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In the two years it’s taken Sherlock Holmes to dismantle Moriarty’s international crime web (refreshing to see an Irish person with a crime web that ranges outside of Hammersmith), Watson has seemingly done little more than drag his arse along the carpet of Holmes’ memory. He’s grown a moustache, a decision presumably made after numerous Saturdays antiquing in Spitalfields with his newly acquired fiancé Mary. He sighs an awful lot. These days, Watson’s Study in Pink is far likelier to involve a case of thrush than it is a dead woman’s fingernails.
All of Sherlock’s London, it seems, is having difficulty adapting to a post Sherlock world, which is a fair reflection on real life London since the last series. We’ve followed Cumberbatch’s career dutifully, respectfully, with the quiet expectancy of a spinster aunt looking for a return on her investment on your dance classes. Last night’s The Empty Hearse does an excellent job in reminding us why we love Sherlock – the jokes, the coats, the constant finger banging to the glory of being British – but is so bloated to bursting with plot it’s hard to focus on what the “real” problem is. Is it the terrorist organisation threatening to blow up Parliament? Is it the one-sided and entirely pointless romance between Holmes and Molly the Morgue Gal? Is it that Watson is in a f*cking bonfire? Time will only tell if these stories were strictly necessary to Sherlock, and don’t even pretend like you’re not going to tune in.
The episode was defined by boundless self-confidence, to which it wasn’t entirely entitled.
The acting is engaging, the visual effects are everything we remember, and director Jeremy Lovering puts on a good show. The problems are small, but serve to throw off that attention – a couple of scenes drag on, and some moments come off as quirky/abstract for quirky/abstract’s sake. Also, it’s unforgivable that the solution to the terrorism plot hinges on a plot point that, in any other episode, that would have been played as ‘oh isn’t it obvious, you poor fools’).
In sum, it is an entertaining piece of TV, but not quite the masterpiece it thinks it is.
Undoubtedly the best slice of British television, nay, television, in recent years, Sherlock’s return in The Empty Hearse was all that I hoped for and more. The talk in the run-up has been about how he survived that fall, but thankfully, that wasn’t far from the focus of the episode – Gatiss and Moffat are smart men and great writers, they know that whatever theory they could have cooked up to explain Sherlock’s survival, it would have been dragged through the mud. The playing up to this was excellent – even though I was entirely ready to believe Sherlock was mates with Derren Brown (of course Sherlock Holmes would be mates with Derren Brown).
For the rest of the show – tense, funny, more beautiful music from Michael Price and tremendously acted: Louise Brealey is one of Britain’s best and by rights should be cast in everything from now on, while Martin Freeman’s reaction upon seeing Sherlock in that restaurant was nailed-on perfect. Pick holes all you want, I think that says more about you than it does the show.
@JM_Underwood More annoying than not annoying
— Mike Fleming (@realmikefleming) January 1, 2014
Sherlock lives - we know why, and now it’s finally time to know how. Two years of feverish speculation came to a head tonight with the welcome return of BBC’s Sherlock.
The Empty Hearse attempts to live up to expectations by addressing every one of them. Treading the fine line between familiar and self-parody, the combination of puzzles to be solved and human nature to be navigated leaves the audience feeling right at home, however the extended sequences of Sherlock’s deducing lack the slick feel of earlier episodes. Under the shining veneer, The Empty Hearse never quite packs the emotional punch promised at the end of The Reichenbach Fall, but still delivers great dialogue, an unforgettable reunion, and a very promising start to the new series. Welcome back, Sherlock.
Sherlock, one of my favourite programmes on TV, didn't return with a bang as such – more of a round of self-congratulatory applause. Everything I loved about the show was there: intrigue, action, floating text and serious banter. However underneath it all was the sense of a programme that has become very aware of how popular and good it is (was? Haven't decided.) Writer Mark Gatiss seemed to have scrimped on plot and piled on the fan service thick. Sherlock and John were reunited in typical angsty fashion while trying to defuse a bomb, Mrs Hudson still thinks they’re gay, Sherlock locked lips with Moriarty; and if the phrase “I don’t shave for Sherlock” doesn’t appear on T-shirts by mid-June I’ll eat my hat. There is every chance that the second episode The Sign of Three will see Sherlock back to its quietly confident best. If not then no matter- I have been looking for an excuse to fly kick Steven Moffat in the mush for some time.
The essence of this episode, as well as two long years of waiting, were captured perfectly in a single throwaway line. Watson, unaware his waiter was the thinly disguised Holmes. “Surprise me" he uttered: Holmes’s response “That what I've been endeavouring to do, Sir”. Although Mark Gatiss didn’t stretch fans with an over-elaborate plot, he grafted hard enough to keep his audience gasping, almost coquettishly playing with misdirection.
Pithy dialogue flowed, and the characteristic wry sense of humour was most noticeable with Mycroft stealing scenes. Then there was that incredible opening. Seriously though, how did he do it? To quote Holmes, “I don’t like not knowing”.
— Emma Daniel (@huxley06) January 1, 2014
I've spent more time than anyone I know over the past two years speculating about the manner of Sherlock's escape from death. I got the soft landing and the squash ball, like pretty much everyone else, but having watched The Empty Hearse twice I can't help empathising with Anderson: "I'm not saying it's not clever, but it's a bit... disappointing." I think I actually prefer the Derren Brown solution, ridiculous though it is - the absurdly deus-ex combination of bungee, death mask and hypnotist is much more in keeping with Holmes' 'baritsu'-powered escape from Moriarty in The Final Problem. Really, the point is that I don't want to understand how he did it, and I particularly, especially didn't want to find out the way we did - in a brief, nonsensical cutaway from the long, nonsensical train sequence, at the headquarters of the Sherlock's Not Dead Society, with a beardy and apparently deranged fanboy clinging to his every word. Not only is it STILL unclear whether that's actually how he survived, the whole scene - expressive thinking, off-switches and all - made me thoroughly unhappy. Sherlock's learning to live with people! That's the whole POINT of this episode, that's why there isn't a proper plot. Mycroft might do something like that if he had a sense of humour and anyone to practice it on, but Sherlock? Now? After everything? Another cruel joke at poor, devoted Watson's expense was almost more than I could bear.
Having said that, Harry's point above is entirely valid - Sherlock's resurrection is not, and should not be, the focus of the episode. I adored a lot of The Empty Hearse - sharper and funnier than ever, with a hitherto-unimagined treasure trove of Holmes references for fans of the books. But now Mark Gatiss has tied up Steven Moffat's flapping, irresolvable loose ends (or, at least, tucked them out of sight), I need something more substantial. I've had quite enough deranged backstory and out-of-character emotion for one year - bring on The Sign of Three and, hopefully, some evil Mormons.
Bit mean if they're not going to tell us how he did get off the roof. And boy-oh-boy their explanation better be pretty good if they're going to take the piss out of all the fan versions. Bit smug really, would have been nice to see it in November, or have one about New Years Day. And messing with the tube seems a silly idea, given the staggering volume of people sitting at the computers wetting themselves because all the facts are wrong. And do bombs have off switches? Feel like I've watched a lot of films where they didn't.
Expectations for Sherlock seemed to be surprisingly high, given that it’s not the most consistent of television shows ever made, so I was dead chuffed to find that I enjoyed myself immensely. It’s hard to say why, but it helped that the dialogue was always on point when it came to hitting the right tone and that it was pacey enough to make ninety minutes fly by without sacrificing the quiet bits. More importantly, Sherlock himself was much more likeable, which hasn’t always been the case with Cumberbatch (unlike some others, I don’t necessarily like the sociopath angle). It was also fun enough to hide the lack of any decent detecting; bombing the Houses of Parliament on the 5th November is a bit rubbish, and missing an entire carriage is just embarrassing for everyone concerned. I also didn’t much care for the shots of Holmes doing Really Clever Thinking, but they weren’t particularly offensive. I do hope that they don’t deviate too much from standalone case-solving episodes in the future though, as I’m not certain the Holmes/Watson relationship should spend too much time at the forefront.
Did they realise beforehand that putting a moustache on Martin Freeman would make him look like a cartoon policeman?
Do Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss think no one’s seen and/or read V for Vendetta? Or have they just not seen and/or read it themselves?
Does Benedict Cumberbatch really think that people start to shake when they’re thinking super hard?
Wait, WHY did Watson have to think Sherlock was really dead? FOR TWO YEARS?
Why the scene with Anderson in the middle of the bomb-ridden tube car? Was flashback? Was Anderson being mad?
I DON’T KNOW. I JUST DON’T KNOW.
It was the only plausible ending. I mean, let’s face it –we’d all had it figured out for months. Who could resist those dark, mischievous eyes? That impeccably cut suit? That deep, lingering slur? In the end, even Sherlock had to succumb to the real thinking woman’s crumpet – Professor James Moriarty. Over here on the dark side, we knew Cumberbatch was one of us from the way he looked at Irene Adler. But there was just one thing missing. And as the camera cut away, and Sherlock’s hand travelled south, I bet he found out exactly what that one thing was…
@bestforfilm "My favourite part was - obviously - the Holmes/Moriarty cosplay."
— Contrarah (@Contrarah) January 2, 2014
Related: Emma and Sarah are starting an 'after hours' Holmes and Moriarty club called The Empty Womb.
Full disclosure: I have been in love with the Sherlock Holmes stories since I was seven (at which point I’d already read all the original canon). I am therefore not capable of a reaction to Sherlock that isn’t the emotional equivalent of a nuclear war, one way or another.
And God, I adored The Empty Hearse.
Written by series co-creator Mark Gatiss, the episode had everything I love about the books - violence, action, ridiculously convoluted plots, unexpectedly awesome women - and everything I’ve come to love about the series as a whole: great lines, stylish editing, and fantastic acting. The plot was dizzyingly fast (mainly, I suspect, so that the plot holes would pass unnoticed) and the frequent silliness was carried effortlessly by the superb cast. Much has been said about the wonderful acting of Cumberbatch and Watson in the lead, but they couldn’t have carried the show as they did without the help of Gatiss himself as Mycroft, Rupert Graves’ deadpan and sarcastic Lestrade, Loo Brealey’s fabulous Molly and Amanda Abbington’s revelatory Mary Morstan (please, I want a John-Sherlock-Mary crime-solving dream team!).
Two things grated: the method of Sherlock’s ‘resurrection’ was never definitively explained, which felt rather like being cheated, but provided the series explains it later then that’s forgivable. However, my main problem was that a large chunk of the main plot seemed to have borrowed heavily from Alan Moore’s V For Vendetta - inexcusable when the source material provides so many options of its own.
But still… bravo, guys. Bravo.
I didn’t watch Sherlock until it popped up on iPlayer, but I *did* watch the reactions play out on Twitter. As nice as it is to see dedicated misogynist Stephen Moffat get brutalized on the internet, I watched in dismay at the gushing torrrents of digital tears at the man who didn’t even write the episode “CRITICIZING THE FANDOM” and “NOT USING THE SAME TRAIN IN EVERY SHOT.” But HEY GUESS WHAT, other than a comically terrible “thinking about trains” montage, it was really fun, and you’re all boring and dumb and I hate you.
A new year, a new Sherlock series. Tense, enigmatic, high cheek boned and devilishly deductive, Benedict Cumberbatch returns as Sir ACD’s hero of London and of logic.
The first offering, The Empty Hearse, doled out everything I’ve come to expect from these 90 minute excursions into the ego of a 100 year old character, given a breath of new life. Complex logical deduction, a tense and heart pounding race scene, poignant and heartfelt moments (largely supplied by Dr. Watson) and the teasing, never quite answered question of, “How the hell is he not dead?!” made this a triumphant return to form for what is largely being hailed as a shining beacon of premium television. Two more left, and I intend to savour every second of them.
@JM_Underwood disappointed, but understandably so.
— JC (@johnthestatto) January 1, 2014
I’m something of an intermittent Sherlock fan. For both series one and two I watched the first episode, thought it was somewhat clever and relied on Tumblr .gifs and wading through the metric butt-tonne of slash fan fiction (pun intended, some people really like the idea of Martin Freeman having sex) to get the gist of what happened in the other two before circling back on the series when it become time for me to clear out my Sky+. And on the basis of “The Empty Hearse”… I’ll probably end up doing the same thing again for series three. It’s not that Sherlock is bad, it’s just nowhere near as good or clever as it thinks it is.
Now in its seventh episode, up to this point I’d say Sherlock has had two bad episodes (episodes two of series one and two), one good one (Irene Adler’s adventure was interesting once you got past Moffat’s horrible inability to write women) and three great ones (episodes one and three of the first series and the series two finale). That’s a 50% success rate. If we take Sherlock as a series of films, which at 90 minutes an episode we pretty much are then Sherlock is the Star Wars trilogies of event television at the moment – some of its good, some of it is bad and you wonder where all the women are.
The Empty Hearse was good, I’d say on par with Irene Alder’s adventure, but was Sherlock always this much of a prick? Two years, two freaking years and not one word, or phonecall, or homeless person slipping a letting to Watson and you want to turn up like a snooty French waiter? The man had a nervous breakdown and grew the type of moustache only reserved for Freddy Mercury fetishists and you have the nerve to take him down into a disused train station and pretend you can’t disarm a bomb to get the man to say he loves you? You should have stayed dead Sherlock you thundering turboturd, Watson was better off without you.
Nice escape from death though.