“Well, short version: I’m not dead,” Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) tells a bewildered John Watson (Martin Freeman). But Sherlock spends its first episode back after two years addressing the fact of Sherlock’s return — call it the long version. As fast-paced and masterful as ever, the series addressed emotional components, like Watson coming to terms with Sherlock’s resurrection, without letting it bring down the overall whimsical tone of the opener. Sherlock made the rounds to visit his friends, and “The Empty Hearse” found ways to move forward, while still retaining the sentiment (and jokes) of prior seasons. Hit the jump for more.
One of Sherlock‘s strengths has always been its perceptive use of a reliance on technology, as well as meta-jokes within the show. Nothing was more meta than “The Empty Hearse’s” play on the Sherlock fandom’s obsession with how, exactly, Sherlock survived his Reichenbach Fall. Several versions of it played out, from conspiracies that mirrored popular internet theories, to the hilarious inclusion of slashfic. The real truth may never be known (or perhaps one or parts of those versions are real), but it all played into the series’ original tone, which was always part of a game.
There were some moments in Season Two that felt a little bit belabored, with dramatics or overly twisty plots weighing the proceedings down (like Moriarty’s many soliloquies). But there was no hint of that in “The Empty Hearse,” which even treated Sherlock’s reunion with Watson with some of the show’s trademark wit and levity (like the recurring joke about his crisis mustache). The scene where Sherlock contorted himself around at the restaurant to try and surprise Watson was brilliant, as were the jump-cuts that followed Watson’s variety of assaults on Sherlock, after his initial shock. Watson’s feelings were never played for laughs, but the reality simply was that Sherlock, and Watson himself, had to both acknowledge and move past that hurt.
Afterwards, there was immense payoff with Sherlock visiting Lestrade (whose first name he still can’t remember), Molly and Mrs. Hudson, each of whom set the world right back where it belonged. Despite the long hiatus between the second and third seasons, it also felt like no time had passed, with the series being as beautifully filmed and uniquely stylish as ever.
Amidst the theories and reunions though, there was work to be done. With a suspected terror plot underway, Mycroft enlists Sherlock’s help (he has been busy, of course, dismantling Moriarty’s criminal network). While on that beat, Sherlock also manages to find time to run through some normal, boring cases, with Molly along in tow as thanks for her past help. He also uncovers a strange little ploy by Philip, his old nemesis who has turned into a fanboy, to draw him out. There are many who seek to draw Sherlock out from hiding though, as the last scene revealed (Watson’s abduction didn’t make sense otherwise, as Sherlock noted, which was unsatisfactory until that final scene).
And yet, with all of this, there were still great character moments, like Sherlock and Mycroft’s tête-à-tête, the brief introduction of Sherlock’s parents (who at first seemed like just another boring couple with a menial task for him to solve, which is not — as Watson said — what most of us had pictured). Watson is getting married (to his own real-life partner, Amanda Abbington), though still staving off suspicions that he’s gay (or at least, in love with Sherlock). Even Molly got her moment, not only with Sherlock admitting how much she means to him, but also the funny scene where her fiancee very much resembled him.
All in all, a stacked premiere worthy of the time it took for us to get it. Sherlock never stays around long enough to wear out its welcome, even though every episode is so jam-packed it does wear us out (in the best of ways).
Episode Rating: A
— For those of you who have already watched this season, through whatever means, please clearly mark any discussion of elements from upcoming episodes with a SPOILER distinction. Otherwise you will be flayed.
— The creator of the slashfic version of Sherlock’s escape was played by Sharon Rooney, who also played the main character Rae in the excellent series My Mad Fat Diary.
— The jokes about Watson’s mustache were killing me: “It ages you” – Mrs. Hudson. And “I can’t be seen wandering around with an old man” – Sherlock.
— “I do not shave for Sherlock Holmes” – Watson. Someone please do put this on a T-shirt.
— Nice way to get “fuck off” into the script. It also made “you cock!” that much funnier later.
— “You don’t know the pain! The horror!” – Mycroft’s description of a night out with his parents.
— Bombs always have an off switch (apparently).
— “Killing me is so two years ago” – Sherlock.