Sherlock S3 E1: The Empty Hearse

Sherlock is, overall, an unconventional series. They like to drop breadcrumbs early on that are easy to miss, threads that eventually tie into a later plot element and only then make sense. This is part of what makes the show so clever, but that always leaves them on the knife edge of leaving too many viewers too confused, or giving the impression that events occur out of left field. Personally, I think it takes me three passes with anything complex to really get a handle on my opinion, and Sherlock is no exception. One for the heart (gut emotional reactions), one for the brain (evaluating what’s really happening), and one for the mechanism that makes it tick. I have to say that Sherlock Series 3 is the one I’m most conflicted about, and I think it will take another full pass through the season to really line up my thoughts and draw a conclusion.

I was initially in agreement with the fandom consensus that the case in the episode was too light, but on viewing #3 I feel less so. There’s some very deliberate structuring to make story elements overlap, so that you simply don’t register that one storyline is concurrent with another. They’re laying down the groundwork for one event while your attention is focused on another (e.g., always read the headlines on papers characters are reading). They’ve got a lot to pack into this episode, too: Sherlock’s return and the consequences of that, the question of “how he did it” lingering from the S2 cliffhanger, the events in John’s life in the intervening period, two cases, AND some subtle but critical setup for following episodes. That is a whole lot of pieces of furniture to move around. On top of that, there’s the “emotional baggage” of the characters AND the viewers that needs shifting after the two-year hiatus.

And it’s a bit of a Herculean task. [SPOILERS – ASSUMES YOU HAVE SEEN THE EPISODE] Continue reading