Sherlock Debuts With The Empty Hearse on PBS (Recap/Review)
Did Sherlock Holmes bungee jump off of the roof of the building he jumped off of, then had confederates place the body of another upon the ground, dressed in his clothes, and have someone hypnotize Dr. John Watson?
That is one of the possibilities which people who are members of a Sherlock Holmes fan group, The Empty Hearse, present in the debut episode of Sherlock on PBS, The Empty Hearse, as to how he managed to live after jumping from a building, goaded by Moriarty (Andrew Scott) into making an apparent suicide attempt.
The Empty Hearse is a group which someone who figured importantly in previous episodes, Scotland Yard forensic expert Anderson, has formed. He has changed from being a hater, of sorts, to being a fan, and his obsessiveness has cost him his job.
We learn that Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) has been cleared of all of the charges that Moriarty had built up, but sadly, it’s too late — or is it? If Sherlock is dead, it is too late — but, if he were to suddenly show up, alive, of course it wouldn’t be too late a tall.
Then, we see Sherlock Holmes tortured by a Serbian, or someone who speaks a Slavic language in one of the episode’s opening scenes. Then, his brother, Mycroft (Mark Gatiss) , discovers him and “rescues” him, though Sherlock tells Mycroft that he didn’t need to be rescued, and had everything under control.
Dr. John Watson has decided to move back to 221 Baker Street. He has a mustache now. Mrs. Hudson tells him that the mustache “ages” him, and asks him why he didn’t make her a phone call; he says that it became more and more difficult for him to do so, with time.
Mycroft tells Sherlock that he meets with Watson once a week on Fridays for “fish and chips,” during the two years since Holmes’ apparent death, but that he hasn’t told him yet that Sherlock Holmes is still alive.
Watson tells Mrs. Hudson that he’s “moving on” that he’s found someone he’s going to marry. Mrs. hudson still believes that he’s gay.
Sherlock, dressed as a waiter or sommelier, encounters Watson in a restaurant, the exact same one where he’s about too propose to his girlfriend, Mary. Sherlock doesn’t let Watson know who he is, not yet, anyway — until he’s about to pop the question. Two years have gone by, with Watson believing that Sherlock was dead. Watson looks as if he’s about to have a heart attack. He asks Watson if he’s “really going to keep” his mustache, and then Watson attacks him.
Watson asks Sherlock why he did it; the answer was that he had 13 different possible ways he could have managed the trick, and that only Mycroft had known all along. Watson naturally wanted Sherlock to tell him, also.
Sherlock tells Dr. Watson that he wants him to help thwart a terrorist attack. Watson punches Sherlock in the nose, but Mary, speaking to Sherlock, tells him that she will help convince Watson to aid the sleuth.
We see Sherlock meeting with someone — he says “I see you’ve been letting things slide, Greg.” It’s LeStrade, though in the Sherlock Holmes canon, it’s only known that his first name begins with the letter “G.” Then, we see Sherlock going to his old digs at 221 Baker Street, and meeting with Mrs. Hudson, who immediately freaks out.
Mary reads to Dr. Watson from his blog, and says that everyone loved reading it. He is shaving off his mustache, as Sherlock recommended.
“Certain people are markers, like rats defecting from a sinking ship,” Sherlock thinks, as he crosses off potential suspects and photos of people from a wall of suspects. Mycroft thinks that Sherlock is “slow” compared to him. Mrs. Hudson serves them both tea.
The terror level has been raised to critical. He and Mycroft trade quips and deductions about the Peruvian hat a suspect has left behind.
Mycroft tells him, “I’m not lonely, Sherlock.” Sherlock answers him, “How would you know?”
Mrs, Hudson asks Sherlock to talk with John. Sherlock answers that he has, but it hasn’t done any good so far. He asks Molly to assist him in solving crimes.
A bunch of clients line up for Sherlock to assist them, and he solves the cases in rapid-fire fashion. Then, we see Sherlock and Molly investigate a ritualistic murder, claimed to have been committed by Jack the Ripper. The corpse is 6 months old, dressed in Victorian costume.
Sherlock and Molly travel to the house of a man who “likes trains.” The man shows them footage of a man getting into a Tube train but not getting off. The driver of the train hasn’t been seen since, and has “come into some money.” The train never stopped, but the man somehow vanishes.
Sherlock seems to remember the man’s face, but he has a difficult time thinking about who it could be. Watson shows up at the door of 221 B Baker Street, but he’s accosted by some men and has a hypodermic needle inject something into his neck.
Sherlock tells Molly that she was the one person who meant the most to him, but she is now married or about to be married. He kisses her on her cheek and walks away as it begins to snow.
Watson awakens, in a groggy haze. He’s trapped, about to be torched up in a bonfire that is being lit to celebrate Guy Fawkes Day. Mary has an enigmatic message on her phone that someone has written — it every third word is taken, the message is “Save John Watson.” Sherlock believes it’s probably a trap, but that Watson is in very real danger. He and Mary ride on a motorcycle to where Sherlock believes Watson is being held captive.
A boy hears John’s moans, and tells his father “He doesn’t like it.” The father doesn’t believe that the boy has heard anything — then John screams out “help!” Sherlock and Molly pull John out of the fire.
John arrives at 221B to see Sherlock meeting with his parents. Sherlock gets rid of them rather quickly, to talk with his old friend. Watson asks Sherlock why he was attacked — he wonders if it was to get to Sherlock through him. Sherlock tells his friend that he doesn’t know.
Sherlock mentions his informants, or rats, to Watson. He suddenly realizes that the underground network is actually an Underground network. A carriage completely vanishes, not arriving at its intended destination. It’s the 5th of November.
Watson and Holmes pour over maps of the Underground, and one informant, via Sherlock’s laptop, mentions that he heard Charing Cross Road spoken of. Dr. Watson believes that a bomb is in the missing carriage.
The duo explore the Underground searching for the missing carriage. Holmes gets the insight that the carriage containing the bomb is likely intended to blow up Parliament.
They finally locate the missing carriage, and force their way inside of it. At first, it appears to be empty, but Sherlock notices red wires and informs Watson that “This is the bomb.” Indeed, the entire carriage has been made into a huge bomb.
Watson says that they need to get Bomb Disposal there, but Sherlock tells him that there might not be enough time for that, He asks Sherlock to defuse the bomb, but Sherlock says that he can’t. He asks Watson to leave, but his friend refuses to do so. Sherlock searches through his prodigious memory, but can’t come up with a way to defuse the bomb. He asks John to please forgive him for all of the hurt he’s caused him. Though Watson thinks it’s a trick of Sherlock’s, it isn’t — he really doesn’t know what to do.
Anderson, who formed The Empty Hearse, imagines Sherlock meeting with him. Sherlock then mentions the 13 likely scenarios, to try to get Moriarty to reveal his hand. He reveals to Watson in this scenario that he contacted his brother, who was in on the whole scheme as he’s been the one to feed Moriarty information about Holmes. He had told Watson that it was all just a trick, but Watson had thought he really had perished. Sherlock hit an airbag when he jumped — an actual corpse was substituted for Sherlock’s body in this scenario.
“Everything was anticipated — every eventuality,” Sherlock tells Watson. He tells Watson that Molly found the body in the morgue of a man who Moriarty had killed, who resembled him. But, then Anderson wonders why Sherlock would tell him all of this, and concludes that he wouldn’t, and Sherlock disappears, leaving Anderson alone in the meeting room, with his madness.
Back in the present — Sherlock informs Watson that there’s an off-switch on the bomb, and he knew how to turn it off all along. “Those were such sweet things you told me,” he said to Watson.
When Sherlock is finally introduced to Molly’s intended, he sees how alike the man looks to himself. Sherlock tells Watson he still doesn’t know why he was targeted. He says that he was there, when Watson spoke at his grave, and asked him for “one more miracle.” he then puts on his deerstalker hat and says it’s time to be Sherlock Holmes.
Then, we see a mysterious villain watching the recording of Sherlock and Molly saving John from the bonfire. We only see the man’s eyes, and that he’s wearing glasses. Who is this new villain? Is he someone within Moriarty’s circle, taking over from him; or, is he someone entirely different, unrelated to any of Moriarty’s criminal activities? If you are someone in the U.K. or some other part of the world who already knows, please do not reveal the man’s identity — but, if not, and you’d like to make a deduction on this matter, please feel welcome to do so in the comment area below!
Sherlock has become one of the most popular drama series ever for the BBC, though they have had many notable successes exporting hit series such as Downton Abbey and Doctor Who. The debut or premiere episode of the third season, The Empty Hearse, had some very clever moments, and I thoroughly enjoyed viewing it.
Of course, many questions were still left unanswered by the end of The Empty Hearse, including which one of the 13 ways Sherlock and Mycroft could have fooled the public into believing that Holmes was dead for two years was the one which they eventually used.
Also, though Sherlock and Watson have foiled the attempt of mysterious terrorists to blow up Parliament, they have not yet managed to find out who is behind the member of the House of Lords who rigged up the bomb and disappeared from the carriage. Sherlock and Molly successfully rescued John Watson, but again, who was the person behind his drugging and kidnapping?
I’m guessing that at least some of these answers will be revealed in the next two episodes of Sherlock, and that all will be revealed by the end of the season — all but many other questions which will likely be raised, the fodder of future episodes.
For fans of the series, it’s great to know that Sherlock will have two more seasons, if not more, in which to answer all of these questions, and to wonder at the amazing deductive powers of the famous sleuth, Sherlock Holmes. I can hardly wait to see the next episode, The Sign of the Three, next Sunday. Please tune in with me, and then come back here to read my recap/review!
Written by: Douglas Cobb