WARNING: The following post contains an excessive amount of spoilers and #feels. Side effects may include gross sobbing, Reichenbach flashbacks, and/or fandom-induced heart attacks. Reader discretion is advised.
Don deerstalker. Cue fangirl screams. Set feels to maximum. Aaand we’re back.
New Year’s Day saw the end of BBC Sherlock’s two-year hiatus, which in turn brought and end to fans’ painfully long wait for the explanation of how Sherlock survived “The Fall”. I know I don’t speak only for myself when I say that there were several times over the course of the drama’s ninety minutes during which I had to pause to collect myself. And as a dedicated Sherlock fan, I was not the least bit disappointed. However, the premiere was not problem-free, and I found the episode’s plot masked by the repercussions of the second series’s final episode. But minor complaints aside, I think it’s safe to say that fans got everything they were expecting from this episode and more including satisfying character development and top-notch (albeit expected) deliveries from Cumberbatch, Freeman, and the rest of the Sherlock crew.
The episode opens right where season two left off, showing the first of many potential progressions of Sherlock’s method of survival. We are treated to a moment between Sherlock and Molly (played by the amazing Louise Brealey). It was around this point that I jumped off the fandom cliff and realized that ohgodthisisactuallyhappening. It is revealed that Sherlock himself has been gone for two years, weeding out the last of Moriarty’s cohorts in various corners of the world. John, on the other hand, has remained in London, trying to pick up the pieces from what he believes to be his close friend’s tragic death, and in the process of doing so, he has met the lovely Mary Morstan (played by Freeman’s real life partner Amanda Abbington). Props to the writers for making Mary likable, as at the time of her casting announcement, there was a significant amount of criticism circulating about the internet. But rest assured that her presence—at least in this episode—has no effect on the Johnlock bromance (and in fact even helped it along). Relax guys, she’s one of us.
“The Empty Hearse” showed us some intense character development, which is a trend I hope to see continue throughout the next two installments of the series. It brings something fresh to Sherlock, and while Holmes remains an “utter cock” (as Watson so gracefully puts it), he has obviously seen some hard times over the past two years, and seems to be dealing with some internal struggles of his own. Everyone’s character seems a bit more weathered and world weary (save Mrs. Hudson of course, who is always the best source of comic relief). Also, I think the entire fandom owes Phillip Anderson an apology.
Mark Gatiss needs to come out and admit that he has indeed been living on Tumblr these past couple of years, because as far as fan service goes, “The Empty Hearse” delivers. From kisses (or near kisses) between unlikely couples to inside jokes and fandom references (cake, anyone?), Sherlock creators know what the fans want, and they seem to be having loads of fun giving it to them. Some of the resolutions to Sherlock’s faked death were nearly identical to those concocted by fans, which almost makes me wonder if the show’s writers even had a solution in mind when writing “Reichenbach”, or if they simply waited for fans to think of something clever. The interactions between Sherlock and his brother Mycroft (played by Gatiss himself) were superb, and the sneaky casting of Cumberbatch’s real parents as the Holmeses was something more surprising than even the Sherlockians could have cooked up. Overall, I found the balance of crowd pleasing and surprises to be ideal.
But biases aside, some criticisms about Sherlock’s third season premiere must be made, the most glaring of which has to do with the Reichenbach Fall resolution. The funny thing about cliffhangers is that they have to be (in any cases worth mentioning) resolved. Two years is a long time to leave such a complex cliffhanger to steep in the minds of viewers, and perhaps the completion of the Moriarty arc was too complex for a 90-minute episode to handle (it was, after all, intended to put a rest to two full seasons of buildup). The majority of energy expended during the episode focused on repairing the relationship between Watson and Holmes. This is, of course, paramount, but in the process the episode’s mystery of the disappearing train car felt, if not forced, at least a bit rushed (e.g. If even the train expert didn’t know there was a hidden station—how was the audience even supposed to guess at the solution?). There was a good mystery dwelling somewhere underneath the residue of Reichenfeels, but by the time the episode managed to wrap up the previous season, the actual plot seemed to be tacked on as an afterthought.
But these are minor complaints, considering the episode’s many good points. The ride that “The Empty Hearse” takes its audience on is an emotional one, but manages to retain that wit and humor that has been central to the series from the beginning. It’s the start of what’s shaping up to be an another award-winning season, and it is only unfortunate that it will be over so soon. If one thing looks certain, it is that Sherlock fans all over the world will not be disappointed.
“The Sign of Three” is scheduled to air on January 5th in the UK, not even a week after “The Empty Hearse”. “The Empty Hearse” will be broadcast by PBS on January 19th in the United States.