Sherlock: The Empty Hearse

Series 3, Episode 1.

Remember in January 2012 when Sherlock died in the last episode of the three-part second series and people wondered how they could ever wait two more years to find out how he survived the jump and for more episodes of Sherlock? And then we thought it would only be 18 months, but it turned out to be 24 months. Well, life goes on, and where once a wait seemed unbearable, later it seems like it was no time at all.

Yes, Sherlock returned for another three-episode run on New Year’s Day on BBC1. I’ve been away on holiday, so just coming to the episode a week later, but why worry about a matter of days in this context.

The key question concerning fans bombarding Stephen Moffat since the Reichenbach Fall has been how did Sherlock manage to fake his death when he was seen to jump off the roof of the hospital building, and his dead body was seen on the floor afterwards. There have been numerous theories, but I was never much interested in them. This is ‘Sherlock’ – we know he survived and that’s all that really matters. So whether the explanation Sherlock gave Anderson (now the head of a fan club called the ‘Empty Hearse’ who speculate about Sherlock’s demise) about the use of another body from the morgue with the help of Molly, a ball under the armpit and the homeless network is true or not didn’t really matter in the end.

The episode started with what seemed like an explanation for Sherlock’s death, including the real Derren Brown sending John Watson to sleep, but it was then revealed to be just one of Anderson’s (one of the cops) theories that he is telling Lestrade. Half way through, another suggestion is given by a member of the Empty Hearse group who suggests that a fake body was dropped and that Moriarty and Sherlock were lovers, and it this constant refrain about how Sherlock might have faked his death over the hour and a half episode that is one of the main foci of the episode.

The other main focus is the relationship between Watson and Sherlock, and how they repair this after Watson finds out that Sherlock is alive, having grieved for two years. Watson is understandably not happy. He had grieved, avoided 221B Baker Street and grown a moustache. (There’s a running joke in the first half of the episode about how bad the moustache is and how it ages Watson, and it’s true – it doesn’t really work). He’s a GP, and his nurse-cum-receptionist is his girlfriend – Mary – played by Martin Freeman’s real-life partner (and also seen in Mr Selfridge), Amanda Abbington. Sherlock deduces that Mary is a nurse, but when does a nurse let the doctor know who their next patient is?

nurse, only child, clever, shortsighted, linguist, Guardian

Appendix scar, romantic

cat lover, secret tattoo,  disillusioned Lib Dem, or just disillusioned?

cat lover, secret tattoo, disillusioned Lib Dem, or just disillusioned?

size 12, liar, bakes own bread

size 12, liar, bakes own bread

Mary turns out to be welcome addition to the cast. Watson was about to propose to her when Sherlock reappeared, but they are engaged by the end of the episode, and the next episode will be the wedding. Other key family members include Mycroft Holmes (Mark Gatiss), Sherlock’s older brother, who always knew that Sherlock was alive and brings him back to London as they have had a tip about an underground terrorist cell. We also meet Sherlock’s parents (who also knew that he wasn’t dead – Watson is increasingly upset in the episode about the number of people who knew that Sherlock was alive), who are very ‘normal’. And Molly Hooper plays a key role in the episode, as Watson’s stand-in for a part, and then revealing her new fiancee, who looks very much like Cumberbatch although with added floppy hair.

The main mystery of the episode then is about the underground terrorist cell. It’s not really explained how but Sherlock has various ‘markers’ – people in London he is watching, who if they do something suspicious he will know are involved and that the terrorist cell is doing something. But it’s a train/tube enthusiast who deals with the London Underground security footage who alerts Sherlock to something mysterious. It’s not really clear at all how Sherlock and this guy have met, as Sherlock has his hat before the guy tells Sherlock about a suspicious video, but anyway…

So a Lord of the Realm, a Baron, a Nigel-Havers look-a-like, is seen to get on the last train at Westminster station and then have disappeared by the next stop at St James’ Park station. There are no tunnels or doors between these two stops so where did he disappear to? And how is this connected to the underground terrorist cell?

Meanwhile, John Watson has decided to forgive Sherlock but is drugged by some guys and put under a bonfire (it’s November 5 – Bonfire Night/Guy Fawkes’ night). Mary receives a text and works out that something is wrong and goes to Sherlock – they manage to rescue Watson. Sherlock realises that the Baron had disappeared because the whole last car (carriage) of the tube had disappeared and it’s an Underground terrorist cell, not underground terrorist cell. The missing car is loaded with explosives and set to blow up the Houses of Parliament on November 5 – but like Guy Fawkes, the plot is found out and prevented.

We still don’t know who was behind the plot and why they targetted Watson – but at the end we see the eyes of a man watching footage of Sherlock dragging Watson out of the bonfire. More will surely be revealed over the next two episodes.

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