Season 3, Episode 1: The Empty Hearse
Posted by Sage
God, I missed this show. This absurd, arrogant, UNREASONABLY fun show.
#sherlocklives, readers. But we already knew that. What we didn’t know was how he did it.
Or maybe we did, since the opening sequence of “The Empty Hearse” – the Reichenbach fall from a different perspective – seemed directly lifted from the pages of Tumblr. Theories from across the fandom came to life as Sherlock bungeed off the roof of St. Barts; a team of black-clad accomplices attached a freakishly life-like Holmes mask to Moriarty’s fresh corpse; and – actually, if anyone called this, they should share co-creator credits with Mofftis – famous British hypnotist Derren Brown put John Watson to sleep to buy the whole charade a little more time. Plus, the first entry in our Best TV Moments of 2014 post is already etched in stone, because holy cannoli, that KISS.
My brain had barely registered that I was watching my first new Sherlock episode in TWO years when Sherlock crashed through that window and took Molly Hooper in a manly fashion.
This is the stuff that your BEST dreams are made of. I mean, really, you’ve had that one, right? Where Benedict Cumberbatch strides towards you, his coat billowing majestically out behind him, ruffles his curls and attacks your mouth like this was the only reason he created this elaborate plan in the first place? In fact, I’m currently researching lucid dreaming so I can have it every night until the day I finally explode in a glittery cloud of lust.
We can’t see his face, though Molly’s expression is exactly the one you’d expect. (Louise, I know you hardly had to act in that moment.) Sherlock glides out the double doors and out of everyone’s lives like a PIMP, and then the whole thing is interrupted by Lestrade’s “bollocks.” (Hee.)
Turns out this story is trademarked Philip Anderson, because the former detective is fan-ficing his way out of feeling responsible for Sherlock’s death. “You did this and it killed him and he’s staying dead,” says Silver Fox Greg, and that’s a little harsh, even for Anderson, who lowers the IQ of every street he stands on. But Philip’s new obsessive hermit bag is just one of the extremes that “The Empty Hearse” took us to.
Remember when we assumed Series 3 would be all angst and distance and hurt feelings while John found a way to forgive Sherlock for making him grieve his best friend for 24 straight months? Nope? Me neither. Instead, we got a Pink-Panther-meets-Naked-Gun-type-sequence wherein Sherlock decided to surprise John – who would be “delighted,” he was sure – by posing as a French waiter and interrupting the fancy dinner during which John intended to propose to the tremendous Mary Morstan. (I’ll get back to her.) It wouldn’t have been any less ridiculous if he had gone with his original plan of popping “out of a cake.” Possibly wearing these. ANYWAY. I kept pausing this scene to ask myself how it could be real. Could Sherlock really be drawing a tiny, curvy mustache on his face with a biro and adopting a Pepe Le Pew accent to break the news to John THROUGH PUNS? (“It is familiar, but with a quality of…surpriiiise!”) Could the trio really then get kicked out of THREE consecutive restaurants, at least once for headbutting? Could I love Mark Gatiss any more than I do right now?
Of course, there was real emotion there and very real hurt on John’s part. I want to go on walkabout to collect all the awards, trophies, and medals of acting valor and deliver them right to Martin Freeman’s Hobbit hole. We know by now that this John Watson’s anger runs deep, though he struggles to keep a lid on it like the military man he is. Martin has always nailed John’s controlled fury – and those moments when he loses that control. He also nails his “this bitch” face. See above.
How silly of me to think for a second that this episode would be a 90-minute “come to Jesus” between Holmes and Watson. There’s no time for couples counseling when we’ve got to get Sherlock Holmes and his trademark deerstalker back on the streets of London. The game is back on, y’all. And no one is happier about it than Graham Lestrade.
Sherlock has spent the last two years working undercover and dismantling Moriarty’s network, piece by piece. But the rats continue to move and Mycroft is being characteristically dramatic about it. If not for the underground terrorist network infiltrating his city, Mycroft might have let “brother mine” stew in that Serbian prison a little bit longer instead of bringing him back home for a shower and a shave. (Mmm…) Back at Baker Street with his friend the skull, Sherlock’s strategy is to keep tabs on the “big” rats, monitoring their activities and looking for signs that something very not cool is about to happen. Surveillance turns into action, however, when Mary receives a cryptic text message leading her and Sherlock to a Guy Fawkes Day bonfire built on top of one John Hamish Watson. Pretty quick to recognize that skip code, eh, Mary? For all the nutty developments of this episode, my suspension of disbelief was most tested by neither Sherlock nor John commenting on the fact that MARY received the threatening text, NOT Sherlock. John was taken to get to her, as all of Tumblr instantly realized.
Mary Morstan, ladies and gentlemen. All it took was some OT3-establishing scenes and Amanda Abbington’s charm to get an audience of Johnlock fangirls to fall in love with the future Mrs. Watson. Her instant rapport with Sherlock was a pleasant surprise and I love the characterization of her as a woman who’s able to laugh at these silly boys who take everything so seriously. (“So…after work, are you gonna see him again?”) Clearly, she’s more than a love interest. She’s a mystery to be solved. But even as Sherlock was scanning her, “liar” made about as much of an impression on him as “cat lover.”
Because Sherlock believes that lying is often necessary. He lies at the drop of a hat, even to people he loves. Why should he judge Mary for it? In fact, I think it’s one of the reasons he finds her interesting. And, as we know, interesting this man is no easy feat. He also appreciates her, right off the bat, for saving his best friend John. I constantly feel like weeping over the character development of Sherlock Holmes, a trait which is prominently featured in my OKCupid profile. And his casual acceptance of Mary as an important person in John’s and therefore his life was quiet proof of how far he’s come. I mean, he actually WINKED at her. What may we deduce about his heart? It works.
Not only does it work, but it always has. Sherlock had CHOSEN to live a life outside of human feeling. And now, he chooses to exist within it. And it’s changed him so much that he’s actually trying to convince Mycroft to do the same. I mean, he essentially invited his brother over for a game night to slip into conversation that he really ought to go out and get himself some friends. “Can’t handle a broken heart,” Sherlock says to Mycroft in the middle of a gripping round of Operation (OPERATION.), “very telling.” Mycroft isn’t too brilliant to associate with all the goldfish in his life. He’s too scared.
Once as oblivious to Molly’s feelings for him as she still is for Greg’s feelings for her, Series 1 Sherlock wouldn’t have understood just how much it would mean to Molly Hooper to spend the day with him
having dinner solving crimes. And now he gets it – how this would be the very best way to thank her, the person who put herself most on the line for him. What risk was Mycroft taking? Or the homeless network? It was Molly who made the sacrifice, gambling her reputation and her safety to pull off his little plan. “The one person he thought didn’t matter to me was the one person that mattered the most.” My Sherlolly shipper glasses are firmly on, but I find it difficult to read these scenes as anything but bittersweet and regretful. Sherlock waits until the end of the day to mention the ring, which he obviously noticed the second he walked into the locker room, and tell her that she DESERVES happiness. “After all,” he says, “not all the men you fall for can turn out to be sociopaths.” And maybe he’s not talking about Tom.
But lest we take Sherlock for a total pushover these days, the climax of the episode still shows that he is, in many ways and in John’s words, a “cock.” When his “just the two of us against the rest of the world” speech failed to inspire any fuzzy feelings in his former flatmate, the tragedy of their impending death was his next resort to gain forgiveness. “You were the best and the wisest man that I have ever known. Yes, of course, I forgive you, ” John says and INSTANTLY regrets it. Sherlock had found the off-switch already, no mind palace needed, and “acted” his apology. (Sure.) But stupid boys are stupid and they can’t talk about how they feel unless they’re in mortal peril. (See: Sherlock’s face as he DOVE INTO FLAMES to save John.) Lord Moran’s V for Vendetta knock-off of a plot is fizzled, Parliament Square still stands, and what’s been said has been said. That whole fake suicide? Water under the bridge. And now they can finally really TALK about it. “I asked you for one more miracle. I asked you to stop being dead.” “I heard you.”
Does Sherlock cater to fans? Sure. Is it full of itself and over the top sometimes? Obviously. And that’s why it works. That’s why the fervor of its fandom never wavered during its two-year hiatus. I read criticism of this episode that claimed it was a departure from the usual “hard-hitting detective series.” I’m sorry, the what? Are we watching the same show? I’m THRILLED that it’s written with the goal of making the internet lose its mind. It’s ballsy and silly and can obviously go on forever as long as Benedict and Martin want to take occasional breaks from their big-time movie careers to spend a month or so gallivanting around London and every so often punching each other in the face. I hope it does.
- London has never looked more amazing than through the eyes of Sherlock’s cinematographers. The first thing I wanted to do when I got there was go stand on top of a building and look contemplatively out onto the skyline.
- Mrs. Hudson was so deliciously passive aggressive with John. And why shouldn’t she be? Call your surrogate mother, John. She loves you and just wants you to be happy…with whatever your life choices may be.
- Watching Benedict Cumberbatch get dressed is 1000000x sexier than watching any other man get undressed. Fact.
- “Well, short version. Not dead.”
- One of my many OTPs on this show is Sherlock/his complete disregard for furniture.
- Yes, those were Benedict’s REAL parents playing Sherlock’s very ordinary folks. So now you see from whom that perfection was spawned.
- “Mary likes it.” “Ummmm, no, she doesn’t.”
- “Shut up” “Or what?” “Or I’ll marry you.” Oh, guys. This is the one.
- “Both of us thought you were an idiot, Sherlock. We had nothing else to go on until we met other children.” “That was a mistake.”
- John Watson is the voice in Sherlock Holmes’ head. I can appreciate that AND the meaningful looks he’s sharing with Molly over the train guy. I just want him to make out with everyone, okay?
- This little move:
- “But you don’t understand the pain of it. The horror.” Mycroft just gets me and the way I feel about Les Mis.
- So apparently it’s confirmed somewhere on the Series 3 DVDs that the version that of the Fall that Sherlock told to Anderson is the real version. But…I might actually just reject that entirely. I think it’s more unbelievable that there was a corpse in a morgue somewhere that looked identical to Sherlock than what we saw in the opening sequence. And why WOULD he tell Anderson the truth? Maybe because he pitied him – after all, it was his disappearance that made him go crazy with guilt. Or maybe Sherlock would lie just to mess with him some more. Or maybe I’m just going with the first one because I refuse to believe that kiss is anything other than perfectly canon. When it comes to this show, I think fans have that right.
There’s your premiere, Sherlockians. Did it live up to your expectations? I’ll be recapping all of Series 3. And we’ve got a wedding to attend this week. See you there!