Two years since Sherlock jumped to his death at the end of Sherlock, series 2, we finally get to hear how it really happened. I tried to figure out a way to review this without spoiling anything for late viewers, but there really isn't anyway to do that, so I'm going to preface this entry with a short summary.
'The Empty Hearse' is a fun, if somewhat mediocre, episode of the Sherlock series. There's a lot of exposition that is thrown at you, very little actual plot or development, and if you haven't followed the series, then you are NOT going to understand what is going on. The actual mystery in this one takes a back seat to humor in this love letter to Sherlock fans.
Now that that's out of the way:
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!
When I first started watching the initial few minutes, I thought that I'd downloaded some awful fan-made trailer or something. It had an improbable flashback in which Sherlock jumped off the roof of St. Bartholomew's Hospital, is caught by a bunjee cord, rebounds, and smashes through a window. Shaking himself off, he swaggers over to a waiting Molly Hooper who he proceeds to kiss, passionately.
It was at this point, roughly 2 minutes in, when I literally shouted, "What the fuck?!".
I haven't even mentioned the hypnotist, and the Mission: Impossible type mask on Moriarty's body. It was all completely ridiculous and a lot of it was in slow-mo and my god, how they hell did they fucking bury him without anyone finding out that the blood on the ground wasn't from the body, or there was a fucking mask on his face, or that there was huge, bloody bullet hole in the back of his skull?
But then Moffat, Gattiss, and Co. throw me for a loop when Lestrade's voice cuts into Sherlock's dramatic walk out with, "BOLLOCKS!"
You see this whole opening number has largely been a joke, the writer's nod to the gaggle of Internet geeks who have been throwing out increasingly elaborate theories about "how'd he do it?" since Sherlock first took his dive off that roof in 'The Reichenbach Fall' back in January 2012. And honestly it was the perfect way to open the show.
The rest of the episode isn't as great, since this is the cast coming back after a two year break, a lot of talk is involved to show what they've been doing. Philip Anderson of the Scotland Yard forensics team has lost his job over the guilt he feels about not believing in Sherlock, thinking he was part of what pushed him to suicide. Watson has just gotten over his death and is about to become enganged, and Molly is dating again. Between these and a few other vignettes, Sherlock tries to solve a mystery about an impending terrorist plot to blow up Parliment (which really doesn't matter at all).
For me the best part was when John stops Sherlock in the middle of his monologue and said, "I don't care how you faked it, Sherlock, I want to know why." At the time I really thought that the writers were saying no matter what they did, they'd never be able to come up with a theory that would impress the fan-boys, so they weren't going to try.
I thought that that was brilliant.
But, then they went and ruined that by having Sherlock spill the beans to Anderson for some reason, who proceeds to do exactly what any fan-boy would at the rather boring explanation; reject it.
So while I enjoyed watching the episode and found it really funny, this one didn't have as much punch as any of the previous six episodes, because I never really watched it for the funny. Like Doctor Who, it's becoming bogged down in it's own continuity at the cost of actual story, focusing more on in jokes, fan service, and Easter eggs.
It's still early though. We've still got two more episodes this series. Hopefully we'll get to see the dynamic duo back in form later tonight when 'The Sign of Three' airs.