TV Review: Sherlock: Series 3 – The Empty Hearse

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Sherlock kicks off its third series with a stellar entry that, sort of, realigns the show going forward while getting some fantastic performances out of Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch.

Two years have passed since we last saw Sherlock take his faux fall and the creative team has a lot of fun playing with the fan fiction and theories surrounding just how he did it. You get to see the incident play out multiple times, but it never feels stale as each take is either an elaborate set piece or a lot of fun. The show isn’t that concerned with the reality of the situation though, it’s never clearly resolved how he survived, but there is a through line with Watson that lets the viewers know that if he can get over it, they can.

Watson is actually the standout of the episode for me and Martin Freeman might not have ever been better in the role than he is here. Freeman just knocks the role out of the ballpark as the episode lets him to run the gauntlet of Watson’s emotions. The eventual reunion between the two is played wonderfully, the catharsis over Sherlock’s deception is touching and hilarious and everything surrounding the mustache is phenomenal. Freeman’s work here is as good as anything he’s done, period, and it is a joy to get to see him and Cumberbatch bouncing off each other, once again.

Sherlock is rebooted a bit as well here, to the extent that there is an implication that “Sherlock Holmes” is almost a persona that is being put on by him. He is a lot more playful, far less aspergery and every bit as stubborn. I also don’t remember the character being this funny as the quips keep coming and he seems to be up to more shenanigans than usual. There is a lot left open to interpretation surrounding Sherlock in this episode, but they seem to be planning a more clearly defined three episode arc for this series compared to the last two. Would love to discover Sherlock is undercover for MI6, the rooftop shot homage to Skyfall seems to be possible nod. The waiter bit might be one of my most favorite things Cumberbatch has ever done.

The mystery of the episode takes a backseat to all of this reconfiguration and character reintroduction, but it sets up another potential big bad with quite loftier expectations. The, possible, retconning of the Moriarty story seems to be building towards redefining our perspective of the whole series as well and I look forward to seeing where this season takes the mythology of the show as a whole. Also, Mycroft seems to be a much bigger deal this season so far and don’t be surprised if Sherlock’s family becomes a big piece to the season’s end game, especially with the brief introduction to their “ordinary” family.

It was a long wait for Series 3 of Sherlock, but it was well worth it. The characters have never been this fleshed out, the comedy so sharp and the story seems primed to have an enemy more dangerous than Moriarity ever was. What more can we ask for?

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