But you don’t have to have read any Arthur Conan Doyle to enjoy these beautifully crafted, wonderfully acted, intricately written mysteries. For me, the mysteries have never been the most important part; for me, there’s nothing better than the unusual friendship between Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) and John Watson (Martin Freeman), one of my all-time favorite relationships on TV.

So go boldly forth and watch, or stay right here and read. You will almost certainly disagree with everything from 6 till 9, so have fun with that!

Sherlock Episodes from Least to Most Loved by Me

  1. “The Blind Banker.” I don’t recall much of this episode, which is a bad sign, because I can vividly remember all the others on this list, and some I haven’t watched in literally years. (Most, actually–I knocked out the first six episodes in maybe twice that many days in 2012, if memory serves.) I just know that it wasn’t much of a character study, which all Sherlock episodes should be at least a little, and no one did anything particularly quirky or endearing. Failure on all accounts. But since it’s Sherlock, it’s probably still better than 90% of other TV.
  2. “The Hounds of Baskerville.” It’s kind of a bummer, putting this so low on the list, because it’s one of Mark Gatiss’ contributions as a writer, and that makes me want to like it a lot more. (Gatiss is the show’s co-creator, and he plays Mycroft Holmes.) Pity it’s written a bit like a B-grade X-Files episode. BUT it does feature one of my favorite “John and Sherlock are BFFs” moments, and it includes more laugh out loud moments than your average episode, so it’s still got a lot on “The Blind Banker.”
  3. “The Empty Hearse.” Now it gets tricky, because everything from here on in, I love, at the very least. But I do think “The Empty Hearse” is a weaker opener than the series premiere or “A Scandal in Belgravia” (duh), if only because Sherlock’s return from alleged death doesn’t quite pack the punch you’d expect. (John does punch Sherlock in the face a few times, though.) Still, the mystery’s a very fun one, and it’s great to learn that we’ll never really know how Sherlock faked it. I find it much more satisfying not knowing.
  4. “The Sign of Three.” This is an exceptionally goofy episode. You get to see John and Sherlock very drunk, and it’s terrific. You get to see Sherlock ruin Lestrade’s night and, later, get his name wrong, and it’s delightful. You get to see Sherlock flirting, and John being in love, and that kid who played Dean Thomas in the Harry Potter movies nearly die, and all of that is just splendid. But there’s nothing truly remarkable about this episode. “The Sign of Three” is just a solid hour and a half of deductions and fast-paced dialogue and flashbacks, so it seems like this should be right around the middle.
  5. “His Last Vow.” OK, so I can see where there might be some controversy here, seeing as Sherlock shoots a guy point blank. But man, isn’t it great to see Sherlock care about another non-John person? I liked Mary from the start, and I liked learning that there was more to John’s wife, however sinister her past may be. (And we’ll never know about it, which I appreciate, because there’s no need–that’s not her character anymore.) I liked seeing Sherlock interfere, because it really was in John’s best interest, and Sherlock had faith that things would be resolved, and of course they were, because he’s always right. I liked Mycroft’s disgust over Les Miz, and I loved seeing a certain familiar face at the very end. 8/10.
  6. “A Scandal in Belgravia.” Just wait a second, OK? “A Scandal in Belgravia” might be the best episode of the series. Everything about it is mesmerizing. But … it’s a Sherlock episode. And while I love Sherlock, and I understand that this is his show, I like when the focus is more divided. This one’s all him, all about his emotions (or lack thereof) and motivations and what makes him tick. It makes for a great story, but it doesn’t make for something I would put above, say, 90 minutes of John, Mycroft, and Lestrade drinking coffee. (Slight exaggeration. But the point remains.)
  7. “A Study in Pink.” This episode is just such a good hook. Immediately, you want to know more about the clearly insane consulting detective and his new unassuming acquaintance. You think you’ve already met the series’ ultimate villain, but no, it’s just Sherlock’s posh older brother. And you get introduced to Lestrade (Rupert Graves) and his and Sherlock’s wonderful dynamic. (Also, his hair. You get to see Rupert Graves’ hair. And fall madly in love with it.) And John, oh, John is just perfect in this episode. I don’t know if I ever like him more than I do when he’s enthusiastically agreeing to continue on with Sherlock. And thank goodness he does.
  8. “The Great Game.” Oh, Moriarty. Moriarty, Moriarty, Moriarty. Andrew Scott takes dialogue that could sound absolutely ridiculous and makes it terrifying, and by the time Sherlock shows up at that swimming pool, you’re so excited to meet him even though you shouldn’t be–this guy might be Sherlock’s undoing, and his shadow will hang over the rest of the series till there’s some kind of confrontation. But he’s just so fun to watch, and he brings out the fiercest (and, to some extent, most fear-fueled) sides of John and Sherlock. Also, his ring tone. How can you not love that?
  9. “The Reichenbach Fall.” For me, this is Sherlock at its most watchable. You have the series’ best villain all but taking over London with his sheer insanity. You have Sherlock falling apart at the seams and John unable to calm him. And you have every other recurring cast member–chiefly Mycroft, Lestrade, Mrs. Hudson (Una Stubbs), and Molly (Louise Brealey)–in the spotlight at some point or another. This one’s truly an ensemble piece, though ultimately, Sherlock, John, and Moriarty steal the show in what look to be Sherlock’s final moments on earth. It’s deeply emotional and truly shocking, and John’s conversation with Sherlock’s gravestone is some of the best writing and acting on the show. I think I’m going to bed now. But I’d rather rewatch Sherlock instead.