And I don’t like Sherlock, I LOVE Sherlock. It’s one of the best TV shows on today and sits comfortably as one of my all time favourites. Unsurprisingly I’ve got a lot to say about this episode, but first, let me make something that should be clear, even clearer:
The review will contain massive spoilers on just about everything to do with this episode. I want to go into detail about what I liked (or didn’t), but if you’re not British and are waiting for the UK release, I highly suggest you turn away now for I will not hold back with my content and I don’t wish to ruin this for any of you.
With that said and done, this is my review of ‘The Empty Hearse’
What I Liked
The Truth About Sherlock Faking His Death
Truth be told, I’m not surprised in the slightest that they’re keeping it vague as to how he truly survived the fall. During the episode we get three alternative possibilities; the first two being completely fake and unrealistic but the third one given by Sherlock himself. That said, as Anderson points out, even that had holes in its explanation.
Sherlock of course reveals that there were 13 different solutions to this, but naturally no others are revealed. I think this is the show telling us, the viewer, to be creative and come up with our own possibilities and ideas...something a lot of us have already been doing, since this has been a massive topic on the internet for a while now.
Frankly, I’m glad they’re keeping it vague, because watching this episode I realised that it wasn’t really the most important part of this episode. I was quickly more interested in how the characters reacted to Sherlock’s return and then coming to terms with that. As Watson puts it; ‘I don’t care how, I want to know why’.
I did wonder leading up to this whether Sherlock would return to a London that hated it, but instead they’ve had it revealed to the world that Moriarty was the culprit and Sherlock was innocent, turning him into a martyr. I definitely like this, particularly with what they’ve done with Anderson.
Since Anderson and Sally Donovan played a part in turning the Police against Sherlock in season 2, it is very believable that Anderson is riddled with guilt because of it (Sally is likely the same). We now see an Anderson who is ridden with guilt, knowing he played a part in Sherlocks’ apparent death. Instead of trying to come to terms with his part however, he instead tries to rid himself of the guilt by proving he’s still alive
While he obviously respects Sherlock now, it’s clear he’s not doing this for Sherlock. He’s doing this for himself. He wants to rid himself of the guilt and make himself feel better. He becomes so obsessed with this that he loses his job and becomes a mess. He even resorts to creating elaborate hoaxes in order to attract Sherlock’s attention.
Sherlock of course calls him out on this, pointing out that he wasted Police time and could’ve caused harm to someone, something that is very true. And we see at the end him becoming a mess of a person and possibly going insane. It’s quite tragic, but I really liked it. I didn’t expect this to get focused on so much but it really makes sense that he (and likely Sally) are guilt-ridden because of all the hurt they caused Sherlock.
If anything, it was a reminder that the days of people doubting Sherlock are long gone.
This, more than anything else, was what I was looking forward to with this episode.
Moffat and Gatiss explained that they couldn’t just have John just faint like he did in the books, something I entirely agree with, but I certainly wasn’t sure how exactly they’d do it. Would it be more comical with John just beating the crap out of Sherlock? Or would be much more serious without much room for comedy?
The answer however, was both.
Let’s go over it all, shall we? First we had Sherlock try to surprise John comically by posing as a waiter and speak in a bad French accent. Funny scene, but it does remind us just how little Sherlock still understands other people’s feelings. He doesn’t seem to realise that revealing yourself after being two years presumed dead should not be treated comically.
But then, John does find out...and his reaction is perfect.
He doesn’t faint, he doesn’t instantly lash out, but how he did react was absolutely perfect. He slowly stands up, clearly so shaken that he can barely do this, you see his initial shock turn into anger, the rage just boiling up inside, ready to burst at any second.
Then Sherlock makes the inevitable moustache joke.
Of course, after that, he attacks Sherlock three different times during the night, each one hilarious but feeling totally appropriate each time. This whole scene was the perfect blend of comedy and drama, where despite the several funny moments, we completely understand John’s grief and why he is furious with him. The whole thing was wonderfully performed by Benedict and Martin, two of the best actors alive today in my opinion.
This leads on to...
John Forgiving Sherlock
I.e., how long it took him to do it.
It’s quite obvious that it would take a while for John to forgive Sherlock. After all not letting him know and forcing him to grieve for 2 years was unfair on him (despite Sherlock’s good reasons for leaving). It makes total sense that he doesn’t just join back up with Sherlock as soon as he’s returned.
We see John work as a doctor (and we more or less learn it’s here where he met his fiancée) and we see him deal with the mundane lifestyle he now lives in. You can see how part of him wants to walk out and help Sherlock, but he’s still clearly hasn’t forgiven him. We see he eventually decides to go help after work before he is kidnapped (I’ll get to that later) and after being saved he joins Sherlock. Clearly not because he has now forgiven him, but as Sherlock alludes to, he wants the thrill of the hunt and the excitement back in his life.
Only when he believes he’s about to die does he admit that he’s forgiven Sherlock, and to say it was a sweet scene would be an understatement. Overall the whole process of John realising he’s alive, reacting to it and coming to forgiven Sherlock was done almost flawlessly, and Martin Freeman never ceases to amaze me.
Sherlock and Mycroft’s Banter
The banter between Sherlock and Mycroft has always been entertaining, but to be honest their banter here might be their absolute best. The major thing I really liked was how we finally saw Mycroft as being just as deductive as Sherlock.
I’ve loved Mark Gatiss performance as Mycroft, but I do have to acknowledge it’s not quite in line with the Mycroft in the books. Mycroft in the novels is supposed to be even better than Sherlock at making deductions, but he’s held back by his massive lack of energy to do...well, most things, and I do believe his relationship with his brother is much more amicable in the books.
But the scene where the two are dissecting the hat shows that Mycroft is likely just as good as Sherlock, and the said scene was utterly brilliant. That, and several other scenes just showed how...unique their relationship is. We got more information about their childhood, we learnt Mycroft might take some small amount of pleasure in seeing his brother get beaten up, and we learn neither them seem to want spend time with their parents.
Oh yea, about them...
Wow. I was not expecting that.
I could guess the two elderly couple weren’t clients as it initially looked like but family, but I thought they’d be his aunt and uncle. But no, they’re his parents, and I think many of us had the same reaction as John did at this. In any case, it was an eye-opener about the distant relationship Sherlock (and Mycroft) has with his parents, who still love him and worry about him regardless.
Also, the two actors who played his parents are Benedict Cumberbatch’s real life parents. That’s just awesome.
Closing Molly’s Hopeless Romance Arc
Molly Hooper has always been a character I’ve felt sorry for. Her interest in men has not led her to much success, what with one being asexual and the other being a psychopath.
The hopeless romance between her and Sherlock has been funny and touching at times, but it seems as though they’re putting it to rest with her now being engaged. I’m glad they’re ending this before it got stale and lost its welcome. And heck, they’ve made up for all the shit she goes through by having her play a major part in Sherlock faking his death, and she got to spend the day helping Sherlock solve cases like she was John. Awesome!
...The fact she’s engaged to a guy who looks like Sherlock is a bit on the nose, but hey, I’ll take that over seeing her just get treated like crap over and over.
I daresay many people will hate her simply for getting in-between the monstrously popular ‘Sherlock X John’ pairing, but let’s face it, Mary Morstan is really likeable!
She’s funny, clearly quite intelligent since she spotted the code in a text she got, and isn’t afraid to get in some danger when saving John. She was of course played by Amanda Abbington, who is a fantastic actor and is actually Martin Freeman’s real life partner as well. My god they’re going one step further with these castings, aren’t they?
Frankly I think the fact Sherlock takes an instant liking to her is sign enough that she’s a strong character, and I look forward to the wedding episode, that’s for sure!
The Bonfire Scene
This whole scenario was absolutely terrifying.
I loved the way it was edited, where at first you weren’t exactly sure what was happening to John. Was he tied to the ground, was he just drugged on the floor, the editing kept it vague as you felt the confusion John was going through at the moment with him.
And then you found out...and by god did I nearly shit myself.
The thought of being burnt alive like that is legitimately terrifying, and having it set around what is supposed to be a fun community activity made it even more harrowing. Certainly the next time I’m near a bonfire I’ll feel compelled to check inside beforehand.
And let’s not forget that it gave us Sherlock’s epic save, where he literally went through fire to get to him. Badass.
The Sherlock Fanbase Joke
I’ve seen some people complain about this joke, where the Sherlock fangirl comes up the theory of him surviving the fall involving Sherlock and Moriarty puckering up, and while I do get the annoyance people have had, I think people shouldn’t be so offended at this.
The fact is ladies and gents is that this kind of fanfiction exists, and to me this was their funny nod at those fans. Is it poking fun of them? A little bit sure, but the whole thing came off as good natured and just a bit of fun. If they’d gone on to say that this was shit and a horrible thing to do, then I’d get people being upset, but it wasn’t, it was just a funny nod to the fandom’s yaoi obsessed part.
Remember guys; this is from Britain. Poking fun lightheartedly at everything is how we cope with our shit weather.
Sherlock Wearing The Hat
Oh come on, who didn’t love this scene?
Maybe I’m just reading waaay too much into this...but seeing Sherlock wear the hat – the same one he despised in season 2 – is to me a subtle way of showing just how much Sherlock has changed. It’s like he’s finally opening up to the world and enjoying the success he’s achieved.
And when you consider that behind him are now several friends of his, then it reminds you that the friendless Sherlock in season 1 is long gone, and by god does that melt your heart.
And so the teaser in this episode was a man with glasses watching Sherlock save John from the bonfire, looped over and over. Definately a foreboding scene, but what did it mean? Well, here’s my little theory:
According to Wikipedia, the third and final episode of this season will involve Sherlock going against a man called Charles Augustus Magnussen, a man who supposedly knows the personal weakness of every important man in the western world. And again, if this man in the teaser is Charles, then you can likely put two and two together:
He’s watching Sherlock save John, Sherlock’s personal weakness.
The idea is admittedly similar to what Moriarty did, but honestly I’m still pretty damn excited! Lord knows he’s got tough competition being the successor to Moriarty, so hopefully he will do a great job.
And that ladies and gentlemen is everything I loved about this episode, and by god did I love it. Better yet, I have only one sorta negative thing to say about this episode!
What I Didn’t Like
The Actual Mystery
Well, I say ‘what I didn’t like’, but that’s truthfully not the case here. I didn’t mind this problem in the slightest, the rest of the episode more than made up for this...buuuut I wouldn’t be much of a critic if I didn’t acknowledge this.
The actual mystery in this episode...it wasn’t bad, but compared to the other episodes it was rather shallow.
The mystery’s in previous episodes usually took up most of the episode, but here I’d say it’s half of it at best. What we do get is certainly interesting – and I always like anything Bonfire Night related – but compared to previous episodes it was relatively straight forward and simple.
We all know why this is; because much of this episode was about wrapping things up from the previous episode, and that’s why this doesn’t bother me in any way. I loved every moment of this episode and I was glad they focused on all of this, but I do feel compelled to acknowledge that the actual mystery in this episode wasn’t the shows best.
I think the only part of it that really disappoints is the man behind it, in that we don’t really learn much about the why. Sure we learn he works secretly for North Korea, but are we to assume he’s simply under order when trying to blow up Parliament and stop the Anti-Terrorism bill? Or is this his own personal vendetta and his own reasoning to stop it? I guess I wish this character had been explored a bit, but that’s all.
So as you can likely guess, I LOVED this episode. I absolutely adored it from beginning to end. This is one of those rare occasions where the hype I have for something is not only met, but it’s exceeded, and besides my only little gripe with it, I thought it was damn near perfect.
I saw this on January 1st, and man was it a great way to start the year. I now eagerly wait for tomorrow for episode 2, The Sign Of Three! Till then guys!