This has been a long time coming for all of us. Everyone who has taken the time to sit down and invest in this brilliant series has been waited on baited breath for Sherlock’s return after his supposed ‘death’ in the finale for the previous season. But the wait is over, because Sherlock is back and, thankfully, he’s still alive and kicking.
Season 3 kicks off with a particularly heart-wrenching recap of Sherlock’s fateful trip over the side of a building, but this time we get to see how he managed to survive the fall. Or, at least that’s what we’re made out to think. Because, in fact, we’re given not one, not two, but three reasonable explanations for Sherlock’s survival, but not one is said to be accurate.
This intriguing mystery, to which the answer might never be found, very much sets the tone as we’re then put back into the present time, and given a glimpse of what Sherlock’s been up to during his two-year absence. And surprisingly, he’s been busy.
You see, despite Jim Moriarty, Sherlock’s nemesis and all-around crazy guy, killing himself at the end of last season, his ’empire’ was far from extinct and in order to protect his friends Sherlock tasked himself with bringing it all down on his own. And he does. It just takes him longer than he thought. Two-years, to be exact, of forcing his best friend to believe he’s dead.
Of course, we all knew Sherlock couldn’t stay dead, but no one told John Watson that. And once Moriarty’s empire was dismantled, and Sherlock was returned to London by his brother Mycroft to bring down a nameless terrorist group that intends to strike a deadly strike against the country, Sherlock realizes that he’s going to have to reveal himself to Watson.
And the long-awaited reunion scene was far from disappointing. Seeing Sherlock disguise himself as a waiter to surprise Watson was really fun, especially since Watson didn’t even recognize his old friend at first, and things only got better when the cat was finally let out of the bag.
Watson’s reaction was everything I was hoping it would be. His initial shock pulled at the heartstrings, but then his anger, understandably, got the better of him and he proceeded to hit his supposedly incarnated best friend in the face. Three times. Not only was it a clever way to keep the tone from straying into overly melodramatic territory, but it was also pretty hilarious as well.
While the effects of Sherlock’s return weren’t as drastic as I originally expected them to be, it was nice to see Watson struggle to reconnect with Sherlock, especially after all the pain he put him through. But, of course, it wouldn’t be the same without the two of them working side-by-side, so of course they eventually made up, and that’s when the plot kicked itself into high-gear.
After some brief, but touching, reunions with the rest of his friends, Sherlock quickly got back into the swing of the detective business, and began to dig into the supposed terrorist group Mycroft sent him after. I appreciated seeing how quickly things got moving, and despite its usual 90-minute running time, I never felt bored. However, I couldn’t shake the feeling that it all felt a little cramped.
It was most noticeable in the middle of the episode, and as wonderful as it was seeing Sherlock and Watson scour the streets (and sewers) of London for clues I never really felt like there was a legitimate threat to anyone. The terrorist group in question was left mostly anonymous, and even when their plans were foiled, it wasn’t satisfying because there was never any powerful suspense.
The Empty Hearse had a lot going on to be sure, and at times I found myself scratching my head in an effort to keep up with the brisk pace. With that said, however, there was never a single moment where I wasn’t enjoying the adventure. The witty dialogue, fantastic characters, and spectacular directing all ensured that I was always having fun regardless of anything else that was going on.
The characters of Sherlock still remain to be some of the most fully realized, entertaining people on television, and it was great seeing them all together again. While characters like Molly Hooper and Lestrade weren’t given as much of a focus as they had in the past, the two leads thankfully had some of their best material yet.
Benedict Cumberatch has defined the character of Sherlock Holmes in a way few ever have, and he is by far my favorite interpretation of the character. He easily slips back into character here, and Cumberatch controls almost every scene he’s in.
However, what makes him so great is his impeccable chemistry with the always impressive Martin Freeman, who has some of his most memorable scene here in The Empty Hearse. His aforementioned reunion with Sherlock was a definite highlight, but I always appreciated that his relationship with his fiance Mary gave him room to demonstrate another side of the character we’re not entirely used to seeing.
While I had my issues with the seemingly constricted nature of the plot, I can’t deny that it acted as a great catalyst for the characters to do what they do best. There were a handful of memorable moments for me, but one of my when when Watson was kidnapped and trapped inside a soon-to-be burned bonfire.
What I loved about it was that it showed just how far Sherlock is willing to go to keep his friends safe, and having him work with Mary to rescue Watson was a brilliant way to endear her to the viewers as well as establish her as another strong addition to the overall cast.
Despite some erratic plot issues, I still really enjoyed The Empty Hearse. It was great getting back into the show again after all this time, and it was nice seeing our beloved characters evolve even more. Of course, I hope they iron out some of the more rushed plot issues in the other two episodes for the season, but on a whole, I’m satisfied with what we got here, and look forward to what’s coming next.