Performer of the Week: Benedict Cumberbatch

sherlock-benedict-cumberbatch-sign-of-threeA weekly feature in which we spotlight shining stars

THE PERFORMER | Benedict Cumberbatch

THE SHOW | Sherlock

THE EPISODE | “The Sign of Three”

THE AIRDATE | Jan. 26, 2014

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THE PERFORMANCE | Did last Sunday’s Sherlock leave your head spinning (like that top at the end of Inception)? You’re not alone.

The mind-bending, frequently guffaw-inducing “The Sign of Three” was anchored by Benedict Cumberbatch’s dazzling turn as the titular detective, whose best-man toast at the wedding of BFF John Watson served as the foundation for a labyrinthine yarn of multiple timelines, multiple mysteries and a brilliantly beer-soaked bachelor party that winkingly played with the show’s crime-solving quirks.

Three scenes in particular stood out: First, Holmes’ epic-length toast — which ran so long (and in some places, so inappropriately) that it had Watson pleading aloud if there was “any chance of an end date.” Cumberbatch brought to life his “highly functioning sociopath’s” discomfort at participating in the kind of very public, very traditional ceremony he’d spent his life avoiding, while also occasionally releasing the naughty disdain and unabashed vitriol percolating just below the surface. Still, while Sherlock let fly pot-shots at the vicar (“a career option for the family idiot”) and disdain for the institution of marriage (as “false and specious and irrational”), Cumberbatch’s deft comic touches and glimmers of heart made it totally believable when he eventually won over the crowd. Calling Watson “the best and bravest man I know” and claiming himself to be “a ridiculous man, redeemed only by the warmth and constancy of your friendship,” Sherlock’s usually hidden humanity — and devotion to his partner in crime-solving — flashed briefly but brightly, bringing tears to the eyes of the wedding guests (and, presumably, most of the viewing audience).

Cumberbatch subsequently transitioned — in a flash of detective genius — to the realization that a wedding guest was about to be murdered, and then took us for a detour into Sherlock’s trippy mind palace. That he placed the overlapping clues into context and solved the case (with plenty of time to spare for drinks and dancing) only made the scene that much more impressive.

Cumberbatch also delighted in the most hilarious sequence in the series’ history: Sherlock, taking Watson out for a bachelor’s night planned with painstaking precision, wound up getting plastered after Watson added surreptitious shots to the mix. This led not only to Cumberbatch unleashing Sherlock’s impish side (in a game of “Celebrity,” of all things), but also to an inebriated examination of a possible crime scene in which the great detective’s typical flashes and assessments were dumbed-down to blurred words like “egg? chair? sitty thing?” and “Wood? Pipe/tube/wotsit? Thingamabob?” (Pop quiz: How many times did you rewind your DVR to fully enjoy all the goofiness?)

And finally, there was Sherlock’s quiet, bittersweet exit from the reception — which followed his deduction that beaming bride Mary was, in fact, pregnant. All episode long, Sherlock had brushed off other characters’ prognostications that Watson’s marriage would ultimately alter the fabric of his most precious relationship. But as the happy couple took to the dance floor sans Sherlock — “We can’t all three dance; there are limits!” Watson noted — our retiring detective slipped away, physically and emotionally, without so much as a glance backwards. To quote the tune that pulsated through the final scene, “Oh What a Night.” And oh what a performance.

How Your Mother Met MeHONORABLE MENTION | It’s a hard task to live up to eight seasons of hype, but Cristin Milioti has done just that as How I Met Your Mother‘s future Mrs. Ted Mosby — and never more so than in this week’s Mother-centric 200th episode. In just a short half-hour, Milioti turned her briefly glimpsed character into a fully realized woman with her own set of heartaches and quirks. She made us laugh (breakfast showtunes!), she made us swoon (that singing voice!) and she made us cry (if her “talk” with dead boyfriend Max didn’t break your heart, you might want to check if you have one). As the Broadway vet crooned a somber, touching rendition of “La Vie En Rose” near Ted’s porch, you could feel the bachelor falling in love with the charm and sensitivity of the unseen woman next door — and we fell right along with him.

parksHONORABLE MENTION | Few actors are as well versed in the art of juggling comedy and drama as Amy Poehler. But in this week’s emotional Parks and Recreation, which revolved around the departure of Leslie’s BFF Ann (Rashida Jones) —and, to a lesser degree, Chris (Rob Lowe) — the recent Golden Globe winner simply outdid herself. Her comedic bits were on point per usual, but it was the dramatic moments — particularly her remarkably subtle and satisfying roadside goodbye to Ann — that stood out the most. She can do this and host the Golden Globes with legendary panache? Give her all the Emmys!

Which performances rocked your world this week? Sound off below!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. JJ says:

    Cristin Milioti is great! Perfect for Ted

  2. Lecholls says:

    Benedict and Amy. Both so incredible this week. Perfect choices. The real question is, will it be Benedict Cumberbatch or Martin Freeman who wins for the finale tomorrow?

  3. Meg says:

    Best best man’s speech EVER. In fact best wedding ever, it had it all: humour,drama, romance, Mrs Hudson, dancing, attempted murder!

    • Kim says:

      Completely agree! I don’t know how they managed to pull it off but I feel like they’ve done an amazing job showing the character growth in Sherlock and really, everyone else as well. Benedict is just too too perfect!

    • Leigh says:

      All that! And what amazed me was that it actually succeeded in living up – even exceeding – the hype that trickled over from across the pond. #Sherlocked

  4. Alichat says:

    That episode was sheer perfection. Benedict Cumberbatch was amazing. I can’t imagine how many times he had to run through that long best man speech for them to capture all the angles and every character reaction, all at the rapid fire speed with which Sherlock speaks.

  5. tp says:

    This was one of the best episodes ever. I will forever remember Sherlock’s encounter with Mary’s ex. I gotta remember to use that line when somebody is getting on my nerves. “I think we’ll move you down to casual acquaintance.”

  6. Helen says:

    Cumberbatch was incredible. One fo the best actors int he world if not THE best actor and most certainly the most versatile.

  7. ozzy says:

    World class performance from Cumberbatch. He has a great talent for making me care about Sherlock no matter what he does. An actor with a lot of heart

  8. ellie says:

    Astonishing performance by Cumberbatch. Its rather annoying that the majority of the people working on Sherlock have a bafta for the series but not him.

  9. niki says:

    Third week in a row I agree with “performance of the week”. It must be some kind of record.

  10. Parker says:

    Well done! :) I agree with all three of theses choices…

  11. alin says:

    I agree, Benedict Cumberbatch was amazing.

  12. Luna says:

    Benedict Cumberbatch is the right choice, really! I can’t wait to see wich of Freeman and Cumberbatch will be selected next week, as both of them are fantastic. My vote is for BC, but i’m strongly biaised !

  13. Spencer says:

    Preach about Amy. Benedict and Cristin were also amazing.

  14. Jane McNeill says:

    No question. Benedict Cumberbatch! ( I have to rewind a lot. Did you catch from episode 1 that Sherlock knows Mary is a liar? )

  15. Theo says:

    His Last Vow will blow you away. Make sure you do not miss the episode! I totally agree. Loved Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance. Left me astounded. He got put through the acting ringer.
    Great choices all around.

  16. Barb Dignan says:

    I tweeted and Facebooked immediately after the wedding episode. Clearly the best thing I’ve ever seen on tv…and better than most things on film. Everyone involved in Sherlock is brilliant! I tivo’d the show and watched it three more times, just to get all the funny lines and clues. #totallyaddictedtoholmes

  17. bess says:

    Cumberbatch is just as good in the third episode – watch it on sunday night after Downton. He’s an outstanding actor. he can do heavy drama, comedy, thrillers, action…. you name it he can do it.

  18. Hester says:

    Cumberbatch is so brilliant in all three new episodes. He should win again next week. He is incredible in His last vow, utter perfection.

  19. sally brown says:

    I am so pleased that BC seems to be as popular there as he is over here in the UK, the final episode is even more amazing in a different way, get your tissues ready!

  20. Erika says:

    My bet is on Martin Freeman for the next week – he was great (as always) in episode 3 :)

  21. mark says:

    what about jessica lange in the scene she was in for American Horror Story finale? it was amazing!

    • Kevin says:

      AGREEED! that scene with her and sarah paulson is simply astonishing! Hope sarah paulson gets a bigger role next season!

  22. Juan says:

    Christin Milioti was absolutely amazing. Her last two scenes were amazing and her rendition of Le Vie En Rose was fantastic. She’s made me a lifelong fan

  23. Chris says:

    I would have submitted Frances Conroy…Best part of AHS Coven….But Benedict was good as well. Just, hes always good. Nothing special last week.

  24. Ram510 says:

    I really enjoyed Adam Scott and Rob Lowe’s farewell too, very heartfelt!
    As for Cristin I don’t really care for her as the mother, but slowly getting used to it I suppose. However I’ve never really cared to know who the mother was to begin with. I just like watching the relationship between the 5 main characters

  25. Austin says:

    These three choices were all spot on! I also thought that Cordelia from AHS did an amazing job throughout the whole season and especially the last episode. A great week of television. :)

  26. Lorie says:

    I thought the first episode of this season’s Sherlock was funny, but “The Sign of Three” was hilarious! It’s my favorite from the entire series. ITA about Benedict being “Performer of the Week.” He was perfect! I’ll admit I rewound the drunken scenes several times.

  27. Ella says:

    I agreed with each and every one of these this week. That almost never happens! But such a good week for three of my favorite shows

  28. Joey says:

    Christin and Amy were great this week. hope Amy and Parks and Rec will get Emmy Nominations this year.

  29. Cookie126 says:

    Benedict is amazing and so is Amy. My other honorable mention would go to Matthew McConaughey in True Detective. I never thought he was a great actor(always kind of indifferent about him)but his performance on this show has completely changed how I feel about him. He is fantastic.

    • Britta Unfiltered says:

      So it’s a good show then? I’ll have to check it out. By chance have you seen Dallas Buyers Club? He’s really good in that. It’s a great movie. And Jared Leto’s performance is just as good as people say it is.

      • Mel says:

        Many of the critics seemed to like it a lot, and I admit the acting is really good, but the story is so slow, I gave up after the second episode (way too much other good stuff to watch). It’s one of those shows that if you are even slightly tired it just won’t keep you’re interest, and I usually love love slow stories – The Returned, Rectify, Top of the Lake, etc. If you try it hope you like it. Hubby is still watching. I just go to bed to get that extra hour of zzzzz’s.

  30. Sandra says:

    I don’t watch Sherlock (but I should, right?), so I’ll take your word on that performance. But I SO agree with the honorable mentions. Both Amy Poehler and Cristin Milioti were fantastic this week. Really subtle and completely believable. They both made me cry.

  31. HDH68 says:

    Sherlock is one of the best, if not the best, shows on television. Benedict Cumberbatch is outstanding! However, it doesn’t work without Martin Freeman. Their chemistry makes the show. So, Martin Freeman deserves kudos as well.

  32. mel0329 says:

    I hope that since there are only 3 episodes per season BC and MF can continue doing Sherlock in addition to all their other projects. I can live with only 3 if they can promise me many years of fantastic TV. It very much looks like they are having a ball doing this show and I am having one watching. The wedding episode was fantastic, best one yet. Brilliantly written, acted and filmed. Keeping it on the DVR for sure.