Sherlock – ‘The Empty Hearse’ – Series 3, Episode 1

Neela Debnath

4944678 low res sherlock 300x200 Sherlock – The Empty Hearse – Series 3, Episode 1


Spoiler alert: Do not read this if you have not seen series 3, episode 1 of ‘Sherlock’

Take one bungee cord, add some clever prosthetics to a corpse, sprinkle on a little help from a shy mortician and voilà, you have a faked death. Within the first two minutes of the episode, the question that left the nation on tenterhooks back in 2012 was finally answered.

Or that’s what writers Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss wanted the audience to think before pulling the rug from under their feet. The pair brought Sherlock back with a swing and a zing, and seemed to have perused every online forum for fan boy and fan girl conspiracy theories on how Sherlock ‘did it’.

Indeed fans finally saw the super sleuth passionately locking lips with Molly but – wait there’s more – Moriarty too! The Empty Hearse indulged and played out the fantasies of many Sherlock fan fiction writers to great effect. There was a brilliant little cameo from Channel 4’s My Fat Diary star Sharon Rooney as a member of Anderson’s bizarre Sherlock fan club, who comes up with the hilarious slash fiction scenario. And let’s not forget illusionist Derren Brown.

This was the most comic instalment of Sherlock to date. The script was packed with jokes in amongst the grave drama. In possibly the funniest onscreen fight since Hugh Grant and Colin Firth’s brawl in Bridget Jones’s Diary, watching John Watson, launching himself at Sherlock in the middle of a posh restaurant was side-splitting.

Meanwhile the new addition to the Sherlock family fitted in straight away. Amanda Abbington who plays Watson’s fiancée Mary (and is Martin Freeman’s real-life partner) does not change the John-Sherlock dynamic. She is hands off and lets her husband-to-be essentially get on with it. Mary is fun and playful, a foil for John’s straitlaced outlook on life. There was an instantaneous bond between Mary and Sherlock which was very sweet. We are drawn to Mary from the off. She has strength and self-reliance to her that Abbington portrays well.

However, it wasn’t all japery and bromance. Compared to previous adventures that were wrapped up neatly, The Empty Hearse had plenty of loose ends. While Moffat and Gatiss are creating a story arc over three episodes, there was something lacking upon reaching the end of this story. It did not have the same satisfying conclusion that A Study in Pink or A Scandal in Belgravia had. There wasn’t that sense of completion that one gets upon reaching the end of a gripping novel.

Then there was the overuse of the mind palace which Sherlock invokes to help clear his mind and sift through the facts. It was far too overdone and started to feel a tad silly. Added into the mix was the drum and bass soundtrack. Yes, it’s supposed to be “edgy” and enhance the thriller element of the show but again it seemed to overshadow the story. Silence or opting more for strings to help draw out the tension would have been sufficient.

Borrowing from the film V for Vendetta and taking recent concerns surrounding privacy and terrorism, the script was topical and timely in light of Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks, Wiki Leaks et al. It’s these strands that add dimensions of believability to the story and make it so contemporary.

All in all, it was a good crack and it’s wonderful to have Sherlock back but it’s not his strongest adventure. But who knows? The closing shots revealed the new villain wreaking havoc on London.

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  • malcolmfromyorkshire

    Very like an episode of Dr Who but without the excuse that it is intended for a much younger audience.

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