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Ranking the Only Nine Episodes of 'Sherlock' We'll Have Until 2016

A nice list of ranked murders — that'll cheer us up.


In the lean months, we wait. And complain. And re-watch. The episode drought is hard to endure, but we fans of Sherlock, the deducting few spread out across the globe, understand the price of excellence — as long as we're still allowed to sigh again with every added assurance that Season 4 of our beloved murder-mystery show will not return for another two years. This is the burden of loving a talented team. This is the burden of sharing Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman with the rest of the world.

We solve crimes. I blog about it. He forgets his pants.

–John Watson

Since 2010, we've received nine episodes. To be fair, of course, they're long episodes, beefy offerings that never sacrifice character for crime or taste for salaciousness. But they're not all created equal. Despite the show's slim three-episode seasons, we still got plot lines hovering dangerously near "filler" territory and story arcs arcing into nowhere. So, of course, in the spirit of love — and a need to keep Sherlock on the brain if not on the screen — we've ranked them. It goes without saying that such rankings are never definitive, but we've tried our best  (though we do admit to a ranking-shaking partiality for Andrew Scott's Moriarty and anything featuring a deerstalker).

Ranking the Only Nine Episodes of 'Sherlock' We'll Have Until 2016

#9 "The Blind Banker" Season 1, Episode 2

The Mystery: A banker dies under suspicious circumstances, and a nice tea lady disappears. Also, ciphers.

This is by no means a bad episode. It just didn't have any of the punch or pizzazz of its predecessor, the series pilot.  We get tons of great back-and-forth between Sherlock and Watson, but the ladies on this episode are seriously underserved. Gemma Chan plays a captivating, yet pointlessly tragic pottery expert (Why did Sherlock and Watson leave her alone in the museum?!); Zoe Telford gets relegated to damsel-in-distress duty; and Scary Lady Shan, leader of the Chinese smuggling ring, turns out to be all bark and no bite. The episode eventually revealed itself to be little more than a teaser of greater "M" things to follow.


#8 "The Hounds of BaskervilleSeason 2, Episode 2

The Mystery: A man claims a huge hound killed his father 20 years ago — and that the dog is still out there.

First off, this episode introduces Sherlock's "mind palace," which has become a beloved staple of the Sherlock universe. Secondly, the hounded client is played by the most excellent Russell Tovey, who also guest starred on show runner Steven Moffat's other BBC show, Doctor Who. Other than that, this episode is rather a mixed bag. Sherlock is a jerk to Watson — which yes, is another staple of this show — BUT he does memorably admit that the good doctor is his only friend. Aww.

Ranking the Only Nine Episodes of 'Sherlock' We'll Have Until 2016

#7 "The Empty Hearse"Season 3, Episode 1

The Mystery: We're supposed to care about some Guy Fawkes wannabe, but really how did Sherlock survive??

This episode works on almost every level as long as you can ignore one thing, specifically the cheeky handling of Sherlock's mysterious fall in the Season 2 finale. Watson is fantastic, his bride-to-be is fantastic ( played by Freeman's wife Amanda Abbington), Sherlock is fantastic, Mrs. Hudson is fantastic — even Anderson is fantastic. What's not fantastic is waiting two years for a hodge-podge of maybes involving Sherlock's faked death. Though if you ever wanted to see Sherlock and Moriarty almost make-out, this was your episode.

#6 "His Last Vow"Season 3, Episode 3

Oh, do your research. I'm not a hero. I'm a high-functioning psychopath.

–Sherlock Holmes

The Mystery: Mary's not who she says she is, and Magnussen is a clever bastard.

Payoff might be the the biggest problem here. While we get delightful character interaction, the mystery ends up not being that mysterious and the climax is Sherlock committing murder (but not the sort that will ever see a trial, of course). Lars Mikkelsen does an admirable job as the devious Magnussen, but his performance is almost under-cut by the episode's (admittedly brilliant) last-second reveal of Moriarty's return — which itself is dampened by the realization that his "return" is still two years away.

#5 "The Sign of Three"Season 3, Episode 2

The Mystery: A guard is almost murdered in a shower, and one of Watson's wedding guests is in danger.

This episode isn't perfect, but Watson gets married and Sherlock gives a truly memorable — if mildly crazy — best man toast! For fans just along for a ride with their crime-solving buddies, "The Sign of Three" delivered the sweetness and the laughs like nothing else. On the other hand, from a more critical stance, what was up with the weird montages and erratic pacing? And did anyone else wonder why the guard got into the shower after being stabbed? Or why no one checked the guard's clothes for a stabby belt object? Seriously, we need answers to these very important questions, people.

Ranking the Only Nine Episodes of 'Sherlock' We'll Have Until 2016

#4 "The Great Game"Season 1, Episode 3

The Mystery: Someone is playing with Sherlock, using kidnapped victims as bait — and Sherlock's loving it.

We basically get five episodes' worth of mysteries packed into a single, glorious finale, and it's awesome. We know we should feel bad that Sherlock's getting such a kick out of finding an equally clever (but monstrous) opponent in Moriarty, but we don't. Especially when their mental warfare culminates in an epic face-to-face showdown at a pool — which sounds way more silly and far less sinister than it actually was.

#3 "A Study in Pink"Season 1, Episode 1

The Mystery: Serial suicides hit London, giving Sherlock and his new buddy Watson a chance to bond.

On the surface, nothing terribly unexpected happens in Sherlock's much-heralded first episode. Sherlock meets up with Watson in almost the exact same way Sir Arthur Conan Doyle outlined it in A Study in Scarlet over 100 years ago, and a clever murderer is apprehended. However, we're not interested in surface stuff. The 88 minute masterpiece is as deft as it is dense, a nimble, intelligent exploration and evolution of a classic. Cumberbatch and Freeman bring a freshness to their respective roles, and their serial suicide caper manages to entertain as much as it thrills, thanks to clever writing that turns the old story — and our expectations — on its head. All in all, a remarkably self-assured pilot with all the grit and gusto of a far more seasoned show.

Ranking the Only Nine Episodes of 'Sherlock' We'll Have Until 2016

#2 "The Scandal in Belgravia"Season 2, Episode 1

The Mystery: A dominatrix draws Sherlock in with her criminal connections — and elevated pulse.

What a just reward for waiting the requisite two years between seasons. Peppered between scandal and terrorism is a delightfully witty outing for our boys, one that brings Sherlock pantless to Buckingham. Of course, the true MVP of this episode is Lara Pulver. The English actress amps up the seduction for a truly alluring take on Irene Adler, a woman on equal footing with Sherlock's intelligence and quirks. Would we have appreciated a more empowering ending for our likable dominatrix? Sure, but we can't blame Adler for getting all caught up in "Sher-locked" feels. (Well, that and the execution-happy terrorist cell, obviously.)

#1 "The Reichenbach Fall"

Season 2, Episode 3

I owe you a fall.

–Jim Moriarty

The Mystery: Moriarty exercises his might, revealing an endgame that will permanently finish Sherlock.

After five episodes of Moriarty teasing, the Season 2 finale delivered Sherlock's maniacally brilliant antagonist in all his magnificent, menacing glory. With crime and quotables aplenty ("Oh honey, you should see me in a crown"), the episode expertly played with Sherlock's own ego and character, weaving a story of assassins and theft, fraud and kidnapping, into a dark investigation of our protagonist's own limits. Ultimately, the story kept us guessing right up until the final second — and on into the following two-year hiatus. And whether Sherlock survived that landing with an airbag or a bungee cord, we'll never forget the fall.

Ranking the Only Nine Episodes of 'Sherlock' We'll Have Until 2016

Did our rankings match up with your own? If not, we're so going to burn the heart out of you. (Just kidding!) Let us know how you'd rank all nine Sherlock episodes in the comments below!

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