Sherlock 'The Empty Hearse' review: So, how did the great detective fake his own death?
A thoroughly satisfying season opener
Ellen E Jones
Ellen is The Independent's TV critic. She writes a daily review of Last Night's TV and a weekly 'Inside TV' column for the i paper, as well as a column on general topics for the main paper most Wednesdays. Ellen is a former Hollywood correspondent and a contributing editor to Little White Lies, she's written on TV, film, lifestyle, travel and politics for publications including the Guardian, The Times, The Sunday Times, Esquire and Total Film.
Wednesday 01 January 2014
In the end, it all came down to a squash ball concealed under his armpit - had anyone predicted that?
Nearly two years has passed since the first broadcast of season two's finale The Reichenbach Fall, in which Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch) appeared to jump to his death from the roof of St Bart's Hospital while Watson (Martin Freeman) looked on in horror.
That means Sherlock's febrile fans have had nearly two years to speculate on the significance of the various plot leaks and clues. How exactly did Sherlock fake his own death? What has Watson been up to since? Would Sherlock finally act on his sexual tension with Molly? Or, better still, with Watson?
The greatest satisfaction of this thoroughly satisfying season opener was confirmation that Sherlock co-creator Mark Gatiss (who penned the episode) knows us fans better than we know ourselves. He dangled an easy answer to the fake death conundrum in front of us, then, just as we were realising that the outcome is never as good as the anticipation, he snatched it away again and replaced it with something better.
The fans even had a role in the episode, embodied by an obsessive Sherlock Holmes conspiracy theorist and a fan-club member played by Sharon Rooney from My Mad Fat Diary. She was one of several cameo treats, including Derren Brown (a man after Sherlock's own heart) and Cumberbatch's own mum and dad as Sherlock's parents. In an episode full of twists, the news that Sherlock has parents and didn't just spring into existence as a fully formed entity was probably the biggest surprise of all.
With a resolution for last season's cliffhanger revealed (sort of), it was time to get back in the crime-solving swing. "I need to get to know the place again," Sherlock said. "Breath it in, feel every quiver of its beating heart."
Cue lots of London-loving skyline shots and a mystery set within the city's own cardiovascular system, the London Underground. The Tube is so rich in ghost stations, wartime secrets and general London lore, it's a surprise it's taken Sherlock this long to get around to it.
As for the significant others in Sherlock's life, it was a relief to see that despite Moriarty's play on his sentiment, Sherlock remains his emotionally stunted, semi-sociopathic self. A romance with lab assistant Molly would have felt untrue to the character and his attempt to reintroduce himself to Watson was a tour de force of insensitivity. With Sherlock, you can never be entirely sure that a warm, fuzzy heart really does lurk beneath his cool exterior - it's what continues to make him so compelling.
Perhaps the only disappointment was the confirmation that Moriarty really is dead-dead (as opposed to Sherlock-dead). Andrew Scott's giggling super-villain has been almost as much fun to watch as the great detective himself. We did, however, catch a partial glimpse of Sherlock's new nemesis, and eagle-eyed Borgen fans might have recognised a familiar pair of eyebrows.
BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital moveTV
Final Top Gear reviewTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Man who was struck and killed by lightning in Brecon Beacons 'was carrying a selfie stick'
- 2 Lisa Randolph-Gant: Queen Elsa cake maker says she will carry on baking and will not let people 'break her spirit'
- 3 Tube strike: This pedestrian-friendly map tells you the time it takes to walk between stations
- 4 Pamplona Running of the Bulls 2015: Three men gored and 10 hospitalised on first day of festival
- 5 Sarah Jessica Parker explains why she is not a feminist: 'It's not just about women now'
Artist Milo Moire arrested in Paris for taking naked selfies with passers-by in front of the Eiffel Tower
Is Jon Snow dead? Theories stoked by Kit Harrington's longer hair despite Game of Thrones director claiming he's 'deader than dead'
Noel Gallagher actually gives Kanye West some credit for his Glastonbury headline set: 'For half an hour it was as good as it gets'
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas run through Google's Deep Dream neural network is pure nightmare fuel
Chris Moyles reportedly set to make radio comeback with new breakfast show on XFM
More Britons believe that multiculturalism makes the country worse - not better, says poll
Osborne to cap family benefits at £23,000 – announced ahead of his post-election Budget
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Sickness and disability benefits could be reduced by £30 a week as part of £12bn welfare cuts
Greece debt crisis: Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande issue Athens with 24-hour ultimatum to avoid crashing out of the euro
Greece crisis: Referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its lack of genuine legitimacy