Sherlock: Emptying the Hearse of All Your “Sherlock Lives” Theories

 

A still from "The Empty Hearse," courtesy of BBC. Note how much Sherlock hates John's mustache.

A still from “The Empty Hearse,” courtesy of BBC. Note how much Sherlock hates John’s mustache.

Sherlock returns!

After two years, BBC’s Sherlock premiered its first episode of series 3 on New Year’s Day. The premiere, titled “The Empty Hearse,” brings the detective (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) back to London after John Watson (played by Martin Freeman) watched him fall off a rooftop. The last shot of series 2 confirmed that Sherlock Holmes indeed faked his death, but now we at last find out how.

But not before a large host of Sherlock’s acquaintances enjoy the shock of his return. Sherlock had an elaborate plan that allowed his brother Mycroft, Molly Hooper, and some of his Irregular network knows he still lived. However, John Watson, among others, spent two years grieving his loss and eventually moved on with his life.

Props to Benedict Cumberbatch’s knack for impressions, because that scene in the restaurant was hysterical. As John nervously tries to come up with a way to propose to Mary Morstan (introducing Amanda Abbington to the series), Sherlock desperately attempts to surprise John with his appearance with a bunch of goofy puns and whipping off of stolen specs. The entire montage that follows, with John digesting the news that Sherlock is actually alive, was beautiful. Sherlock hoped to have everything return to the way it was before he left, and he tries to lighten the mood with off-handed comments and poor jokes about John’s (ugly) mustache. Mary is by John’s side every time, but after her initial shock, she’s giggling because Sherlock is terrible with people and John keeps punching him.

It’s a satisfying reunion scene because it doesn’t leave it at that. John still calls a cab for him and Mary, while Sherlock, sporting a bloody nose and bruised lip, walks into the night alone. He doesn’t get off that easy. Not only did Sherlock fake his own death, but also other people knew—people Sherlock didn’t hold in as high a regard (or so, Moriarty believed) as John Watson, Mrs. Hudson, or Detective Inspector Lestrade.

We get a Holmes brothers scene at Baker Street, with the boys doing their version of “Who’s dick’s bigger?” Mycroft is the more intelligent of the two, it’s confirmed, but Sherlock actually gets things done. Growing up, neither liked people at all. But Mycroft suggests that Sherlock’s friendship with John changed the detective’s life, and with that friendship came a larger circle of people to care about.

This point is elaborated upon when Sherlock takes in clients, but he can’t work efficiently without someone by his side. John Watson is off in his own life, being a doctor and doing doctor-y things. So, Sherlock calls poor Molly Hooper out of her day job to be his new pal. Molly humors him, and she does well with taking notes and providing knowledge from her field of work. But she doesn’t tell him off, doesn’t tease him about his coat collar. Sherlock Holmes doesn’t need a “sidekick”; he needs a friend. And right now, it doesn’t seem like John will forgive him.

Except, John spends the day as a doctor and he freaks out on his last weird patient who he thought was Sherlock Holmes in an awful disguise. (It wasn’t, how embarrassing.) Perhaps he already forgave the daft detective the moment John saw him in the restaurant, making fun of his stupid mustache, because right after work John is walking up to 221B Bake Street with a smile on his face. And then he got abducted and nearly burned at the stake, but Sherlock and Mary save him and that breaks the ice better than a waiter with a fake French accent.

The episode’s mandatory case story line was a terrorist threat on London, and how a bomb would go off under Parliament. The case, in the midst of everything, wasn’t as interesting or gripping as an actual terrorist threat on London would actually be, but that’s because we waited two long years, damn it, and we know our heroes will save the day.  The ticking bomb that Sherlock did not know how to diffuse, in fact, served as the catalyst for John’s emotional release of being betrayed by his best friend. The moment also called for a flashback explanation to how Sherlock did jump off the roof of Bart’s and lived to tell the tale.

In the end, stopping the bomb and revealing how Sherlock “died” was anticlimactic. It’s simple: there was an off-switch, and Sherlock had orchestrated assistance. Not everything is mad and clever, and not everything tidies up neatly. Sherlock still doesn’t know why John was taken hostage and nearly burnt alive, but there’s the series’ story arc!

Stray remarks:

  • Anderson’s weird obsession with Sherlock still being alive was definitely a surrogate for the audience, which was a bit insulting and also ridiculous. His mad cackle after Sherlock revealed everything was awkward, especially when the camera lingers far too long as he slides onto the floor in a satisfied daze.
  • Also, no Donovan? If you’re gonna have Anderson feel guilty about what he did, you gotta have the only woman of color have a voice, too!
  • Anthea returned!
  • Molly’s boyfriend. Will the writers give her a break?
  • Mary is such a delight! I love how she’s written, how she’s being portrayed by Amanda, and that Sherlock likes her, too! (Canon!!)
  • SHERLOCK’S PARENTS. At first, I thought he was just being rude, but then he’s shutting them out and his mom strokes his face. I need more, please.
  • Is the silhouetted figure in the last scene supposed to be Sebastian Moran? If so, why is he a typical creepy villain in a dark room with a bunch of TV screens?!
Jennifer Babu

Jennifer Babu is the editor-in-chief of Videshi Magazine. She's a film & TV addict, and suffers from sleep deprivation (self-inflicted). Follow her on twitter @jenibabu.

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