Thursday 2 January 2014

Sherlock: The Empty Hearse

Hearse. Ay!

Sherlock: The Empty Hearse
Airdate: January 1st 2014. UK. BBC1

Warning: The spoilers are afoot!

Okay... this was all very good.

Written by Mark Gatiss, he got the third mini series of Sherlock off to a truly excellent start and I really hope this is a return to form for a series which was brilliant for most of the first season and the first episode of the second season, only to be dragged down by, relatively, duff episodes comprising the remainder of the second season.

After his death in The Reichanbach Fall (reviewed here) the team at the BBC foolishly showed that Holmes had survived... an unnecessary thing to do, I believe. After what has been two years of wild fan speculation as to the manner in which he faked his own death, this episode neatly sidestepped the question for a while by teasing us with versions of the wild theory, spouted by anorak figures not unlike those who write critical blogs, in an attempt to dumb down the importance of the solution to the fan base of the show, before springing the answer on you at a basic cliff hanger point. Actually, the timing and structure of that was quite unneccessary by this point because nobody believes that any harm is ever going to come to Sherlock or Watson in the series. At this juncture, I think it almost missed the point in a way... fans of the show weren’t really that worried about the explanation for Holmes death fakery, they just wanted to see how clever the writers were going to be at making it all reasonably credible.

Well I have to say, everyone did a good job on doing that, and more, in this first episode of Season 3. There was a welcome return to an abundance of the visual metaphor and typography, which permeated some of the earlier episodes, to show Sherlock’s thought processes and the humour and anger in the episode was all pretty good. The warmth of Rupert Graves’ Lestrade was absolutely a pleasure to watch and Cumberbatch and Freeman were, as usual, solidly spectacular. Watson’s fiance, played by Amanda Abbington is a very welcome addition to the cast and an extra special shout out for Louise Brealey, who regularly plays Molly Hooper in the series. This is probably the most we’ve seen of her in an episode and she’s pretty brilliant in it... which probably means she’s expendable and due an unwelcome and premature death at some point... but I sincerely hope not. She’s ace.

The story itself was a little less interesting than I’d hoped in that nothing was really actually solved. A plot is averted but there is obviously another criminal mastermind (or it’s Moriarty perhaps) waiting in the wings to come back in the final episode of this series. Hope they don’t leave it on yet another cliff hanger, to be sure. We’ll see. Perhaps Holmes is not the only one who can fake his own death in a clever manner.

I think my one real problem with it was that, at times, it did seem a little like it was being padded out. The fast pace which is part and parcel, it seems, of the adrenalin fuelled house style of the series seems to highlight that sort of thing all the more and perhaps the running time might have been better being a little chopped rather than include some of the sequences which seemed more “stand in the light of our brilliant characters and gaze at them lots” rather than actual sequences in the telling of a tale but, on the other hand, one person’s artistic decisions are not there to be agreed upon by the audience... only talked about. So it’s not really a harsh judgement I am making and I was, for the most part, absolutely riveted.

The music too, was its usual brilliant self and included the famous sub-theme we are expecting to hear in all the right places. Looking forward to buying Silva Screen’s compact disc of this sometime soon as they’ve already announced a release (although not an actual release date, which is annoying). Should be a good stand alone listen though, I expect.

And that’s that, I think. A real return to form but I’m not trusting it just yet. After all, I was very disappointed at how the way the second series went after that initial humdinger of a first episode so I’m really not going to expect too much. I will, however, be avidly awaiting the arrival of the next episode as soon as it comes on.

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