48 – The Game is back on (Sherlock The Empty Hearse)

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Sherlock is back and so am I from my brief sabbatical from blogging. A new series of Sherlock kicked off with The Empty Hearse which followed Sherlock as he returned to London and his formerly trusty companion John Watson, while John struggles with how to cope with a man whom he had grieved over for 2 years seemingly returning from the dead, Sherlock begins unravelling a terrorist plot in the heart of London (business as usual).

The strange thing about Sherlock is that despite it being a 1 and a half hour show the pace of the story tends to be very fast which reflects the speed at which Sherlock thinks which is thrilling to watch but it means it takes much longer for the audience (or at least I hope it’s the audience and not just me) to catch up with what actually happened on the screen. So much information passes by so quickly so that even now half an hour after the show finished I still feel like I’m unravelling what happened. So I’ll break down what I didn’t like as much about the episode and what was good and then attempt an overall opinion. The game is on!

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The biggest reason for the anticipation for this episode was obviously finally finding out how Sherlock had survived the jump off the building in the previous series which aired a whole 2 years ago. The episode starts with a thrilling sequence that seemingly explains what happened, this involved what many people on the internet had speculated about (mission impossible style sherlock masks, bungee cords and disguising Moriarty’s body) but this explanation is revealed to be just another characters theory. Now this episode even keeps us waiting even more and then the explanation officially given by Sherlock crops up during another set piece in the underground. It was handed quite poorly in my opinion as with no explanation or reasoning we jump from the underground to Sherlock talking to Anderson about the jump and then back to the underground afterwards. It’s a very weird jump and as the explanation was what most people were looking forward to it I think it could have been portrayed in a more fluid way that works in the story instead of shifting the attention away from a crucial moment in the plot.

Also was the explanation meant to actually be what happened or did Sherlock lie to Anderson. Anderson has doubts afterwards but is that meant to just represent how unhinged and paranoid he’s now become. I hope that Sherlock did lie and they’re are more secrets regarding the fall yet to come as the explanation given of jumping onto a inflatable crash mat just felt like an anticlimax. As ridiculous as the idea of having mission impossible Sherlock masks and bungee cords I think I preferred as it was much more impressive to watch. I admit Derren Brown appearing would have been far fetched and that was what gave it away to me that it wasn’t the actual event but just a hilarious fantasy. This feeling of disappointment in the explanation becomes inevitable though when you make people wait 2 years. If this was the real explanation then it definitely doesn’t feel worth the 2 year wait.

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Sherlock has always been shot and edited in a stunning way. This enables the audience a brilliant insight into how Sherlock’s obviously unique mind works and using a variety of extreme close up shots and on screen text that flickers up on the screen imitating Sherlock’s thoughts we can see all his deductions being made in real time as he looks at a crime scene. This is one of the main things which set’s this series apart from other crime thrillers. This direction was first achieved by directed Paul McGuigan who directed the first series and the first episode of series 2. However this episode was directed by Jeremy Lovering and for the most part his direction reflects previous directors before him and the deductions are just as captivating to watch as always however it felt like there was more gimmicks in this episode than usual.

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The main gimmick that bothered me was during a scene where John is about to get burned on a bonfire there is an awful lot of slow motion shots, which I understand can be used to increase the drama but it was like every other shot and in a situation that’s very tense and Sherlock is rushing to save John it would have been nice to just keep moving and not slow the pace down so much by overusing slow motion.

One element that was missing was an interesting antagonist. All that is offered in the episode is a man who was involved with some terrorists and tried to blow up Westminster without any real given motivation. I don’t think the character even got a line, they just opened a briefcase, pressed a button then got caught almost immediately and his plan is ruined. Although the end suggests this man is connected to the main villain of the series which will be¬†Charles Augustus Magnussen. However since losing Andrew Scott’s fantastic Moriarty it seemed a very apparent missing piece.

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What was brilliant though was simply seeing all the characters again and seeing the chemistry between them all again. Mainly between John and Sherlock where it is at it’s most tense than any other point of the series and it was brilliant to see how John copes with Sherlock’s return and his own conflict with himself of wherever he is pleased to see his friend again or outraged this sees Martin Freeman’s best performance in the series to date. The dispute between the two culminates in a actually quite touching moment inside a train carriage which is about to explode and the two are fearing for their lives and finally confess how they have been feeling and try to repair their friendship, however in true Sherlock fashion Sherlock has already diffused the bomb and let Watson forgive him before he admits it.

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There was a couple of great cameos by Benedict Cumberbatch’s actual parents starring as Sherlock’s parents and of course the hilarious Derren Brown and Andrew Scott’s bizarre Moriarty cameo in another fake fall theory where he shares a romantic moment with Sherlock which felt like a joke at the increase in strange fan fiction surrounding the series. Also Martin Freeman’s wife and fellow actor Amanda Abbington joined the show as John Watson’s soon to be wife and made an excellent addition to the cast and I think her addition will allow the show to move into new area’s now which is very exciting.

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The story was really compelling if not more so than usual and managed to balance the aftermath of the last series, a thrilling plot ¬†that takes Sherlock into London’s underground, which fit so well with the series that it’s surprising they’ve only just done a story set there, and establishing hints at a new villain and the story ark for the rest of the series. This was all presented in the usual feature film style and as it’s cast stars Benedict Cumberbatch’s and Martin Freeman’s fame grows by the year the episode felt more like a movie than ever before.

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Everything that was great about the show before remained great, the cast acted perfectly, the score was just as captivating, the witty dialogue between characters and the brilliantly written deductions and mysteries remained as usual and as the series goes on it’s only going to develop more and build upon it’s foundations by adding new characters and putting the characters in new territory. Especially in the next episode where we see Sherlock as John’s best man and what I can only assume is going to be one hell of a hilarious best man’s speech, but I suspect it will be less zany anecdotes and more a showcase of Sherlock’s condescending wit which will probably criticize most of the guests. I simply cannot wait and this episode definitely started the series on a high.