TV Review: Sherlock

Kirk and Spock. Crockett and Tubbs. Sam and Dean. TV has had a long love affair with bromantic crime-stopping buddies. Some choose to see a love that dares not speak its name in these homosocial heroes. We joke about it, write steamy fanfic about it, and, if we're Sherlock, make three 90-minute movies about it. Season 3 is keenly aware of its place in the pop firmament — our fandom for master detective Sherlock Holmes and partner John Watson, and for the chemistry between stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman — and unabashedly writes to it. The result is a blast, but at a worrisome price.

The wink-wink began with an effective premiere, ''The Empty Hearse,'' which acknowledged our theories about how Sherlock survived his suicide fall in season 2, and reframed Sherlock as a zeitgeist hero — part Bond, part dark-knight detective. It also established a narrative that plays — and satisfies — like a rom-com, in which the evolution of the renewed ''Johnlock'' relationship is mirrored by John's romance with Mary (Amanda Abbington), a surprisingly welcome addition to the mix. Jumping past the initial meet-cute and courtship, ''The Sign of Three'' gives us the John-Mary wedding and an epic toast from Holmes to Watson that is nothing less than a declaration of till-death commitment and love. The honeymoon-is-over capper, ''His Last Vow,'' tests both unions with a deliciously loathsome rogue: Charles Augustus Magnussen (Lars Mikkelsen), the incarnation of England's phone-hacking scandals and the poisons that threaten relational bliss — secrets, selfishness, power games. When he flicks Watson's face, over and over, it's the coldest cruelty you'll see on TV this winter.

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