The season three premiere of Sherlock, Empty Hearse, picked up right after the conclusion to the season two finale, Reichenbach Fall, one of the most talked about cliffhangers on television back when it aired in January 2012.
Viewers had to wait two years for an answer to how Sherlock survived an apparent suicide to save the lives of his friends. This was, for lack of better words, quite a lengthy time to wait, while actors Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman spent on other projects. Their profiles raised to new heights after the first two seasons of the BBC hit.
The answer to how Sherlock survived felt unfulfilled at its first reveal; however, the scene is explained in further detail later on in the episode that makes up for it all.
Empty Hearse is loosely based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original classic Holmes story, The Adventure of the Empty House. Going into this season, it is hard to imagine how co-creators and writers, Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, could up the game after the thrilling season two. A season that involved an epic conclusion which, above all else, involved Sherlock’s final confrontation with his famous arch nemesis, Moriarty. Season three seems to be on the verge of indeed upping the stakes, but this premiere episode acted as more of a resolution to Reichenbach’s conclusion and a buildup for the next two episodes.
The word or theme of this premiere is quite fittingly, empty. The episode explores the impact that Sherlock’s supposed death had on Watson – leaving his life rather empty. The investigation that Sherlock finds himself part of involves an empty subway car that plays into a terrorist plot. Moreover, one interesting scene in the episode involves an empty room and empty answers for a character who Sherlock leaves in a fit of hysteric giggles.
The episode itself, in contrast, was full of the right balance of thrills, humor, mystery, and as expected, some great character moments.
In a preview of season three, Gatiss told The Telegraph that Watson’s reaction to Sherlock’s return would be very different than the original stories, in which Watson simply just fainted. This eventual scene was indeed in stark contrast to the stories and was the absolute highlight of the episode. Freeman’s acting in which he expresses shock, a hint of happiness, anger, and then rage all in one sequence was nothing short of brilliant.
The reunion also involved some comedic moments and great timing on Cumberbatch’s part, with Sherlock unable to understand the intricacies of human nature and how to handle a situation like what he put Watson through.
Lars Mikkelsen, who was cast as the main antagonist Charles Augustus Magnussen, based off the character of Charles Augustus Milverton, also makes an appearance in this episode in a scene that leaves many questions and much anticipation.
The character of Milverton in the original Holmes stories is described as “the king of blackmailers” and in the original Holmes series, he is considered by Sherlock as the most dangerous foe he has come across. Mikkselsen is surely the right actor to portray Milverton, the actors facial expressions just ooze a sense of menace and intimidation, similar to his brother Mads, who also has a tendency of portraying villainous characters.
The next two episodes are titled The Sign of Three and His Last Vow which will air on PBS over the next two weeks following tonight’s premiere. Make sure to catch it!
By Kollin Lore