I hear that there was something important going on with football this past weekend… Personally, I found it far more exciting that the BBC’s Sherlock was finally back! It already aired in England, but it was back at last in America. Sherlock is on its third series (or season), so there will be spoilers for the previous two. I’ll try to avoid spoilers for this episode.
The usual method for each 90-minute episode of Sherlock is to solve one major case. There is a case here, one involving a terrorist attack, but that takes a backseat to Sherlock’s (Benedict Cumberbatch) return from the dead, and his reunion with all the other characters, particularly John Watson (Martin Freeman). And then, of course, there is THE question–how he managed to fake his death to begin with.
Series Two ended with that absolutely killer cliffhanger, on how Sherlock faked dying by jumping off a building, and we’ve been waiting two years for an answer. In many ways, I think the show writers set themselves up for an impossible task, to somehow deliver an episode that can live up to that kind of anticipation. And yet, I feel like they succeeded, mostly by deft uses of humor and occasional sleight of hand.
The answer to THE question? Well, I’m certainly not going to tell you that! But I will tell you that the show provides three possible explanations, and winds up by being a bit ambiguous about whether we have the true answer or not (and makes a joke about the listener being disappointed). I think it would be enormously fun if they keep providing alternate explanations over the rest of the season! If they don’t, I still feel satisfied. I have an answer, and if Sherlock wants to be enigmatic about the answer, I can live with that.
Sherlock’s reunion with John is an absolute work of genius. It’s hilariously funny, while somehow also having some real character depth to it as well. And there’s a less funny, more sentimental moment later on too. They could have gone completely towards the dramatic for the reunion, but I think it could so easily have gone cloying or flat. Comedy was the right choice, and those scenes reminded me just how brilliant this show really is. I’ve been so focused on THE question of the cliffhanger that I almost forgot to miss the show for itself, rather than for the answer to the mystery.
For Doyle fans, there are some nice moments harkening back to the original stories. Mrs. Hudson first knows Sherlock is back when she sees his silhouette through a window, which directly reflects how Watson knew Holmes was alive in the short story. There’s also a minor case Sherlock solves in this episode that reflects the plotline of one of the short stories. And then the title, of course–“The Empty Hearse” is such a fun play on “The Empty House,” Holmes’ return short story.
This episode is definitely not a starting place for the series on a whole, but if you saw the previous two series, this is a wonderful return.
And I swear, Sherlock really is the good-Khan (or Khan is the evil-Sherlock, however you want to look at that!)