Sherlock returns: ‘The Empty Hearse’

What better episode to begin Series 3 with than a story based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Adventure of the Empty House”? For Masterpiece Theatre’s “Sherlock” the episode is “The Empty Hearse.” The third season of “Sherlock” premieres on PBS, Sunday, 19 January 2014 at 10 p.m., following “Downton Abbey.” Check local listings.

Remember when we last saw “Sherlock” in Series 2, the episode was “The Reinchenbach Fall” which was inspired by the short story “The Final Problem.”  At the end, Jim Moriarty (Andrew Scott) forced Sherlock to commit suicide because otherwise assassins would kill John Watson (Martin Freeman), Mrs. Hudson (Una Stubbs) and Detective Inspector Greg Lestrade (Rupert Graves). Moriarty kills himself and Sherlock falls to his death. Yet we know that Sherlock isn’t dead because we see him watching John and Mrs. Hudson say goodbye at his grave.

The question is how, how did he survive? Since we already know he’s alive, it doesn’t come as a shock to use in the Christmas 2013 mini-episode when Lestrade gives John a video that has a message. We’re also re-introduced to Philip Anderson (Jonathan Aris) who is a police forensics geek. Anderson believes that Sherlock is alive because he is solving mysteries across the globe.

If you’ve forgotten the sequence of events, don’t worry. There’ll be a review and maybe even a test.

Didn’t someone say, “It’s a trick.”

Didn’t Sherlock reply, “It’s a magic trick”?

So it must have been a magic trick. Isn’t that what happened in “The Adventure of the Empty House”?

John will be seen in front of Sherlock’s tombstone, but with a woman. Unlike the original John Watson, he hasn’t married yet, but he’s getting close. He’s got the ring and a mustache, but will he get the girl?

In order to survive, Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch) depended upon his brother Mycroft (co-creator and writer Mark Gatiss).  By depend, well that’s a matter of opinion.

I’m under professional constraints not to tell you how Sherlock survived or how he reveals himself to John or any other details of their reunion. John treats Mrs. Hudson as badly as Sherlock has treated John and yet, women do get treated rather badly in this series.

It does help to know that the climax happens on Guy Fawkes Day or Guy Fawkes Night. The annual commemoration on 5 November includes a bonfire and often fireworks.

This isn’t like the American Independence Day. Guy Fawkes was a bloke who was part of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. The English Catholic conspirators had placed explosives under the House of Lords and Guy Fawkes was guarding the explosives.  He was discovered and arrested. So the celebrate that the King and the House of Lords wasn’t blown to bits, but Guy Fawkes met his end.

Otherwise, in this episode, we do get to meet the parents of Sherlock and Mycroft. The episode is smart, crisply edited and has only a slight superiority complex toward West Asia. The question of how Sherlock survived is looked at from different angles, literally and figuratively, mixing humor with some serious dare doing. “Sherlock” is coming back for a Series 4 so whatever happens, Sherlock and Watson will survive. The question is will Sherlock find something like love I suppose?

“The Empty Hearse” is the first episode of “Sherlock” Series 3 and will be shown on PBS, Sunday, 19 January 2014, at 10 p.m. after “Downton Abbey.” Check local listings.

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