After two long years, Sherlock finally returns to North America as we find out how our favourite detective (Benedict Cumberbatch) managed to survive that epic fall at the end of S2. After such a long hiatus, how did the season opener fare?
Let’s bitch it out…
With its lead stars, Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman (Dr. Watson) currently enjoying mammoth Hollywood film success, it’s a wonder that Sherlock S3 is even a reality. But just a few seconds into ‘The Empty Hearse’, it feels as if no time has passed. Sherlock is just as witty and exuberant as it ever was – triumphantly returning as if renewed from a restful vacation. There’s some significant business that needs to be taken care of, and the show is keenly aware that it has to first address how our hero managed to survive his suicidal plunge.
The opening sequence is a thing of beauty – so slick and action-packed; every element leaves us with bated breath. Sherlock plunges gracefully off the building, with his harness/cable clearly seen as Watson runs in breathtaking slow motion. From the driving soundtrack, the beauty of Sherlock’s iconic wool trench flapping in the wind, and the heroic kiss he slaps on Molly (Louise Brealey) as he crashes through the window – every moment is drenched in delightful excess. Of course, fans that have been meticulously piecing together theories on Sherlock’s survival were bound to cry foul – a cable? Surely this couldn’t be the answer we’ve been waiting two whole years for! The internet would be exploding in mere moments if this was how he survived.
But Sherlock sets the tone just before the opening credits roll – it’s a fake out – a cleverly dramatized ‘fan’ theory derived by Anderson (Jonathan Aris) as he recounts it at the coffee cart to DI Lestrade (Rupert Graves). And what a way it is to open the show. How on earth could the show possibly live up to the expectations of “the answer” to Sherlock’s fall after two years of intense speculation? Throughout the episode we get a few more theories of how the events went down (my favourite being the almost-kiss between Andrew Scott’s Moriarty and Sherlock atop the roof) but no clear cut answer is given. Sure, Sherlock’s eventual recounting to Anderson may be what really happened, but at that point it doesn’t even matter. It’s the perfect way to appease everyone by simultaneously giving “the answer” and denying it in the same breath. I loved the meta-textuality of it all, proving that the two-year wait was well worth it. Clearly, S3 isn’t going to be something that was quickly thrown together for the sake of profit. Sherlock shows us it’s up to task, striving to get better and better.
Cumberbatch has always been a force to be reckoned with, but “The Empty Hearse” reminds me of how wonderful Martin Freeman is as well. He delivers a truly excellent performance as he struggles with all of the complex emotions that bubble up when Sherlock rises from the dead. The comic relief is perfectly balanced with the intense emotions. The running gag about Watson’s horrendous moustache in the midst of Sherlock’s revelation to Watson is simply brilliant – showing us the power of good writing. New love interest Mary (Freeman’s real-life wife Amanda Abbington) is also an excellent addition, who triumphantly avoids being the inevitable third wheel.
The whole business of the bomb and the subway car serves its purpose in giving us a ‘case’ to follow, but what makes the episode is how the series sets up Sherlock’s return after two years in hiding. The ending sequence in which John forgives Sherlock in the subway car hits all the right notes: we have our moments of genuine, teary emotion, intensity and suspense as we wonder how the bomb will be diffused, and the cherry on the sundae when it’s all undercut by a tactfully placed comedic fake-out.
Sherlock is back and I personally can’t wait for our next two episodes.
- As much as I enjoyed the episode, I didn’t much care of the “race to save Watson” interlude. Although it does offer its share of suspense, it just makes the episode feel bloated. We know Sherlock will do anything for John and vice versa, but there are ample moments where this was conveyed. Furthermore, I didn’t feel much of a hook when we get that ominous glimpse of the mastermind to the kidnapping at episode’s end. Cliffhangers aren’t needed to entice me when it comes to Sherlock – the writing, performances and direction are more than enough.
- It’s nice to see Molly becoming more aware, especially in the scene where she’s playing Watson for the day. Additionally the introduction of her fiancé/Sherlock-look-alike is another moment of comedic brilliance. Perhaps it’s been too long but I don’t remember Sherlock killing it with the comedy as much as it does in this first episode.
What did you think viewers? Were you satisfied after the two-year wait? Did you miss the moustache once it was gone? Do you think Moriarty is really dead or manage to somehow fake his suicide? Were you happy about how ‘the fall’ explanation was handled? Sound off in the comments below.
Sherlock airs Sundays at 10pm EST on PBS.