Two years after giving us the deaths of Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Jim Moriarty (Andrew Scott), Sherlock returns with three new episodes. The first mainly concerns Sherlock’s return from the dead, an idea which takes Watson (Martin Freeman) more than a little while to warm up to. Of course, showing up dressed as a waiter the night Watson had chosen to propose to Mary (Amanda Abbington) might have been a bit of a miscalculation on the detective’s part (which leads to the episode’s best sequence of Watson continually attacking Holmes over and over as his friend explains what he’s been up to since).
Brought back by Mycroft (Mark Gatiss), Holmes is tasked with ferreting out the conspirators planning an attack timed with Parliment’s signing of a new anti-terrorism bill. Eventually Holmes and Watson will work together to find the bomb in the subways under London. The episode also works to completely sell us on Mary as the right companion for John (although that assumption will come under attack before the show’s Third Series comes to an end).
Rather than offer us the true series of events of how Holmes’ managed to stage his death, “The Empty Hearse” offers us several, each less plausible than the one preceding it including Holmes own rendition of the “facts” to former police criminologist turned conspiracy nutter Philip Anderson (Jonathan Aris) which is far too extravagant to be taken seriously. My favorite of the lot comes from a young girl in Anderson’s group which offers a supremely ridiculous, and quite humorous, take on Holmes and Moriarty working together to fake both their deaths.
Rather than offer us a mystery worthy of the great detective, the first episode of the new series sticks to the show’s strengths by building the entire episode around the relationship of Holmes and Watson while also giving us glimpses of what Holmes’ absence has meant to various other members of the cast including Mrs. Hudson (Una Stubbs), Lestrade (Rupert Graves), and Molly Hooper (Louise Brealey) and her ridiculous new boyfriend. I would preferred a little more mystery and suspense, but after two years the show makes a memorable (and often quite funny) return.