Sherlock S03E01: "The Empty Hearse"


After two years away, Sherlock's Season 3 premiere was probably one of the most highly anticipated episodes of television in recent memory. It felt great to return to Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss's complex world of Sherlock Holmes, but it wasn't exactly what I was expecting. Despite a near-perfect outing for the triumphant return of the boys of Baker Street, I do have a few quibbles. It feels wrong to nitpick something that is—for all intents and purposes—perfectly satisfying in almost every way, but yet here I am, because "The Empty Hearse" almost felt too simple to be an episode of Sherlock

I don't mean the answer to how Sherlock survived the fall was simple; it was anything but. However, the actual case that was tackled over the course of the episode just wasn't as complex as what we've seen from Sherlock in the past. Sherlock literally just flipped the on/off switch on the bomb in the subway car to disable it? Really? That was it? I do think the easy resolution of the case was purposeful, and I'll get to that in a moment, but I also feel like it was a little disrespectful to fans who tune in to watch Sherlock solve terribly complex mysteries as a nice complement to his relationship with Watson. I also think it's ridiculous to believe the bomb had an on/off switch. In the history of bomb-diffusing scenes in film and on TV, when has there ever been an on/off switch? Is this a real thing? I don't know too much about them, but that seems like something only Dr. Doofenshmirtz would do, you know? Sherlock has always asked a lot of its viewers—the many moving parts involved in faking the title characters death are a perfect example of the layers it adds to its mysteries—so the switch just felt a bit ridiculous.


Of course, that's not to say I have a better idea for how that scene could've played out. It would have been more unbelievable if Sherlock had been able to diffuse the bomb in a real way. But the off switch still feels like a cruel joke played on the audience, just as Sherlock used it to play a cruel joke on Watson. Thinking he was about to die alongside his best friend, the best friend he'd only just been reunited with after two years, Watson forgave Sherlock for lying to him about faking his death and for not telling Watson the truth when clearly a very large group of people—including Mycroft—knew that Sherlock wasn't actually dead. It was a great and necessary moment for their relationship... and in typical Sherlock fashion, he was a complete dick about it. And while his asshole behavior is actually—God help me—part of his charm, I don't know how Watson puts up with it sometimes. 

Watson's anger over the discovery that Sherlock had lied to him about being alive—right as he was attempting to propose to Mary, naturally—was played perfectly. It would have been out of character for Watson to hug Sherlock the way Lestrade did, just like it would've been out of character for Sherlock to quietly approach Watson at home. Thinking Watson would be excited to see him—not to mention laugh at his accent and disguise—was exactly the right way to write that scene for Sherlock, because he doesn't consider how his actions affect other people. Watson was hurt, just like anyone in his situation would have been, and every time he attacked Sherlock it felt completely deserved. I also particularly liked how the caliber of restaurants they were in decreased with each fight. The scene began in a restaurant where the men were in tuxedos and ended with Sherlock's bloody nose at a deli counter. Hell hath no fury like a pissed off John Watson, I guess. And that's what "The Empty Hearse" was really about, anyway: Sherlock and Watson's relationship.


There's obviously an overarching narrative structure for Season 3 the same way Jim Moriarty carried through Season 2, but despite narrative threads, "The Empty Hearse"—more than any other in the series—was never about the case or what else is coming down the pipeline in Season 3. Rather, it was about the fallout of Sherlock's faked death and the rebuilding of a friendship that occurred once Watson discovered the truth about his friend's non-demise. While former episodes made it feel like their friendship and its nuances were built and influenced by the cases, "The Empty Hearse" did the opposite. 

The case involving the bomb in the subway car purposefully took a backseat to—and was even used as a prop in—the rebuilding of that friendship (but maybe not necessarily the trust, given that Watson believed Sherlock to be a tricking him in order to get him to say something nice—which he was). So I'll forgive the writers for giving the bomb an off switch, because I also acknowledge that it was never supposed to be the main storyline, and because the story, despite seemingly being wrapped up, is far from over if the final scene is any indication. The mysterious stranger sitting in a dark room (with creepy dolls and clowns, so it's obvious he's evil), watching a recording of Sherlock rescuing Watson from the burning Guy Fawkes effigy was unexpected, but also not all given that we never discovered the reasoning behind his kidnapping. Who do you think it is?


The explanation of how Sherlock survived the fall at the end of "The Reichenbach Fall," was saved nearly until the end of "The Empty Hearse," though the episode poked fun at the question with a few fake-outs throughout. They turned out to be more of Anderson's conspiracies, or conspiracies born from the minds of members of the Empty Hearse—a Sherlock Holmes fanclub formed by Anderson following Sherlock's supposed death. Those moments are fun and feel a bit like fan service, because fans have been attempting to figure out how he did it since the world first witnessed Sherlock's body falling from the roof two years ago. 

Everyone had their own idea of how he could have survived, and the ideas played out on screen felt like they could have been pulled straight from Sherlock fan-fiction (that's not a knock against fan-fic, by the way). The conspiracies included mind-control and Sherlock becoming an action hero (complete with kissing Molly), while another ended with Moriarty and Sherlock faking Sherlock's death so they could ultimately be together. I'm not sure the series needed to fuel that fire—Watson insisting he wasn't gay to Mrs. Hudson was plenty funny, but there's a reason the saying "too much of a good thing" exists—but it was actually very funny, especially knowing it obviously wasn't the truth. 


The truth (or was it?!) was actually a combination of people coming together at the exact right time to keep John from getting too close, to help Sherlock jump on to a big mattress thing-y, and to fling a dead body resembling Sherlock out of a window. The plan, as we're led to believe, was called Lazarus, in what I can only assume was a nod to Saint Lazarus, who was raised from the dead by Jesus after four days. I'm still skeptical about whether or not this is the real story of how it happened, but Sherlock is just douche-y enough to equate himself to a saint who was raised through a miracle by Jesus, so I'm not ruling it out either. 

Of course, Lazarus was also the name of a Midwest-based department store which eventually merged with Macy's, and maybe Sherlock just appreciates shopping on a budget, I don't know his life. It's also possible he recently re-watched Casper and stole the name from the machine (also named for Saint Lazarus) that brought people back to life in the film and didn't even know about the Bible connection (doubtful). Either way, his "resurrection" was ridiculously complex, and it definitely didn't end with Sherlock making out with Moriarty. I mean, this isn't Elementary. (I kid. I've never watched that show, though I hear great things about it.)

Sherlock's return was, as I said above, perfectly satisfying in nearly every way, and when the next two installments of Season 3 eventually shed more light on the connecting narrative threads, I'm sure I'll completely forget about the silly on/off switch and chalk it up to Gatiss (who wrote the episode) being influenced by Steven Moffat's latest adventures with Doctor Who. But all in all, it's very hard to argue with the happiness Sherlock's return has given us, especially when the episode so neatly brought the boys back together and set up the season, so let's just be happy we only have to wait a week until the next new episode and call it a day.



JOHN WATSON'S BLOG


– This episode was loosely based on "The Adventure of the Empty House," which also saw Sherlock return after his "death" at Reichenbach Falls. The meaning of the episode title could refer to Sherlock's empty hearse, because his body was obviously not present in any casket that would have been driven to his gravesite when it was buried two years ago. "The Empty Hearse" was also the name of Anderson's Sherlock Holmes Fan Club. Finally, the episode title could've referred to the empty subway car carrying the bomb, which ultimately would've brought about the death of many members of Parliament.

– I admittedly have not read many of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's original stories (I'll get around to all of them after I fake my own death and destroy the dangerous empire of my arch-nemesis), so feel free to point out any references to them in the comments.

– Mary is kind of awesome. I like that she doesn't dislike Sherlock, but instead finds him kind of interesting and looks at the relationship of Sherlock and Watson in an exciting way.

– R.I.P., The Mustache Heard 'Round the World

– Molly is engaged to a Sherlock wannabe. Of course.

– We met Sherlock's parents in this episode and they're NORMAL. How did those lovely people create two eccentric characters like Sherlock and Mycroft?


What did you think of "The Empty Hearse"?


Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 1/12/2014

Season 3 : Episode 3

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Who knew fuzzy caterpillars could be glued above a person's lip and not move? It made Watson look so gay, I thought he was going to put a Village People's song on the stereo. Of course, it had to be Mrs. Hudson who brought it up, making it seem both utterly comical and yet touchingly normal. The fact that Watson had been mooning like a love-sick teenager in Sherlock's absence, only now coming by to pay his respects, really underscored the unspoken depth that Sherlock had inspired within him.

I was a bit surprised by the theatricality involved in staging Sherlock's death, although I am rather skeptical of him sharing the details with Anderson. Was it yet another barb in their one-sided battle of wits? Its quite obvious Sherlock was upset with Anderson for setting up the fake skeleton for him to solve, so giving him a plausible and yet equally idiotic version of the tale (with Anderson being the leader of that asinine society) is probably why Anderson was on the edge of madness after being told. Could it be true, could it be a lie: its like watching a cat play with a ball of yarn.

However, Sherlock's failure to understand the depths of Watson's own feelings was...hilarious. Also, how could he have missed the very obvious details of John being at dinner with another person (Sherlock should have deduced the bulge in his jacket suggesting a small box, suggesting a ring, suggesting a dinner date based around a marriage proposal.) For all his brilliance, Sherlock has a bad case of leaving common sense at home on his mantle sometimes. However, I think its due to the fact that just like John has never had a friend like Sherlock, I honestly think Sherlock has never had a friend like John (or been desired by another person like The Woman.) Seeing how close he is to Mycroft, and seeing what kind of person Mycroft is, I can easily see why Sherlock might fundamentally revel in his relationship with John while, at the same time, being so clueless about it. Grow up around someone who can tear at your skin like a razor, you'll eventually be caught off guard by someone who simply accepts your mental superiority while wanting to be in your company. Watson, unlike Mycroft, deeply admires Holmes for his intellect.

Contrast this with the deduction game Mycroft and Holmes played at the apartment. It wasn't a contest, it was a game of chess played with razor sharp intellectual blades, looking to make a wound so deep and precise the person has to struggle to recognize they have been cut (Mycroft: I'm not lonely. Sherlock: And how would you know?) The elaborate disguise to surprise John, that wasn't just Sherlock being Sherlock, that was Sherlock not realizing that he doesn't have to look out for a knife from John (but he does have to be careful of being head-butted.) It's almost as if Sherlock was home-schooled by a cult and only now is old enough to be out in the real world, interacting with it through the fractured lens of his upbringing. He knows the details but fails to understand the context.

Was the bomb plot ridiculous, of course. Why design an off switch when you have a remote trigger (far easier to have a remote deactivation code?) And its really not surprising he would 'force' John to forgive him through manipulation. Sentimentality, or too much of it, is a weakness Sherlock can't afford in his work, so he has to force people to do things, like grieve faster, than they would normally like. And that usually means being an ass about it. Let's not forget Sherlock isn't used to normal friendships, he's going to need proof that people like him for who he is, smart, manipulative, romantic, idealistic bastard that he is. Sherlock wasn't just laughing at having tricked John, he was laughing at the joy of finding out he was right, that despite his tests, John still treasures that bond, sometimes more than he is willing to admit. That Mary so easily liked and accepted Sherlock so soon after meeting him suggests John's instincts for surrounding himself with the right people are pretty spot on.
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"the silly on/off switch" bothered me too, but I later reflected that it helped to convey the sense of betrayal Watson felt, since it was a letdown as a case for the comeback episode, kind of a betrayal of sophisticated mystery fans. "Mary is kind of awesome. I like that she doesn't dislike Sherlock, but instead finds him kind of interesting and looks at the relationship..." I agree there as well and appreciated the review.
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"In the history of bomb-diffusing scenes in film and on TV, when has there ever been an on/off switch? Is this a real thing? I don't know too much about them, but that seems like something only Dr. Doofenshmirtz would do, you know?" - Actually Doofenshmirtz would probably only make an "on"-switch and forget about the "off"-part, only to accidently glue himself onto the bomb and then by mistake push the button.

I thought this episode was somewhat slow, but still entertaining. And as you pointed out it revolved more around Sherlock and Watson, and the aftermath of the season 2 finale. Looking forward to the next two episodes! :)
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This series is good enough, but I can't find the greatness in at that so many other people do. It is clever, but it is too clever at times. This show was actually OK for me, and I didn't mind a simpler plot. The more complex plots are often too complicated and can get a bit silly also. I am not a fan of all the words on screen and the noises and lights, etc, that we have to see as part of Sherlock thinking. I think that is gimmicky. But, I do watch the show as it is decent entertainment with some clever spots and dialogue.
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Not only are they normal, they're Benedict Cumberbatch's real parents!
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So glad to see that Watson isn't keeping his stache. I've always hated that aspect of the Watson character.
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Great show.
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The bottom line is that Sherlock is extremely enjoyable to watch.

The writing and acting is superb and rivals everything else on tv right now.
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amazing ep
martin & amanda are soooooo adorable together

"I don't shave for sherlock holmes"- best line of the ep! :)
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Ehh, this episode was fine, I guess. More of a filler, basically saying 'this is where we are now.' Of course, the problem with this is that it's a third of the frickin' season. I usually don't mind filler episodes, as they're often great for character development. I don't need steady progression to a usually-disappointing endgame in shows, but here, I don't want to think they're just gonna coast these next two years by flicking a few episodes at us.

Still, it was fine. I actually wouldn't have minded if Sherlock had run the majority of the episode on his own (as he'd been for the past two years or w/e) and picked up Watson at the end. Sherlock and Mycroft could really make a terrifying team for one episode.

Anyway, Mary's great. I hope this is the Suck episode of the season, though. Tradition seems to dictate that there must be one.
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It is kind of the weakest episode in the season. The second one is a bit of a base breaker, I'm afraid. I think it's absolutely awesome, but I do understand why some people don't like it. You're right about the problem being the episode count. I doubt anyone would complain so much about 3x01 and 3x02 if we had, I don't know, at least 6 episodes a season. But then again character development is very important. And this season is very much about the characters and their relationships. The Sherlock from the first two seasons and the one in the third sometimes appear to be two different people - but he also went through some pretty life-changing events and even Sherlock Holmes can't not be affected by two years on the run and torture.
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I actually think all three episodes are weak. Then again, I didn't think all of the episodes from Seasons 1 and 2 were great either. So maybe I just think the show is overrated altogether.
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Prepare for even more filler in episode 2. I completely agree, this would be much more acceptable if the season were even twice as long. As it is, it just seems self-important. They're taking the fan frenzy for granted to get out of being really creative with the writing.
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oh, not more filler! Ugh! I agree about the fan frenzy, still think Moffat and Gatiss are great writers, and this episode disappointed me, as I hold them to a high standard. And yes times three to the idea of more eps=ok to have so-so eps!
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This episode had a few flashes of brilliance (the reveal piece was excellently played), but it also had serious flaws. I won't re-hash all of them here since others have already done a thorough job of that. Like many people, I hated the fan-fic service. Not everyone who enjoys aspects of Sherlock is an obsessive Tumblr stalker, 'k? The "Sheriarty" fantasy was the height of absurdity and one in a long line of smacks in the face to Conan Doyle fans. I thought one of the worst scenes in this respect was the one where Mary is reading Watson's blog aloud, and someone correct me if I'm wrong, but the wording sounded like it was pulled from an original Conan Doyle story. Then John steps in and says "Don't read that" as Mary yuks over it. I just wanted to do a headdesk. And Watson dictating a ready-made meme to the fans: "Write this down: I don't shave for Sherlock." I could hardly take the cynicism. That's not what Sherlock Holmes is about. If they spent half as much time crafting interesting stories as they did generating T-shirt slogans, this show might actually start living up to its potential.

That being said, now I will present easily the episode's best line, which had me laughing out loud for a long time:

[Mycroft, at Les Mis. "Do you hear the people sing....?"]: But you don't understand Sherlock. The horror...!

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Having an on/off switch seems no more unbelievable than having an accurate LED counter displayed so you know exactly how much time you have. I mean since the bomb was remotely triggered and no one was supposed to be in the car to begin with, would this really be necessary or do all bad guys go to the same bomb building classes? Or maybe one guy has cornered the market on LED timers in the bomb trade and insists on having them used in every bomb. Also, why would they go through all the trouble to hide all the explosives under the seats and in the floorboards? I mean it was in a part of the subway line that seemingly only one guy BARELY remembered, so why did you have to hide it? Or for that matter, why put it in one of the cars (or carriages) at all? Never really got how it was the payload delivery system. Was it wired before it was connected to the train and then the train brought it to its finally resting place? Building a bomb on a train car and then getting the car to the train or building it on site and not having anyone notice does not seem any easier than just building the bomb in the abandoned tunnel and then you have nothing for anyone to notice on the video footage. So again, an on/off switch seems plausible after you consider all of that.
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Apologies if someone's already pointed this out, but the actors portraying Sherlock's parents were Benedict Cumberbatch's actual parents.
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Yes, they are. Sherlock is a family business now. It's been that for a while actually. The secretary from the Blind Banker, who received the jade pin was Benedict Cumberbatch's long-time girlfriend (now ex), Olivia Poulet. Amanda Abbington is the mother of Martin Freeman's children. But that's nothing compared to who's behind Sherlock. It's produced by Moffat's wife, Sue Vertue and executive produced by his mother-in-law, Beryl Vertue. Moffat's son, Louis, appears in episode 3x03...The couples other son, I think, voiced the boy in the Vermeer scene in TGG... it goes on and on.
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I realized they were Sherlock's parents as soon as he let them prattle on longer than a nano second. Then I realized they must be Benedict's parents because he looks just like them. My assumption was confirmed by 50-11 people in the comments.
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I thought the terrorist bomber case being a lackluster subplot was the point of it. Sherlock didn't need some flashy, unsolvable case to bring him back to London. He came back because he was homesick for his friends, the bomber was just an excuse, and yeah, a flimsy one at that. It shows how much Sherlock has grown as a person since befriending John, there's something more important to him now than his own genius ego. This was also the reason he jumped from that roof in the first place, for his friends, because he's chosen to connect with the world rather than remain isolated for the sake of his own intellect (and encouraged Mycroft to try it himself). John is Sherlock's motivator now, which was proven by the new bad-guy with his kidnapping.
The cases are interesting, but it's the characters that drive this series to me, and I'm glad it looks like it's staying that way.
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reinrose I like that idea, fully behind it, I just believe that the creators of this series have it in them to do both. I think they DID do both a few times in the first 2 series. Holding this series to my highest standard because it has at times hit that high standard, and in their third turn at it they should be pros. IMHO.
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Then you're going to adore "The Sign of Three".
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I've seen people with limps that were less lame than this crud. Right out of a thirties/forties movie serial where the hero's car misses a turn and goes shooting over a gorge to a fiery crash. When the episode picks up the following week, we discover the hero had actually the hero jumped just before the car cleared the cliff. I hated Mission Impossible on TV and this garbage was no different. Poor Canon Doyle must be dizzying from spinning in his grave.
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You do understand that this is based on the events that occurred in Doyle's Reichenbach Falls storyline (also a serial BTW) in which Holmes is seen by Watson falling from the top of the falls with Moriarty and is presumed dead only to be "resurrected" later (albeit due to some VERY angry readers who demanded his return). So I don't think there would be any rolling in any graves since this is not that far from the source material.
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I always dislike one episode per series and never bother to watch it in total or at all again. I'm hoping this episode was it for series III.

Series I: Banker
Series II: Belgravia AND Hound
Series III: Empty Hearse

If they would stop concluding tight situations lamely ( i.e. Moriarty getting a phone call, there being an On/Off switch on the side of the bomb), it would be much appreciated.

The terrorist storyline was pure shit. I'm sure it'll have more meaning with the following eps, but as it stands alone, it's crap.

I hope Mary turns out to be more interesting than the supportive GF, but not an actual 3rd Wheel sidekick, because eff that noise. I saw that Sherlock deduced that she was a Liar and Makes Her Own Bread (lol), so I'm hopeful for...toast? I dunno. She better have a point other than being the prop for Bromance Angst.

I really wish Sherlock had just jumped out of a cake. The waiter bit made me cringe.

Molly is still pathetic. Jebus. I LIKE Molly, but DAMN.

OK, we get it. John isn't gay and Sherlock can't be bothered. STFU, already! I know Bromance is TV shorthand for (A Game of) Gay Chicken, but it has to have a certain tightrope balance to keep from being offensive. I'm officially offended. Between John shouting about being straight and heavyset (fan)girl getting a disgusted reaction from Anderson about Sherlock and Moriarty macking and running off together, yikes. WTF, Gatiss?

I believe the final explanation that Sherlock gave to Anderson was true. Because it's the only one that makes logical sense. And because it, including the ball under the armpit, was the prevailing explanation by fans less than two minutes after The Fall credits ened. Though I don't know if he would have provided the info that Mycroft, the nebulous powerful government entity, helped him, on fucking tape!

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Least I sound like I didn't like anything. I thoroughly enjoyed John kicking Sherlock's ass repeatedly. Though I'm sure Sherlock didn't put up any kind of fight. I liked Sherlock not remembering Lestrade's first name and Lestrade hugging the shit out of him, aww. I enjoyed Sherlock's concern that Mycroft didn't and wouldn't have a "goldfish", when he was "dead". It was a surprisingly poignant moment in a too jokey episode. Also, the game of no look Operation! I liked that Mary (if she had to be included in the show at all) and Sherlock weren't catty about each other. Book Sherlock if I recall only shows any kind of melancholy about the marriage of John and Mary after it's a done deal and he makes the passive aggressive remark that he'll console himself with his drug habit while John is away on honeymoon.
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At least the On/Off switch was better than having the counter get to 1 second before the day is saved. I was expecting something like that and it always bugs me. Having a counter get to 9 seconds, or even a little more, can be just as suspenseful.

Hate to ask this because, but who was the guy behind the bomb and what was his motive? After the first half hour stuff came kind of fast and I guess I just did not catch it all. Sad to admit, as it was a an important subplot point I should have noted.


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Behind the bomb was an otherwise unspecified "underground terror organization," and the guy who set the bomb off was "Lord Moran, peer of the realm, Minister for Overseas Development, pillar of the establishment. He's been working for North Korea since 1996." - direct quote from Sherlock. The motive was not really clear - we don't really know if it had actually something to do with the vote of the new anti-terror bill or if the vote was just convenient because lots of MPs would be present. Thanks for asking that question, I hadn't noticed that it was Lord MORAN when I was watching it the first time. I highly doubt that's a coincidence...
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Dude who set the bomb was Sebastian Moran. In the books he is Moriarty's John Watson: Sniper Edition. Motive? Supposedly money (he's a war profiter, think Cheney/Haliburton), but hopefully it will turn out to be more clever than that.
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Good review! Yep the silliness of the case-of-the-episode was sort of out of character but heads up (no spoilers) prepare yourself for more of the same on ep. 2.
I loved the crazed Anderson and his conspiracy club...
Watson repeatedly hitting Sherlock who deserved it totally or more
Sherlock snogging Moriarty - fanfic slash and just awesome because Andrew Scott who plays M is just incredible
Sherlock & Mycroft's parents are hilariously normal - they are also Benedict Cumberbatch's parents in real life...
Mary is brilliant... So good that the show didn't go for the cliche woman-in-the-way-of-great-bromance
As much as I like Cumberbatch as Sherlock, best acting was by Martin Freeman who really excelled at the subtleties of his character who is mr normal guy and has none of the grand gestures Sherlock indulges in...
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I'm glad i'm not the only one who liked Watson's mustache
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Don't forget, Mark Gatiss also played "Lazarus" in Doctor Who.
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Good review. I think this episode is trying to coast on the show's better angels, mainly that it can get away with this sort of thing because the show is lightweight so it tries to pretend it's more clever than it really is and gets away with that by being only 3 episodes per series, and by being a lot of style over function.

None of the characters were terribly deep or portrayed in a way that was creating a substantial performance, but they moved it along deftly which gets you past that easily.

Basically, it's smoke and mirrors done expertly, it keeps you watching and engaged while making you too distrated to think. If this were a longer series or a better show, such as Doctor Who since Moffat runs both, then that sort of shallowness would be a burden but Sherlock gets away with it because the kernels of brilliance in performance or writing can shine without having to worry about carrying anything big.

All that said, this episode juggled a lot and tried to have a few too many threads, and I think that's why it wasn't as satisfying as it might have been. The adventures really weren't as big as they ought to be and the mysteries just silliness all around, and while this show can get away with it due to the reasons mentioned above, this episode was more splintered and more shallow in those areas.
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Mrs. Hudson is a great example of this, if you spend any more time with her, the corny and jokey character would be exceedingly grating, but because this show is "fun size" she's just the edge of too-muchery. (I do miss the Mrs. Hudson that helped Holmes' set up a dummy to be murdered in the apartment though.)
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I love Mrs. Hudson and what she brings. So much more than the last one I saw.
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I loved it. Totally the opposite of what I expected; I figured they would give lip service to the fake death and instantly jump into the case. I loved that the case was sort of an annoyance to everyone in the show, as if they would have preferred to take it easy, maybe reconnect on their own time BUT NO! Watson's in a bonfire! We're trapped in a subway car with a bomb! Better kiss and make up super fast! On any other show this would have been incredibly annoying, but the bromance of it all just swept me along. Also, the show has been pretty consistent that Sherlock finds these national security cases that Mycroft makes him take super boring. I take Guy Fawkes 2.0 as just another trifle that didn't really capture his imagination.

Also should have been annoying and yet was not: I didn't believe that the explanation Sherlock gave Anderson is the truth at all. How daring of a show to do something like this - create this huge mystery and then come back and almost mock the audience for spending two years trying to solve it. Can you imagine if we never found out who shot JR? Riots in the streets.

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In "The Adventure of the Empty House" (which is roughly the polar opposite to this episode in every way except being the return of Sherlock), Holmes reveals himself to Watson as an old bookseller; in this episode, Watson believes an old man peddling porno books to be a disguised Holmes (and is proven wrong).

Also in the original story, Mycroft did know of his brother's demise and kept his rooms paid for.

The "John or James" rhyme texted to Mary's phone refers to a mistake Conan Doyle made when he had the character of Mary refer to Watson as "James" instead of "John". (Others have attempted to retcon that error as a nickname for Watson based on his middle initial "H" which was "Hamish", Gaelic for "James".)

Mary is passed away in "The Adventure of the Empty House", (this was done as justification for having Watson move back into 221b Baker Street, I believe), but Holmes' parents never existed in the original stories either so it felt to me like this episode was trying to pull more "opposites" there.
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Loved the doofenshmirtz reference. :) But in some ways the audacity of there being an off switch kind of made sense. The fact that sherlock's mind palace utterly failing him at the moment he needed it most made sense. Having the fortune to actually go to Barts and see the layout, it's entirely possible for it to play out the way that it did. My favorite bit though? anderson being the voice of the fanbase that might not consider the solution "elegant" enough. Moffatt/gatiss knew there would be nay sayers to how it happened so to plug that in was pretty genius. I personally liked that the case was almost second, because after two years of waiting the reunion of sherlock/watson was more to the point anyway.
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Mary is everything to me.
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my flabber was well and truly gasted
The Empty Hearse had a lot going on, and at times it was a real effort to keep up with the frantic pace; but there was never a single moment where I wasn’t enjoying the adventure. The witty dialogue, fantastic characters, and spectacular directing all assured that I had fun. And it was a lot of fun.
Cumberbatch has the same kind of physical presence that Jonny Lee brings to Elementary - and that Face! - almost Picasso.
And I love Mrs Hudson - she just kills it in every scene; And Mary looks like a lot of fun.
Welcome back Sherlock
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The 90 minutes sure flew by. All of a sudden it was the end. Now the wait is on for next week. Is it Sunday yet?
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This season is a season of transition. Just sit back and enjoy the ride because it is going to be a great one. This season is about the guys and Mary, it isn't as smart because the cases simply aren't the overarching plot of the season. It is the relationships between the central characters. It is just fun. This is Sherlock just kicking around for three episodes so don't fret, it will pay off in the end. This is Sherlock jumping more into the comedy then in the science and mystery of it all. And it sets up for an amazing series 4.

The various food places they were kicked out of was perfect. Mary I was kind of questioning but her position is explained excellently in the later episodes and it, like Irene Adler is an interesting and welcomed take on the character. She fits in perfectly.

The bomb wasn't just about the bomb. It was about Watson's speech. The switch was merely a mechanism for Watson to be exasperated at all of it and Sherlock to be maniacally comical about the whole situation.
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Great review! Just wait until the later episodes! ^_^

If you're interesting, the name "Lazurus" is a reference to the character Mycroft's actor played on Doctor Who; another Moffat creation.
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Technically Dr. Lazarus was a Russell T Davies creation as it was part of the 10/Martha age
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I remembered that after I finished the review! That was a Ten/Martha adventure wasn't it?
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Actually Gatiss wrote that episode, and yes, also played Lazarus.
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I'm the opposite, season 3 was my favourite, particularly episodes 2 and 3.
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Like most people, I couldn't wait for season 3 to air in the US and have already watched all three episodes. While not bad by any stretch, I have to say season 3 was my least favorite. Now the long, long wait for season 4 begins.
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oh, don't tell me that! Well, guess I'll turn to gardening. Dammit!
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I think the episode is pretty Sherlock-y, which, at this point, is about you would expect, and that's fine, but aside from the two central performances, I just don't think the show's all that good.

I soured on the show a lot due to the second run of episodes -- which caused me to realize that, of the 6 episodes produced at the time, I liked two ("Pink," "Hound"), hated two ("Banker," "Belgravia"), and was indifferent to the remaining two ("Game," "Fall") -- and between the overly tired "I'm not gay!" schtick, and the sense of fan disparagement, this episode only reaffirmed that sourness. Ah well.
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You liked "The Hounds of Baskerville"? Now you're just talking crazy.
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I have a ridiculous soft spot for that particular narrative due to sentimentality (first Holmes story). So even the borderline Scooby-Doo silliness of Sherlock's take could not cause me to dislike it.

Also: I really hated "Belgravia," so anything in comparison at the time was decent.
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It's funny that I know several well educated female feminists who loved that episode and didn't find it sexist at all.
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She used her sexuality as a weapon, as evidenced by Sherlock couldn't read her. It worked!
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Or it's just an example of how people respond to texts differently, even with the same approach. Or were you attempting to imply something else about me and my thoughts on the episode?
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Whhhhhhhhattttt. Why? (I don't subscribe to the school that thinks Belgravia was flat out amazing, but I was definitely very entertained by it.)
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Wow, I'd really love to learn more on your dislike of A Scandal in Belgravia, as it was easily my favorite episode of the first two seasons (I ranked them here after a marathon this summer).
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I didn't care for the treatment of Adler. Found it rampagingly sexist; it also dragged up the show's bizarre Orientalism from "Banker" and there was no need for that.

Wrote about it here, when it first aired.
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Generally non-spoilery observations about season 3:

1. This season's episodes play off each other more than previous episodes. Or maybe just in different ways.

2. Episode 2 is probably the show's most divisive episode to date.

I had more points, but I'm paranoid that people will make Holmesian leaps of deduction and they'd end up spoilers. "Sharp dialogue and excellent chemistry between the actors? Wait a minute...Watson throws Mycroft in front of a train!"
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To elaborate on my first point, the episodes are of a piece. If you're inclined to do that other thing to get the other episodes ahead of their US air dates and you haven't done so yet, I recommend watching them on two or three consecutive nights or even one night if you can manage that. Watching them as they're aired should be fine as long as they don't take a week off, but just don't DVR one or both of the others and then wait six weeks.
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I thought episode 2 was awesome! Maybe my favourite so far...
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Sherlock's parents are actually Benedict's parents :P
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The off switch was a bit of a stretch in believability as you say, but this episode was all about the Watson-Sherlock bromance. When has Sherlock ever been so emotional, so vulnerable and so not in control of everything than when he is in the car with Watson moments before the bomb was to go off. Saying that he did not know how to defuse the bomb. When has Sherlock ever admitted he didn't know anything. The moment and the switch brought Sherlock and Watson to reconciliation. The switch in Watson was also turned and Watson forgave Sherlock for not being dead and he did not go off in a huff after he found out Sherlock lied to him about the bomb too.
Sherlock was Watson's best friend but the world's worst best man. He must have Asperger's syndrome.
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I loved the episode... I watched the 3 episodes, and I find it kinda not as intelligent or wise as the previous seasons.
Except for the last episode, I was soooo thrilled and excited in the last 5 min

back to "The Empty Hearse ";
  • I loved Watson's reaction when he found out Sherlock is alive! loved specially the punch haha
  • I hated the on/off switch button; what kind of an idiot terrorist is he?! I wish that real terrorists are idiots like him
  • They spent much time on comedy aspect and less on the plot :( ... my working formula for the series would be like : 20% comedy and 80% complex case solving.
We loved Sherlock because his extraodinary problem solving skills, intuition and deduction. otherwise, we have "Elementary"
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I've watched it three weeks ago and it still amazes me how great that show is.
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Sherlock's parents are actual Benedict Cumberpatch's parents!
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Oh well THAT'S adorable.
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And Mary is actually Martin Freeman's longtime partner.
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Awsome.. that´s all I can say about third season
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I have already watched all three episodes and without a doubt this was the weakest season so far.The first two were too heavy on the comedy side and the third was a little too rushed IMO.
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All 3 episodes are fun. That's all I got to say, really.
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man! am i glad i don't live in US and have already seen the whole season!

great, GREAT things to come folks!
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I, too, have already watched all three episodes and I must say it was the best season yet. Then again I'm always a sucker for character development and Moffat and Gatiss have truly outdone themselves this time. I get that a lot of people tune in for the cases and I'm sure there will always be cases but now there is so much more to this, I love it.
I can't wait for you all to watch the second and especially the third episode.
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I hate this show, I know I'm alone on an island but the term style over substance fits it perfectly. Super close up shots of Sherlock's eyes, camera work to induce travel sickness, texts on screen and at least a dozen slow motion or film in rewind shot, the one thing it lacks is a story. What made Sherlock Holmes so popular was the writing of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the cases were superb with a incredible depiction of Victorian London. This has none of that, its a mess and Professor Moriarty is the one of the worst casting decision in the history of television. Elementary to me is far superior and if people want to watch Sherlock Holmes as it was written try ITVs version staring Jeremy Brett at least a hundred time better than this pile of modern crap.
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"...I know I am alone on an island..." in a chat designed specifically for those who follow Sherlock!?!? Noooo...couldn't be. Also, I think you have romanticized some of Doyle's works. I have loved Sherlock Holmes since I was young and have watched/read anything close (Sherluck Bones anyone?). Many of Doyle's works were serial shorts in the newspaper where details were let out bit by bit. To those clamouring to find out what happened next I think this would closely resemble the quick cuts you mention. And yes, I am sure there were set ups for suspense as well, waiting to see what came next for the duo. Elementary, while I do watch it (as I said, anything closely related to Holmes I will watch/read), is a POOR excuse for anything Doyle would have ever written which is to say it is almost NOTHING like the books/stories save the two character names of Holmes and Watson, a drug addiction, and a few others. Moriarty in Sherlock is one of the great TV Villians of ALL time, where Elementary's Moriarty was a joke and looked like a high school play. Again, I watch both, but Sherlock is what I come out of grinning and happy in the end, as I always did with the books/stories.
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Iv read the all the Doyle stories and yes they are really short, I grew up watching Jeremy Brett's Sherlock Holmes and to me he is the character and anything else just doesn't fit, I think that's the case for many things you watch as a child its my own bias and I find this rather empty in comparison. I agree that Elementary has next to nothing to do with Doyle's Sherlock Holmes but I think your argument against Elementary fits just as well against Sherlock they take the names and little else. As for Moriarty he is a bad joke of a villain when compared to the menace of Mads Mikkelsen on Hannibal but for a show that is full of bad jokes I suppose he fits perfectly. All the visual effects to me don't make up for the lack of a true mystery. I'm glad people like it so much, its just not for me.
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Thanks for the info from your side. I guess I am showing my age a bit, but to me it is always hard to outdo Basil Rathbone as Sherlock in my minds eye. Jeremy Brett seems to have been part of a UK series that I now really want to try to find online so I can check it out, since living in the states I guess I missed if it hit PBS when I was younger, but I understand what you mean as far as your dedication to it. And yes, from what I read, they were true to the source material to the nth degree, so I can see why you don't see Sherlock as true to the material. I, however, enjoy the homages and winks back to the source material that Moffat and Gatiss incorporate. I find none of that in Elementary except the names. I think I would enjoy Elementary more if it was a crime show about a really deductive guy who is sherlock-like and his sidekick without them claiming to BE Sherlock. BTW agree with Mikkelsen as a villian. Creepy dude perfect for that show. Your stomach stays in knots through that whole show. But I will say I love the maniacal nature brought to Moriarty by Andrew Scott. Everyone tries to play Moriarty as this straight laced sophisticate (including on Elementary), and I enjoyed this turn with more of a Joker (yes the Batman villian) vibe.
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Loved Basil Rathbone way more than Jeremy Brett!
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FWIW I've gotten both the Basil Rathbone ones and the Jeremy Brett ones on Netflix DVD lately. I don't know if they are available streaming.

For the anyone new to the series I would point out that you don't really have to watch the Brett ones in any order.
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I've been watching the Jeremy Brett ones lately and feel they are uneven. Some are definitely great. But I find their Watson by far the least interesting one. I am also frustrated they devote so much time to the people in the case and so little time to clever crime solving. Often the case is solved on only one good Holmes-ian deduction.

I have a soft spot in my heart for the Basil Rathbone ones. But I admit it may just be nostalgia. I also find it endearing that all the ones shot during WW2 era end with a few minutes of propaganda.
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They made forty one episodes over ten years and some I would admit are much better than others but Jeremy Brett was brilliant and when it was good it was much better than the vast majority of procedural's that are wall to wall on tv today
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That's the one really great contribution of this show: Martin Freeman's Watson. He has spoiled me forever. I will never be satisfied with any other.
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I was totally with you up until you said Elementary could be superior to anything...
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Old episodes of Dallas are superior to Sherlock as far as im concerned
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"I also think it's ridiculous to believe the bomb had an on/off switch."

Maybe, but I think it's less ridiculous than the usual red wire/blue wire nonsense. I would expect that most bombs are very easy to disarm. Just remove the battery, or pull the blasting cap out of the C-4, or something like that. It's not going to take a genius to disarm it.

I don't doubt that you can make a bomb hard to disarm, but I doubt that many bomb makers would bother. It would be a waste of time.
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From my extensive knowledge on the subject (ie, Google), you're right.....bombs are easy to disarm and if people want to make one difficult to disarm they don't mess with complicated wiring patterns, they just put the thing in a lockbox so you can't actually get to it.
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the bomb was designed to be hidden, never found, and moving it around on a subway means it had to be simply dis-armed and re-armed to avoid a big freakin Ooopsy.
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Having seen all 3 of the new episodes, I think I actually prefer Elementary now. That might just be because 3 episodes every 2 years isn't enough for me, and I know they're very different shows, but I just like Johnny Lee Millers Sherlock more. I know Sherlock isn't supposed to be likeable, but JLMs version has just enough sugar to earn some sympathy.
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I think a lot of the praise from fans for this season (at least for the - in my opinion - subpar first two episodes) stems from the fact that it has indeed been 2 years since the last season. If there had only been a gap of say 4 or 5 months I think people would have been quite a bit harsher on it. But we all waited so long for new episodes that a lot of people seem to be afraid to criticise them.
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Totally agree. After the second ep my thought was 'is that it??'. The third was excellent in my view but, like you say, 2 years is too long. The epic-ness dropped by 30% for me.
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Yeah, the third episode was among the best of all 3 seasons but during the first 2 - especially the first one - I felt like I was watching a Sherlock Holmes Sitcom. It used to be 80% the case and 20% funny little side stories and jokes between Holmes and Watson. Especially in the first episode it felt like the exact opposite. Don´t get me wrong - the first two were good episodes. It´s just that the show has set the bar so high that - to me at least - they kind of missed the mark. Fortunately the third episode knocked it out of the park.
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It is not sure that the final explanation is actually the real one: Sherlock exposes it to Anderson, which is not the most stable person of the show, and it is shot in such a way that seems almost a hallucination.
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I think it would make sense to expose the truth to a person that nobody will ever believe anyway. It's easy to share secrets with someone that has no credibility left.;)
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...or perhaps it was all just in Anderson's mind, or perhaps Sherlock plays with him, we'll never know ;)
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I think it was more a case of payback on Sherlocks part. Anderson had helped ruin Sherlocks reputation without any real evidence. And ever since Sherlock had "died" Anderson had basically devoted his whole life to figuring how he had actually survived. He came up with one idea after another, each one more outlandish than the previous. So Sherlock told him exactly what happened. Which not only showed Anderson that all his theories were completely wrong but that he had basically wasted all that time for nothing. Which was probably the cruelest thing Sherlock could have done to him.
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I never quite got why Anderson was the one who got the short end of the stick to be honest. Because it was sgt. Donovan who pointed the finger at Sherlock during the third episode of season two. Anderson only backed her up by being a voice of reason, I mean what if Sherlock did have them fooled? I think a lot of people would have asked that very question. If anything, the guy tried to make amends more than Donovan ever did. Because he felt bad about it. Just seems to me that if anyone should be blamed it should be her.
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But would Sherlock tell a true story involving his brother and everything... in front of a video camera

Unless he stole the tape on the way out... I don't think Sherlock would leave such public evidence that could cause such problems for his brother's department.
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I've seen all three, watched them over, and am now reading reviews for it to relive the goodness and I'm all happy and smiley... What is wrong with me? This first episode was the best though. I'mma watch it again.
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As for the on/off switch itself, I think this is actually more realistic. They were deep underground and a good walk from the exit. I know television usually portray terrorists as self-sacrificial and total lunatics. But in truth, not everyone is a suicide bomber. Some, such as these people, were clearly rich individuals clearly merely looking to prevent a dent to their empire/income makes sense to me to have such a precaution, lest some cruel twist of fate occur and they end up stuck in the vicinity of the bomb. Or, if caught, have a way to bargaining with the authorities.

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"I'm sure I'll completely forget about the silly on/off switch and chalk it up to Gatiss (who wrote the episode) being influenced by Steven Moffat's latest adventures with Doctor Who."

I'm actually starting to get a little dismayed every time I see someone say something like this. Oh what a selective memory and rose-tinted view people have, especially when it comes to Doctor Who. The 'Big Red Button' solution/Deus ex Machina was much more prominent a solution in the RTD era than it has been in the Moffat version of the show. In fact, if you look back at any actually Moffat written episodes, they usually have actually a clever scheme to defeat the enemy, often using their strengths against them. Mark Gattiss is actually a writer on Doctor Who and think he, along with the others, are capable and guilty enough to use such a trope of their own inability and volition, without needing Moffat to make them.
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Having already watched all three episodes on BBC I must say the first two felt too much like fan service and far too disjointed to me while the third one was just brilliant. Though the second episode was slightly better than the first.

My biggest problem with this episode was the fact that it felt like they completely forgot about the actual case that brought Sherlock back to London and when they remembered they crammed it all into the last 15 minutes. It used to be all about the case with some funny situations and interactions between Sherlock and Holmes on the side. Here it felt the exact opposite and not much like the Sherlock I´ve come to love.
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I can only speak to the first episode at this point, but you are right that the case which brought Sherlock home (ha ha) was almost tertiary to this episode and then just backloaded into the plot, and with virtually nothing smart to show for its solution but plenty of jokey stuff.
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