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Recap: Sherlock S03E01 – The Empty Hearse

Recap: Sherlock S03E01 – The Empty Hearse

“The Empty Hearse” entertains while tying up loose ends from last season

The game is afoot yet again, Sherlockians!

Series three of BBC’s hit show “Sherlock” returned earlier this month to the BBC and to the US this past Sunday. To say that the fandom has been waiting anxiously would quite an understatement. But the two-year wait appears to have been worth it, if the first episode is any indication. Let’s dive right in:

No one really thought that the titular detective actually died in the series two finale did they? Well I suppose that Watson did, and Martin Freeman’s superb acting in this episode really hit home once or twice, especially when Sherlock finally does return in the restaurant scene. The show begins with a bit of fanservice in the sense that the creators have obviously taken note of fan theories surrounding how Sherlock would have survived and faked his death. The bungee cord theory, which was made more ridiculous by Sherlock kissing the girl before escaping, was just absurd enough in execution to lightheartedly prod the fans a bit without being mean at all.

Sherlock jumps in the opening of "The Empty Hearse"

Photo courtesy of the BBC and PBS

Seriously, you didn’t really believe that did you?

Anderson has started a fan club for Sherlock called the Empty Hearse, where the episode takes its title. Naturally, he and the others in the club just sit around thinking about how Sherlock might have survived, with the show creators giving a nod to fan fiction theory in a short imagining of one of the club members. It’s an interesting and entertaining part of the episode, which proves at least to be a nice nod to the fans if nothing else.

Sherlock kisses Moriarty in "The Empty Hearse"

Photo courtesy of the BBC and PBS

Obviously, this is the real way it happened. And they fell in love and bought a condo in San Francisco too.

Sherlock returns in a very funny scene with Watson and his new soon-to-be-fiancée Mary, with a funny gag about wearing a tuxedo and having a fake mustache making him a complete stranger to Watson. The scene acts twofold: it establishes humor in an episode that could have easily been far too sappy for a Sherlock story, with the return of an old friend after much grieving and heartache, and it also helps clarify that on the whole, Sherlock is the same sociopathic asshole we’ve come to love. After going to at least three different restaurants, where each time Watson fights Sherlock for any number of reasons (dissing his mustache being one) the two-part ways with Watson still very angry.

The rest of the episode is littered with a few entertaining moments that really tie the story back to the original crime for this week’s episode. The scene with Mycroft and Sherlock involving the hat was especially funny, which eventually tied to the train aficionado that helps Sherlock figure out where the terrorist might be staging an attack. What’s that? I didn’t mention the terrorist plot yet? Well that should stand as a testament to the episode’s one major downside: a fairly weak crime plot that ends up on the backburner to dealing with last season’s cliffhanger.

Sherlock's return in "The Empty Hearse"

Photo courtesy of the BBC and PBS

Even when is being an asshole, Sherlock’s gags never disappoint. The fake ‘stache still looked better than Watson’s.

The bomb is found on a hidden train station in a train car that was detached during a late train taken by the terrorist, who turns out to be a government official. The reasons for the terrorist attack are pretty bland and forgettable, and finding the bomb in the car or, more precisely, finding out that the entire car is the bomb were also not incredibly important. Ultimately the key details to gain out of this episode is that Mycroft and Sherlock both staged his death so that Moriarty’s network could be dismantled in secret of the two-year period, and that keeping Watson out of the loop was essential to the death being effectively faked. Brilliant once again Mr. Holmes.

The only loose end in the episode was how the kidnapping of Watson midway in the season premiere will fit into everything. The last moments of the episode showcases a mysterious man who will prove to be the villain for series three, but how he fits in is yet to be stated. Hopefully episode two will explain this a bit more plainly for viewers.

All in all, decent episode for Sherlock. It was as flashy as always, and the writing was very entertaining, if not as razor-sharp as fans have come to expect. Bear in mind, a decent episode of Sherlock is an excellent episode for most other TV shows. Series three has yet to live up to my lofty expectations, but I’m looking forward to how everything might tie together over the next two weeks.

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