Sherlock Lives! Praise the gods of BBC One who graced us this New Year with a new episode of our beloved show after a TWO-YEAR hiatus. Granted it only aired in the U.K., but unless you fail at Google, you found a way around those pesky geo-blockers. At least we did. For 90 minutes we laughed, we choked up, we shook our fists at Moffat, screamed, “Sherlock, you little shit!” and pondered if this was in fact real life. Or you know, BBC real life, which generally comes with abject improbability, enough feels to fill the Atlantic, and divinely good acting that you rarely even find on the big screen. Thus was “The Empty Hearse.”
Now we could provide a generic “blah blah Cumberbatch is such a good actor…” “blah… fans will be happy… blah” review that says nothing. Instead we are going to jump off St. Barts with spoilers and never look back. So just in case… SPOILERS…THERE ARE SPOILERS BELOW… did you hear me? I AM GOING TO SPOIL JOHN WATSON’S MUSTACHE OFF HIM WITH SPOILERS.
Now, shall we begin?
How Did Sherlock Fake His Death?
MARK GATISS AND STEVEN MOFFAT ARE BIGGER TROLLS THAN THE ONES LIVING IN THE HOGWARTS DUNGEON.
Sorry, had to get that out of the way. After the last two years of the entire Sherlock fandom asking, “So how did Sherlock fake his death?” Creators Gatiss and Moffat gave us more options than we could shake our fists at. The show opens with an elaborate and daring expose of Sherlock leaping off the building, careening nearly to the pavement before ricocheting back up to Molly Hooper’s window, crashing through and thoroughly snogging her, before striding out the hospital like he doesn’t have a care in the world. Then we realize that was just Anderson’s, Sherlock’s new biggest fan, theory. Throughout the rest of the episode we get two more possibilities, one in which Moriarty and Sherlock more or less eloped together, and another more feasible option in which Sherlock and Mycroft thoroughly outlined thirteen options and it was a beautifully orchestrated event. Of course at that point, they then pull the rug out from you further and make you “choose your own adventure” by making the narration unreliable and the audience left asking, “Wait, but how did he do it?”
After Sherlock relays the strategically planned version to Anderson, and is doubted, we see Anderson climbing the walls and going crazy as a direct poke at the fandom for all their theories. It was funny at the time how the show was speaking directly to the fans and bringing them into the show, but after reflection, it felt a bit cheap. There was a LOT of time spent on these fake explanations that could have gone toward more character development and actual plot progression. Which brings me to…
How Did John Watson React?
Perfectly. Sherlock’s blaise and hilarious entrance back into his life as a French waiter who was desperately trying to surprise his best friend, left John sincerely not amused. He hyperventilated, he fumed, he punched, throttled, and head-butted Sherlock out of three different restaurants, and had a raging row with him for being left in the dark. But while he did address how dare Sherlock let him grieve for two years and tell Mycroft, Molly, “25 tramps,” and his parents that he had been alive, he never addressed the fact that he was forced to watch Sherlock kill himself. It’s one thing to see your best friend die, it’s all together something else to wonder if you could have stopped him. I very much appreciated that John was simultaneously raging at Sherlock and unable to stay away, but I thought he deserved to rake him through the coals a bit more. We saw Sherlock give Lestrade and Molly heartfelt interactions, and yet every time things got a little too close to sentiment with John, Sherlock cracks a joke.
My theory, particularly during the scene in the Tube where the bomb was set to go off at any minute and Sherlock was prostrate on the ground with mea culpas before idly switching it off and pretending it was all a lark—was Sherlock being genuine. When he was saying he didn’t know if the bomb squad could get there in time—he honestly didn’t think they would; when he was searching for a way to diffuse a bomb he truly had no idea. Most importantly when he went on and on about how honestly sorry he was, how he put John in this position, and how he needed John to forgive him—I think that was truth. Up to that point he was frantically searching for a way to save them, and then once found, he decided to utilize the life or death situation for his own purposes. Was it a terrible thing to do to your best friend? Yes. Did it give them the chance to air what they so desperately needed to say? Yes. Were they then able to laugh it off and shake off the awkward sentimentality after? Yes. It also served to remind John just what he’d been missing – hair raising adventure, morbid humor, and the permission to shake off all societal boundaries and just be free. And if the last two series have taught us anything, it’s that Sherlock knows exactly what John needs (even when John doesn’t) and will go to any length to accomplish it and protect him. Not bad for a sociopathic (not really) best friend, eh?
The Other Woman
The dynamic duo now has a woman involved—John Watson is getting married to one Mary Morstan, played by Martin Freeman’s real life partner, Amanda Abbington. I admit I was not happy about this addition, as I wanted my favorite Bro’s to go back to shacking up in 221B and figuring out how to not be lonely anymore. Instead we have Sherlock back, but with John’s attention divided and him determined to prove that Sherlock is not his number one priority anymore. However, despite all evidence to the contrary, Mary is delightful. She’s cheeky, smart, brave, and she seems to ship John and Sherlock as much as the fans do. After the first disastrous head-butting meeting, she says to John in the cab, “I like him.” After Sherlock expresses his disdain for the terrible mustache (with a great line of, “Mine washes off, does yours?”) John is shaving it off the next morning and Mary remarks, “I have six months of whiskery kisses, but you’ll shave for Sherlock Holmes…” and she’s giggling at it. She is not the girlfriends of the past who hate Sherlock or are in constant competition with him for John’s time. She’s content and actively wants them to be friends again, and for this reason you can see why Sherlock doesn’t instantly rat her out to John.
Because mark my words, something sketchy is coming for Mary. For one, when all of Sherlock’s deductions pop up around her, “Liar” is repeated over and over again, as is “secret.” Additionally, when John is kidnapped and put under a Guy Fox effigy to burn, it is Mary, not Sherlock who gets texted about it. Sherlock has no idea why the hell it happened. With the addition of the new villain Charles Augustus Magnusson being the blackmailer of all blackmailers, and the ominous title of the third episode as “His Last Vow” (’till death do us part) I think she’s in for a doozy of a ride and I cannot wait!
What plot? Aside from a convenient “let’s blow up Parliament on Guy Fox Day” there wasn’t a whole lot of crimey-wimey plot going on, and even fewer deductions. This episode was all heart and reintroduction of Sherlock to London. In some ways it decidedly succeeded, in others it was Moffat being a show off and overly arrogant (a theme of his lately), more focused on the spectacle than the plot. But the genius and wit of this beloved show has not faded. Sherlock is still brilliant, Mycroft is pushier than ever, and the general theme of “if you can’t keep up, piss off” remains. And that frankly will keep me coming back for more. I anticipate the next two episodes will continue where this one left off, hopefully with John and Sherlock learning to trust each other again, and we learn more about Mary’s potentially sketchy past.
After all, for the next two weeks—Sherlock Lives! What did you think? Tweet us @litdarling
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Great review, Katie! GAH, SO MUCH EXCITEMENT
I just rewatched all of season three again…so MUCH subtext its wonderful! Life is good again…Sherlock is back!