Sherlock series 3 episode 1 review: The Empty Hearse

Review Louisa Mellor 1 Jan 2014 - 22:30

Sherlock returns with a rollicking, fun start to series three. Spoilers ahead...

This review contains spoilers. Read our spoiler-free review, here.

3.1 The Empty Hearse

That was a smart solution – perhaps the only solution– to defuse the tension of two years’ speculation without leaving anyone disappointed. Make ‘em laugh, as the old song goes. Make ‘em laugh. Make ‘em laugh. Make ‘em laugh.

The fake explanations were a jaunty way to get us all to release the breath we’d been holding since January 2012 with a guffawing splutter. Inspector Lestrade’s “Bollocks!” told us we’d been had and silenced living room orators of both the ‘I knew it!’ and the ‘Seriously? How lame is that?’ variety. Of course it wasn’t Moriarty in a Sherlock mask. Of course there wasn’t a bungee rope. Of course Sherlock didn’t crash through a window like Errol Flynn and snog Molly’s face off. And of course Derren Brown wasn’t in on it.

As well as relieving the geological pressure weighing on a single plot point in a single episode of television, the rollicking fake-outs were also a canny way to keep us all paying attention until we were given the real story.

If, indeed, that’s what we were given. Was the videotape confession a definitive answer to how Sherlock faked his death? (Come back tomorrow for more thoughts on that). Whether or not you share Anderson’s fan-pre-empting disappointment at the revelation, it’s as good as we’re going to get. Mark Gatiss, this episode’s writer, calls it “a very plausible solution”, and we’ll have to take him at his word.

After that switcheroo opening got us up to speed, the lengthy but enjoyable homecoming parade began. Indeed, we were forty-five minutes in before wheels started turning on the central tube train intrigue.

Before all that, Sherlock was revealed to us topless, bearded, in a horrible wig and crucifixion pose (the 'Lazarus' code name used later on not the only nod to his Christ-like powers of resurrection). Some fun with deductions and a brittle brotherly exchange later and Sherlock was on his way back to Baker Street to track down an underground terrorist cell and “drop by” his old mucker, John Watson.

The Watson/Holmes reunion was the second hurdle the episode had to jump, one it cleared with a surprising cocktail of silliness and grief. That Martin Freeman’s livid, choked silence could still be heard through Benedict Cumberbatch’s Peter Sellers-style buffoonery is testament to his talent. Comic rage turned out to be just the way to play the scene (too heartfelt and you’re in shipping territory, too chummy and it’s a disservice to the Watson/Holmes relationship). There were laughs, shock, grief, more laughs, a rugby tackle, yet more laughs, a head-butt and finally, a sulking separation.

Amanda Abbington slotted neatly in to the machinery of the show as John’s fiancée Mary Morstan (met through work and not, as in the Doyle stories, a case) as if it was ever thus. Her “I like him” verdict on Sherlock, despite John’s ire at the catastrophic proposal dinner, positioned her as an independent thinker as well as cannily armouring her against potential fan resentment. Woe betide the woman who comes between those two.

What followed was a festive selection box of comedy, action, sharp dialogue, and yet more comedy. The Empty Hearse wasn’t Sherlock’s most coherent episode, nor was its central case its cleverest (the underground terror cell being an underground terror cell isn’t all that smart a revelation), but it was plump with incident and enormous fun.

Director Jeremy Lovering gave it plenty of characteristic visual flash too, whizzing through Sherlock’s mind palace to a pulsing soundtrack and framing stunts as if we were watching a Bourne movie. The handsome ninety minutes raced along from reunion to set piece to farce to heroic exploit. A motorbike leapt up steps, Parliament exploded. It was Sherlock the action hero. Sherlock accelerated.

The punch lines too, sped along like the clappers. No opportunity for a gag was missed, from the Holmes boys playing Operation, to the running joke of John’s moustache (just a lark, as it turns out, not a plot point), to Dr Watson's embarassing bodies patients being naughtily spliced with Sherlock's investigations, to the realisation that Molly had done anything but “move on”. The Empty Hearse may have seen Sherlock Holmes plagued by accusations of showboating and trying to rein in the smart-arsery, but the series itself has no such concerns. Justifiably, it’s the BBC’s biggest show-off, and this episode found it cheekier than ever.

On that note, the red herrings performed another role in The Empty Hearse by absorbing Sherlock’s real-world celebrity and serving it back up to fans with a cheeky wink. The fantasy versions of Sherlock shared lingering kisses with Molly and - very nearly - Moriarty, echoing a thousand fanfics. The red carpet was all but rolled out for the return of Sherlock’s fan-favourite Belstaff coat. “I believe in Sherlock Holmes” said Anderson at one point, speaking in hashtag.

When a show joins in with the shipping and throws opens its doors to fandom, it risks becoming a pantomime of its greatest hits, its story playing second fiddle to the preening moments when it flashes its veneers and winks to camera. At worst, it becomes an end-of-term revue sketch, a ham and in-joke sandwich. Mostly, The Empty Hearse avoids all that. It’s both solid all-round entertainment and a treasure trove for a dedicated hard-core. Yes, it knows where to position cues for Sherlock geeks to whoop with delight, but that’s no distraction to the enjoyment of the millions-strong audience who haven’t spent the last two years updating blogs with rooftop fall theories and calculating angles of impact.  

References to Conan Doyle were perhaps more glancing even than usual. Names were borrowed from previous cases (The Adventure Of The Empty House’s Sebastian Moran’s name was lent to Sherlock’s big ‘Rat’ the Moffat and Gatiss-supplied teaser word for this episode, the Lord plotting that Guy Fawkes stunt on the Houses of Parliament). Sumatra Road, the location of the half-built tube station, referred to the Giant Rat of Sumatra, an adventure mentioned in passing in the Doyle stories. Sherlock’s machine gun fire deductions took in A Case Of Identity and more, we had a nod to Holmes’ monographs with his blog entry on natural fibre tensile strengths, and in the same enjoyable scene, an “Elementary” from Mycroft, but largely, the patchwork plot was a brand new construction. (One in-joke, the appearance of a very ordinary Ma and Pa Holmes, referred not to Doyle but to the star himself. TV fans might have recognised actors Wanda Ventham and Timothy Carlton sat on the Baker Street sofa, aka Mum and Dad Cumberbatch.)

What the plot lacked in harmony, it didn’t quite make up for in peril. Exciting as motorbike chases and old-fashioned bomb countdowns can be, the likelihood of Watson being killed off acting the hedgehog in that bonfire, or of the pair of them being blown up in that tube car was precisely nil. The terrorist thriller stuff though, was secondary to the real purpose of The Empty Hearse, which was to reunite Sherlock and John, put a lid on the ‘how he did it’ theories, and get the BBC’s brilliantly entertaining Sherlock motoring once more. Introducing a new villain in the shadows to boot (one with a Moriarty-like taste for playing games, it appears), the series three opener did all that and more. Roll on The Sign Of Three.

Read the post-screening Q&A with Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Mark Gatiss, Steven Moffat and Sue Vertue, here.

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Brilliant. How do you explain Sherlock's survival in a satisfactory way?

Easy, you don't. The episode could have been seriously bogged down with constant whys and hows but managed to dance past it all and never really give a proper answer.

Personally, I was expecting a call back to Moffat's "Curse of Fatal Death" with Sherlock saying "I'll explain later" whenever he's asked to explain his escape.

Loved the episode, very funny, excellent nods to the fans, spot on reunion, however for once I wished Sherlock had failed..... ;)


The fiancé works for Mycroft and bonfire was all set to reunite Watson and Holmes. The fiancé was in on it and it had nothing to do with the bomb.

ruddy brilliant telly. Ten out of ten. the scene with anderson going crazy and tearing up the papers seemed like a big stab at the people who take this stuff too seriously.

An excellent start to the new series. Loved Gatiss' writing, I think he just about covered every single thought all the fans had across the episode through character dialogue. Plus the constant fake outs were clever and funny, especially the obviously fanfic inspired Moriarty and Sherlock theory. Great to see the communication between writer and audience.

Loved this episode, don't really care that we never got a full explanation as to how he faked his death as they dealt with it really well. Great to see Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman back, superb actors

Terrible, just terrible. Scriptwriting 101: The audience doesn't exist and should never be considered during the creative process. This trainwreck was written with the audience clearly in mind and way too obsessed with addressing them. They spent a good 20 minutes on fake-outs that existed solely for the benefit of the audience and the inflated ego of the writer and had nothing to do with the actual story.

Oh God, it's good to have Sherlock back. Even if it is only for two and a half weeks.

It wasn't the strongest episode but it still sits head and shoulders above 99% of TV out there right now.

Plus Andrew Scott!
Happy New Year!!

There was another brilliant Conan Ditle reference you didn't mention...the old man in Watson's surgery was paying homage to the disguise Holmes wears when he returns to Watson in The Empty House as an elderly rare books collector carrying 3 books: one on tree worship, one on British birds and the third on Cattalus and the Holy War. The allusion to this made me smile

Brilliant stuff. It is a bit of a shame the actual terrorist plot had to take such a back seat to the reunion and the sorting out of all the baggage from that cliffhanger, as it meant certain elements of it felt a little undercooked, but it was always going to be the case that this story was going to be more about the characters than about any new peril. The problem of how to deliver on something that's become such an anticipated moment was gloriously negotiated. Also loved that scene of Sherlock thanking Molly, and the development of the relationship between Holmes and Mycroft was fun and very welcome. Can't wait for the next one, just a shame it'll be over so soon.

She's definitly suspicous... she had 'Liar' in her word cloud when Sherlock looks at her outside the cafe

well she did lie about liking John's moustache ;)

lol true!

Man, that acting by Martin Freeman, that look on his face when Sherlock showed up. Award winning performances by all

1) the last car of a train is not interchangeable with the penultimate car.
2) If the villain wanted to tell Mary that Watson was in danger, why use an unannounced code?
3) If the villain was addressing Holmes (as his subsequent texts indicated) why send them to Mary? And why code the first message (without a hint of a code) but not the following ones?

Otherwise, not the best episode, but a good opener.

Love how Mark Gatiss played Professor Lazarus in Doctor Who then - as Mycroft - helped Sherlock out with Project Lazarus. Also is it just me or do that particular TV team love teasing people with just the eyes of upcoming characters? The eye's of Capaldi's incarnation in the 50th anniversary special (DW) and now just the eye's of Sherlock's next stuff and an all round brilltastic episode if I don't say so myself.

The entire episode is for the benefit of the audience. I for one found the fake outs wonderful once I realised they were messing with us. Simply brilliant.

Yeah I thought the expression on his face after he scanned her seemed to indicate.... something. And then she cracked the phone code straight away. My first thought was Mycroft too. Who knows though.

Overall it didn't work for me. It spent far too much of its running time reestablishing the central relationship that any drama felt secondary and when the bomb story was introduced it all just felt a little too crammed. Also thought the direction had too many fancy cuts and fade outs, all unnecessary. The good thing is it's now set up for what should hopefully be a strong remainder of this season.

Not even sure now we have seen how the death was faked.

Perhaps Derren Brown was involved and everyone has been conditioned to forget as with The Silence in Doctor Who.

An underground terror cell play on words was similar to the play on words for 'The Doctor has a secret that he will take to the grave. It is discovered.' referring to the grave and not the secret.

Sherlock calling Lestrade 'Graham' and being corrected with 'Greg' is perhaps a link to Conan Doyle only referring to Insp. Lestrade's first name as the initial G.

Lazerus also being the Doctor Who episode The Lazerus Experiment that Mark Gatiss was in.

Project Lazarus is also a Dr Who audio play released by Big Finish

Best newcomer award to the ferret playing John's moustache.

No ferrets were harmed during the filming of this episode. A stunt ferret was used during the shaving scene.

I don't think the final explanation is the real one, I think is was the one in Watson's "mind palace".
I certainly hope the explanation is not the "real" one, I cannot see what was the point of throwing the body out of the window when as soon as it lands it is taken away and Holmes is put in it's place before Watson even sees it?!!?!?!

VERY enjoyable, but not the best of storys.

If that's what your screenwriting book says, you should burn it!

I'm pretty sure even the last explanation is not true. 2 reasons: there's no bin truck involved there at all. And it's clearly shown in the Reichenbach episode the sniper has survived (leaving the place confident Sherlock has committed a suicide) while in the explanation it's claimed the sniper has been killed by Mycroft's people. It seems we have to wait until Sherlock tells directly Watson what actually happened...

it might just be me, but I saw Andrew Scott and thought of you Richie...

my favourite bit of this is the Watson/Holmes exchange at the end of the episode. The "You've missed this, being Sherlock haven't you?" bit. That was probably slightly 4th wall breaking in the same way as Matt Smith's "I'll always remember when the Doctor was me" line.
The worst part of this, we're already through 1/3 of the episodes...

but why do the Daleks have seats on their spaceship?!

Wonderful episode. Freeman and Cumberbatch are both brilliant.
I agree it wasn't the best of episodes however it was both a worthy enough return to the show and in its own right did function well.
It's a shame this series will only have lasted until Jan 12th.

4) What was the motive of the per of the realm to blow up parliament?
5) Once Sherlock understood he was a party to the bombing why did he leave him at large to detonate the bomb instead of having him arrested and interrogated?
6) Why was the sniper still going to shoot Watson once he thought Sherlock had suicided? (Indeed we see him walking away end of series 2 )
7) How did the peer know the last car would be empty?
8) How did they know the train would be empty (as it would have to be to divert and load the car with bombs without anyones knowledge?
9) do they not have censors so the controller knows the location and status of all train at all times?

10 Where, when and how did they load the car full of explosives - that would of taken some carrying and fitting out.

Actually, the bin truck is there. Right next to the giant airbag. And if you pay attention, they never say the sniper was killed, just that he was convinced not to shoot. What makes me doubt the last explanation is it doesn't jibe with Sherlock's statement that about 25 homeless people helped out. I counted near 40 people involved (including drivers moving vehicles, people pushing corpses, and some in hospital uniforms) and they seemed more like operatives of the type Mycroft might employ rather than homeless people. I also don't believe 40 random people from Sherlock's network could be trusted to not spill the beans on such a public event for two whole years.

I think you're right. At first I was a little disappointed that it didn't seem like we got a definitive answer about how Sherlock did it. Was the last explanation real? Did John imagine it? Did it even make sense? But really what made the episode was Sherlock and John back together again being, well, Sherlock and John. Good job Moff! Now about that business a week ago . . .

I can try to explain that.

The fake body is for John to see; I guess to buy Sherlock enough time to get down from airbag etc. If John had had a glimpse of the scene (which he did and saw the fake body) and seen that there were no body, cover would've been blown.

Um, I think the main drama of this episode was supposed to be the reestablishment of the central relationship. This wasn't a story about a terrorist plot, it was about Sherlock and John getting back together again. Everything else was supposed to feel secondary.

4) North Korea.

I'm inclined to believe it was real; Sherlock had already jumped from the roof, how would he know that John had been knocked over by a bike?

Scriptwriting 102: Ignore 101 (above.)
Welcome to the new world. I loved it, ESPECIALLY all the Meta. It worked.

It's also a reference to a similar scene in the Sherlock Homes movie "The Spider Woman" with Basil Rathbone where Watson mistakes someone for Holmes in disguise.

The audience doesn't exist? Then... what's the point?

6) has me puzzled. Surely the whole point of Sherlock jumping was to make that sniper walk away? I don't mind the rather underwhelmng explanation (Jonathan Creek did this far better 15 years ago) but that part is like Gatiss didn't watch the last episode fully when penning this one.

No explanation was real. No explanation could be real. None of the events shown ever happened. Sherlock survived because he was a fictional character. Hence any explanation is as valid as any other.

The fake body was for "us" to see hit the ground. This is the most feeble part of the whole thing. John wouldn't have seen this happen (and everyone else is in on it) so chucking the body out of the window is just for our benefit.

It's a nasty cheat. We saw Sherlock jump, we saw Sherlock fall through the air. And then we see a body hit the ground. Since we saw all three events, it's hard to come up with an alternate solution. Unfortunately, NO ONE in the reality of the show saw what we saw.

The TV audience were the only people viewing the third event who weren't in on the "trick".

Frankly, it's like going to a magic show and everyone in the audience aside from you (and an unconscious John Watson) are actors.

Great to have the show back, by the way.

If John can see the fake body, then surely he'd also be able to see Sherlock and the airbag?

I agree. But the nature of their renewed relationship is pretty sad, isn't it? Sherlock says he's sorry several times because he's learned that's what people are supposed to say, but never sounds sincere, not the way his Christmas apology to Mollie sounded sincere. John asks all the key questions (like how could you leave me to grieve) but gets no answers, so he forgives Sherlock for abstract reasons (Sherlock is a great man and wise) and Sherlock laughs at him. Did you read John's new blog entry? John pretty much dismisses Sherlock's ability to love/care by calling Sherlock a psychopath. Then he dismisses any meaningful feelings on his part by saying he's back involved with Sherlock's brilliant cases because it's like a drug to him (and we know of course that Mycroft thinks John misses and the war).

And that's why we have restraining orders :-).

Yes, if the sniper was dealt with in another way, it means the one and only reason for the fake fall was to fool John. With all those other people involved in faking the fall, John was the one person that couldn't be trusted with the truth? Doesn't make sense.

Also, the stepfather posing as the online boyfriend was based on the story "A Case of Identity".

Exactly you realised they were messing with the viewer. In other words you saw the hand of the writer and the moment the audience sees you instead of the story you've ruined your own fictional illusion and failed as a writer

We could have seen Mycroft's sniper packing up, not Moriarty's...??? Possibly...? Maybe...? Hopefully....?

I thought it was because the body was still fresh and thus would have left some blood on the pavement.

It's up for debate, but I think he is sincere. I don't think he ever really thought about how John would've felt about him faking his death, as evinced by his belief that the best method of informing him otherwise would be to walk in surprise him, but when he realized how hurt John was, I think Sherlock understood and regretted leaving him in the dark.

5) There really wasn't anything that would've implied that HE would've had the detonation device. And he knew he was working for North Korea, but perhaps Sherlock wanted to let him think he wasn't onto him in case North Korea's plans changed again, so that he would be able to detect the change and head it off.

7) and 8) When the man got on the car, he was the only one in the station. They would've chosen an underused station and a really late time.

What I want to know, though, is this: Why use a car at all? Do people really go down into that abandoned section of the Underground to give it a check-up or something, in which case they would've required a car to disguise it? And also, how did no one official notice that an entire CAR was stolen off a train? Or are they detached and diverted quite often?

Not everything fits, but that's okay - it's fiction. And they had to have the empty car bit to fit in with the original story. I subscribe to the idea that since fiction requires suspension of disbelief in the first place, we should allow ourselves to suspend disbelief slightly further when necessary in the interest of enjoying it.

I like to think that Gatiss just likes saying the word "Lazarus." :D

Why go to the bother of chucking a body out of the window to accomplish that? Since they've already locked down the area, they could prepare the bloodied pavement before hand. As it was, they sprayed a bunch of blood on the actual Sherlock when he laid down as well.

Lazarus is also in the bible, which Tom Baker thumbed through once.

Far too many writers today are way too obsessed with being meta and outsmarting the audience. They're so busy working in meta-jokes, fake-outs and twists for the sake of twists whilst thinking about how extremely clever they're being that they've lost the ability to simply tell a story.

Loved the episode. But... the train geek in me was screaming at the director - you simply can't fit District Line sub-service stock in a deep level tube. You'd rip the roof off!

I think it was pretty realistic. When you have a long fight with a friend, there's not much to talk about. You just have to... brush it off and keep going on. At least that is my personal experience. I don't think Sherlock was sorry for faking his death (why would he? He took the most logical and effecient path in his opinion), but I do think he's sorry for hurting John. This Sherlock is not good with emotions. IMO, he didn't see the long-term effects coming because he didn't expect himself to experience any, and if he was ok, why wouldn't John be? But then in his scene with Mycroft, we catch a glimpse of what Sherlock himself went through. He is now aware of a sense of loneliness he hasn't had before. Detached from Mycroft and John (and his other friends, presumably), he feels lonely.

John’s fiancée is going to be a villain.

Sherlock did mean it - in that final scene in the train carriage. He shrugs it off afterwards, but you can tell that when he was talking he was doing so sincerely. Perhaps Sherlock can only properly convey how he's feeling when he's under stress.

EDIT - also, it was far more realistic than it was in the original novel, where Watson faints, shrugs, and gets on with it.

I think it was implied that more of Moriarty's men may have come after Watson - Sherlock was just making sure he was 100% safe because Watson is the person who matters to him the most. It's been a while since I read "The Empty House", but I'm pretty sure Sherlock explains there that other assassins would have been gunning for Watson had Sherlock survived.

If the writers didn't care about the audience, why would they write meta-jokes? Your criticism is valid as an opinion, but ultimately makes no sense.

I'm pretty sure it's Moriarty's sniper we see leaving.

I outright squealed when Wanda Ventham showed up as Sherlock's mum - being Benedict Cumberbatch's real mum, and a favourite actress of mine since I saw her in UFO as a kid.

Sherlock says that the people from the homeless network were keeping normal passers-by out of the area, effectively cordoning the area off.

But I don't see how fooling John made him any safer. As long as the world at large thought Sherlock was dead, his love ones were safe from the assassins.

Loved it. Fun from start to finish. I think the terror plot was part of the joke - a much more knowing approach to the "war on terrah" than Spooks ludicrously serious one. I mean, a peer of the realm playing a James Bond villain, paid off by North Korea? Really?

Colonel Lake is Sherlock's mum? Gosh.

Rule #1: The Doctor lies.

Sorry, wrong show.


Only one less letter than #SherlockLives.

Well, it seems u just don't get it ! (& that's fine too - can't ever be to everyone's taste.) BUT as for the whole "scriptwriting101" & "should never" boll**ks, wot rubbish - rules are made to be broken (especially if u don't want to stagnate) ! It's exactly all the self-aware little 'nods, winks & eccentricities' that half-makes Sherlock what it is, (& success that it is), and like no other. (+ easily responsible for half its fun & enjoyment.) ... If u prefer straight "101" & "unsullied story-telling only", that's fine, just stick to Brett's Holmes or stuff like that. But personally I suggest get with the times, & worry less about enforcing creative restrictions (on other's creativity.) ...

Also IMO that "inflated ego" u mention is hardly an insult, it's well deserved at least !) - And by the way, what script/show ISN"T "for the benefit of the audience" ?!? ... Or are u just a disgruntled scriptwriter with a mouth full of sour grapes ? (At least that's a little what it sounded like.) ...
BUT, u are entitled to your own opinions of course. :) - (& this was mine.)

if this is Den of Geek then I have to point out that it's only on for one and a half weeks :)

The story was set in early Movember the month for growing moustaches for charity but it looks like he had grown it for a while.

Ashamed to say I didn't recognise her. Should have simply assumed it was her by the fact that the character was "someone's mum", which seems to have been her bread and butter for the last twenty years.

Not resolving an cliffhanger is traditionally seen as a bad thing. It's interesting that a lot of chatter online is people going "oh, it's okay, we didn't actually need to know."
We did.

Am I the only one who thought 'V for Vendetta' with the tube full of explosives under parliament plot?

The Robomen need somewhere to sit as in The Dalek Invasion of Earth/Dr Who and the Daleks Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D

This was a very weak episode for me too. As enjoyable as Sherlock and John meeting again was, the whole thing was far too flashy, there was no tension as far as the terror plot went, or John apparently about to be burned alive and unable to scream. The sudden cuts made it feel choppy which never serve to engage an audience. The explanation voided the reason for Sherlock jumping (which was to call off the assassins). I'm not hopeful for episode two.

No you're not!

"The Victoria line is blocked twixt Whitehall and St.James...give me a Viking funeral"

My lord you are right, that's even more depressing isn't it?

It might be that the sniper, sitting in the nest, had a better view of the surroundings than Watson, therefore might have seen that the whole thing was faked. So he had to be dealt with to ensure that Moriarty's network wouldn't find it out.

Sherlock does have a blog that no doubt lists seventy-six different kinds of splatter patterns. Nobody reads it, but it's the kind of thing Sherlock would believe is significant. So it's the kind of thing I'm willing to go along with.

Especially since I don't think any of the solutions we were given were "correct," in-universe. Anderson himself picks holes in the final solution - it's not presented as reliable information! And I'm glad not to know, because as Sherlock said (of his sleuth identity, yes, but nicely repurposed to fit the fall,) it's just a magic trick.

They left the mystery unsolved, but explained it just enough that it doesn't frustrate as a dangling thread. They've given us all the ingredients, but left it just ambiguous enough that it doesn't become plain, or matter of fact. Delicate balance, I'm sure it didn't work for everyone, but it did for me.

(Also, in my head, he totally jumped into the garbage truck!)

Just a few points I have in what for me was a far too loosely written episode:

Too much analysis from Sherlock of people that is a) impossible and b) never explained (e.g. in the early torture scene where he tells his torturer that the man's wife is having an affair with the baker right now: how could he possibly know and surely the torturer would see it as a ruse to escape being tortured anyway).

Ludicrous that Mycroft could infiltrate a terrorist cell. He would have received a message from S that he needed saving right now, i.e. no time to spend infiltrating. Besides, he says he couldn't speak the language! Although he then seems to contradict himself by saying he learned it in two months - either way, not enough to infiltrate what would be a tightly-run group.

No real explanation of why S didn't tell John he was alive, especially when he'd told so many other people. Similarly, he tells John that his parents didn't attend his funeral because they knew he wasn't dead - which is stupid: a) because it would tip-off his enemies something was wrong, and b) John would have tracked them down to find out why they weren't there, etc.

How exactly did the Tube car get from a sealed track to a secret track?

How would the villains know there'd be no one else on that train?

S says it's five minutes between St James's Park and Westminster - it's not; it's more like 1.5 mins. He also says it would have taken 5 mins for the car to be uncoupled, etc. He says the driver was bribed. But what about everyone else on the Tube network who would have known a train had been stopped, etc?

If there was an entire station under Westminster Palace, surely MI5 would have it contained, sealed off, blocked up or at least monitored?

No convincing reason given why Moriarty would shoot himself.

In one explanation, Holmes tells us about the bouncy cushion switcheroo. But this makes no sense because: either a) Moriarty's men would be watching and therefore would see the death was faked, or b) they weren't watching in which case S could fake his death at leisure.

Okay, an explanation might be coming later, but why would anyone put Watson in a bonfire then tell S about it?

Why was the bonfire/guy set light to before Nov 5th?

Small things: someone would have seen him nicking things from people's tables in the restaurant and impersonating a waiter, e.g. the other waiters.

John's reactions to seeing S again were totally predictable, writing wise, even down to decking S.

Mary completely under-written. Smiling knowingly and saying "I like him" is not enough. Given Watson has been boring and predictable since S's death, what exactly has she fallen for anyway?

Agreed - barely any mystery in it. The neat question of the disappearing rat, a nice visual, but basically there's a terrorist cell, there's a bomb, we've defused the bomb.
Character stuff very good - loved seeing Molly help Sherlock, I'd have watched a whole episode of that! - but it's a bit curious that the first episode of BBC One's best detective programme has so little detecting in. Sherlock's best when he's being clever, and so's the show. Never a top-tier episode, but brimming with good stuff.
I hope Sunday's ep is all right. Wedding eps are always a little naff. If any show can do it right, it's Sherlock, (and that applies to most things!) but I'm hoping for a real, proper, strong mystery at the heart.

Make no mistake, if Moffat and Gattis could give us a totally fool-proof explanation here, they'd have given us one. The ambiguity in this is nothing to do with "No explanation will truly satisfy you" and everything to do with "We didn't strictly play fair".

Unfortunately, the "trick" is simply a performance with dozens of supporting actors. And there's even a discrepancy with what Watson saw and what we saw. That's why it's a cheat.

If Watson had seen the body hit the ground, he'd have also seen it being thrown from the window. So it had be made so that he saw neither. We, however, saw it hit the ground - because that's the shot we were given from the edit in The Reichenbach Fall.

If we'd been presented with what Watson saw, the solution would make perfect sense. As it is, they had to explain what *we* saw - so we get the fake body which really wouldn't be required until *after* Sherlock had been pronounced dead.

The problem, however, is that the trick would be nowhere as difficult to solve.

I just kept thinking 'That's not a district line train! The roof is too low!' They made the same mistake in Skyfall too.

On the contrary, this is one of the things that made sense for me. Sherlock is a sociopath. He doesn't care about Watson. He is without conscience so simply tells Watson what he wants to hear so he can use him.

Yes, it sounds harsh and seems to be against the "buddy" dynamic that people would like to buy into, but is totally in line with the repeated statement that Sherlock doesn't have friends and is a high-functioning sociopath.

I'm intrigued by the comments that Sherlock is "lonely" and misses his "friends". He is incapable of feeling either.

Even faking his dead, supposedly for the good of Mrs Hudson, Watson and Lestrade, can be explained away that, first and foremost, he simply wanted to beat Moriarty.

You explain his survival by ensuring, 2 years earlier, that the setup can be explained away in a satisfactory way.

The problems weren't with this episode - rather The Reichenbach Fall and the cliffhanger it created.

I'd imagine Sherlock's Best Man speech will be worth the price of admission alone.

I bet you're great fun at parties.

Did you pick the reference to Doctor Who' s episode "The Lazarus Experiment" where Mark Gatiss played a character named Lazarus?

Linh Nguyën is right - if ya check back to Reichenbach, as John runs around the to Sherlock - before he's hit by the bike, he can see a body. The few seconds it took him to get from where he was standing to where he could see that spot on the pavement gave Sherlock & co time to move out of site. The cyclist gave them the extra time to get Sherlock bloodied up and back in place.

Guessing that the sniper could see more than John could, but maybe not enough to justify shooting him straight Mycroft's people the chance to 'persuade' him not to kill John.

I'm going with the version Sherlock gave Anderson being basically the truth, but with the efficiency of it pretty exaggerated...

John does see the fake body - as he comes round the side of the ambulance station, he can just see a body on the pavement (he wouldn't have seen it thrown from the window as that window would have been obscured by the station before he moved). When he sees the fake body, the airbag is being moved round the corner as we see in this episode. The bike then stops John from actually reaching the body itself to buy Sherlock time to swap - it wasn't to stop him from seeing the body at all, it was to stop him from getting close to it. In The Reichenbach Fall, you do see things from John's perspective briefly and he does get a glimpse of the fake body as he rounds the corner before he's hit by the bike.

Did you not get your answer? I thought they handled it really well. You get an explanation from Sherlock at the end that is plausible within the show (and probably in life considering what some magicians pull off) but there was a hint that he might still have been making it up. Essentially you can choose to believe that was what happened or wasn't depending on whether you need to know the why's or you can believe that it was more smoke and mirrors and part of the mystery/smart arse side of the character. Considering the amount of time between series and speculation in the meantime (and the delay was impacted by the two leads other work) the mystery had taken on a life of its own and was probably perceived to be a bigger deal than it actually is. I haven't decided yet which interpretation I'm going for. I'm leaning towards that being how he did it, but I also like the idea of not knowing how he does everything (like he does to the characters in the show, it makes him seem more impressive) and maybe that was the point. Either way I'm happy.

Because V for Vendetta also uses the gunpowder plot story, duh. V even wears a Guy Fawkes mask.

'Good job Moff!' The brilliant Mark Gatiss wrote this episode, and should get all the credit he deserves!

Wrong for so many reasons...

Hands up who saw the word hologram under Sherlock as he jumped.

Is 'Polly Aconley' a pseudonym for Mark Gatiss?

'The Brilliant Mark Gatiss'

Well, it depends who's at the party. If it's full of people who just make comments based on variants of "Get a life" because, apparently, they not only don't like to think about what comes their way, they also don't like it when anyone else thinks, i.e. conflate thought with misery - then, yes, I don't suppose you would find me much fun at a party.

I think it was necessary for people to see Sherlock's best friend grieve in order to fool the rest of the world.

Yeah I agree - Holmes' brilliance comes from his solving of crimes, without that, the BBC's Sherlock is just a smug a-hole. And to all those saying that Sherlock is a psychopath/sociopath ... did any of you (and indeed those who write Sherlock) ever actually read the books? He's neither and he is capable of feeling - he just puts his work first. I guess that the writers feel that manufactured soap drama and mean-spirited comedy between an emotionless Sherlock and long-suffering Watson is more fun to watch than two clever, friends with utmost respect for each other solving difficult crimes. I disagree.

Cracking episode just what I needed after the disappointment of the Mad Dogs Finale!

One possible explanation for Sherlock knowing the intricate details of his Serbian torturers life is that Mycroft (who was sitting behind the torturer but facing Sherlock, remember) told him. As he was on the outside he would have been able to find out all that stuff and could have communicated it to his brother via some kind of morse code-type tapping on his knee.

I didn't like it. It felt like a fanfic, a good one, but still a fanfic.
Sherlock was too OOC.
I mean, really. Sherlock laughing his arse off after he has played John with that bomb?
It was like watching a totally different series!
not the first time that I notice the fact that when a series' creators
start to think mostly about how to make fans happy first before anything
else is the time when the series start to go waaaaaaaaay down.=(

..............My poor Sherlock. What have Moffatis done to you?.............

Well, that's your generalised opinion on modern writing. It may or may not be true. It doesn't alter the fact that for me, this episode did it very well.

Except he didn't know it was Mycroft while he was being
tortured! In any case, how could Mycroft possibly know the wife was bonking the baker at that very moment?

Plus, it's important to remember there were three snipers, two of which were nowhere near Sherlock. Even if they persuaded Johns sniper, they mentioned nothing about Mrs Hudson's and Lestrade's. I'm assuming their signal was seeing Sherlock's death on the news, and the one following Lestrade would presumably be able to here it called in to the police. Therefore even if they had to use a different method to sort out Johns sniper (who, judging from the angle he was shooting, could probably see Sherlock fake it) the fake jumping would still be necessary to ensure Mrs Hudson and Lestrade were not taken out. After all, there's no guarantee that Moriarty hadn't anticipated them threatening the snipers and taken precautions against it; we've seen that he's not averse to using peoples families as insurance, and killing three assassins would be very messy, so they wouldn't have tried bribing or coercion unless absolutely necessary.

My only disappointment was that the case near the beginning (the young woman who's pan pal turned out to be her step-farther- based on 'A Case of Identity') was cut off before we could see Sherlock fully tell the guy off. His chasing the guy out of the flat with a whip while threatening to beat seven shades of crap out of him was one of my favourite moments in the entire cannon. Aside from that minor niggle, loved it.

One "I Don't Shave For Sherlock Holmes" t-shirt now available on my online store...

Notably the abandoned car almost ended up being a (not so empty) hearse

Not if that's the intention!

Sherlock says that Mycroft's men intervened before John's sniper could take a shot. Then why the need to fake the suicide if thery were already stopped?

In the explaination, says that Mycroft's men intervened before John's sniper could take a shot. Then why the need to fake the suicide if thery were already stopped?

It wasn't an adaptation of a Sherlock Holmes story. That's kind of important.

Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman being great actors doesn't make up for the average screenplay that was delivered. It wasn't a disaster, but it didn't have the magic that the previous ones had. And for a TV show that delivers only three episodes per season, 'average' is kind of disappointing when we've been waiting so long for it!

By the way, this review refers to Inspector Lestrade as "Inspector Gregson." I don't think he was referred to as Lestrade in this episode and was only addressed by his first name of Greg (he's given the first initial G in the books but was officially named Greg in the last series), but he's been Lestrade since day one of the series. Sorry for my pedantry :)

Taking guesses on who the man at the end is. My guess is that it's going to be Colonel Sebastian Moran. Or will it be another Holmes rival?

Thank you for the correction, though as Moffat is showrunning I'm sure he had some say in it as well. BUt regardless, I thought it was great.

Actually, what he said was that the street was closed off. But the people I counted were all actively participating in the scheme, not just passers-by being kept from advancing into the scene. They hung back at first, and then on cue all sprang into action at once. Pretty coordinated for a network of homeless people and a plan that took less than 24 hours to pull together.

I doubt the writers would go as far as making Mary Morstan something of an antagonist but it still is possible.

It seems to be Charles Magnussen himself. Well, at least the glasses made me think he is.

Ah, the blackmailer.

I almost turned to my wife at that point to say, ha i bet richie would love that bit.... then realised she would have absolutely no idea what i was talking about...

Those who are saying that Sherlock is a high-functioning sociopath are echoing the character's own words from the show. And the writers love the source material as I think they ave proven time and time again.
I imagine the term sociopath wasn't common parlance in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's day, but that doesn't stop it being a valid modern interpretation of the character.

Yes, but that's also what I found made this episode slightly disappointing, for me - that it was clearly more of this, than the sort of tight detective story we have had up until now.

Agreed. But for a TV series, you then have to tread a thin line between a character the audience can relate to and someone they can't. Sydney Newman re-shot the entire first episode of "Dr Who" for just that reason - at the time, almost unheard of. Jim Parsons has said (and done) exactly the same with his "Big Bang Theory" character, Sheldon Cooper.

4 - yup, we were in fruitcake territory here.
5 - he didn't know where he was, at the time? As we saw later, the police got him at his hotel.
7 - Probably for the same reason he paid the driver off - it was arranged beforehand.
8 - It was just one carriage which had been diverted, not the whole train. The bomb-laying probably came after the carriage had been parked at Sumatra.
9 - see 7. If Sherlock can block off an entire street for his jump, this seems less incredible too. And given recent news stories of cuts leading to some major oversights - well, yes, maybe there wasn't a censor for that train..

If I'm hearing you right then you're saying that in order for him to be a relatable character then he needs to show empathy. Certainly the vast majority of people do relate better to people with a standard range of emotions.
But what about the members of the audience who are themselves high-functioning? The ones who feel an affinity to the Holmes brothers' outstanding mental abilities? I think they'd find the characters impossible to credit if their intellect hadn't come at the cost of their social sensitivity.

I think that's deftly dealt with in this series, and especially in this episode. But it can't be a huge mainstay for a mainstream series, otherwise you'd risk losing most of your audience. Another case in point - for example - you can catch even afternoon drama showing a heterosexual couple undressed, in the same bed, with no problem, but a simple kiss between two men in "Eastenders" still gets enough adverse commentary to make the media notice.

Bwah ha ha.
I'm all 'meta' now!

That Lazarus. He just keeps coming back.

I only knew because of her eyes - they never seem to change. The last time I saw her in something was Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) with Vic and Bob, and she looked totally different then!

But Sherlock says it himself in the episode - he thought John would give him away with some small slip. John's not the greatest actor or liar.

Ah the old 'You wanna know how I got these scars?' approach. Sometimes the non-answer/multiple choice thing is so much more satisfying! After all, we all accept that Sherlock's clever enough to work out all sots of contigencies. There's only limited pleasure to be had from being given the canon details.

However I was a little sad they didn't make MORE of the fact they weren't answering the 'how'. When Sherlock started explaining to John, and John snapped that he didn't care about 'how', he only cared about 'why' - I thought that was brilliant. I hoped the arc of the story would be Sherlock coming to understand how hurt John was - Sherlock reconnecting with the humanity he developed when they lived together, and that had got a bit rusty while he was away, by finally 'getting' John's reaction. And that at the end there's be an emotional scene where Sherlock explained himself. Not the how but the why.

Instead I felt the emotional plot of the episode was a bit weak - neither Sherlock nor John seemed changed by the experience; in the end John just caved and forgave Sherlock despite the latter continuing to act like a dickhead and mess with John's head.

I can understand where your coming from, but look on the bright side. All the Watson/Holmes reunion stuff is done and out the way, next week we should be getting back to another great detective story :)

That "high-functioning sociopath" line is one that Sherlock himself trots out - as a riposte, too. And if there's one thing human beings are not good at, it's being objective about themselves.

He could be wrong.

Gatiss has always been good but this year he achieved brilliance. In addition to Empty Hearse which worked on every level IMH etc,etc, there was the absolutely superb An Adventure in Space and Time. Credit where it's due. (Note: Henrik Hansen is not an anagram for Mark Gatiss.)

I felt the same, it can be a very fine line between acknowledging fans and letting them dictate the show

Very good points sir. i congratulate you for making them out and someone had to say how handy and rushed was the season 3 opening. and the main vilain being introduced like that reminded me of the "cartoon detective gadget vilain"

Except high-functioning sociopath doesn't even mean anything. Sociopath and Psychopath can be used interchangeably.

Great TV, but it's odd that no-one has commented on the clear similarities to 'V For Vendetta' (the comic, not the film): the whole Guy Fawkes thing and the plot to blow up the British government using a bomb on a tube train... Still, since actual detective work was probably the least important thing about this episode, I suppose it doesn't matter much...

Er... when I say 'no-one', I mean, 'apart from the people just down the page that I've only just read'. Damn...

Dr Claw

Please, please take the time to write 'you' instead of 'u'.
It makes it really hard to read your comment.
The overuse of brackets doesn't help either.

Yes. I thought that modernisation worked well, brief though it was.

Ha! Me too!

Anyone know the song during the amazing Mind Palace scene regarding the tube disappearance? It also continues after John gets drugged! :o

Haha, I thought I would have been the only one.

I liked the 'John Watson is a hedgehog' reference, with him getting stuck in the bonfire.

The first half an hour was painful to sit through. 10/10 my arse.

Thanks. I sit down to watch a TV programme hoping to be entertained. Therefore I get rather irritable when the top writers at the BBC, with two years to develop this story, do such a rushed and shoddy job on it. By contrast, I watched an episode of "Elementary" the other night and it was very tightly scripted. The plot made sense (albeit with a touch of convenient coincidence); Sherlock's deductions were always explained, not rushed through hoping you don't notice the holes; there were no fan boy references (keeping the integrity of the story intact); there was genuine and subtle emotion between Holmes and Watson (not stupid "I'm not gay!" shouting). Most importantly (for me anyway) the script kept ahead of the viewer, e.g. there were two scenes between Holmes and Watson where the latter would put very good points to him about his lack of sensitivity towards their police colleagues - which you found yourself agreeing with - but then Holmes would up the ante, and explain why that wasn't relevant to his purpose - which you also found yourself agreeing with.

It might be me making patterns in chaos, but I feel I saw a few nods to the work of Alan Moore in The Empty Hearse. Being that both Guy Fawkes (V) and Jack the Ripper (From Hell) were included in the story- also serving to conjure some of the history of London: a fitting and almost sentimental ode for Sherlocks return.
"A penny for a Guy", naturally being something that WAS said- is also a marked point when Inspector Abberline is harangued by some kids (like Shezza, in this one). I don't know, it felt pertinent at the time.

nuh forgive me but i think your theory is stupid. there were many moments were his close ones were in danger but he did "illogical"/risky things to save them. if they were that expendable for him he wouldnt. as he wouldnt fall for irene adler. no, he is not the "dexter series" type...

Could you elaborate. I didn't quite get that.

"the likelihood of Watson being killed off acting the hedgehog in that bonfire, or of the pair of them being blown up in that tube car was precisely nil."

Haha, come on, isn't that a bit cynical? Where is your inner child? Okay, we know they are probably not going to be killed, but, watching and shouting at your TV, "OH NO! THEY'LL BE KILLED!" is part of the fun. :-)

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